Settling in France for several months often means that a crucial step awaits you: opening a bank account. But the process can be daunting. What type of account should you choose? What documents do you need to open an account, whether online or in a branch? What steps should you take, and what mistakes should you avoid?
In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about the process of opening a bank account in France!
Which Bank Account to Choose in France?
There are several types of bank accounts in France. Here’s a quick overview of each one:
- Compte courant (Checking account): This is the basic bank account used for day-to-day transactions. It can be used to make deposits and withdrawals, write checks, transfer funds and pay bills.
- Compte épargne (Savings account): An account where the money deposited earns interest. There are several types of savings accounts in France. The most popular are the Livret A, the Livret de développement durable et solidaire (LDDS), and the Plan d’épargne logement (PEL).
- Compte à terme (Time deposit account): This is a savings account offering a higher interest rate, but the money cannot be withdrawn until the end of the contract term. It is the equivalent of Certificate of Deposit (CD) in the United States.
- Compte titre (Brokerage account): This is an account in which financial securities such as shares or bonds are held.
- Compte professionnel (Business account): This is a current account designed for professionals (companies, retailers, craftsmen, the self-employed, etc.) to manage their financial transactions.
French banks charge banking fees, such as account maintenance fees, debit card fees, and ATM fees. These fees vary from bank to bank. To help you make your choice, take a look at our article: the 12 best French banks!
What Documents Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in France?
By law, all French residents and French nationals living abroad have the right to open a bank account in France from the age of 12 (with parental consent). In practice, however, the opening procedure requires a number of supporting documents:
- Proof of identity (Justificatif d’identité): A passport, national identity card, or driving license are generally accepted. For non-residents, a passport is often required.
- Proof of address (Justificatif de domicile): This can be an electricity, gas, or landline telephone bill, or a tax assessment, provided they are in your name and less than three months old.
- Proof of income (Justificatif de revenus): This may be a pay slip, tax notice, or employment contract. For students, proof of enrolment at university is sufficient.
- For non-residents: Depending on the bank, additional documents are often required, such as a visa, work permit, or proof of reason for staying in France (e.g. a letter of acceptance from a university).
How to Open a Bank Account in France?
If your current bank has a branch in France, the easiest thing to do is ask for the account to be transferred. But if you need to open a new bank account, the first step is to make an appointment at a branch, armed with the necessary supporting documents.
Can a Foreigner Open a Bank Account in France?
Yes, but the procedure depends on your status: whether you are European or not.
The conditions for opening a bank account in France as a European expatriate are generally the same as for French residents.
If you’ve just arrived in France and don’t yet have proof of address, some banks may accept an attestation of accommodation or a letter from your employer stating that you live in France.
Note that banks may also ask for the RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) of an account you hold in your home country.
What are the Conditions for Opening a Bank Account as a Non-European Expatriate?
For non-European expatriates wishing to open a bank account in France, the requirements are generally a little more stringent. This is due to banking regulations and anti-money laundering controls.
In addition to proof of identity, residence, and income, you’ll need to provide proof of status (= justificatif de statut) in France (visa, residence permit, carte de séjour, etc.), proof of employment or student status, and the number of a bank account opened in your country of origin.
If your appointment is a success, you’ll leave with a bank account number, also known as a RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire), and you’ll receive your bank card a few days later! If not, you can submit an appeal to the Banque de France.
How to Open an Online Bank Account?
If these steps seem tedious, consider opening an online bank account.
Online banks (or neo-banks) offer the same services as traditional banks (ATM withdrawals, transfers, savings accounts, etc.) but without bank branches. Formalities are simplified, but you’ll still need to comply with 3 main steps:
- Fill in an account opening form with your personal details such as name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
- Upload and send your supporting documents. These will depend on the online bank you choose. In general, you’ll need to provide a photo ID, proof of address, and proof of income.
- Make an initial deposit to activate your account. The amount of the initial deposit varies from bank to bank.
3 Words to Know Before Opening a Bank Account in France
If you want to open a bank account in France, here are 3 words and linguistic subtleties you absolutely must know!
How Do You Say “RIB” in English?
The RIB, or bank identification statement (= relevé d’identité bancaire), is a document containing the identity of a bank account holder and his or her bank details.
In English, we speak of“Bank details”, “Bank account details”, or “Banking details”.
Example: “Veuillez fournir votre RIB pour que nous puissions effectuer le virement.”
= Please provide your banking details so that we can make the transfer
What is the English Equivalent of a Deferred Debit Card?
In the United States, a distinction is made between debit and credit cards. In France, virtually all cards are debit cards. A little linguistic subtlety: we distinguish between immediate debit cards (=carte de débit immédiat) and deferred debit cards (= carte de débit différée)!
An immediate debit card debits transactions immediately, while a deferred debit card debits them once a month. Deferred debit cards generally charge no interest, except in the event of an overdraft.
How Do You Say Credit Card in French?
Carte Bleue is a French payment card created in 1967 by a group of French banks. Quite simply, it is a payment card comparable to the Visa card in the United States.
Example: “Je n’accepte pas la carte bleue en dessous de 15 euros.”
= I don’t accept credit cards under 15 euros.
We hope this article has helped you better understand the various procedures to follow and the documents required to successfully open a bank account in France!
Translated into English by Sacha