Using debit or credit cards in France

Aug 4, 2005
Could some of the regular visitors over the Channel clarify any problems using debit and /or credit cards in France to pay for fuel, tolls etc. I am sure I can remember posts from a few years back saying U.K. bank cards could not be used at automated fuel pumps, something about our cards not compatible with French system. Is this still the same?
I have used my credit card often enough in France in the likes of supermarkets but never my bank debit card, nor ever used my credit card at any of the automated unmanned fuel pumps or toll booths.
Also seem to remember folks saying that at some of the automated places you did not need to enter your pin, is that still the same? Have you used your debit card at a French cash machine to withdraw funds?
Some general advice re use of debit and credit card appreciated.
Nov 11, 2009
I've used both Mastercard/Visa credit cards and debit cards for toll and fuel in automated booths without a problem. In fact off the autoroutes the supermarket fuel outlets can shut the manned booths at lunchtime and all you have available is the auto purchase. In most but not all cases the screens switch into English when the card is inserted but if it doesnt a smattering of French gets you by. Using debit cards to withdraw cash is not a problem and there are some cards that the 'regulars' use that charge lower fees. We always let our card providers know we will be away and have never had problem using our cards abroad. Only time we had a problem was in Norfolk when an ATM withdrawal was declined, and it turned out our debit card had been copied at a fuel station in Chippenham and the details sold abroad. The system placed a stop on it because there had been a withdrawal in Montreal only a shortwhile before we used the ATM in Norfolk......and we cannot afford to travel by Concorde!
Feb 7, 2010
I use myn
Natiowide debit card for cash withdrawals only and my Nationwide Credit card for all purchases. Last year my debit card showed 2 withdrawals of 150€ within 2 minutes of each other. I contacted the bank by email and it was sorted out within 1 hour, and my charges were reimbursed. The bank I did the withdrawal at put it down as 2 withdrawals instead of 1. I use my credit card at home and build up free use when abroad when I left on 29th May I had £1900 free use.

Mar 14, 2005
I've had virtually no trouble over the past 3 or 4 years in France and Spain but a few problems before that. The only problem with the 24/24 automated pumps is that they check the available balance on the card before ok-ing it and if you do not have enough credit for 99 litres of fuel at their current price it will be declined. They actually take 99l worth and then refund the difference between that and what you actually take but you will see only one transaction on the statement.
Motorway toll boths vary a bit, but basically take the card without requiring the entry of a PIN. You need to pres the appropriate button to get a recepit though. All very quick and easy until the rare time when it all goes wrong.
Some service stations may want ID as well when paying at the till, but a photocard driving licence usually sorts this out and it is not a common problem.
At the pumps you put your card in and go through process of PIN etc before filling - you will have the card back before that. Select the option to get a recepit. Most pumps recognise a UK card and display in English - others you have to select an option, but it's easy if you take your time on the first two of three occaisions. The number which come up on the little screen need to be pressed not on the screen but on the keypad. Verify or V is the term for OK and the button is usually green (if the paint has not worn off).
It's always a good idea to have a reserve credit/debit card with you carried somewhere other than with your main one to protect against loss or on the vary rare times that your main card may be swallowed by the machine.


Jun 19, 2013

Not sure if you will pick up this reply....we used our credit card in France last summer at motorway tolls and also in automatic fuel stations with no problem. HOWEVER....we went skiing in February and had major problems with acceptance at any automatic fuel machine. It wasn't just one card either - I had several methods of payment including debit card and credit card from different providers and none were accepted. In some instances we were able to fuel up and pay at the booth while we could not pay at the automatic machines. We are about to go off to France for another holiday and have invested in a prepaid credit card to, hopefully, get us out of a fix of no fuel stations being open and us being desparate for fuel. (currently there is an offer through moneysaving expert)

We have never had a problem with card acceptance at tolls..

have a good holiday
Mar 14, 2005
SLC -by prepaid card I guess you mean something like CaxtonFX where you charge it with euros and can top up by mobile phone.
There is a snag when using these cards to buy fuel (at least, there is with caxtonFX) Broadly speaking when you first enter your card the pump 'looks' to see how much money you have on it. If this is less than 99 times the price per litre it will reject. This is because the maximum delivery of the pump is 99 litres and once delivery is started the only thing that will stop it is you or 99litres delivered. I understand that in practice the pump actually charges for 99 litres before delivery and then does an automatic and rapid credit when you have filled, crediting back 99 litres minus the amount taken.
This means you will need something between 150 euro credit on the card at all times if you want to use the automatic pumps. A nuisance as i would lke to have run down the amount left on the card on the way home.

This is not the only reason for rejection - the others are a complete mystery to me. One notorious black spot is the Exxon self service just before you get to the ferry in Ouisterham (Caen). The owner of the little wine shop which seems to be part of the filling station but isn't told me he was absolutely fed up with people coming in to complain.

There is no easy access station between Caen and Ouisterham that I can see and it is better to stay on the northern riing road in Caen and go to the Carrefour before going up to the port.

This has been my experience over the last couple of years but the information is 9 months old and perhaps someone has more up to date ?
May 7, 2012
We have just returned from France and had no trouble using either bank debit or credit cards (except the one I lost in Paris). The downside was the bank charged £1.50 for overseas transactions while the credit cards charged 3% for converting Euros to sterling despite the computer doing it. The supermarket automated pumps worked fine for me and I cannot even speak French but were a lot more long winded than ours, checking you had the right fuel and several other things. With diesel at the supermarkets at £130 Euros even the £1.50 charge left you well in pocket.
Some supermarkets still had a cash option if you had any doubts about using the card.
Jan 31, 2011
We had no problems buying fuel with either debit or credit card on our tour of Europe but I enjoyed filling up in Luxembourg with diesel @ 1 Euro 20 / ltr


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