When you’re enjoying the thrill of buying a home in France, it’s a bit of a comedown when you suddenly come face to face with all the red tape you need to get through. But it is worth it, trust me! You’ll need to open a bank account, so here is how you do it.
Opening a bank account is one of the first things you will need to do when you plan to buy or live in France. As in the UK there are several well know high street banks such as Societe Generale, Credit Agricole, Caisse d’Epargne etc. and the post office also offers a very good banking service: La Banque Postale.
One option proving very popular is to select a service that has fully bilingual staff. You can usually open an account online and receive your cheque book and card by mail. Yes, France still loves using cheques – we use more here than in the rest of Europe put together.
In general, banking laws are stricter in France so it is wise to keep within your limit!
Internet banking is becoming more and more widely used, however, as the French gradually cotton on to the fact that maybe all that paper is not needed! Check that the bank you are using offers all the usual services such as setting up direct debits (prelevements), transferring funds and a dedicated bank manager to whom you can send a secure message on line. (“Usual services” for France, I mean, as you still get a good personal service compared to the UK.)
There are various savings accounts available to French tax payers and most town banks will have someone who can explain these in English.
To open an account once you own your property, take with you your attestation of ownership as proof of address and ID and you can start the process. In general, banking laws are stricter in France so it is wise to keep within your limit! You may be able to apply for an agreed overdraft but do remember that going overdrawn without prior agreement is an offence in France – so don’t risk it! Also, many overdrafts are not life-long but have a limited time in which they can be used in each month.
One of the best things about French banking is that unlike the UK, you will have your own bank manager, thus giving it a much more personal touch
Once your account is processed you will have a debit card and cheque book. You can have a joint account and the title will be “M ou Mme” meaning that either of you can sign a cheque.
Your card will have a daily limit for withdrawals from your own bank (any branch) and another smaller limit for withdrawals from any other bank ATMs. You can ask to have this increased. Chip and pin is used in France almost everywhere and naturally you will be given your pin at the outset. If it is a joint account you will each have separate pin numbers.
One of the best things about French banking is that unlike the UK, you will have your own bank manager, thus giving it a much more personal touch. Don’t be shy about asking him or her for advice: they are used to us Brits coming over and opening accounts in France!