France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   RFID & Chip+PIN Debit/Credit Cards
If your credit or debit card has a magnetic stripe, but not a computer chip, or RFID symbol, you will have trouble using it in Paris and the rest of France. In fact, you may not be able to use it at all. But there are solutions to this problem.


Serene - a novel of the Belle Époque, by Tom Brosnahan


On your trip to Paris and France, if your Visa, MasterCard or other credit or debit card does not have RFID and/or a computer chip in it, it will not be accepted everywhere. You may not be able to use it at all, even in online transactions.

Chip+PIN Cards

To deter credit and debit card fraud, European banks, including in France, use the EMV Smart Card Payment System which requires credit and debit cards with computer chips in them (cartes à puce in French).

When used for a purchase, the card is inserted into a merchant device card reader (often a handheld device brought to you), the merchant (say, a waiter in a restaurant) enters the business code and the amount of the charge, then hands the device to you. You press the number keys for your 4-digit PIN (Personal Identification Number), the charge is recorded, the device prints a receipt for you, your card is removed and returned to you, and the transaction is over. It's quick, easy and secure.

Credit vs. Debit Cards

Foreign (that is, non-French) chip+PIN debit cards may work in France because they use a PIN. Credit cards are another matter.

RFID Cards

  RIFD symbol

This card has both electrical contacts and the RFID symbol (circled in red). The symbol may be on the front or back of the card.

You may already have, and use, a Radio Frequency Identity (RFID) card: city transit passes for bus, metro, etc., such as Paris's Navigo, are RFID cards, as are any cards that you just touch or wave at a sensor: you just put the card on or near a sensor, the card and the sensor exchange information, and you're on your way.

RFID cards have chips within them, but may or may not have electrical contacts on the surface of the card, so they may not work on all EMV chip card system terminals.


With Chip+Signature cards, your card has a chip in it, but you sign your signature on the device or on a paper receipt, as you did with the old magnetic stripe cards. With this system, you are usually not liable for fraudulent use of your card.

Chip+Signature can be used in some establishments in France, such as restaurants. When the server brings the handheld credit card device to your table and asks for your card, simply say Signer (SEEN-yay), meaning "Signature," instead of PIN. The server will generate a paper receipt for you to sign.

But in other situations, such as buying things from a machine (Métro and train tickets, for example), a PIN is required. You won't be able to use the machine without one. So...

Get a PIN!

From some companies in the USA, you can request a PIN to go with your Chip+Signature card, making it a Chip+PIN card as well. With a new card, you may have to make your first transaction with a person (cashier) and use your signature, but after that your PIN should be active, and you should be able to use it as a Chip+PIN card in France.

Apple Pay: Easy!

On a recent trip, we decided to use Apple Pay: I registered my credit/debit cards in my iPhone. When the time came to pay, I set up my phone to pay, held it near the payment device, heard a chime, and payment was made. Apple Pay was accepted at 99% of the sellers we used: cafés, restaurants, shops, transport ticket machines, even at some open-air markets.

With this sort of system, your card number is not revealed to the seller—the system merely provides a one-time authorization code. There's less chance that your card number will "go astray" and be used illegitimately.

What to Do?

—Ask your bank about Chip+PIN debit and credit cards, and obtain one if possible.

—Use a chip+PIN cash/ATM card from your home bank to withdraw euros from cash machines (retrait, distributeur des billets) in France—if it works.

Inform your bank that you will be using your card abroad, in France, and that charges and cash withdrawals made with the card should be approved.

Bring cash (dollars, etc.) and convert it to euros at a bureau de change (curency exchange office)— but this can be quite expensive, as exchange offices charge commission of between 6% and 10% of the amount changed, plus a service fee of 2.50 to 6.00, meaning that if you give the exchange office US$100, you may receive less than $90 in euros.

Euro Exchange Rates

About the Euro

Money in France

What Things Cost in France

Saving Money in Paris

Meal Taxes

Tipping in France

Travel Details

About Paris


Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan


RFID + Chip Card.
Note the RFID symbol and chip at the left end of the card. Just place the RFID card on the screen or RFID symbol, hold it thereuntil you hear a chime, and you're done!

Apple Pay and some other contactless smartphone payment systems are also widely used in France, and allow you to pay quickly and easily the same way, and more securely.

Chip Card Only Sign
Notice on a SNCF (French railroads) ticket machine: magnetic stripe cards cannot be used, only chip cards.

RFID Visa Card

RFID card: radio chip,
no external electrical chip contacts.

Paris Train Ticket Machine

Ticket machine for Paris and Île-de-France:
but will it accept your card?

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