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Can I use my American Express card in France?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
Can I use my American Express card in France?
A sticker pasted at the entrance of a business lets customers know that they accept American Express credit cards on January 24, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

If you are travelling to France with an American Express card, there are a few things you ought to consider beforehand.

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While many European establishments do accept American Express cards, outside of the US they are significantly less common and many businesses, especially smaller ones, refuse them. 

Why are American Express cards not accepted?

According to Forbes, it has to do with the fact that American Express is known for charging "higher merchant fees than other credit card networks.

"In other words: It’s more cost-efficient for many businesses (especially low-margin ones) to take Visa or Mastercard instead."

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The business magazine also noted that American Express credit card transactions made up just 4.61 percent globally. Whereas Visa and Mastercard transactions were significantly more common - making up 38 percent and 24 percent of the market share respectively.

READ MORE: Is it a good idea to rent a car in Paris?

What should I do if I have an AmEx card?

Travel blogs often recommend that AmEx holders bring along a Visa or Mastercard as well, in case they run into issues.

You can also consult American Express' interactive map, which shows the businesses in France that definitely accept the card.

However, the map may not show every business that accepts AmEx, so feel free to ask (est-ce que vous acceptez les cartes 'American Express'?) before sitting down for a meal or making a purchase. 

You can also look to see whether the store displays an AmEx sticker in the window. 

Generally, American Express cards are less likely to be accepted in small businesses - neighbourhood restaurants, cafés or independent shops - due to the reasons outlined above. You have a better chance of your AmEx card being accepted in larger companies and chains.

It's also not accepted by all French apps for payment - so for example if you're buying national rail tickets you can use AmEx for the SNCF Connect app, but it is not accepted by the Paris public transport app Ile de France Mobilities (which offers digital Metro, bus and tram tickets).

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Any other things to consider?

Contactless payment (sans contact) is becoming much more common in France, albeit only for lower-value purchases.  If your AmEx card does not have the chip that allows you to tap and pay, then you may want to take cash out or bring another card along. 

If you still have an old-style card that requires swiping and signing, be aware that most smaller French businesses do not have this payment option.

ATMs should accept your AmEx card, so you should not have any issues being able to put in your pin number and take out cash, though there may be fees.

You'll also want to look into the transaction fees associated with your card. Some AmEx cards offer the benefit of no foreign transaction fees, while others still charge them.

Finally, while AmEx no longer requires cardholders to inform them ahead of time if they will be travelling abroad, they still recommend "keeping your contact information updated in case we need to contact you while you're away" and "downloading the Amex mobile app to conveniently manage your account on the go."

READ MORE: Brits, Americans or Germans - who visits France the most?

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Comments (1)

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JamesP 2024/05/30 18:28
I usually use AmEx for hotels, taxis (G7 accepts it), and pricier restos and shops. Everything else is a Visa card or cash.

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