OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT IN FRANCE
By Rhiannon Williamson of
Even though it can often be advantageous when living abroad to keep a bank account in your home country or open an offshore account, if you’re moving to live in France permanently or for a prolonged period of time it also makes sense to open a French bank account.
Many utilities and service providers prefer to be able to debit a French bank account and if you’re renting, your landlord will also want to be able to directly debit your account once a month. So in this guide we look at how to open a bank account in France and the differences and quirks of the French banking system.
In terms of which bank there are quite a few to choose from, but if you’re familiar with a big banking brand back home why not ask them if they have an associate bank in France to make transactions simpler? Barclays Bank for example has been in France for eighty years and even offers French mortgages for overseas and international buyers and expatriates which makes things especially simple if you already have a relationship with them in the UK or if you prefer to manage your French banking through the medium of English.
If on the other hand you don’t have a preferred bank then look around the area you’re in and see who has the largest presence…you may find BNP Paribas, Société Générale or Crédit Agricole to be most prevalent in terms of branch presence for example as they are all very large banking institutions in France.
Whichever bank you favour you will need to take proof of identity such as your passport with you when you go to open an account and also proof of your address in France. If you are not an EU citizen you will also be required to show your residency permit – also known as titre or carte de séjour. If in doubt take your passport, driving license, rental or property purchase contract and your residency permit as well and you should have all the documents necessary!
Bank opening hours do vary depending on the institution and the size of the town you’re in. Generally though, banks are open by 9am and they close around 4pm. Some open as early as 8.30am and close as late as 5pm and some even open on a Saturday and have extended hours once a week. All should display their hours of service on the door and if you’re in any doubt about whether they will let you open an account, go in and ask the teller about their account opening requirements.
The most useful type of bank account you can open initially is a straight current account or compte courante – if you’re not living in France but have a property there and require an account for use when you’re at your French home you can open a non-resident account or compte non-résident by the way.
A current account in France does not generally pay any interest on the balance whatsoever and so it really is only an account to use for small transactions. If you have any larger sums of money on deposit open a savings account for it – also known as compte d’épargne. Some banks are sophisticated enough to allow you to link the two, and when your balance in your current account drops below a certain threshold money will be moved into the account from your savings account…if you require this service then ask for it.
Charges on bank accounts vary and you will often be charged for things you get free in the UK. For example, you often have to pay an annual charge for a simple debit card and if you use your agreed overdraft limit you may still be charged heavily. Ask about all of these quirks up front to avoid any expensive surprises.
And finally, as soon as you have your account up and running you can set up direct debits and standing orders, you can withdraw cash and write cheques…but please note, In France it is a criminal offence to write a cheque if you do not have the money in your account to cover it!
About the Author
Rhiannon Williamson is a publisher with specialist knowledge covering literally every single aspect of moving & living abroad.
From offshore investment and offshore banking to international living and buying property abroad.
Check out her site http://www.shelteroffshore.com/ to find out how you can escape from the rat race, relocate overseas, and profit from your move!