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Banking in France: Taking Care of Your Finances
At a Glance:
- Non-residents are only permitted to open a compte non-résident (non-resident account), while expats with French residency are able to open a variety of bank accounts.
- Online-only banks are becoming increasingly popular, eliminating the need to visit a branch — perfect for those with busy lives or a limited knowledge of French!
- Unlike some other European countries, card payments are very popular in France, accounting for over half of all payments nowadays.
Opening a Local Bank Account
Both residents and non-residents (who are citizens of EEA countries) are legally eligible to open a bank account in France. Some banks allow you to set up an account prior to your move to France, either online or by post, while others still prefer the process to be completed in person in your new local branch.
As a non-resident, you will be able to open a compte non-résident (non-resident account). However, you should be aware that non-residents are not entitled to a credit card or an overdraft.
Different banks require different documentation to set up an account, but in general expect to be required to provide the following:
- a valid form of identification (passport, photo ID, or driving license)
- proof of address (this can be either a recent utility bill, or a copy of the rental agreement)
- an employment contract or proof of income (e.g. recent payslips)
If you have residency in France, you are entitled to open the same type of account as a French citizen — a compte courant (a current account). To open this sort of account, you will need the above paperwork, plus your proof of residence (titre de séjour).
High Street Banking: Spoiled for Choice
There are a number of major high street banks in France, which are usually the most popular choice. They have multiple branches across the country, making banking a lot easier:
Many French high street banks charge a fee for you to hold a current account with them. These charges tend to be reasonable, between 60 and 70 EUR annually.
Internet Banking: The Online Alternative
Nowadays all banks offer the option of online banking. However, in recent years, internet-only banks have grown, increasingly becoming a popular alternative globally, and France is no exception. This is becoming a popular choice among expats, as these banks eliminate the need to visit the local branch in person — ideal if you aren’t a confident French speaker — and accounts also often have lower or no charges. Some of the most popular internet banks in France are:
Transferring Money Internationally: Avoiding the Fees
Most expats will, at some point, want to transfer money from their home account to their new French bank account. The unfortunate reality is that, however it is done, transferring money internationally comes with a fee. Nonetheless, there are a few different methods, and the fees vary for each.
As a secure, convenient and relatively quick process, online bank transfers (un virement bancaire)
are one of the most common methods of payment — both domestic and international — nowadays. Banks do charge for this service, though it should be noted that within the EU (for any payments in euros) a bank should not charge more than they would for a national transfer. Charges vary depending on the bank — the information can usually be found on their websites.
Alternatively, if money is needed more quickly, there is the option to do a wire transfer. Money transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram allow you to transfer money worldwide, either online or in person from various “agent” locations globally, either to a bank account or to be collected in cash (from an agent in the destination country). However, as with banks, these services still charge a fee, and often have unfavorable exchange rates.
If you are from outside the eurozone and looking to transfer money of another currency into euros, then one cost-effective way to do so is through “peer-to-peer currency exchanges”. These services cut out the middlemen (i.e. banks), allowing for lower fees and also more competitive exchange rates. There are a number of online companies who offer this service:
You should be aware that money exchanged using these sites can only be deposited into a local bank account in the destination country. For example, if you’re transferring USD to EUR, the euros can be deposited in any euro account in a SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) country. Therefore, expats moving to France will need to open a French bank account before using one of these services. Each company operates slightly differently, and has varying fees, so it is best to compare and decide which service is best for you.
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