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Thread: Foreign credit cards for French train ticket sales

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    Default Foreign credit cards for French train ticket sales

    I thought I would just post some recent experiences with the use of credit cards for ticket purchases on SNCF, the RER and Metro, just for information.

    Most people probably know that North American credit cards (which often don't contain an electronic chip or have PIN protection) are unlikely to work in ticket machines for SNCF (French Railways), the RER or the Metro.

    However people from other countries (who have cards with chips and PINs) might assume that their cards will work simply because they DO have these features. Unfortunately this is not guaranteed to be the case.

    I recently tried to use two credit cards from two major Australian banks (NAB and ANZ) with varying degrees of success. Both were less than a year old with chips and PINs.

    SNCF ticket machines at the CDG TGV station under Terminal 2 - NOT accepted
    RER (Ile-de-France) ticket machines at Gare du Nord - NOT accepted
    Metro ticket machines in Metro station - WERE accepted.
    ATM machines and other places like hotel receptions - no problems.
    Staffed ticket windows in SNCF stations - no problems.
    Online ticket purchases over the SNCF website - no problems.

    Others may like to post their experiences. Maybe we can find a pattern.

  2. #2
    Frank is offline Paris Train Senior Advisor
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    I've had similar experiences in the past trying to use a US bank-issued credit/debit card. If you are using a US-based card, you have to assume at all times that your credit/debit card will not be accepted at ANY automated ticket dispensing machine in France or any other country in Europe. The only exceptions are ATM machines. I've never had a problem getting cash using a debit card. One thing to be sure of is to notify your bank (the bank that issued the debit or credit card) that you are traveling in Europe so they accept the transaction and don't decline payment. If you are dealing with a person your card will most probably be accepted.

    So, make sure you have Euros, especially coins with you. Also, be aware that many Metro stations do not have a person selling tickets. You have to use the ticket dispensing machines. For example, the George V Metro station (Line 1) only has a dispensing machine. The next stop, Charles de Gaulle/Etoile, has both machines and a person selling tickets. Again, I'm writing about US-based credit/debit cards.

    One final comment: The French have this not-so-good reputation as far as friendliness is concerned. Aloofness, etc. Years ago on my first trip to Paris, I got involved with a dispensing machine at George V Metro, non-acceptance, etc. The French gentlemen behind me used HIS card to buy a carnet for me. He refused my offer to pay him in paper Euros and I had to practically force him to take the Euros. I hope this anecdote will help get rid of the impression we, especially Americans, have about France and its people.

  3. #3
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  4. #4
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    I have been booking TGV train tickets from Perpignan to Paris and Perpignan to London, every six weeks since last year, always on-line with no problems.

    Last April and again today, ALL my credit cards were refused; that's both VISA and AE from four different banks in four different countries. The only similarity is that none of the credit cards were French: all were chip & pin.

    My impression is that something has changed in the sncf software which now excludes the on-line booking with non-French cards. Since the only way to have a Freench credit card is to have a French bank account, and since you can only have a French bank account if you have an address in France, this means us foreigners who formerly purchased on-line are excluded.

  5. #5
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    I have just found out what the change in SNCF booking software is. Up to three months ago the French sncf website acepted all bookings from all countries (all, that is, if you have an approved credit card).

    The new system - currently in effect - requires you enter your country of residence, when you will be redirected to an sncf website in your own language.

    Bizzarely, the Spanish language sncf website to which I was directed (I live in Spain) accepted United Kingdom VISA cards.....

  6. #6
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    That's interesting to hear. I must have just got my travel booked in time - I used the voyages.sncf website nearly 3 months ago to book travel in a couple of weeks. It doesn't greatly surprise me - it was so obviously set up for the domestic market. There was a thread on here a month or two back about how the TGV-ID tickets would only acept French credit cards but at that stage the TGV Prems could still be purchased using a foreign credit card.

    Never mind, we'll all just have to use tgv-europe like we're supposed to. The prices are the same - there just seem to be less trains and journey options available.

    BTW, did you know that tgv-europe doesn't really care about your country of residence - you could have selected UK and done the transaction in English if you'd chosen.

  7. #7
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    Another aspect of all of this is that whereas PREMS (cheap tickets) on the French network are print-at-home on your PC, PREMS which involve the Eurostar as well as the French trains are not: they must be collected from a railway station etc. I like to collect them a few days in advance which means a round trip of 150 kms up to Perpignan to collect them: no problem if we have the monthly shopping trip to Auchan planned but a b*ugger otherwise.

    Not really the place for this but I'll say it anyway: we have a choice of home to London and back by Ryanair, about €150 including the train from Stansted, and it all takes six hours: or by TGV/Eurostar, about €280 to St Pancras and takes about ten hours. Oh and that train journey is in first class, a single "armchair" seat, electrically reclining, nobody next to you, downstairs in the "quiet lounge" on the TGV, and a meal is included on the Eurostar.

    Guess which we prefer !

  8. #8
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    After having difficulty purchasing TGV PREM tickets online last week, I emailed SNCF from the voyages-sncf site. In their reply, they note their policy for accepting foreign credit cards online:

    Je tiens à préciser que pour les cartes bancaires émises à
    l'étranger, les paiements sont désormais limités à 1 transaction
    par tranche de 24 heures pour un total de 300 euros par semaine (150 euros par jour).

    A noter qu'en cas d'erreur de saisie et toujours par mesure de sécurité,
    votre carte bancaire est bloquée 24 heures.

    Voyages-sncf.com espère conserver toute votre confiance,

    Essentially, one is limited to 1 transaction in 24 hours, for a total of 300 euros per week (150 euros per day). In case of an error, your credit card will be blocked for 24 hours.

  9. #9
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    Hmmmm....not sure if their answer is strictly true. The wife and I are making half-a dozen trips seperately in autumn this year, and I just spent more than €150 in one day making all the bookings with no problem. The French SNCF website blocks my foreign cards (Spanish, German and English) immediately. The Spanish SNCF site worked with no problem.


    By the way, using non-French SNCF websites to book TGV tickets on line offers the facility to have SNCF mail you tickets by post (which the French site has always offered to French bookers). I tried this via the Spanish SNCF site last week and the tickets arrived in five days including a Sunday.

  10. #10
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    I can confirm that I was able to purchase PREM tickets today on the French language voyages.sncf website using an Australian credit card (VISA on ANZ Bank). The value was below the 150 euro per day limit.

    SNCF have revamped their website and now offer a modified version of the electronic print-at-home ticket, called Billet Imprime. This works slightly differently from the old e-Billet system.

    e-Billet requires you to nominate the name of the traveller at the time you make the purchase. The PDF file of the ticket is generated at the time of purchase and contains the train number, date of travel, seat number and name of the traveller.
    Billet Imprime requires you to nominate the train number, date of travel and seat number but does not actually generate the electronic PDF ticket at that time. You are given a booking reference which you can then use at any time up until the time of travel to generate the electronic print-at-home ticket file with whatever traveller name you choose. Effectively this gets you access to the cheap PREM advance prices and reservations without having to commit to the traveller's name.

    Some journey searches seem to offer e-Billet while others offer Billet Imprime. I couldn't see a pattern.

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