Study Abroad in France
You and your family will soon become experts at international banking transactions. You will want quick access to your funds, and you will also want to protect your money against loss. This part covers your banking options.For information on budgeting, see the Planning a Personal Budget page.
The French monetary standard is called the euro. You can check today's rate by visiting this exchange rate currency calculator.
The currency is made up of eight euro coins and seven euro notes. Each coin will display a common face on one side and a participating nation's motif on the opposite side. Regardless of the national motif imprinted, you'll be able to use euro coins anywhere within the 17 member nations that have adopted the single currency. Unlike the coins, the notes have a common design on the front and back. Like the coins, the notes are considered as legal tender in all member nations.
Additionally, the euro's official abbreviation is EUR. For more information about the euro, check out the following websites:
The easiest way to handle your money is with an American ATM card. The advantage to using your card is that you will be assessed the wholesale exchange rate that applies to large foreign currency transactions. You should check with the issuer to make sure your numerical PIN number will work abroad. You can only draw from a primary (usually checking) account. Cirrus and PLUS are widely accepted ATM cards. Be sure to check with your bank about using your ATM card in France and about any fees that might be assessed. Please note: you should know your pin number and have an numerical pin number. There are no letters present on ATM's in Europe.
Credit cards are accepted in many, but not all, businesses in France. While Visa and MasterCard are more widely accepted than American Express for purchases, American Express offers its card holders some very useful financial services. Check with each company before you depart.
With an American Express card and your passport, you can go into any American Express office and write a personal check in US funds using your checkbook from your checking account back home. This service is not available to Optima card holders. You will receive a portion of your funds in local currency and can purchase travelers checks with the rest. This is the simplest way for your family to transfer money to you in France. Remember to leave deposit slips with your family so they can deposit additional funds in your account if necessary. And don't forget to pack your checkbook. Your family can also cable money to you through American Express.
Visa and MasterCard
Both cards are widely accepted at shops throughout France. You may also draw cash at participating banks; be aware, however, that interest accrues from the first day. Check with your issuing bank for further information.
Drawbacks to Plastic
Even with careful planning and strict adherence to a budget, it is frighteningly easy to overspend. Finance charges can add up quickly if you extend payment on goods or take out cash advances. Also, kiosks and some shops increasingly require a "chip and pin" credit card that has a PIN number. It's a good idea to have an alternate form of payment available in case you find yourself in such a transaction.
Obtaining a Major Credit Card
The card you present overseas must be in your own name as given on your passport. At a cardholder's request (your family), most major lenders will issue a dependent's card.
In An Emergency
If you find yourself in dire straits, the State Department can help your family transfer money back to you (provided you are a US citizen). To do this, your family must wire money through Western Union or their bank, or send a cashier's check or money order to the State Department in Washington, DC. A trust account is established and a telegram is sent to the appropriate US embassy or consulate overseas, authorizing next workday disbursement to you. The State Department fees for this service range from $15-$40. For further information about this service, check the State Department's website.