Credit cards

Credit Cards (Photo by Frankieleon)
Credit Cards

Using credit cards in France

Yes, France takes plastic.

Every merchant from the museum gift shops and train ticket machines right on down to the majority (though not all) of the mom-and-pop shops, hotels, B&Bs, and pubs.

Using credit cards is by far the cheapest way to pay for things in France—indeed, just about any foreign country.

The exchange rates average 9% better than even cash withdrawals from an ATM (the second cheapest way to pay for things).

You do, however, have to be careful of foreign transaction fees (which can add on 1% to 4%), the chip-and-PIN revolution in Europe that is rending many North American credit cards obsolete, cash advance fees, and remember to take a few minutes to notify the bank of your foreign travel plans to avoid having your cards frozen while you're on the road.

More on each of these issues below:

The best credit cards for travel (Photo by CafeCredit.com)

Which credit card should a traveler take to France? #1: Visa

 
Four USA-issued chip-and-pin cards (Charles Schwab Bank Visa Debit Card, Citi ThankYou Preferred Visa Signature Credit Card, Bank of America BankAmericard Travel Rewards Visa, Wells Fargo Cash Bank Visa Signature Credit Card) (Photo by Aranami)

What is a "chip-and-pin" credit card and how can I get one?

 
You'd pay a 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases with this Chase Visa card (and many others) (Photo courtesy of Chase Bank)

What are foreign transaction fees and how can I avoid them?

 
There are better credit cards for travel out—there some you can even design yourself (I just thought this one was funny) (Photo by Ross Angus)

Where to get a low-fee credit card for traveling

 
Credit card safety measures mean it will often be declined abroad if you don't warn the bank first (Photo Ruhow)

Call ahead to notify your credit card issuer of you travel plans

 
You'd pay either $10 or 5%, whichever is greater, on each cash advance with this Wells Fargo Visa (and many others) (Photo courtesy of Wells Fargo Bank)

How to avoid the high fees and charges for credit card cash advances