A Guide to Opening using a Bank Account in France

As long as you have a French address, you are able to open a bank account here. The bank will require a form of identification such as a passport and proof of address which is normally a utility or telephone bill in your name. The different types of account options are much the same as other countries:

Current Account – Compte Courant
Joint Account – Compte joint
Savings Account – Compte Epargne

With a current account you will normally receive a debit card, Carte Bancaire, and a cheque book, Chequier, and you will receive a monthly account statement called a Releve de Compte.

Please note that some specialist banks, such as Credit Agricole Britline, do not require you to have a French address in order to open a bank account.

Using a Bank Card

Card payments by Carte Bleue (CB), a debit card, are widely accepted in France and uses the pin number security method.

Bank Charges

It is normal in France to pay a monthly charge, a frais, for your current account, charges are also made for any agreed overdraft facility, decouvert, regardless of whether you have used it or not. You will be charged interest while your account is in debit. If you have a Carte Bancaire, you may also be charged a small annual fee.

International Money Transfers

If you need to transfer money from abroad, a small levy will be charged per transaction by your French bank called an Avis d’Operation, and it is normal for your foreign bank to also charge for sending the money in the first place. When transferring money you are exposed to the fluctuations in the exchange rate, and this can be costly. It is possible to protect your money by arranging a foreign exchange contract, such as that offered by Hifx, where you can agree a rate for 1 or 2 years and arrange the transfer using direct debit. See the Guide2Brittany guide to Foreign Exchange for more information.

Paying Bills

Bills are normally paid by either cheque or direct debit, prelevement. To set up a prelevement, you will normally be asked for a Releve d’Identite Bancaire (RIB), which is a slip normally found in the back of your cheque book. This states your bank account identity details.

Writing a Cheque

The amount in words goes at the top of the cheque (the opposite to the UK), underneath is written who the money needs to be paid to. The amount in numbers goes to the box on the right (as in UK) but use commas instead of decimal points. Underneath you need to write the name of the place (town, village) where the cheque was written, and enter the date underneath. Your signature then goes underneath that.

Cheque guarantee cards are not needed in France and cheques are accepted as if they were a cash payment. It is illegal to write a cheque if you do not have the funds to cover it in your account and you risk your bank reporting you to France’s national banking authority, Bank de France, which can forbid you from using cheques for five years. It is also illegal to write a post or open dated cheque.

The key to each part of the cheque is;

– The amount in figures to be paid is placed on the top line
– The amount in words to be paid is placed on the bottom line
– After the ‘A’ write the beneficiary/who the cheque is payable to
– After the ‘Fait’ write the name of the place where you are when you are writing the cheque
– After the ‘la’ write the date

A cheque is valid for 12 months and 8 days and when deposited in an account it must have the account number, bank code and your signature on the back of the cheque.

Find a French Bank

You can find your local bank by searching for ‘Banque’ on the Pages Jaunes. The main French banks are;

Allianz Banque
AXA Banque
Banque Accord
Banque Populaire
Barclays France
BNP Paribas
Caisse d’Epargne
Credit Agricole – has service specifically for UK expats living in France; Britline
Credit Lyonnais
Credit Mutuel
Credit du Nord
HSBC France
ING Direct
La Banque Postale
Societe Generale

Further Information

Please visit the CAF website.