Very little known, a second currency circulates in France and thousands of people pay with it.
No, the euro is not the only official currency in France. This may come as a surprise, more than 20 years after the transition to the common European currency, but the provision is written in stone in the law. And, every day, nearly half a million people pay for their purchases without taking out the same coins or notes as the majority of the population.
These consumers do indeed live on French territory but not in mainland France. They are even very far from it. It is in fact more than 16,000km from Paris that a completely different French currency is in force: the Pacific franc (called the CFP franc). In the territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, as well as Wallis and Futuna, residents have their own means of payment. It is therefore impossible in these communities to pay in euros.
Created in 1945, the CFP franc originally meant "franc of the French Colonies of the Pacific", before Emmanuel Macron, in 2021, changed the name to "franc of the French communities of the Pacific".
There, 1€ is equivalent to 119.33174 XPF (XPF being the acronym). And the prices applied locally on products and services are, at a minimum, the same as in mainland France. You should therefore expect to count Pacific francs by the hundreds to pay your bills. But inevitably, the currency available is not the same as in mainland France. In these overseas communities, wallets are stocked with coins of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 CFP, as well as notes of 500, 1000, 5000 and 10,000 CFP.
If the Pacific franc is therefore the second French currency, it is very difficult to find it in mainland France. Only the Banque de France and rare exchange offices in Paris issue them for those wishing to travel to these communities with local money. Otherwise, the exchange is done directly on site. And it doesn't matter that the two currencies are linked to the same country: an exchange commission is taken by the establishments, varying from €3.50 to €5.
This French particularity is not an exception. Another case exists in the world, on the island of Saint Helena. This territory, held by the United Kingdom, also has its own currency: the Saint Helena pound, while the country pays mainly with the pound sterling.