Money Management in France
One of the most frequently asked questions is, “How do I handle my money once I’m abroad?” There are many answers to that question. The best way to handle money varies depending upon your preferences. However, there are some general rules to keep in mind when planning for expenses. We strongly encourage you to discuss your budget and money management with your parents or guardians before you depart. It is important to understand how these matters will be handled and to have a support person at home to assist you in case of an emergency.
In Paris and throughout much of Europe the currency is Euros (Great Britain, Switzerland and Scandanavian countries have their own separate national currencies) Be careful when first arriving in Paris (or when traveling to countries with currencies other than the euro) to adapt to the differences and the expected costs of different purchases you will make.
The ATM machine has greatly facilitated money transactions abroad. Most countries now offer this service on a wide scale basis. Before leaving for Paris, be sure to check with your own bank to clarify your withdrawal limits as well as fees you will be charged to access your home accounts. Be sure to ask if your bank is in partnership with any banks in France from which you might withdraw money for free or at a lower cost.
Be aware that, typically, the withdrawal fee is the same regardless of the amount of money withdrawn and therefore it is more cost effective to withdraw larger sums of money to incur lower exchange fees.
Paris is quite safe for a large metropolitan city but you must be aware of your surroundings when withdrawing money from ATM machines.
Most U.S. bank cards allow for cash withdrawals from ATM machines throughout Europe. Be sure to remember your PIN code for access to your account with your card (and it’s always wise to shield your hand as you type in this code to prevent anyone from learning the code).
Be sure that you have a PIN code for all credit and debit cards you wish to use in Europe. In most cases, you won’t be able to use them in ATM machines or in banks without the code. Some shops will allow you to sign for your purchases (instead of entering a PIN code) but this is very uncommon in Europe.
Traveler’s Checks & Cash
It’s best to avoid carrying lots of cash. Paris is a very safe city, especially compared to U.S. Metropolitan areas but wallets can be lost and bags are sometimes stolen. Traveler’s checks can be an option that allows for more security than cash (just be sure to keep a record of your serial numbers separate from the traveler’s checks).If you choose to bring traveler’s checks it is probably best to purchase them in U.S. dollars before coming to Europe. Using traveler’s checks for purchases in shops is not often accepted in Europe. Therefore, these checks should be exchanged for local currency in foreign banks or currency exchange centers for a small fee (banks are usually cheaper options than currency exchange shops).Before departure (or upon arrival in a European airport) it can be helpful to exchange a small sum of cash (not more than $300) into euros to help you through the first few days in Paris. Be aware that you will be charged a fee for this service. Currency can also be exchanged at the airport prior to your departure. It is also a good idea to keep a small amount of U.S. dollars ($50) for your return trip. Again, this will cover expenses when you return home.
Credit Cards are another source of money which are widely accepted throughout the world. As in the U.S., credits cards can be used in shops, restaurants, and hotels. If you do decide to use a credit card on your trip, Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted names. American Express is accepted in some locations but is less widely used. Credit cards can also be used for cash advances in case of an emergency. We do not, however, recommend that you use them in this way unless it is truly an emergency! Cash advances typically carry much higher interest charges than purchasing products in stores. It is a good idea to check with your credit card company for details before you depart. Remember to leave your credit card numbers as well as bank telephone numbers to cancel cards with someone at home in case they are stolen or lost while you are abroad.
Check out our Pre-Departure Tips Page.