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Opening a bank account

If you are moving to France for a period of more than three months, opening a bank account could really facilitate your day-to-day life: depositing your salary, grant, etc., being reimbursed for your healthcare costs, making purchases, etc. 

Please note:

  • French law forbids the opening of a bank account from abroad. Upon your arrival in France, you will need to visit your chosen bank in-person in order to open an account.
     
  • Most French banks refuse to open a bank account for persons carrying out a short stay. If you are coming to France for a period of less than three months and you are to be paid by a French structure, we advise you to negotiate the payment of your remuneration via your bank account in your home country, and this well prior to your departure. 

 

STEPS FOR OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT

  1. Choose a bank (favour an agency located near your home or place of work)
  2. Schedule a appointment with a representative at this agency
  3. Bring with you to your appointment the following documents:
    • Passport.
    • Residence permit (except for European researcher).
    • Proof of residence under your name, less than 3 months old (electrical bill, rent receipt, proof of accommodation, etc.).
    • Additional documents may be requested, depending on the bank. Remember to inquire which documents must be furnished when scheduling your appointment!

 

banking services

When opening your bank account, you will be offered various free or fee-charging services. You will have to decide which services are best suited to your particular situation. However, the Espace Ulys recommends that you opt for the following minimum services to facilitate your day-to-day life in France:

 

Current account

A compte courant or “current account” (also called a compte à vue or compte de dépôt in French) allows you to carry out such common banking operations as debit card payments, cash withdrawals and transfers to other accounts. A current account is not to be confused with a savings account, which allows you to save money.

A current account must be regularly supplied with funds for you to be able to carry out your purchases. For this reason, your income is usually paid into this account.

Management fees are generally deducted automatically every month from this account by your bank. For this reason, it can be a good idea to compare the management fees of several different banks before making your selection.

 

Payment card

A payment card allows you to make purchases in shops, consult your balance and withdraw cash from a cash dispenser. The card is directly linked to your current account.

The payment card is generally a pay service. The associated fee is generally included in the monthly banking charges deducted from your current account by your bank. Certain payment cards also engender supplementary fees for banking operations carried out abroad or in France via other banks. Be sure to ask for details regarding all such fees!

There are several different payment cards available:

  • Immediate debit cards: Your account is debited the amount of your purchases the same day as the transactions.
  • Deferred debit cards: Your current account is automatically debited the total amount of your banking operations once a month, at the end of the month. This type of payment card is generally more expensive than an immediate debit card.
  • Credit cards: Your purchases are not debited to your bank account, but to a renewable line of credit. You must reimburse your credit payments either once a month (as with a deferred debit card) or via multiple payments (with interest).

In France, you will often be requested your carte de crédit (“credit card”) or your carte bleue ("debit card") when making purchases. In practice, these terms designate all types of payment card (immediate debit, deferred debit and credit cards).

 

Cheque book

Cheques are still quite commonly used in France. You will often be offered or even requested to pay by cheque when, for instance, registering with an athletic club or signing up for a French course. Certain housing-related payments (deposit, guarantee, rent) can also be made by cheque. For these reasons, we recommend that you order a cheque book when opening your current account.

You can also make your common day-to-day purchases by cheque. However, shopkeepers are increasingly reluctant to accept cheques due to the risk of non-payment. Some shops do accept cheques upon presentation of one or two ID cards.

Cheque books are generally provided free of charge, but are not automatically delivered to the bank’s clients. You must make a request when opening your account.

 

Online management of your banking operations

While this service is indeed optional, it will simplify your life by allowing you to carry out bank transfers and to manage your account(s) from home. Without this option, you will be required to go to the bank to carry out these operations.