MasterCard and Visa
French bankcards (cartes bancaires or just CB ) are issued in the Visa or (less commonly) MasterCard brands, and are accepted at most merchants in France. Look for the CB sign posted in shop windows.
American Express cards are beginning to become more widely accepted in France, with most department stores, many chain hypermarkets, and other smaller shops now accepting the brand.
Discover cards lack a French processing network and are thus not accepted in the country, though they are beginning to be accepted elsewhere in Europe. JCB and Diners Club cards are also rarely accepted, though participating merchants (especially large Parisian hotels) can be found.
The Microchip (La Puce )
French bankcards (Visas and MasterCards) have microchips in them that contain secure transaction information and require the use of a PIN; French American Express cards have not yet incorporated the chip.
While other European and Asian countries have adopted this technology, American banks have not yet done so.
According to the French Minister of the Economy, Industry, and Employment. retailers may not refuse payment by a card that
carries a brand which they accept, as noted by a sticker in the window or at the cash register. Merchants are however allowed to set a minimum amount for card transactions, which must be clearly posted. Effectively, merchants must accept all cards of the brands they post on their shop doors no matter their country of origin or whether or not they contain a chip.
Using Cards without Microchips
Second-generation cards (those with a magnetic strip but lacking a microchip) might require that their bearer use specific terminals to make their purchases, help the merchant to find the magnetic strip reader on the payment machine, or forego a card payment altogether. Below are some places generally known for being unfriendly to 2G cards.
Where 2G cards generally are not accepted:
- SNCF self-service ticketing machines (wait in line at the ticketing desk)
- Express-payment or unattended gas pumps (find an attended location instead, generally 8 am - 8 pm)
- Leader Price supermarket
- French law Duflot
Where 2G cards generally are accepted:
- Toll booths
- National supermarket chains
- Clothing stores