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Bank account

If you are moving to France for longer than three months, opening a bank account can make your daily life easier: collecting money owed to you (salary, scholarship, etc.), being reimbursed for your healthcare costs, paying for your purchases without fees, etc.
A number of companies or administrative authorities will request a RIB (IBAN) [bank account details] to debit and credit money to your account.

  • In France, it is illegal to open a bank account while abroad. Within the first few days of your arrival, you will have to go to a branch of the bank of your choice in person to open your account, unless you have chosen to open an account online.
  • Most French banks refuse to open a bank account for individuals only in France for a short stay. If your stay will last under three months and you are paid by a French organization, we recommend that you negotiate to have your salary paid into your foreign bank account well before you leave.
  • If you are in France with your spouse, it may be a good idea to create a joint account (with both your names on the account) or to create two separate bank accounts. For certain procedures, you may need to have both names on the account (social security, etc.).

Banking services

When opening your bank account, a number of services will be offered by your banking advisor, with or without an extra charge. It is up to you to decide what services you need depending on your situation. To help you choose, you can use the comparison tool.

Espace Ulys recommends, however, that you select the following services, as a minimum, to make your daily life easier in France:

A checking account (compte courant)

Also known as a “compte à vue” (checking account) or “compte de dépôt” (deposit account), this type of bank account enables you to carry out routine bank transactions such as bank card payments, cash withdrawals or bank transfers to other accounts. It differs from the “compte épargne” (savings account) which enables you to put money aside.

Money must be regularly deposited in the account to make your purchases. Your income is generally paid into this account.

Bank fees are generally deducted from this account each month by your bank. It is important to compare banking fees between banks before making your choice.


The Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB) [bank account details] or IBAN [International Bank Account Number] is the identity card for your checking account. It enables you to provide your bank details for transfers or direct debits. It is normally requested by your employer, French public authorities, and even service providers for your payments and reimbursements.

You can request your RIB or IBAN free of charge from your bank or print it at home if you have selected the Internet banking option.

A payment card

The payment card enables you to pay for your purchases in stores, view your balance and to withdraw cash at an ATM. It is directly linked to your checking account.

You generally have to pay a fee for your payment card. The fee is often included in your banking fees that are deducted every month from your checking account by your bank. Furthermore, certain cards incur additional fees for transactions abroad or in France at a competing bank. Get all the information you need and don’t forget to use the comparison tool!

There are different types of payment card card:

  • Instant debit cards: Your purchases are debited from your checking account on the date of purchase.
  • Deferred debit cards: The amount of all your bank transactions is automatically debited from your checking account at the end of the month, all at once. This type of card is generally more expensive than instant debit cards.
  • Credit cards: Your expenses are not debited from your bank account, but using a renewable line of credit. You must reimburse your credit card expenses either in total, every month, like a deferred debit card, or in several installments (with interest).
In France, we often ask for your “carte de crédit” (credit card) or your “carte bleue” when making purchases. These terms are used to refer to any payment card, regardless of the type (instant debit, deferred debit or credit).

A check book

Checks are still used in France. You will often be asked, or required to pay by check when registering with a sports club or signing up for a class. Certain accommodation expenses (security deposit, guarantee, rent) may also be paid by check. This is why we recommend that you order a check book when your open your checking account.

You can also use checks to pay for everyday purchases. However, certain retailers are increasingly reluctant to accept payment by check due to the risk of non-payment. Some accept them upon presentation of one or two forms of ID.

Check books are generally free of charge, but are not automatically issued by your bank. You must order one from your banking adviser when opening your account.

Important, your bank may limit the number of free checks issued each month. Beyond this amount, there may be a fee. You can find out more by contacting your bank.

More information about check payments.

Online banking

This service will make your life easier by enabling you to make bank transfers as well as managing your bank accounts from the comfort of your own home.

Our partners banks

Espace Ulys has set up partnerships with banks to help you with this formality, with a dedicated English-speaking contact.

To be put in touch, contact Espace Ulys: (You need to register in advance with our Euraxess France database)

Crédit Mutuel Enseignant

Crédit Mutuel Enseignant has 2 branches in Lyon:
  • CME LYON : 179 avenue Jean-Jaurès 69007 LYON
  • CME LYON-VILLEURBANNE : 18 cours Émile Zola 69100 Villeurbanne


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