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American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

Washington, Virginia
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American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

Having recently returned from France, I thought it would be helpful to post my experience using American credit cards in France, both to inform others who may find this useful and to solicit suggestions to avoid the problems noted.

As background information, the following recent press article may be of interest.

npr.org/2011/…

Anyone who tells you American credit cards are universally accepted is either misinformed or intentionally misleading the questioner. While it is generally true that most stores and restaurants can and will accept American credit cards, this is by no means universal. The major problem is that the US is 20 years behind the rest of the world in adopting chip/PIN technology on the card itself. Few other countries still use and rely on the magnetic strip for card information, rather they use the encrypted chip embedded in the credit card itself. This, along with the user PIN, is used to dramatically reduce card theft and fraud.

The major problem one will experience using a US card is in unattended situations. I experienced 3 specifically, namely.

1. Unattended gas/petrol stations will not accept US cards. You must have a credit card with the chip/Pin implementation. This is particularly stressful when trying to refill a rental car prior to returning it. The solution is to go to an attended station and either pay in cash or by your US credit card. Using a GPS aids in the location of smaller stations. Yes, one can do this, but why should we have to?

2. Buying train tickets, including RER tickets to/from Paris from the airport cannot be done at a kiosk using a US credit card. If you have enough coins (for some reason the Paris airport machines don't take paper money) you can buy tickets, if not, you are out of luck. My solution is to always purchase my RER tickets at the manned station (manned during peak hours) and buy a round trip to avoid having to try to buy an RER ticket in downtown Paris.

3. If one wishes to rent a bike using one of the many Velib bike rental stations, you must have a European credit card, there is no option.

If anyone knows of a US bank which provides chip/PIN credit cards it would be very useful to share this information. I don't know of any at this time, but eventually this conversion will be made, it's just a question of how many more years. The French introduced this technology in approximately 1992, it's proven, and it's a shame we don't have what every other developed country in the world has, a secure chip/PIN credit card infrastructure.

This is a marketing opportunity for a nimble bank new business development initiative. I no longer live in Europe, but I would gladly move my banking to one that provided for this credit card facility. More and more travelers would benefit from this, it would seem to be an opportunity to fill a niche market opportunity.

Comments welcome of course.

Destination Expert
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1. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

The other thing that people should keep in mind is that many businesses do not accept American Express because of the high fees that they charge.

Tampa, Florida
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2. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

All of those three situations have been and are continually discussed on this forum ad infinitum and ad nauseum.

Paris, France
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3. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

These items have indeed been posted here many, many times and I have never read that US credit cards are accepted everywhere, at least not in the TA France forums. What is usually stated is that US credit cards are accepted along the well worn tourist trails. In addition, many autoroute toll booths will not accept magnetic strip credit cards, some will but you never know which until you try. Trying and failing can result in an embarrassing situation of a long line of angry motorists behind you.

Unless there is some very recent change American Express credit cards are accepted at Vélib bicycle stands with recent reports that Visa and MC are also accepted but I have not confirmed the latter.

There is presently no US bank issuing EMV or chipped credit cards.

Edited: 11:38 am, June 07, 2011
Ohio, USA
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4. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

I have heard that some of the major US retailers, among them Wal-Mart, are pressuring the US banks to introduce EMV credit cards. One can but hope...

Paris, France
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5. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

The great irony is that it would be a very simply procedure for US banks to simply issue combination EMV/magnetic strip credit cards, just like is done everywhere else in the world. Nothing needs to change immediately at the retail level.

Unfortunately, US banks are more concerned with customer fees than they are with customer service.

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6. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

"There is presently no US bank issuing EMV or chipped credit cards."

Sarastro, you'll be pleasantly surprised, no doubt, to learn this isn't the case. This subject also comes up a lot on the London board and it seems some US banks *do* offer chip and PIN cards, though you may have to be persistent to obtain one. Take a look at posts 15 and 26.

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g186338-i17-k434…

Paris, France
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7. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

Adelaide-born - I have read the accounts in the London forum. There is not a single example of a US bank issuing an EMV credit card (we are not talking about debit cards).

American Express offers (ed) a chipped credit card for a while but it was incompatible with the EMV standard and did not work in France.

To a great extent most banking employees, unless they travel themselves, have no idea about EMV standards and how they differ from what US banks offer.

Unless someone can offer concrete information, i.e. the name of a US bank issuing EMV and/or detail explained on this banks website, my contention that no US bank issues EMV credit cards is unchanged.

8. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

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Paris, France
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9. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

According to Diz´s posts, Chase has begun issuing EMV cards to a few of its select customers and Silicone Valley Bank in Santa Clara, CA as started a program as well.

Neither of these new sources are available to the general US public as far as I can tell but the news presents a hopeful trend.

10. Re: American Credit Card Use In France / Europe

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Removed on: 12:40 pm, November 16, 2015
Edited: 12:40 pm, November 16, 2015