At a job interview, I asked about employee benefits. “Optional health insurance, flexibility, etc. etc. Oh and restaurant vouchers.”
Having never been employed by a French business before, this benefit was a new one for me. I’d seen people handing over vouchers in the past, but never really known anything about them. After the job interview, I laughed them off as a token voucher system that businesses only have to supply if they don’t provide onsite lunch options.
When I received my first voucher book, I started to understand their value. Some 22 vouchers landed on my lap in a book resembling a cheque book. Each is worth 7€, and they can be used at most restaurants and supermarkets (normally just one or two per meal/purchase). Although you won’t get change if you spend less than 7€, you can split a meal between cheque and real money.
Basically, I’m now walking around with 154€ tax-free in my handbag each month. The novelty lasted a month. I felt totally French, asking if an establishment would accept a chèque Déjeuner and then ripping off the little piece of paper and handing it over.
The novelty soon wore off when I received my first pay cheque. It turns out I’m paying for about a third of the cheques, so they’re by no means a freebie. As long as I use around 51€ of the cheques per month, I’m no worse off. My boss is paying the rest, so it would be a pity not to use them up. So far, I’ve had no problem spending the lot. It’s just too easy.
For anyone starting a new job in France, the carnet des chèques déjeuner (book of vouchers) is issued at the end of your month, when you’re paid, so you’ll have to wait up to a month (like I did) before receiving your first book. You receive one cheque for each day worked, so if you work just five days before your first pay cheque, you’ll receive a carnet des chèques déjeuner with five vouchers in it.