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Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

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New York City, New...
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Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

My student will be studying abroad in France this fall and I'd like recommendations for debit and credit cards to send with her. She will mostly use the debit card but have the credit card for emergency purposes. I was considering the Capitol One 360 debit card since i have an account with them. All suggestions welcome. Thank you!

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

I use an ATM card from a local bank which doesn't charge for international withdrawals. Look around your community for one that doesn't. I have a Capital One credit card which does not charge extra above the 1% exchange fee. It also has a good airmiles system. We paid for our last trip with points from this card; you just book the flight and they reimburse the ticket cost if you have sufficient points.

When my daughter was in Europe for a semester, I just gave her one of my cards to use, but it is probably better to get one in her own name on your account.

Portland, Oregon
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2. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

The Cap One cards have no foreign transaction fee, so they are good choices. You'll need a debit card (most likely) for cash ATM withdrawals, but that will be with your bank. If you plan to rent the Velib bikes or certain other things, you may want to find a chip-and-pin card, which I don't think Cap One has yet. These will work in some places that a mag-stripe card (the US standard) will not work. creditcardforum.com/blog/…

New Hampshire
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3. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

The best debit card would be with a bank that assesses neither a "foreign currency conversion" nor "transaction" fee. Best credit cards have no currency conversion fee.

Please be aware that a debit card is problematic in that, if the card is lost or stolen, the entire balance can be quickly wiped out without the PIN (with purchases). This is especially dangerous if the "primary" account is linked to another account and/or you have overdraft protection. Best bet is an ATM only card. Some banks will issue one in addition to debit card, others will not. In the alternative, the purchase limit on a debit card can be set to $.01, allowing ATM withdrawals only, no purchases (even for the holder). If the card is lost or stolen or there are unauthorized transaction, all can be sorted out - eventually. You need the issuing bank's cardholder agreement explaining all that in writing.

You may want to consider an ATM-only card for cash withdrawals and a credit card for purchases, so she's not carrying excess cash around for purchases. If she'll have a debit card, she'll need to be extra careful to secure it against loss or theft.

NY, NY
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4. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

Two important credit card features we found on our recent trip to France:

1. no foreign transaction fee and/or good exchange rate

2. chip in card.

We charged most meals, hotel, all gift/clothes/etc. purchases, we didn't buy a LOT, but saving 3% on what we did charge was worthwhile. Just got our statement and our purchases were converted at around 1.3 USD to EUR on average and no transaction fee. I had read here that European credit cards have the chip but many places still accept swipe cards, but I think it was just easier to have a card with a chip.

I hear that Capital One does not charge foreign exchange fees, but don't know if it has a chip. We used a British Airways Visa with both features. It has a $95 annual fee, but we saved the 3% transaction fees and we also flew there using a free companion ticket we got from British Air, so the fee was well paid for.

Edited: 26 June 2013, 23:35
New York City, New...
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5. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

CapOne does not have pin cards (at least not yet) but I have been using mine for a few years and have never had a problem using it overseas. No fees at all, good exchange rate and my debit card even works in metro ticket machines.

Katy, Texas
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6. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

We just got back from London and Paris. We took a Schwab debit card since it has no fees and both a BofA Travel Rewards (Chip/Signature) card and the SDFCU card (Chip/Signature/PIN). We had no issues with our chip cards although we were always asked to sign the slip and I was never asked to use the PIN on the SDFCU card.

Scottsdale, Arizona
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7. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

I just got a Bank of America Travel Rewards card - no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees. It's a chip and signature card. I haven't used it in Europe yet (13 days to go!) - but people have posted here that it works fine.

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8. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

I use both BoA and CapitalOne debits cards. We were in Paris October 2012 and will be going back November 2013.

BoA is in an international consortium with Paribas PNB and using a BoA debit card results in no out of network fees.

CapitalOne debit card reimburses your account for use of an ATM at any bank. If the transaction charges you 2 Euro, you get that back in USD from CapitalOne.

Chicago, IL
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9. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

"We had no issues with our chip cards although we were always asked to sign the slip and I was never asked to use the PIN on the SDFCU card."

That means you have a chip and signature card, not a chip and pin card. I honestly didn't see any difference between my chip and signature card and my old signature card, they both seemed to work with very few exceptions. I didn't try the chip and signature card for bikes or at unmanned gas stations where I've had trouble in the past. There are very few US issued chip and pin cards

Capital One should be a good choice for a credit card, they do not have foreign transaction fees which range from 1-3%

Debit cards, my bank charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, check with your bank to see a)how much the per withdrawal fee is (mine is $0) and b) how much the foreign transaction fee is (should be 1-3%). I've never paid a fee originating from the French banks, if they try to charge one, tell your student to find another ATM

Paris, France
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10. Re: Best US debit and credit cards for use in France

French banks do not charge for ATM use. The Capital One 360 account is really all you need.