4 interesting facts to know about banking in France
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
If you want to work in France, rent or buy a property then it is necessary to open an account.
1/ Choosing a bank
High street banking
France offers a healthy choice of high street banks. Some operate as distinct 'regional' institutions and run on a cooperative basis, meaning that the bank belongs to the clients and that there are no shareholders. Their fees may also vary from region to region. These banks include :
The other high street banks have a more traditional nationwide set-up :
France also has a number of on-line banking institutions, many of which are affiliated to a high-street bank or an insurance company, but there are some that are completely independent.
Independents on-line banking :
Insurance companies on-line banking :
High street banks on-line banking :
It is important to note that not all of these on-line banks have an English version of their on-line banking, especially those that are French based, usually the ones that originate from a French high street bank or a French insurance company. The independents usually offer better language options to their customers.
2/ Opening an account
Once you have decided which bank to go with, if it is a high street bank you can start the process of opening an account before you arrive in France, by gathering all the paperwork needed and having some of it translated by a certified translator when necessary. You will just need to go to the agency once you arrive in France to finalise the paperwork and sign the documents in person. For an on-line bank account all this will be done on-line of course.
If you are en EU resident (not sure yet what will happen with Brexit) then it is relatively easy to open a bank account in France.
If you are a non-EU resident then you will have to open a 'compte non-resident'. This means you may have to produce more paperwork to open the account and you will have to maintain the account with a minimum deposit. The bank may also limit the amounts of money you can transfer each month.
If you are an American citizen you may have to provide more paper work because of FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act), and you will be asked to fill out the W9 form. Some of the high street banks may refuse to open an account for you because you are American as they are not structured to deal so well with these kinds of accounts as it involves more paperwork. However, BNP Paribas, Société Générale and HSBC will happily open an account for American citizens as they are structured to deal with these kinds of demands and have no problem with the paperwork.
Some of the paperwork you will or may be asked for :
Valid photo ID (passport)
Proof of address - Electricity, gas or water bill, but if you still haven't found a place to buy or rent, you can get a declaration that you are being housed by the person who is putting you up, with a copy of their proof of residence.
Proof of income - pay slips or taxes
Your 3 most recent bank statements
Your foreign tax ID number
If you are opening a joint account you will be asked to determine if the account is for person A and person B, or for person A or person B. If it is for A and B, then any contracts, documents and checks must be signed by both parties. If it is for A or B then either person can sign documents on behalf of both parties/persons.
3/ Cash, checks and cards
France is definitely into debit cards and favours this option in most places above anything else. You now have cards with 'sans contact' which means you can buy things for small amounts (usually up to 30€) without even using your PIN. The number of transactions are limited per day, per week or by the amount, and depends on your bank and the account you have signed up for. Many shops now accept payment 'sans contact' for as low as 1€, so you can easily pay for your baguette without using a penny! To know if your card has the option to pay 'sans contact' it should have the wireless logo on it :
The French still use cash a lot for other small transactions like at the market where vendors do not have a debit card machine, although this is changing more and more. Also, if you buy your public transport ticket on the bus or tram directly, you may have to pay by cash.
Check books are still around and used for certain things like paying a deposit, or at the beginning of the school year when lots of subscriptions to certain clubs and associations have to be made by check. These are being phased out more and more though. Many places now even refuse to accept them for fear that they bounce and the vendor has to pay penalties to the bank.
4/ Bank charges
These vary from bank to bank, and sometimes from region to region. Most standard current accounts are free of charge, but other accounts can cost up to around 50€ per year. The best way to find out exactly what charges your future bank asks is to visit the following government website that lists all the charges each bank has for the various services they offer.
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