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Bank account

If you are moving to France for a period of more than three months, opening a bank account will facilitate your everyday life: depositing your salary, grant, etc., being reimbursed for healthcare costs, making purchases, etc.

  • According to French law, it is not possible to open a bank account from abroad. When you arrive in France, you will need to visit your chosen bank in person to open an account.
  • Most French banks refuse to open a bank account for persons staying for a short time. If you are coming to France for a period of less than three months and will be paid by a French organization, we advise you to negotiate the payment of your remuneration to a bank account in your home country and well before your departure.

How to open a bank account?

To open a bank account, you must:

  1. Choose a bank (preferably a branch located near your home or place of work).
  2. Schedule an appointment with a representative at the branch.
  3. Provide the following documents:
    • Passport
    • Residence permit (except for European researchers).
    • Proof of residence in your name less than three months old: electricity bill, rent receipt, accommodation certificate, etc.
    • Some banks may request additional documents. Remember to inquire which documents are required when scheduling your appointment.

Banking services

When opening your bank account, you will be offered various free and fee-paying services. You will have to decide which services are best suited to your situation. However, Espace Ulys recommends that you opt for the following minimum services to facilitate your everyday life in France:

Current account

A current account (compte courant/compte à vue/compte de dépôt) is for everyday banking operations such as debit card payments, cash withdrawals and transfers to other accounts. A current account is not to be confused with a savings account, which allows you to save money.
A current account must be regularly supplied with funds for you to be able to carry out your purchases. For this reason, your income is usually paid into this account.

Management fees are generally deducted automatically every month from this account by your bank. For this reason, it can be a good idea to compare the management fees of several different banks before making your selection.

Payment cards

A payment card is used to make purchases in shops, to consult your balance and to withdraw cash from dispensers. The card is directly linked to your current account.

The payment card is generally a paying service. The associated fee is generally included in the monthly banking charges deducted from your current account by the bank. Certain payment cards also incur supplementary fees for banking operations carried out abroad or in France via other banks. Be sure to ask for details regarding all such fees!

There are several different payment cards available:

  • Immediate debit cards: Your purchase amounts are debited the same day as the transactions.
  • Deferred debit cards: The total amount of your transactions is automatically debited once a month, at the end of the month. This type of payment card is generally more expensive than an immediate debit card.
  • Credit cards: Your purchases are not debited to your bank account, but to a renewable line of credit. You must reimburse your credit payments either once a month (as with a deferred debit card) or via multiple payments (with interest).

In France, you will often be asked for your credit card (carte de credit) or your debit card (carte bleue) when making purchases. In practice, these terms designate all types of payment card (immediate debit, deferred debit and credit cards).

Cheque book

Cheques are still quite commonly used in France. You will often be offered, even requested, to pay by cheque, for example when registering with an athletic club or signing up for a French course. Certain housing-related payments (deposit, guarantee, rent) can also be made by cheque. For these reasons, we recommend that you order a cheque book when opening your current account.

You can also make your everyday purchases by cheque. However, shopkeepers are increasingly reluctant to accept cheques due to the risk of non-payment. Some shops do accept cheques upon presentation of one or two ID cards.

Cheque books are generally provided free of charge but are not automatically issued. You must make a request when opening your account.

Online banking

This service is optional, but it will simplify your life by allowing you to carry out bank transfers and to manage your account(s) from home. Without this option, you will be required to go to the bank to carry out these operations.