Despite the slowing down of global traffic wrought by the COVID pandemic, hopeful ex-pats are still flocking to France to start new lives. However, French banking may not be quite the same as what you are used to and navigating its quirks can be tricky. In this post, we’ll look into a few ways to transfer money to France cheaply and easily.
Did you know that France remains one if not the, most sought after travel destination on earth? In 2019 (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic) the nation said Bonjour to an estimated 90 million visitors putting it way ahead of Spain in 2nd place. And it’s very easy to see why. The country mixes chic culture, elegant cities, and a happening globally renowned cuisine.
But France is an equally popular ex-pat destination too and each year, people from all over the world rock up in search of a better life whether they are economic migrants from former French Africa or British retirees from across the channel. Perhaps surprisingly not even the COVID could stop the flow of ex-pats, especially to the countryside regions like the Dordogne – often described as a “little England” – deep inside the territory of its traditional enemy!
A New Life in France
Despite being a leading EU member, much of France has resisted the homogenisation that has taken root across much of the bloc and, outside of the cosmopolitan cities, life in France retains a uniquely Gaelic air. However, this can cause some frustrations to ex-pats and I for one was surprised by just how bureaucratic and traditional some things are (for example, you’re supposed to carry ID at all times and The Post Office closes for lunch!).
Opening a French bank account isn’t quite as straightforward as it perhaps should be. Coming from the UK (which has dangerously lax financial services regulation) I expected to be able to walk into a French bank and walk out 15 minutes later with at least one account and possibly a few Buy to Let mortgages but this is sadly just not the case. It may therefore take some time to get your French bank account up and running.
If you are experiencing this particular challenge and need to find ways to move money to France without an account, then there are a few things you can do.
How to Transfer Your Money to France in the Cheapest Way Possible Even Before You Have a Local Bank Account?
If you send money to France using your normal, non-french bank account, then it may be expensive. First up, note that all banks charge handling fees for all international money transfers which can be a set fee (I’ve seen these range from €1.75 to €19) or they may take a percentage of the total amount instead. And when I say ‘all banks charge fees’, this means that both the sender and the recipient’s bank will both be charging a fee.
It gets worse. Whenever you use a bank, the bank will also always offer you the least preferential exchange rate available – but I’ll elaborate more on this in the next section.
Also remember that when spending your hard money in France, your non-French bank will (probably) be charging you for a currency transfer every time you use your card or withdraw money – I’ve heard people even get charged a €2.50 fee for buying a €2.50 coffee on their First Direct card.
Ideally, you want to try and hold off doing any banking in France until you have a French bank account. But of course, this is not always possible…
If you need to tide yourself over whilst waiting to open a French bank account, then an easy stopgap is to get yourself a ‘borderless bank account’. The last decade has seen a minor banking revolution with the rapid rise of fin-tech and challenger banks such as Monzo, Wise (formerly known as Transferwise) and Revolut. Borderless banks are registered financial service providers that operate internationally and without branches. They are usually primarily available as smartphone apps making them very manageable.
You can usually open as many of these accounts as you want, easily and quickly. Once you download the app and sign up, a card is issued, you put money into your account and allez! All of the ones I named above allow you to hold balances in multiple currencies (including Euros) meaning you are not charged a conversion fee every time you use your card or withdraw money. Furthermore, all of the 3 above also have a zero-fee monthly ATM withdrawal amount making them great for ex-pats living in France who just need to access their money.
There is more.
Another advantage of using borderless banks is that they permit money transfers at much lower rates than traditional banks. For example, I used Wise to send €100 to my Crédit Agricole bank and the fees only amounted to €0.82 whereas my British held Halifax account would have cost around €2.50. This feature will come in especially useful if you need to pay a large amount of cash over to a new landlord or pay a French utility bill.
Another option for transferring large amounts is to use a currency broker or forex trader. Now you may never have quite seen it like this, but whenever you change one currency to another, you are in fact buying and selling the other. This applies whether you change cash at an airport travel desk or electronically via your bank. Because it’s a sale, the money changer is always seeking to turn a little profit by not offering the public (that’s you) the “full” exchange rate that banks and specialists offer to one another. For example, if a trader offers to buy £1 from you for €0.82, then that is because they will later resell that same £1 for €0.85.
Therefore, a Currency Broker can act on a client’s behalf and scour the market to try and find them the best possible deal. If you are changing a large amount then the scale of economics comes to your aid and the trader can find you a much better rate than the one otherwise available. They do charge a fee for their services but execute a transfer via brokers will still usually work out a lot cheaper than simply relying on international bank transfers.
Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of transferring changing and sending £5000 to France using 3 of the top-rated current and forex traders;
- TorFX – Based in Penzance, Cornwall, TorFx is a great option to help you transfer money from the UK to France.
You Send – £5000
Recipient Gets – €5830.25
Fees – £20.64
- Money Corp – Specializing in helping business clients move money globally, Money Corp uniquely offers zero fee transfers on certain transactions
You Send – £5000
Recipient Gets – €5828.20
Fees – £22.59
- Currencies Direct – Voted the best overall currency broker in 2021, currencies direct are multinational specialising in currency transfers.
You Send – £5000
Recipient Gets – €5831.16
Fees – £21.65
Well, I hope you found that useful. But more than that, whether you are headed to live in arty Montmartre, windy Normandy or the sun-scorched le midi, I wish you all the best in your new life in Fenade. Au revoir!
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