Opening a bank account in France

France is only a hop and a skip over the Channel and getting there couldn’t be easier. However, such simplicity does not always apply to opening a bank account there. We have a few guided steps to help make life easier as an expat when opening a French bank account. Here’s how to make the French banking process less stressful.

a) You will need a proof of address

You will need to prove that you live where you say you live and to do this you must to provide the bank with a document called a ‘justificatif de domicile’. This could be a utility bill (electricity or gas) or a mobile phone bill, and it must be less than three months old.
If you are employed in France, you will need copies of your work contract and a recent pay slip. These will enable your employer to set up a direct deposit into your bank account.

b) Find your nearest bank

It is a requirement in France that you open your bank account at the branch of your bank closest to your residence or your employer. If you are working, it is prudent to use the branch closest to your place of work. You can only perform certain banking operations in your own branch during regular business hours and with your personal banker, so proximity is crucial. It is worth noting that, should you change your address or switch employers, you are able to change your preferred branch with proof of a new ‘justificatif de domicile’ or employer’s note.

c) The role of the personal banker

Your personal banker is the key to making your French bank account work for you; you will need them for most transactions and account activity. If you need to order a new cheque book or bank card, withdraw a large amount of cash for a trip abroad, or make an international wire transfer without online banking access, then that’s the role of your personal banker. Security is tight in France when it comes to banks, and the French banking system believes it’s in your best interest to make sure you only go through one person who oversees your account and your transactions.

d) French banking – your rights

As an expat in France, you may have more difficulty opening an account if you do not have a job, but you do have the right to open a bank account if you’re a French resident. It is worth noting that if you are on a long stay visitor’s visa there may be some difficulty, especially if you are American. FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) legislation requires international banks to report American citizens’ bank information to the IRS.

e) Beware the bank fees

The concept of free checking or current account does not really exist in France. This is because you are required to interact frequently with your personal banker and are unable complete all of your transactions online. Note that you may pay a small fee for ‘tenue de compte’ (keeping the account open), and there may well be a monthly fee for your debit card. Gold and platinum cards that offer perks like travel insurance are available.

f) Carry your card

Using your debit card (commonly referred to as Carte Bleue or CB ) for most transactions is very acceptable most stores, cafes and restaurants as they have low limits for debit card use. If required, your personal banker can raise your spend limit if you have an exceptional purchase to make, but, as always, communication with them about this is essential.
If you are planning on setting up a bank account in France, prepare what you need in advance and speak to the bank prior to your meeting, to ensure you have everything you need in place. If you do it will save frustration and ensure you have the account set-up when you need it.
If you’re moving to France, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.