Payment Methods in France: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re starting a job in France, pursuing your studies, or simply going on an extended holiday à la bohème, you need to quickly find your way around the practicalities of life in France.

Choosing the appropriate payment method in each situation can save you time and money.

So what payment options are available in France and which should you rely on? To find out, read on as we explore the French payments landscape.

1. Cards

Like in most Western European countries, bank cards are popular in France. So it comes as no surprise that 57% of French consumers prefer to pay via debit or credit card when shopping online.

Most cards in France are a Carte Bancaire (CB), the country’s national card system. A Carte Bancaire — which can be either a debit or credit card — is widely accepted in most commerces across the country. Both Visa and Mastercard cards are included in the CB system.

When it comes to debit versus credit, it’s the debit cards that are more widely used. Deferred debit cards, where all monthly transactions are debited at a single time (as opposed to instantly), are common.

If you are using a card issued by a French bank, one thing to be aware of are the fees and monthly or daily limits for ATM withdrawals.

2. Bank Transfers

Less popular than card payments but on the rise are bank transfers. People prefer transfers to card payments when making large payments or paying monthly bills.

The IBAN and the BIC or SWIFT code of the recipient are required when making a bank transfer, which makes this means of payment hardly the most convenient way to pay.

Bank transfers are of course subject to fees and charges of the banks involved in the transaction, which can vary with the banks, currencies, and destinations involved.

On the positive side of things, if your transfer is made to a country within the SEPA zone (the EU’s single euro payments area), the same charges apply as for a domestic transfer.

So for example, a transfer of euros from France to Italy or from the UK to France will be charged the same as a transfer within France because in each example, both countries are SEPA members.

Fin.do tip : But what if you want to send euros from France to Russia, for example? With Fin.do, transfers have the same unique fee no matter the countries or currencies involved in the transaction.

3. Digital Wallets

Payments via digital wallets (or e-wallets) have a strong foothold in France. This payment method enables you to transfer money and to pay for products or services using your existing cards or bank accounts.

E-wallets have a few undeniable benefits: payments are fast, you don’t need to know the recipient’s bank account details, and you can store more than one bank account or card to use for payments.

Paylib is among the more popular e-wallets in France, allowing you to add cards supported by the Carte Bancaire system.

Fin.do tip: What if you own a foreign card? Fin.do allows you to make instant transfers using any card and any currency, no matter where you are and where you send money to.

PayPal also has a strong presence in France, with 41% of consumers using it as a payment method for their online purchases.

4. Mobile Payments

With the percentage of mobile payments in France standing at 38%, the French sure have an appetite for this rapidly growing payment option!

And let’s be honest: what’s not to love about the speed, convenience, and simplicity of a smartphone payment?

A wide range of mobile payment solutions are accepted in France. Among the more popular are:

  • Alternatives to traditional banks — such as Monese and Revolut, which provide accounts and their own cards
  • Banks’ mobile apps, such as BNP Paribas or La Banque Postale
  • Apps for money transfers between individuals, such as Paylib, Lyf Pay, or Lydia
  • International solutions such as Amazon Pay or Apple Pay

5. Cheques

Yes, you read that right. France is among the few countries that still accepts cheque payments.

While this is becoming a more and more infrequent method of payment, you can still get a checkbook for free from your bank, free of charge.

Cheques can be used as an alternative to bank transfers when you need to make a large payment and would prefer to avoid bank transfer fees.

6. Cash

In France as in many other places, cash is still king: 59% of all transactions here are made in cash.

There is, however, a limit to how much cash you can spend in a transaction. French residents are allowed to make cash purchases of a maximum €1,000 from shops, while non-residents have a limit of €15,000. Transactions between individuals are not subject to these limits.

This concludes our brief tour of the payments landscape in France. Which payment method do you use the most in France, and why? Drop us a comment and let us know.

Happy transfers!

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