I used to use Nationwide debit card. I loaded the account with money, safe in the knowledge that I withdraw cash around the world without charges. The robbingtheivingbastids started to charge not only a handling fee of £1 a transaction, but a conversion fee for my CASH. I closed the account and logged a complaint plus wrote to all the newspapers. Some of which ignored me.
Anyway. If you have a debit card with chip and PIN, that will work anywhere as it is essentially cash especially in petrol stations. In the UK if you attempt to use a card to withdraw cash, they keep on charging you for a cash withdrawal (around 18%) even if you clear the account every month.
Your best bet is to open a cash only account in the US, charge free, load it up and use it for your holiday. If you buy things like clothes or yummy kitchen things, use your own credit card but be prepared for a *conversion fee*.
Since the January 1st 2002, the currency in force in France is the Euro.
One face is common for all the European countries which are in the Euro Area. The other is special for France.
BUT YOU CAN USE THE EURO EVEN IF A COIN OR A BILL IS ISSUED BY AN OTHER EURO COUNTRY.
4 years after the launch of the new money, I can tell :
- we speak "Euro" except for large amounts (the price of a building for example)
- we know some prices in € : the "baguette de pain", meal at the restaurant, a theatre ticket,
- the main change stays in the huge number of small coins (1, 2, 5 €) we handle.
I can say : IT WORKS.
To see all the coins : click on the photograph.
Banks and exchange bureaux give better exchange rates for traveller's cheques than for cash; Banque de France offers the best rates in the country. France's ATMs are plentiful and accept all the major international credit and bank cards. I believe though if you have a card with more than a 4 digit pin, you may have a little trouble with the machines there.
I discovered the hard way (after walking around for more than an hour and asking about a hundred people) that you can't buy traveller's cheques at travel agencies like you can at home. If you find yourself with too much cash (or not enough, I guess), go DIRECTLY to the post office and look for a western union branch inside. Make sure you have your passport with you.
There was a popular saying...'three things are cheap in Paris..bread...wine..and the Metro'. Well times have changed...Paris is an expensive city and makes no apologies about it.However...it is also culturally correct to hit the small boulangeries to pick up bread , cheese, wine etc...a picnic is not only acceptable and easy on the pocket book...its also is 'tres romantique..n'est pas?'
The French have a very bizare attitude about traveler's checks. Once I went with American Express, and I couldn't cash them in a bank unless I had two credit cards (I had one). The second time I took Thomas Cook traveler's checks in French Francs. The shop at the D'Orsay said they would take the check but could not give me change. Hello!!
So, now I take Francs in cash and my magic money card.
Life is a lot easier. Just dance up to those cash machines and get your francs. Or CHARGE IT!!!
Don't forget to collect your shopping bills and fill the appropriate form at the airport's custom office to get your taxes refunded when you leave.