How to open a bank account in France
As a culturally sophisticated country with a world-leading insurance and banking industry, France has attracted many individuals and businesses. France has a powerful economic system that’s well on its way to establishing a more capitalist structure. As the government continues to support free-enterprise, transitioning state-owned organizations into private businesses, foreign corporations all around the world are benefiting.
If you’re a resident, foreigner or a business looking to open up a bank account in France but don’t know how to, keep reading and we outline some key information for you.
What types of bank accounts can I open in France?
There are two different types of personal bank accounts one can open in France:
- A French bank account
- A non-resident account
Foreigners who are planning on staying in France for more than three months are able to open up an authentic French bank account. However, not all banks implement the option of opening up a non-resident account and some entertain various restrictions with regards to determining who gets granted with one. Most European citizens have an easier time opening up an account than non-European residents.
If you’re not a resident of France but own a business in France with valid proof of an address, then you can open a business bank account.
What documents do I need to open a non-resident/business bank account in France?
You can be expected to ask for these documents:
- ‘Justificatif de domicile’ → Proof of your residency/address: this must be a French address; if you’re opening a business account, this would be proof of your company’s address. This can be a utility bill, your past few paystubs or your proof of insurance–however, it must be no older than three months.
- A strong piece/multiple pieces of ID: is it adequate to use your passport
- Visa status/Proof of earnings
- Proof of employment
- References (if you’re opening a business account)
*note: If you’re not a European citizen and are looking to open an account in France without owning property in the country, you will not be eligible to open a non-resident account.
How can an international student in France open a bank account?
If you’re studying in France and need to open a bank account, you will need to provide the bank with:
- Proof of registration in a French school
- Proof of current address
- Proof of your bank account from your home country with sufficient funds
Which bank in France should I open an account with?
France has a very controlled banking system that is much more restricted in comparison to other countries. This is because if you as a client theoretically commit illegal acts like money laundering or fraud, the employee within the bank that trusted you with an account will be personally held responsible.
Thus, depending on your residence status, you’re obligated to open an account with the nearest bank to the respective address on your ‘justificatif de domicile’.
Can I open a bank account in France from abroad?
You can only open an account in France from abroad if:
- You are a resident of France/you own a business in France and have proof of the address, and
- If you go through a bank that offers online banking + the ability to open an account from abroad
Here is a list of branches that offer online banking:
If you do not live in France but plan on moving to the country longterm in the near future, some banks provide you with the option to open an account in advance (you must provide proof of residency once you move though). The banks that offer this are Societé Générale, HSBC, and Crédit Agricole.
Beware: Hidden fees and Charges
Due to the tight restrictions and numerous financial providers, it’s important that you read the terms and conditions carefully before you open up your bank account or send money to France. Some fees to take note of that will vary from branch to branch are handling and maintenance fees, annual and monthly fees, and foreign transaction fees. You can expect to be charged some sort of deduction on a regular basis, as well as a fee for opening the account and keeping it open, in addition to ATM charges when taking money out at certain locations.
Most transactions you make must happen through your broker as opposed to online, and most of your banking must happen through your debit card. This is because, in France, there are laws in motion that restrict the prevalence by which people pay for goods in cash, in an attempt to prevent money laundering and tax fraud.
In some situations, small businesses and individuals discover that their bank subjected their international payments to irrational fees that accumulate over time when making consistent business transactions. An easy way to tell if your bank is ripping you off or not is by calculating the real-time market exchange rate (which you can find on Google) to France and comparing how much money you’re left with in the end.
It would be more productive, however, to invest in an alternative platform that offers better exchange rates with more customer-oriented features, as banks will almost always present you with unfavourable offers when moving money internationally. For example, a provider like REMITR or Transferwise not only offer real-time foreign exchange rates to France with no hidden markups, but REMITR specifically also introduces a reasonable and stagnant flat fee of $5 per transfer with no additional service charges, regardless of the amount you choose to transfer. If you’re interested in transferring money to France without losing sums of money in overseas remits, you can get started today here.