If you are planning on living permanently in France or if you have a French mortgage you will probably find life a lot easier with a French bank account. With a French account you can easily pay utility bills by way of direct debit - prélèvement automatique and pay for goods and services in France with your French debit card or cheque book - chequier. Even if you just have a holiday home a French bank account can still be more convenient as most accounts have access to online banking allowing you to easily access your account from anywhere. The downside is that banking in France is not normally free, there is usually a monthly charge of around 8 euros for a current account and most banks do not pay you any interest.
How to Open a Bank Account in France
Opening an account in France is fairly easy, you may be able to open an account on the day or you might be asked to make a later appointment. You will normally need to take with you:
- Proof of identity, for EU citizens this can be a valid passport or ID card, for non EU citizens you will need to show proof of your French residence status, usually your Carte de Séjour.
- Proof of your address, in most cases a recent utility bill, your house deeds or rental agreement.
- Some banks may also require a reference from a previous bank either in France, the UK or other country.
Debit & Credit Cards
Debit cards in France are known as Cart Bleu and have the CB symbol displayed on them, credit cards have the MasterCard or Visa symbol. Credit cards in France do not usually operate in the same way as we know in the UK and are more similar to a debit card with purchases being deducted either immediately or at the end of the month - there is usually no option to pay of credit card purchases via a monthly minimum payment. If you hold a joint bank account cards are normally automatically issued to the first account holder - usually the man, the second account holder must apply for their own card if desired. In all cases the cards are not free and usually incur a charge of around 30 euros per year for a basic debit card and can be as much as 90 euros if you opt for additional packages such as card insurance. If you card is lost you will also be charged for a new one.
Card payments in France use the chip & pin method, when purchasing goods or services you will be asked to enter your pin number into the card machine at the point of sale.
When paying by cheque in France you will often be asked for proof of identity, this can be a valid passport or ID card. French cheques are generally accepted as a cash payment and it is illegal to write out a French cheque if you do not have sufficient funds in your account to cover it, going overdrawn by even a small amount is not allowed unless you have firstly arranged an overdraft facility with your bank and may result in you being blacklisted.
Direct Debits, RIB
In France a direct debit is known as a prélèvement automatique, for your convenience you will find at the back of your French cheque book several printed slips called RIB's these contain all the relevant information need to set up regular direct debit payments from your account. Most utility bills offer the option to pay by direct debit and will ask for an RIB slip to set this up.
TIP - Titre Interbancaire de Paiement
You can also opt to pay for some regular bills by TIP, this authorises the full payment to be deducted straight from your account rather like a cheque. To set this up look for the TIP slip on your utility bill and complete & return with an RIB slip, once set up when you receive your next bill (facture) all your relevant bank details will be printed on the TIP and you will just have to sign it and return for the payment to be made direct from your account.
Useful French Banking Terms
- Virement - Transfer money between accounts or to another account.
- RIB - Relevé d'Identité Bancaire, contains all your relevant bank details. these slips can be found at the back of your cheque book or can be given to you by your bank.
- Découvert - an overdraft.
- Compte-joint - A joint bank account.
- Chéque - Cheque.
- Chequier - Cheque book.
- Intérêts - Interest.
- TIP - Titre Interbancaire de Paiement, an authorised payment from your account.
- Versement - Paying money into your account.
- Prélèvement automatique - a direct debit.
Links To The Main French Banks
- Caisse d'Epargne
- Crédit coopératif
- BNP Paribas
- Crédit Mutuel
- Crédit Agricole
- Crédit Lyonnais
- La Poste (French post office banking service)
- Société Générale
Can I use my UK debit or credit card in France?
In most cases UK debit or credit cards with the Visa, MasterCard or Maestro symbols can be used in major stores and to withdraw money from cash machines, however your bank may charge a fee.