If you’re moving to France, or retiring to France, you will need to open a French bank account. Even though there are online banking options, you will find that having a French bank, with a French branch address is an absolute must. So we thought that we’d take a look at how you open a `French bank account if you are relocating to France.

If you’re are buying a property in France

If you are taking out a French mortgage, its likely that the decision will be taken out of your hands you bank will undoubtedly insist that you open an account with them and mortgage repayments will be made through that account, so in that sense this is the simplest option.

But take note that its not easy securing a French mortgage as a foreigner. A typical French mortgage application takes around 14 weeks to complete quickly and complex applications can take much longer. The worst case we’ve had took 19 months to finalise, from completed application to drawdown of funds.

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Do you need to be a resident in France to open a bank account?

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Yes, you need to have residential status in order to open a current account ‘compte courant’  with one of the high street banks in France. However a few of the bigger banks do have options for non-resident citizens, but this has become harder and harder due to money laundering concerns.  If you’re interested in a “compte non-résident” try HSBC but be aware that you need to be a high earner and maintain a significant deposit in order to qualify for this type of account.

Online banking in France

France is strangely behind the times in terms of  online banking facilities, don’t get me wrong, it does exist but the French generally still like to bank the old fashioned way. And its important to note that the online banking facilities that do exist areuniquely for those who are tax resident in France.   But old school banking  does have some advantages, for example believe it or not with most French banks you can even talk to a human being for advice and information without needing to hold in a telephone queue for 3 hours.

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choosing a French bank

French banks are bound by FATCA or Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act  so its not like they are deliberately making it feel difficult to open a bank account in France, but it does seem that way. Rest assured that once your in the system and your account is operational, things get much easier. We’re a simple moving company, so we’re not really in business of recommending banks – but here’s a good shortlist of banks to try: Crédit AgricoleBNP ParibasSociété GénéraleCrédit MutuelCICLa Banque PostaleCaisse d’EpargneBanque Populaire, and LCL.

What kind of bank accounts are available?

  • Current account – on which you can choose to have various types of card, a check book, ability to set up direct debits and standing orders, make online transfers, etc. Note that you pay per ‘feature’ for your current account in France (eg cards, check books, direct debits etc)
  • Savings account for those with low revenue LEP (Livret d’Epargne Populaire) – max deposit 7700€ (higher interest rate than other accounts) – tax-free interest
  • Savings account LDD (Livret de Développement Durable) – max deposit 12000€
  • Livret A – max deposit 22,950€ – tax-free interest
  • Livret Jeune (12-25 years old) – max deposit 1600€ – tax-free interest
  • Assurance Vie – not life insurance, but a savings account where you can nominate inheritors to receive this money tax-free upon your death (ie free of death duties/estate tax)
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There are also accounts to help you fund a property purchase, eg PEL (Plan Épargne Logement) or CEL (Compte Épargne Logement).

What is the difference between a Carte Bleue and a Visa card?

Carte Bleue is a national (within France) means of payment (CB logo on card) and a Visa, or Mastercard is an international payment network. You can choose your card at the bank when you open a current account. At the time of each payment request, a balance check is made to verify that the account is sufficiently funded to cover the transaction.

 Note: French banks do not issue credit cards (with revolving credit), only debit cards. You may request that the card payments be debited from your current account at the end of the month, rather than on the day of the transaction, but you will not be able to maintain a credit balance from one month to the next.

We often hear from folks getting applications refused by French banks?

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Its true, even if you’ve got a bunch of cash to deposit, if one thing regarding your application raises a red flag you application will be refused. For example, you’ll need to prove your French residential address – this needs to be something official, like a tax letter, or primary utility bill, and often you’ll need some forma of ‘attestation” to support this. Along with proof of address, you will also need to provide identification, proof of residency (i.e., your long-stay visa or Carte de Séjour), proof of income (typically your last three pay stubs or pension receipts, or if self-employed, your tax return), your avis d’imposition(French tax statement), or 1040.

What other tips can we offer?

Like most things bureaucratic in France, it takes time and the patience of a saint, but you will get there in the end – just follow the process, roll with the punches, and be polite.

Provence Movers is an international moving company specialising on relocation services to France. We provide high quality door to door removal services at really attractive rates. So if you’re planning on moving to France, give us a shout and we’ll provide you with all the information that you need