How to use your bank card in France without a hitch
The way in which banks operate in France compared to the UK is different and one good example are bank cards. It can prove frustrating if you find yourself in a situation whereby you have money in your bank account but discover – whilst waiting to pay at the check-out or withdrawing cash at an ATM – that the transaction has been refused.
How can you therefore plan ahead to avoid this problem and potential embarrassment?
In a nutshell: know your spending limits, understand what it costs (e.g. fees/charges) and decide which card best suits your lifestyle. Let us take a look at bank cards in more detail and how to go about getting one.
The majority of bank cards in France are Carte Bancaire and you will see many shops and restaurants displaying the CB sign. Carte Bancaires are debit cards with any transactions deducted immediately from a bank account. The French certainly do not have the same appetite as Britons for credit cards, with most preferring the standard debit card. There are however plenty of options to ensure you have a card that matches your requirements and lifestyle.
Cards have limits for cash withdrawals and payments
Although UK banks will limit how much money you can withdraw from an ATM per day, usually £500, in France the limit is generally lower and there are restrictions too on card payments each month. Take a standard Carte Bancaire (Visa or MasterCard) for example; over a 7 day period the maximum amount for cash withdrawals is €450. For card payments (online or in shops) you can spend up to €2,300 per month.
This is unlikely to pose a problem for many people day-to-day; but if you are buying a more expensive item, paying for renovations on your home in France or you receive a large (and unexpected!) bill these limits may present a challenge...
If you do reach your spending limit, a quick phone call to your bank should resolve the problem. CA Britline (part of the Crédit Agricole group) has been helping British customers in France for 20 years, providing a full range of banking services in English. We can help by providing customers with higher spending limits on their card temporarily or for a longer period. There is a cost to do this – but by using the free CA app ‘Ma Banque’ you can adjust the limit yourself. It is always a good idea to contact us first if you are planning a major purchase or undertaking an expensive renovation project. In certain situations an overdraft facility may be appropriate and customers living in France and in the UK/Ireland are eligible.
Bear in mind that if you do have a higher spending limit set on your card you need the funds to cover your spending in your account before you spend. Top ups to your account can be made quickly without hassle via the Britline International Payment Service*, our bespoke transfer exchange facility.
Choosing the right bank card for you
For an alternative solution, CA Britline has created two cards – exclusive to our customers - which offer higher spending limits for payments and cash withdrawals. These are the CA Britline Classic and CA Britline Premier, which also have travel assistance, travel insurance plus other features. The Premier card has additional advantages such as extended warranties on purchases to cover the cost of repairs of damaged goods. There is no charge for increasing the spending limits for Premier card customers.
Customers may use their CA Britline cards anywhere in France and internationally, to withdraw cash, make payments in shop and of course online. As well as having a bank account to pay for any Euro transactions, we offer accounts in Sterling too, perfect for people who live in the UK but who are regular visitors to France.
One further tip – you can save money by using your French card in France rather than incurring foreign transaction fees on your UK bank card. We also provide deferred payment cards which deduct the money at the end of month, potentially useful for customers paid on a monthly basis.
France is a world leader in smart card technology and was amongst the first countries to use the chip and pin system. The use of contactless cards is widespread in shops, cafés and restaurants. There is a limit of €30 on payments; if you reach this amount you will need to enter your PIN code and the limit is reset to zero.
Annual card fees and charges
It may come as a surprise to people living in the UK - used to free banking services – that there are annual fees charged for holding a bank card in France. For customers with Britline Classic and Premier Cards they may use their cards throughout the world without charges. The annual fee is taken from your account around a month after your account is opened. When it comes to renewing your card this is done automatically with no need to contact us.
Applying for your new French bank card
If you would like more information, consult or offers or wish to apply for a CA Britline bank card, please visit www.britline.com/cards.html
* Britline International Payments Service (BIPS) is provided by HiFX Europe Limited. HiFX is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN No. 462444) for the provision of payment services. Registered office: Maxis 1, Western Road, Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 1RT.