lundi 7 mai 2007

The French bankcard is different than US debit cards. For one thing, bank cards are not for credit (credit hardly exists here in France) and they have a chip inside that requires a four digit pin code every time you pay for something. Well, not every time. For things like highway tolls you just stick in the card, but for everything else- groceries, ATM, restaurants, etc. you have to compose your secret code. Etiquette demands that everyone in the immediate area discretely look away as you tap in your code, and you usually try to cover it with your other hand.
They are called "carte bleu" or blue card, I don't know why. Also notice who issued the card to me- yep, my favorite people (after the SNCF) La Poste! Remember when I said that La Poste can't decide whether it wants to be a post office or a bank so they decided to take the middle ground and do both inefficiently?

Alain had warned me that if I put in the wrong code 3 times, the card gets blocked up. I didn’t know that he meant immediately and permanently however. A few weeks ago, when I was late getting home due to the darn SNCF strike (grr) I tried to call him from a public telephone. I stuck my bankcard into the phone and mistakenly started with our phone number instead of putting my code first. After two attempts, I realized that something was wrong (after about 6 numbers the dial tone kept going dead) and stopped. I figured that after 24 hours or so the card would reset the number of attempts back to 3.

On Friday night I went to rent a movie from one of the automatic dispensers near our apartment. When it came time to put in my code, I had a total mind meltdown. I could not for the life of me remember my exact code. (I guess after a long week of work I had too many numbers floating around in my head. I actually started to type in my parent’s house address). Wrong. Card blocked. Dang it. Went home without a movie. The next morning, I tried to buy groceries and the cashier told me my card was blocked. Whoops. How embarrassing. I was able to pay with a check, then had to spend the rest of the morning trying to get through to the financial center before they closed at noon on Saturday (what service) in order to get them to unblock my card. Turns out that they can’t, so they will send me another one. Sigh. Lesson learned.

Just try handing clerks American magnetic strip credit cards and watch them flip out and not know what to do. Quite amusing while wedding planning.

5 commentaires:

Samantha a dit…

I know, they get so confused by American cards! When my co-workers come over from the US, we always end up in these little villages in the middle of nowhere for work and they get so perplexed by their American credit cards. I try to explain that there's no "puce", but every single time they still insist on trying to insert it into the machine (cuz what could a foreigner know, right?). And then I usually have to explain how to swipe it and that they have to sign, etc.

And I had a similar problem with my bank - my card was expiring, so they gave me a new one and promised the code hadn't changed. Well, it in fact HAD changed, so I ended up blocking it at the supermarket and had to leave because I didn't have any other cards or cash with me. I go back to my bank and they say "Oops, looks like it did change for some reason, now you just have to wait for your new code to show up in the mail". Except all of the postal workers in my town were on strike...for over three weeks. I finally ended up getting my pin about a month later, but can you imagine? A month without a bank card? What if I'd had to travel or something? Crazy French!

Anonyme a dit…

Omg, thank you for this. I'll remember this for future reference. :0l

CraftyRachel a dit…

Megan, I'm so sorry about that! Ugh. I've heard the Poste is not the best for banking b/c of the crazy lines, but I don't have to tell you about that. :P I went with Credit Lyonnais and it's been fine so far. It's amazing how different everyday things like credit cards can be.

Did you know that a French man invented the magnetic-swipe credit card? Go figure. Louis Pasteur was French, too, but can you easily find pasteurized milk? hehe

Starman a dit…

You'll find it amusing that here in the US, if you put in the wrong code three times, the machine keeps your card and you have to apply to your bank for a new one.

Poppy Fields a dit…

Some lessons are easier to learn than others. I just came back from the bank, from getting my husband's card that got "ate" by the machine this weekend. He dawdled while putting his fresh cash in his billfold, and ten seconds later, byebye card. Holiday "pont" obliged, the bank just reopened today.

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