Paris Métro and plastic

This item appears on page 56 of the August 2009 issue.

We returned from France on May 27 to find the June ’09 issue and Abbie Salny’s letter titled “Heads up on Paris Métro” (page 14), which said there are no longer any ticket booths in the Métro stations, only machines that accept credit cards or cash. There are, indeed, manned ticket booths in the Métro, just not in every station.*

We tried to use our American credit card in the ticket machine at the Gare de Lyon station, but it was rejected. European credit cards have a chip in them that is lacking in ours. Several times over the last decade, we have tried to use our credit cards at automatic pumps at gas stations, with no success. This is especially distressing when driving on a Sunday when few stations are manned.

We had no problems using our credit card wherever a person was present (restaurants, shops, etc.). We did not try debit cards.

Be careful using the RER commuter trains outside of Paris; plan ahead and get your tickets early. We planned to pick up a rental car in Nan­terre to avoid Paris traffic. When making the “correspondance” between Métro lines at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, we found no way to purchase tickets on the RER line. (In hindsight, we should have exited and purchased tickets, but we didn’t know at the time that we’d be stuck trying to exit at the end of our trip without RER tickets.)

But the turnstiles accepted our regular Métro tickets, so we got on the RER. We got off at the Nanterre Prefecture stop and discovered that we could not exit since those turnstiles would not accept our tickets. We started to flag down some armed policemen when a kindly caretaker assumed we were having trouble getting through the turnstiles with our bags (or so we think) and unlocked the gates to let us through.


Orient, OH

*ITN sent Ms. Salny a copy of Ms. Prindle’s letter and received the following reply, dated June 23.

I am at my apartment in Paris seven or eight times a year. In January of this year I saw no ticket machines in the Métro stations; in March I saw two or three, and in May I found only machines and no ticket sellers except in one station — and I must visit nine or 10 stations per trip. (There still are information booths, just no ticket booths.)

The ticket machines have multiplied tenfold since March. A French friend who is a guide tells me that eventually there will be only machines and no ticket booths.

As far as credit cards are concerned, I have used both debit cards and credit cards in Paris, even in ticket machines. But I now use only debit cards, as the conversion fee on my credit card is much too high. I use a debit card at an ATM, as the PNC Bank does not charge to use an ATM abroad. I do not charge anything anymore and pay cash to avoid the conversion fee from euros to dollars, which on a December ’08 trip was almost $60 (on purchases of $2,000).

Of course, I have a French bank account to pay my condo charges, taxes and telephone bills plus a few small extras. However, it is more economical to pay with cash (provided I do not have to pay ATM fees or conversion charges).


Wayne, NJ