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On January 1st, 2002, twelve of the fifteen European Union members completed conversion to the Euro, replacing their own national currencies. These twelve countries comprise the Eurozone, sometimes called Euroland. There are eight Euro coins denominated in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 Euros. Each coin has a European community face as well as a national face specific to one of the twelve countries, so don't be surprised to find Spanish or German versions in your wallet. All are accepted in Euroland. Here are the French versions:
There are seven Euro notes, identical in all twelve countries. They are denominated in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Euros, each having a different color. All notes carry advanced security features.
Final designs were announced in December 1996 at the Dublin European Council. They incorporate symbols of Europe's architectural heritage, but do not depict any real monuments. Windows and gateways dominate the front side of each banknote, symbols of the spirit of openness and cooperation in the EU. Each reverse side features a bridge from a particular age, as a metaphor for communication among the people of Europe, as well as between Europe and the rest of the world.
Banks in Paris and most of northern France are open 09h to 16h30 or 17h, Monday through Friday. Provincial banks are usually open 08h to 16h30, Tuesday through Saturday. Some banks close from 13h to 15h, and some are open Saturday mornings. Note that banks may close earlier than usual the day before a national holiday. Here are the hours for some Paris banks.
Currency exchange is offered in all banks and post offices, and some hotels. You can also find exchanges in department stores, railway stations, and airports. Be warned that exchange rates are fixed, but commission rates are flexible. They must be clearly indicated, however. Banks and currency exchanges (bureaux de change) will usually have the lowest commissions. Hotels and airports usually have higher commissions.
Bank debit and credit cards are accepted in most stores, hotels, restaurants, and service stations. Widely-honored brands are American Express, Visa, Mastercard-Eurocard, and Diners Club. There is often a minimum purchase requirement of 15 €. Depending on the card type, you can withdraw 100-500 € at automatic teller machines (ATMs) and banks. If you plan to obtain cash from ATMs, call your credit card company for instructions before you leave. Cash obtained from ATMs is normally at a quite good rate of exchange. A disadvantage is that credit card companies will normally consider the transaction a "cash advance", accruing interest from the date of the transaction. Debit cards do not incur this fee, of course. Both cards are likely to have small, fixed per-transaction fees.
If you lose your card, you must notify the issuing bank as soon as possible to avoid paying fraudulent charges. Please call the appropriate customer service number. Remember to record your credit card number and customer service number and store them in a safe place in case of theft or loss.
Whether issued in French Euros or another currency, traveler's checks can be converted to Euros in banks, currency exchanges, and selected post offices. Although a fee is charged when you purchase them, their advantage is that you are insured in case of loss or theft. Eurocheques are similar to traveler's checks. In addition to a booklet of checks, you are given a card which can be used to withdraw money at banks and pay for purchases. You will be required to show identification in order to cash checks in a bank.