Have you heard about the famous Catch-22 in France where you need a bank account to rent housing but need an address to open an account? If you’re moving to France, this may be one of the first administrative hurdles you face. As our mission at Renestance is helping English-speakers live out their French dream, we often help them clear this obstacle early on.
A French bank account is a prerequisite for several settling-in tasks, since many bills (electricity, phone, etc.) are debited directly from your account. You’ll also want a French account to access your money in euros and avoid currency conversion and transfer fees on every transaction.
Understanding all the small print about bank services can be quite a challenge in any language, so below we’ve listed answers to some Frequently Asked Questions below:
Who is eligible to open a bank account in France?
The main conditions to open a current account are that you must be at least 18 years old*, possess a valid passport or ID card, and show proof of a fixed home address (in France or abroad).
All banking establishments are obliged to check with the Banque de France (the banking authority in France) that the person requesting the account has no banking misdemeanors (fraud, bouncing checks, etc) against their name.
*There are savings account options from 12 years old and SOME banks may allow a 16-year old to open a current account under certain conditions.
What amount of money do I need to have a French account?
Usually, you can open an account without depositing any money, but you would be expected to deposit funds quickly after opening in order to pay the set-up and monthly banking charges.
What documentation would I need to open an account?
This differs according to your nationality and situation. You’ll always need: your passport, proof of address (a utility bill under three months old with your fixed address or an ‘attestation d’hébergement’ from the person who’s lodging you), your most recent tax statement, and your Social Security number (US citizens).
You’ll sometimes need: birth certificates, proof that you have revenue or savings (bank statements from other accounts, funds/stocks/shares statements), payslips.
It’s always best to check what you need with the bank before you attend your account opening meeting. Note that, apart from online accounts, you will always need to open your account in person.
If I don’t have a recent utility bill or proof of address in France what can I do?
In most cases, you will not be able to open a French bank account. Some banks will allow you to set up a provisional account if you show them your move is imminent, and then they’ll complete the procedure once you have a French address.
Which French banks offer better services for citizens outside of the EU?
We have found Crédit Agricole, and their partly-anglophone online service, to be very accommodating for our foreign clients, so we generally go to them first.
Which French banks offer the best service for UK citizens?
Again, Crédit Agricole are our go-to bank. However, other banks may be just as good, depending on your location. As with anything in France, service tends to depend on each bank, each branch, and each employee.
Which banks offer online banking for international transfers?
HSBC France – they also have an English speaking helpline.
What kind of bank accounts are available?
- Current account – on which you can choose to have various types of card, a check book, ability to set up direct debits and standing orders, make online transfers, etc. Note that you pay per ‘feature’ for your current account in France (eg cards, check books, direct debits etc)
- Savings account for those with low revenue LEP (Livret d’Epargne Populaire) – max deposit 7700€ (higher interest rate than other accounts) – tax-free interest
- Savings account LDD (Livret de Développement Durable) – max deposit 12000€
- Livret A – max deposit 22,950€ – tax-free interest
- Livret Jeune (12-25 years old) – max deposit 1600€ – tax-free interest
- Assurance Vie – not life insurance, but a savings account where you can nominate inheritors to receive this money tax-free upon your death (ie free of death duties/estate tax)
There are also accounts to help you fund a property purchase, eg PEL (Plan Épargne Logement) or CEL (Compte Épargne Logement).
Note: individuals are only allowed one of each of the above.
What is the difference between a Carte Bleue and a Visa card?
Carte Bleue is a national (within France) means of payment (CB logo on card) and a Visa, or Mastercard is an international payment network. You can choose your card at the bank when you open a current account. At the time of each payment request, a balance check is made to verify that the account is sufficiently funded to cover the transaction.
Note: French banks do not issue credit cards (with revolving credit), only debit cards. You may request that the card payments be debited from your current account at the end of the month, rather than on the day of the transaction, but you will not be able to maintain a credit balance from one month to the next.
If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or to contact us directly, we’re here to help!
Nicole is a bilingual Brit from Cambridge who has been living in the Languedoc since 2002 and is one of the first Renestance's Consultants. She knows how to get things done and can find the key contacts, having worked in real estate, managed two businesses of her own, and started a large social group for English-speakers in the area.
All articles by: Nicole Hammond
Would you require a French Banking account if you have an account in EURO somewhere else in Europe to be eligible to lease/rent property? I currently have a European Banking account with monies in EUROs but don’t have a banking account in France.
Thanks for the great advice
Cape Town South Africa
Good question, Dion! Not all landlords in France require a French bank account to sign a lease, but you may eventually need a French bank account to pay utilities, taxes, and other administrative costs anyway. The RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire) is commonly requested in France, so if your European bank can provide one, you may be able to keep just that account.
I am an Australian with a AirBNB property south of France. I am required by law, which I understand, to pay French taxes. Are you able to offer assistance or supply a company that would be able to assist me. Unfortunately, I don’t speak French therefore find it difficult to understand the laws. I have made previous enquiries but unsatisfied with their terms. However, if your advice runs along the same lines I may need to reconsider my options. We have used your services previously, this is how I came to be email you.
Thanks for your comment, Tanya. I’ll contact you to get clarity on your situation and explain your options. Kind regards, Dennelle
Alan Brownon 2019-01-23 at 18:16
I have returned back from France after four years living in burgundy and as I am no longer in France I sent the bank a fax to ask them to stop all correspondence to my old address. I also asked them for an appointment in early May for when I go back for a holiday. The appointment was to close the bank account in France and to transfer any funds to my uk bank. The bank has not replied and for me to speak to them on the telephone would be difficult as my French is not good. What can I do as I do not want to go to France just to make an appointment. Regards Alan
Hi Alan – Sorry to hear of your banking woes. In my opinion, they would probably need you to send a letter by registered post with proof of reception. I should imagine they would prefer this in French. If you’d like us to help you, please do feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com and we’ll start discussing how to help you. Best, Nicole
E. Elizabeth Tuffon 2019-02-26 at 12:17
Hi, We have bought a mobile home in France and need to open a French bank account to pay for our French loan however we are living with my in laws and we do not have any utility bills. They are not able to help us so how can I get an account to pay for my French loan if I can’t get a French bank account without utility bills. We have car insurance and other bills but supposedly these are not accepted by French banks. Any idea what we can do?
Hi Ellen, thanks for your question. Getting a proof of address in France is one of the trickiest things to do, since so few documents are accepted as proof…not even rental leases or the deed to a house. You can ask your in-laws to provide an ‘attestation d’hébergement’ however. This sworn statement says that they are lodging you free of charge and is generally accepted as a proof of address. They will need to provide copies of their IDs and the last ‘taxe foncière’ (property tax) bill with the signed attestation. Best of luck, Dennelle
Anne Burkeon 2019-03-25 at 05:07
We are frequent visitors to France from Australia where we live. We would like to open a simple bank account in France for use as a cash withdrawal account whilst we are there. A passbook and ATM card is all that we would require. As non French residents are we able to do this. We have both Australian and UK passports and have lived in our current house for 6 years.
Hi Anne – please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss ways of doing this.
Maxon 2019-09-01 at 12:30
We are French Citizens residing in Tanzania, and do not have a local address in France. We would like to open a bank account in France to keep our savings. Ironically we have never lived in France before and just visit from time to time to meet family. Would there be any way around this?
Torion 2020-01-16 at 11:36
I opened a bank account in Latvia using this company http://www.baltic-legal.com/banking-in-latvia-eng.htm.
Now I need to open an account in a French bank. Tell me, who can help me?