Travellers Cheques are all but dead and it is difficult to find anyone who will change them. Use the ATMs for cash withdrawals. I used a debit card all through Italy last year and had no difficulties in withdrawing money nor in paying for goods and accommodation.
However, it may be difficult to hire a car with a debit card as they sometimes require a hold on your funds as a guarantee. This is usually done with a Credit Card imprint but may not be possible with a debit card. A few hotels may do likewise, so check with them first. I have no idea why this should now be fairly standard practice but a few people have reported not having access to their funds because of this.
No one really uses travellors checks anymore. In europe they are hard to cash, almost no small business will accept them,, and many larger ones don't want them either.. they are truly relics ..
I haven't needed to use them for over 15 years.. I have used my ATM card in at least 5 or 6 western europeon countries.. no problem.
yes, travellers cheque will be difficult but not impossible (you will find always one or two agencies "American Express" in the French Riviera (Nice, Monaco, or Cannes) to change your travaller ch. in cash.
about debit card, as mentionned below, you will need to have a credit card if you wish to book some services (car rental request a "virtual deposit/guarantee", most 4 star hotels do a pre-authorization and often it's refused with a debit card....)
travellers cheque and debit card are not very good
I know most italian people used a debit card and may be it's easier in italy ?
For withdrawing cash for day to day expenses use a debit card through any of the French or international bank's high street ATMs
A credit card - chipped Visa or Mastercard - is essential for buying train tickets from the automated ticket machines at railway stations (unless you are fond of queueing hours)
You don't need car rental (howls of protest!) as the public transport here is cheap and practical
Make sure you have an amount of reasonably small denomination Euro notes with you before arrival, for travel incidentals.
Unfortunately credit cards using "chip & pin" technology are unheard of in the US. Our cards are still issued with the older (and less secure) magnetic strip technology only. If the ticket machines will accept cash that is the way to go. Some do but I do not know if the ones aloing the Côte d'Azur are among them. Otherwise you will have to stand in line at the ticket window. (I have heard that *some* AmEx cards work in *some* automated machines in France.)
As a general rule we use cash for smaller purchases, up to perhaps €25 and credit cards for larger items such as hotel bills and the like. We get cash as we need it from an ATM and, as others have said, have not used TCs in Europe for many years.
If you are nervous about the possibility of your ATM card not working you could carry some USD TCs as a back-up but you probably will n ot need them. Do not forget to inform both your bank and your credit card issuer(s) that you will be travelling outside the US so they can lift any blocks on "foreign" transactions. You might want to buy perhaps €100 before you leave so you have some cash for immediate expenses when you arrive.
The train ticket machines accept chipped Visa/MC - thats what we use. They are not equipped for mag-stripe reading - old technology. I was aware the US was behind in card security, shame its universal. The ticket machines do accept cash but only coins, not banknotes. Two round trips to Cannes is an awful lot of coins - more than normal people would carry.
How I laugh when the person in front of me runs out of coins a few cents short of the fare and heads off to the news kiosk for change - only to return with tail between legs. Quite reasonably the kiosks say they are not a change machine - even offering to buy a packet of mints with a twenty euro note is likely to be declined. It happens to them oooh every three minutes.
The answer of course is to buy tickets the day before, when they re not so busy, or from the SNCF boutique off Av Jean Medecine. Buying at the ticket windows before travel can be very stressful. They are used of necessity by people with lots of questions and itinerary problems.
I understand that travellers cheques, at least in Europe, have been largely replaced by a plastic card which you can preload with whatever amount of currency you wish before you travel. I believe for example Thomas Cook offer this , not sure about Amex. They offer the same type of assurance regarding loss or theft as the old travellers cheques without the high commission taken for cash advances by normal credit cards. As I havn't personally used this method I am not sure if they are usable in any ATM or just selected sites, perhaps someone will know.
The preloaded cards usually do not have a particularly good exchange rate, and often have a number of other fees. After all, they have been introduced to make money for the companies offering them.
The best way is to get a debit card that will let you get money out of your bank account at an ATM, just like you do at home.
Thank you for your advice. Years ago I worked in the travel business and we sold international travelers cheques. My have things changed.
In America, it appears that travelers cheques are slowly phasing out, but I do use them in some places.
In France, I will definitely use the debit and credit card and contact my bank beforehand, so I won't be locked out.
Remains only to offer a word of friendly advice now you have the credit and debit card way forward: "personal security" (yes I know that's two words). For some reason, Europe's pickpockets think they will find lots of people here carrying money and credit cards. Can't think why. Be sure to take precautions against opportunist theft.
There, job done.