In the UK we take for granted the amenities available to us, I had three banks in the UK, one for my bills, one for household bills and one for my spending money. It’s never been anything I’ve had to overthink as they can be opened within 10 minutes online and are free, whether you want a card, chequebook and most have some kind of free overdraft facility too.
How much does a bank account cost in France?
In France, banks are not free so have a look around for what is best for you. Take into consideration what the fees are, these will be fees to have a bank account and fees if you want a debit card for the account.
I opted for a standard bank account, no overdraft and no debit card, this is costing me €2 per month. It also comes with a free cheque book which we need to pay for Lucas’ school dinners. I can also use online banking and they have an app.
Check what you need with your account and the fees that are associated with these. If you know you are going to be transferring money from the account a lot, withdrawing cash etc make sure you don’t have any hidden surprises once you start doing this.
Check the fees associated with the bank being active and also not being active as you may pay more for an inactive bank so don’t assume you won’t pay because it’s not being used.
Is money insured in a French bank account?
The Fonds de Garantie des Dépôts et de Résolution (FGDR) compensates customers in an amount up to €100,000
Which branches can you visit?
Check where you can use your bank. If you open an account say with the NatWest in the UK, you know you can use any NatWest in the country. This isn’t the same in France.
I’ve opened an account with Credit Agricole in the Charente department and can only use Credit Agricole banks within the Charente and Dordogne departments.
What do you need to open a French bank account?
To open a bank account in France, you will need to go into the bank you want to join and make an appointment. When you go to open the account you will need your passport as proof of identity.
You also need proof of residence which can be a rent payment receipt and/or a recent (less than 3 months old) electricity, water or telephone bill.
If you are staying with friends whilst you are looking for a house, they can write you a letter to confirm you are staying with them and also take one of their utility bills with you.
Can you open a French bank account whilst in the UK?
If you wanted to open a bank account that you can use once you get to France but you are still in the UK, you can open one with Britline which is part of Crédit Agricole.
The process is done online but you need more documents, I started the process and you need 2 proof of identity such as a passport and a driving licence.
You also need 2 documents for your proof of address. These can be a copy of a Utility Bill (most recent gas, electricity, water, telephone or council tax), copy of a Bank Statement (from your main bank), copy of a P60 or Avis d’Imposition, HMRC or official government documentation or a letter from the person you are living with – stating that you are living with them, together with their proof of identification and 2 proofs of address.
They also require evidence of income. If you are employed they want copies of your last 3 months wage slips (12 weeks if paid weekly). If you are self-employed, a copy of your most recent SA302 document or fully completed HMRC online tax calculation summary showing income earned and tax due or a letter from your registered accountant on official headed paper, plus the equivalent of SA302 online income & tax summary.
If you are retired, a copy of your most recent pension statement and/or evidence of income from investments.
You need to take a photo of a specimen signature, your signature on plain white paper.
You also need to give copies of your last 2 consecutive months bank statements showing general living expenditure & income.
When opening your account an initial deposit of £2500/3000€ is required.
As you can see there is a lot more documentation needed to open it, if you don’t particularly need a bank account straight away, I would recommend TransferWise and then open an account at a branch once you are in France. It gives you chance to meet the staff there and they can talk you through it.
I was in the bank for about 45 minutes, the man was very helpful, went through the process with me and even helped me set up the app on my phone.
A borderless account
Wise (formally TransferWise)
Whether you want a borderless bank account because you are moving abroad or because you travel and want to make the most of your currency. Transferwise gives you a free debit card and has an app for you to track your money and transactions easily. You can even freeze your card on the app if needed. They use the real-time exchange rate as you’ll find on independent source’s like Google, XE, and Yahoo Finance. (Their fees are as low as 0.35%.) You can hold and manage money in more than 50 currencies. This lets you avoid exchange rate movements and prepare for future transfers.
Wise is regulated by the FCA in the UK, FinCEN in the US, and many other regulators around the world. It means that they operate according to the rules they’ve made to protect consumers in each region.
They safeguard your money in established financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank. Safeguarding means that, by law, they have to keep all of your money in accounts that are completely separate from the ones they use to run their business. So, if anything were to happen to Wise, your money would be safe.
I have also recently started using Revolut. They don’t believe in financial borders, so they let you spend abroad in over 150 currencies with the interbank exchange rate, with a small 0.5% fee for anything above £6,000 each month. A flat mark-up on weekends and on certain currencies may apply.
Although ATM withdrawals cost them money, they give you £200 a month in international ATM withdrawals for free. Anything over £200 attracts a small 2% fee to help cover their costs.
They can also help with insurance, from your health to your phone, they’ll make sure you and the things you love are protected worldwide from as little as £1.00 per day. Insurance provided by Revolut Travel Ltd.
The free card and app also help you with budgeting and can round up pennies to the nearest pound to help you save. If you are paying bills, you can also set up recurring payments.
Revolut’s client’s funds are safeguarded at Barclays/Lloyd’s. It is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. As an authorised institution, Revolut safeguards your funds as per regulatory requirements. In the event of insolvency of Revolut, you will be able to claim your funds from this segregated account and your claim will be paid above all other creditors. All your transactions are processed by the Mastercard, Maestro, or Visa network and are protected by Mastercard, Maestro or Visa rules accordingly.
How to write a French cheque
This is a great image for showing you where to write what on a French banking cheque that I found on BritLine.
I also use this site for checking how to spell the amount in French words.