Many banks in France have regional English language websites with English speaking staff. Banking services and facilities in English may also be found at some branches.
Opening an Account
A foreigner may open a bank account if they are (or are going to be) resident in France for at least three months.
The following documents are required to open an account:
- European Union citizens: Proof of identification, e.g. valid passport or photo ID card.
- Other citizens: Proof of residence in France (Carte de séjour).
- Proof of an address in France, e.g. utility bill (Electricity, Telephone etc.), rental agreement or property deeds.
- Proof of earnings or status, e.g. contract of employment or proof of earnings or proof of status (e.g a student card).
- Reference from another bank where accounts are held (this is usually only required when applying for loans and overdrafts).
- In some instances, a birth certificate.
Opening an account can be done in a day and means of making payments (cash cards and cheque book) will normally arrive within a week, or so, of the account being opened.
An account held by two people will have either “et” or “ou” between the names. In the case of an account held in the names M (Monsieur) et Mme (Madame) Xxxx, both account holders must sign the cheque, while in the case of an account in the name M ou Mme Xxxx, either account holder may sign a cheque.
French banks will charge for some items, for example a fee may be payable to have an account, there is usually a fee to have a card (and second card), there may be a charge for Internet banking and for transactions in other banks.
Using your French Bank Account
Depending on the type of account, a cheque book and payment and cash withdrawal card (carte bleue) will be issued.
Written numbers in France
When writing numbers it is useful to know the placement of points and commas.
- A point (full stop) denotes the thousands, while a comma separates the cents, for example EUR2.000,00 is two thousand Euros (deux mille euros).
- A comma (virgule) marks the fractions in a percentage; twenty three point seven percent is written 23,7% (vingte trois vigule sept pourcent)
- Card payments by debit card (carte bleue) are accepted in most places in France. Payment is made using the PIN code (a signature may be requested if the amount is large). N.B. carte bleue is not a credit card.
- Look for the symbol CB (carte bleue), Visa or MasterCard.
- Cash machines, ATMs (distributeurs) are easy to find in towns and villages and are simple to use, being much the same as elsewhere in the world. Put the card into the machine and follow the text instructions (many machines allow for the option to select English-language text).
- There may be restrictions on the use of an account when travelling outside the département where the account is held; your branch will be able to make other arrangements.
Paying by personal cheque does not incur additional charges in France. However, a fee is charged to use a bankers draft (Chèque de Banque).
Cheques are accepted as a cash payment. As French law makes a cheque the equivalent to cash, it is illegal to write a cheque if there are not sufficient funds in the account to cover the payment. A cheque may only be cancelled if it is lost, stolen or if there is a suspicion of fraud. If a cheque is written when there is insufficient funds to cover it (and unless other arrangements have been agreed), the bank is obliged to report it to France’s national banking authority, the Bank de France. Bank de France can impose an “interdit bancaire” which forbids the account holder from using cheques for five years.
Photo ID (for example passport or driving licence) may be requested when paying by cheque.
A cheque is valid in France for one year and eight days (373 days).
It is illegal to write a post-dated or open-dated cheque.
When receiving a payment by cheque, always put your bank account number, bank code and signature on the back of a cheque before depositing it.
As a chequebook nears completion, the bank will send another one if a form requesting automatic renewal has been completed – if not, you have to order it. Postal fees are charged for registered delivery. Renewal can also be made by filling in the form provided in your cheque book. Collection can be made from your branch.
Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB)
When opening an account, the bank provides several copies of RIB. This is a form that establishes the bank references and account details and identity. It contains the account number (numéro de compte) the bank code (code de l’établissement) and the sort code (code du guichet).
RIBs are requested when creating regular contract payments by automatic debit on an account (prélèvement automatique) e.g. for the payment of utilities, etc. RIBs are also used when setting up automatic payments into an account, for example salary, Social Security, Family Allowance benefits.
There is normally three printed RIBs in the back of a cheque book. Printouts of RIBs can also be obtained from a cash machine, or via the Internet banking facility.
A RIB is also required when taking out a contract where monthly payments by TIP (see below) are needed.
Titre Interbancaire de Paiement (TIP)
A TIP is the authorised permission to debit an account by the sum demanded by the provider (for example EDF/GDF, France Telecom or the Tax Authority); it replaces the use of a cheque. A TIP comes attached to the bottom of an invoice (facture). The first time an invoice is received, sign it and enclose a RIB in the return envelope provided. The next invoice amount will automatically have all the bank information printed on the TIP and needs only to be signed, dated and returned by post.