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Using a Credit-card .. at Bistro/boulangerie or patisserie

Do most restaurants accept VISA credit-card (an American one.. non-chip&pin)? I know there is a difference and this is a problem in those metro machines, but it be an issue getting breakfast, snacks, and lunch?

I ask because my bank has a 3% transaction charge abroad.. but also a 3% total charge on money from an ATM. Well, if it is 3% either way, why even bother getting money out off an ATM when there are many reports of people (solo travelers) getting scammed at an ATM.... so instead of getting robbed at the ATM, why bother. Can I just use my credit-card the whole time?

PS. I know this is somewhat of a TA question--but I am asking specifically for boulangerie or patisserie and figured CHounds would know better that I am not asking about tourist trap, chains.

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  1. No, you will need cash.

    1. "Do most restaurants accept VISA credit-card"
      Yes
      "my bank has a 3% transaction charge abroad"
      Then get a Capital One card for all your restos and groceries (except at stands and street markets).
      "getting scammed at an ATM"
      Buy some nifty credit card sized envelopes with FIPS 201 blocking material.

      1. Not wanting to change our credit card to a free transaction card (for many personal reasons), and not wanting to expose a debit card, we simply pay cash everywhere except for week-long hotel bills. We use a no fee debit card at a subtle ATM near our hotel, hit the "money machine" every other day and keep extra cash in our hotel safe. Once you break the American credit card habit, cash is a simple alternative. May even become popular some day...or not.

        Most French merchants are totally unaccustomed to taking a card for small purchases, say under 10 or 20€.

        1. Unfortunately due to the fact that I had only 2 weeks (plus American holiday of "Fourth of July" cut out a week), I was told I could not apply+get-approved+receive a card in-time for my trip. :(

          The scam that I am speaking about is apparently where you are surrounded at the ATM by a group, after you have already entered your card and pin, and they grab your cash, possibly card too. Some have described that the group puts a piece of paper in front of your face or the machine and then enters a high amount to deduct + grabs the cash. Therefore, I am hesitant to use the ATM--at all--when this smack+grab at the ATM keeps getting posted. I don't have anyone to watch my back.

          Mangeur, that sounds good that your debit-card doesn't have a fee.. but mine does, so "hitting the money machine" = fees too.

          11 Replies
          1. re: GraceW

            It does happen, as in all bit cities, but it is rare. It has never happened to me, and I have lived here since the last century. You make it sound as though it happened so frequently that you should even forego the use of your credit cards. You know you have a much bigger chance of getting food poisoning or being hit by a bicycle in Paris than falling into scams. I don't want you to start worrying about food poisoning, but if you must worry about being surrounded at ATMs , why stop there ? :)

            1. re: Parigi

              I guess multiple people posting on TA in the last few days about getting scammed on the RER (CDG to Paris) and/or at ATMs.. the repetition makes me question it.

              Also, people keep saying--"credit for large purchases, Euros for small".... well, it is the same fee either way... why bother using Euros for small purchases?

              1. re: GraceW

                If you are still afraid, use an ATM that already has a line.
                A horror story repeated does give some people paranoia. First of all, if you discard all hear-say from those TA stories, how many are left ?
                I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who can fly.

                1. re: GraceW

                  Mostly because small vendors don't want to take cards for small purchases. You need cash for daily life in Paris: boulangeries, snacks, coffees, small purchases, casual lunches.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    Good to know--because I use cash maybe once a week in the US. Thanks!

                  2. re: GraceW

                    the crowd on TA would have you believe that Paris is a third-world outpost with thieves and ne'er-do-wells hiding behind every tree and parking meter.

                    They're full of horsefeathers -- and yes, I've told them that.

                    Paris is one of the safest cities of its size in the world. Act like you're in a big city and you'll be fine.

                2. re: GraceW

                  Notice that I specifically mentioned a discreet ATM. We always use the same one. We never just "need money" during the day. We hit a market for bottled water for our room, a wine shop for wine and an ATM for the next day's money. We never use an ATM in a highly tourist area. If your are staying somewhat off a main street, there should be a quiet ATM that is not a magnet for the roving bands of youngsters looking for an easy mark. Look around you before stopping. Check out who is approaching from all directions. It really sounds more cloak and dagger than it is. It's just the same street smarts you'd use at home. And, of course, avoid making small withdrawals that do add up if your bank charges them.

                  1. re: GraceW

                    Make your cash withdrawals from an ATM during business hours from machines located inside a bank if you are concerned about such a situation.

                    1. re: GraceW

                      Grace, I have never heard of that scam in Paris, although I am sure it must happen somewhere to someone.

                      I'd just advise to be aware of your surroundings especially when you are about to use a debit or credit card in a public place like an ATM machine or in the Metro. If you're feeling apprehensive, find a police person to accompany you while you're making your transaction.

                      1. re: GraceW

                        Chase signature preferred, applied on line, had card in 6 days.

                      2. Grace I think you need to relax a bit more about Paris, in another post you asked about the safety of the metro (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9702...) and you are now worried about ATM's.

                        Yes Paris is a busy tourist city, and yes it attracts petty thieves and scammers. But it's also a modern city which is well policed and comparatively safe. As others have said just use common sense and you should be fine, it's not like many US cities where you can go from a great neighbourhood to a genuinely dangerous one in only a block or two. Just use your US street smarts and it will be fine.

                        As others have said cards are not used for small scale transactions but will be used for larger ones. The way it works in arrange is they bring the pin machine to your table, thus if your card won't handle pins it can be a problem. Although these machines will often take magnetic stripe cards and print a docket for signature. Best advice is to use cash for day to day transactions of low is value (under €20), and use a card for over $20. And as others heave said simply choose and ATM in a good area, preferably in a public space or inside the bank. You should be fine.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: PhilD

                          Folks, we've removed some posts here about general tourist safety in Paris, off topic for Chowhound. By all means, help GraceW with her question about using credit cards at boulangeries, but let's keep the topic focused on Chow.