Tips for Using Credit Cards in Paris, France
Our four credit card tips - guaranteed to save you money and time.
1. Use your Credit Card, but Notify the Bank Before Your Trip and Know the Card's Conversion Rates - First, use a credit card for the majority of your purchases. Virtually every café, restaurant and store accepts plastic. And, you will receive the best exchange rate possible.
However, notify your credit card company that you are travelling to Paris and a rough estimate of the dates in question. Credit card companies have automated fraud detection software that automatically suspends an account with activity out of the ordinary, especially overseas purchases. If you normally use your card in Peoria, not Paris, you'll almost be guaranteed to have your account suspended without a "heads up" to your cc company in advance.
2. Avoid the Biggest Rip-Off - Dynamic Currency Conversion
When you use your credit cards in Paris, many merchants will offer you the option of paying your bill in dollars instead of euros. For the convenience of paying in dollars, called Dynamic Currency Conversion, the merchant adds a fee at their discretion from 2% to 9% of your total transaction. You'll find Dynamic Currency Conversion being used in high-end department stores like Galeries Lafayette and Printemps as well as hotels and boutiques.
Merchants say that American travelers prefer to see their bill and pay in dollars, so the fee is fair. We say it is a way for merchants to pad the bill and "rip-off" tourists. For example, a hotel charging a 5% fee for a 1600€ stay will cost you 80€ for the convenience of paying your bill in dollars. This does not include any transaction fees your credit card may charge you for an international transaction.
The good news is that you can easily refuse Dynamic Currency Conversion. When you use your credit card, the merchant will show you two prices - in euros and in dollars. Select "euros" and you will pay no additional fees.
If your hotel bypasses the currency selection step and presents your bill to you in dollars have the staff void the dollar transaction and re-run it selecting the "euro" option.
3. Bring More than One Credit Card with You on Your Trip. We've found that even calling in advance, sometimes mistakes can happen. And, being able whip out another card can alleviate the confusion at checkout.
4. Read the Fine Print of Your Credit Card Agreement before Using Your Card Internationally. Each company has their own fees and additional charges for overseas transactions. Some cards are reasonable and others charge highway robbery rates on each purchase. And, to complicate matters, an not all cards from the same company have the same rates. For example, there are a gazillion MBNA Visa Cards - some with a 1% standard Visa/MasterCard transaction rate, others with a 1% transaction fee and a 4% surcharge.
Before your trip, its probably worth your while to open and read the dozens of credit card offers that flood your mailbox each week. In January 2006, the best deal for international travel was a Capital One Visa. For international travel, Capital One charges no surcharge..zero...zip. They even eat the 1% Visa transaction fee. And, their interchange bank exchange rate on purchases can't be beat. And, remember CC companies change their policies constantly so always verify the transaction fees before your trip.
For those of you yawning and thinking who cares about a couple percent, the difference between a 0% and 5% can translate into a few more gourmet dinners or a killer pair of stillettos. It all adds up, and there is no one more undeserving of your hard earned cash than the credit card conglomerates.
- For more tips on saving money, read our Paris Money Savers.
- If your credit card does not work, don't panic. Instead, read our article What to Do If Your Credit Card Doesn't Work.
- If your ATM doesn't work, read our article What to Do if Your ATM Card Quits Working.