Using Starling in France 🇫🇷


Great feedback, Rob.


Popped over to Paris for the bank holiday weekend. All in all payments worked without issue.

  • SNCF / RER tickets without any issue, while one machine did pop up a strange message and reject the payment, the machine went into a “out of service” mode after so I suspect it was something other than the card.
  • Used a mix of C&P, Contactless and Apple Pay transactions without much hassle. Contactless/Apple Pay is still very rare in France it seems.
  • Completely bamboozled a staff member in CDG airport by using my Apple Watch to pay for my lunch :smiley:


I was in the alps for a few days I found:

  • :white_check_mark: Contactless and card payments were fine everywhere

  • :no_entry: I couldn’t get cash out of any cash machine; they all failed with “un problem” after selecting an amount to take out. I had to revert to my expensive Visa card.


This is potentially very patronising so i apologise in advance, but you definitely had it enabled in the app for ATM transactions? I’ve used my Starling a lot in ATMs across France (although not in the alps admittedly) and have never had a problem so i’m surprised that they all failed. Perhaps a specific problem to either location or your card?


Yeah I tried toggling the cash machine usage but didn’t make a difference.

I didn’t think it was location either since the contactless worked fine. Although I had no mobile reception at all, just WiFi access.


A “brief” history of Payment Terminals & CB in France.

The main banking card in France is called CB Card, (also called “Carte Bleu” as they were originally of blue colour). This is managed by “Carte Bancaire”, an historical french payment entity similar to Visa/MasterCard.

I am French and had a CB card many years (20+ years) before moving to the UK.
The CB has been developed well before the days of Visa and Mastercard, thanks to Gemalto, a French company who pioneered the card Chip&Pin technology.

The CB will work everywhere in France but the Visa and Mastercard may not.
Even today, most French people have a CB and will only ask for a Visa/Mastercard (instead of or in addition to a CB) if they are planning to go abroad, otherwise they stick to the CB only (as does most of my family on France)! Some banks in France are proposing a Visa/Mastercard as an “account upgrade/benefit” rather than being standard (CB).

Because most French people have a CB (still today) some small shop (and non-touristy area) don’t feel the need to upgrade their Payment Terminal to support other cards.
8 -10 years back, I still had to sign for and present a proof of ID in some large French supermarkets, as the payment terminal didn’t accept Chip&Pin for my foreign (UK) card. Nowadays they all do.

I often travel across France and in some cases the payment terminal (small supermarket automated fuel pump for instance) will only take the CB and not the Visa/Mastercard… ending with a error message “carte refuse…”
Also, some older payment terminal will not accept contact less payment for foreign (ie non CB) card.

Long Story short: check for logos on the payment terminal/shop door.
More and more places are now accepting Visa/Mastercard but not 100% yet (especially non-touristy small villages etc)!