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How to Break a 500 Euro Note in Paris

If your travel agent slips you a €500 bill among smaller currency and you find yourself short of change in Paris, you’ll be stuck with a hefty note that nobody wants to break.

Just to set the record straight, that’s $800 AUD or $750 USD sitting pretty in your wallet as you roam the streets of Paris dodging the odd gypsy and pickpocket.

What Not to Do

1. Don’t try a shop or a boutique. Unless you are planning to buy a Dior accessory, no small business will take it.

2. Don’t think you can buy a bunch of métro carnets and a couple of Passe Navigo Découverte with it. Métro station personnel don’t carry much cash and chances are you’ll be using a machine to buy your tickets.

3. Don’t try paying with it in a supermarket unless you are buying groceries for a family of six to last you a month. Which you’re not.

4. Don’t get excited over using a Bureau de Change. They will shake their head and merrily send you away telling you they don’t provide that service.

5. Restaurants may take it of your sweaty hands if your meal is of a considerable cost. Don’t expect them to accept it if you’re having a pause café and a croque monsieur on your way to visit Montmartre.

6. Your hotel may gladly change the note if someone has paid them enough in cash. But chances are everyone will use a credit card and they hotel staff will politely shake their head and apologise.

By now you’re thinking of the obvious… go to a bank.

7. A bank? Ah bah non! You will find that either access through the front door is reserved for bank customers after swiping their card or if you’re lucky and have made it inside, the bank will display signs stating that bank employees do not deal with cash.

What To Do

If you’re an American Express card holder, head to the (old) American Express office (you’ll see it is now an agency) near Opéra Garnier on rue Scribe and ask them if they could kindly change it.

Je suis desolée,” Madame They will tell you looking very apologetic. “We’re not American Express Change any more. I can’t change your note. Everything has to go through the system.”

At that stage, you may wish to curse your travel agent or storm the Bastille. My advice is to keep your cool with Madame and mentally curse your travel agent. Ask her a direct question, such as, “How can we get it changed in Paris?”

“You could buy something here,” she will offer.

“Such as?”

“A city tour.”

Not an option when you’ve had numerous visits to Paris and have adopted the city like our own.

“Or a souvenir.”

Ask her for the cheapest souvenir and she will point you to a glass cabinet full of trinkets and overpriced memorabilia. Choose the cheapest item on the shelf, a €2.00 Eiffel Tower key ring and return to the booth.

“The Eiffel Tower key ring, s’il vous plait,” you will tell her, feeling slightly ludicrous at buying a €2.00 Eiffel Tower with a €500.00 note.

Just to be sure, ask her again if you can pay with your note.

Absolument,” she will say as she takes it off you hands and you bid good riddance to the purple currency.

Thank her profusely as she hands you multiples of €100 €50 and smaller euros. Breathe a sigh of relief and remember to give your €2.00 Eiffel Tower key ring a good home. After all, you had to part with a €500 note to make it your own.


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


    • Only if you’re bringing them back home! 🙂 Judging by the number of hits this page gets, it’s quite a common problem and surprisingly comes with no warning from travel agents.

  • My question: how’d you get a 500-euro note in the first place? I would just have told that person (or, more likely, bank): please give me five 100-euro notes instead.

    • Hi Ronald – Our travel agent in Sydney had arranged it. Little did we know we’d have so much trouble with it!

    • Unfortunately, that makes it very tough. I suggest if you have a large purchase to make, or a hotel bill to pay that you try and use the 500 euro note. Out out of courtesy, I’d ask them first if they have enough change as most don’t carry such large sums.

  • I just walked in the door of my apartment in Paris after successfully receiving change for my 500euro bill. I walked to the nearest post office (they’re numerous) and had to purchase 3 stamps (84 cents each) and I paid with the darn bill. I received my change in mostly 20s and was very happy to rid myself of that bill I was plagued with all week! Note: I do not speak French and the Post Office clerks spoke no English. They made a little (friendly) fuss, but they told me (through a pleasant English speaking customer) to purchase the stamps and they’d accept the bill. SUCCESS! Now my father-in-law has two bills of his own to try. We’re gonna do one at a time at different locations, so as to not overload or annoy one post office.