There are a number of ways to manage your money when in France, to keep your costs down, and some things to be aware of: so here are some tips:
- ATM’s: if you access your bank accounts from your linked bank credit card, despite bank claims that their cards allow access to your savings etc. account (whereever the Cirrus sign is displayed), our experience is that you are almost always forced to withdraw from your credit card, which means the withdrawal becomes a cash advance – and hence interest starts immediately.
- Travel Insurance: to avoid paying expensive insurance, use a credit card where this facility is included free. Normally this is conditional on your using the card for some expenses for the trip. Whilst the annual premium for the card might be a little higher if it has this feature, our maths indicates it’s still a much better economic proposition. Our bank’s card also covers the cost of excess fees for car rental insurance accident claims. But read your credit card’s fine print.
- Bank Hours: like most shops, banks typically close for lunch (around Noon to 2pm).
- Petrol and Credit Cards: almost always, pay at the pump credit card systems DO NOT accept overseas cards (or at least Australian cards). On weekends and after normal trading hours, this is an issue in rural France, as most service stations are unmanned (except for those on Autoroutes) and hence there is no other payment option.
- PIN’s: if your PIN is a word, note down the numbers that correspond to the letters of your PIN, because PIN pads in France have different layouts and usually numbers only.
- Travel Cards: consider obtaining a “travel card” from you bank. We use the ANZ Travel Card – this substantially lowers transactions costs relative to credit cards. They also act as a debit and ATM access card (with typically a 300 – 400 Euro/day limit). Most banks have an equivalent product.
- Security: where possible minimise the cash you carry to what is required and keep it well disguised, close to your body and certainly not in your back pockets.
- Pick-pockets: be vigilant about pick-pockets (particularly Gypies) on trains and crowded tourist areas (e.g. the Eiffel Tower environs are always active with pick-pockets and people who’ll open your pack/bag by one means or another).
- Tipping: is common for service staff, especially restaurant waiters, bar staff, hotel porters and guides. Such staff are typically proud of their profession and are accustomed to receiving a gratuity for their service: typical would be around 10% if warranted. But it’s your call – we’ve never been abused for not tipping ! Also, check you bill – as it may already include the service fee (written as “service compris”).