French banking system
This section will guide you through the fundamentals of the French banking system.
Your EURAXESS Service Center will inform you about the different options and will refer you to a partner bank if necessary.
After your arrival, it will be more convenient and less expensive to make your payments and withdrawals with a French bank card. You will certainly need your own bank account in order to receive your salary.
The currency in France is EURO (€).
During your stay in France, you will probably need to open a bank account in order to deposit your salary or grant, or to make transfers from abroad. You will also need it in order to receive housing allowance (CAF), family allowance, medical expenses reimbursements, and you will certainly need one if you plan to look for a job.
All foreigners staying in France for a period of at least three months can open a resident's bank account, allowing them to obtain a cheque book (free or paid), and a bank card (payment card or simple withdrawal card).
In order to open a new bank account, go to the bank branch of your choice with the following documents:
- A valid proof of identity (passport or ID)
- A valid visa or residence permit (if applicable)
- A proof of address (gas, electricity or land-line telephone bill, or receipt of rental payment)
After the opening of the bank account:
- Once your current account is open, you can use it freely and order a debit card and cheque book.
- Your bank will give you your bank details required for certain transfers to your account, e.g. your salary, or the debit of certain bills (rent, telephone, etc.).
- A joint account, or shared account, enables multiple people to open a single bank account. Opening a joint account follows the same rules as those for individual accounts. The joint owners of the account bear joint responsibility. It is also possible to open an account for a child.
There are two main types of bank accounts:
- “current” accounts that allow everyday payments by check, credit card or bank transfer (compte courant)
- “savings” accounts that allow sums of money to earn interest according to varying rates (compte d'épargne ou livret)
In most of the cases, the savings account automatically opened at the same time as the current account.
Attention: French banks refuse to open current accounts for people staying less than three months.
If you need a salary for a short stay, your employer will have to pay your salary into your bank account, possibly in your home country.
Do not forget to provide him with the bank details of your foreign account stating your IBAN (International Bank Identification Number) and your Bank Identifier Code (BIC) or SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) number if requested.
You can also open a French bank account online.
In order to open this type of account, you must have a residency permit (residency permit, receipt or OFII sticker) in addition to the other usual documents that will be requested.
Consequently, all persons holding a visa bearing the mention "Temporary waiver of residence permit" (Dispense temporaire de Titre de séjour) will not be able to open this type of account.
Note: This type of bank account does not offer insurance related to your payment card (theft, loss, fraudulent use of your bank account). Take the time to read the general conditions of sale before taking the decision.
Opening a bank account and having a credit card and check book requires payment of monthly management charges and charges in case of extended overdraft of the account.
Be aware that your bank may charge you:
- a monthly management fee;
- fees for credit card fees;
- "agios" in the event of a bank overrun.
The banks are required by law to provide a regular (at least annual) summary statement to their customers of the charges incurred on their account(s).
In order to have an idea about the charges, you can try to find the information online or to use an online comparison (in French).
You might also consider a possibility to open an account with an online bank.
Withdrawals from the ATMs of your own bank are free of charge. The price of withdrawals from other ATMs depends on the conditions of every bank.
> Compte chèques : an account to which the sums you receive are paid (salaries, scholarships, etc.) and which allow you to pay your daily expenses: various purchases, rent, leisure activities, books, etc. In France, it may be called “compte”, “compte de dépôt”, “compte courant” ou “compte bancaire”.
> Agios : overdraft bank charges, imposed when the overdraft limit has been exceeded.
> Carte de paiement : a card allowing you to make payments and withdrawals.
> Carte de retrait : a card allowing you to make withdrawals at ATMs only.
> DAB : Distributeur Automatique de Billets - Automatic cash dispenser/ATM
> GAB : Guichet Automatique de Banque - Automatic banking machines (located in the bank), where you can make all your transactions.
> Endosser (verb) : to sign your name and write your account number on the back of a cheque.
> Interdit bancaire : suspension of your banking privileges; this status is communicated to all banks.
> Prélèvement automatique : a payment method used to pay invoices on a regular and scheduled basis. Standing order (GB), automatic deduction/checkoff (US).
> RIB : relevé d’identité bancaire stands for your bank account details. It is merely a pre-printed form with your bank account number and sort codes for national and international transactions.
> Solde : balance - the total amount of money available on your account.
> Virement : transfer of money to another account.
In addition to cash payments, there are other simple means of payment:
- Carte de paiement (debit card) : a card used to make payments and withdrawals accepted in most shops and other businesses. In order to pau you must dial your 4-digit code on an electronic payment terminal - always out of sight of other people. This 4-digit code must be memorized and must not be communicated to other peson or left together with the card.
- Prélèvement automatique (direct debit) : allows you to pay your regular bills (rent, water, electricity, telephone, internet etc.) by authorizing regular direct debits from your account.
- Chèque (cheque/check) : when paying by cheque, remember to date it, sign it, fill the name of the beneficiary and verify that the amount in figures is the same as the one written in full letters.
Attention: cheques from foreign banks are only very rarely accepted by French merchants.
Unless specific reasons occur, it is recommended to close the bank account before the departure. The transfer of the remaining funds to a foreign account can be more complicated once you leave the country.
In order to request the closure of your bank account, you must first ensure that no further transactions are made on your account (invoices, cheques, salaries, direct debits etc...) and secondly send a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt to your bank.
1) Closing the account in your branch
You can make an appointment with the bank and close your account direcly in your branch. In that case, the account manager can offer you to withdraw the remaining amount of funds from an ATM directly in the branch, to wire the remaining funds to an another account in France or to give you a chèque.
- Please note that if you decide to ask the bank to wire the remaining funds to your bank account abroad, high fees may apply (outside of the Eurozone).
- The chèque option is not recommended either, as not all the coutries will accept it and if yes, additional fees may apply as well.
- The best option will be to adjust the amount of the remaining funds on your account in a wat that you can easily withdraw it from the ATM in cash at the moment of closure (for example leaving an amount of 20,10€ is way better than 18,90€ as you will be able to withdraw round amounts only). In this way, not a single Euro will be lost.
2) Sending a letter
A letter with acknowledgement of receipt must be sent to the bank branch indicating the account owner’s wish to close the account, ensuring they are neither creditor nor debtor of the account at the moment of closure.