Anyone can hold one or more current accounts. Holding a domestic account is essential if you reside in France to pay bills, establish residency, and receive payment.
French currency is the euro (EUR, €), the same as 23 other European countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. Each euro member issues its own coins with a unique side (the reverse is the same throughout the eurozone). Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
ATMs are plentiful and can be found in the cities and the country. Machines are called distributeurs automatiques de billets and accept Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Cirrus, Plus and Maestro cards. Cash withdrawals from some ATMs may be subject to a charge (about €1.50), depending on the vendor and your bank. However, cash is still king at small shops, pubs, and restaurants.
Bank cards use computer chips that require a secret PIN code to validate all operations, from cash withdrawals at automatic teller machines (ATMs) to in-store payments. Bank cards may be
Direct debit - Account is debited the same day as the transaction like a chargecard
Deferred debit - Payments are accounted for and debited once a month.
Credit cards as known in other countries (with credit revolving facility) are uncommon in France. Amex is also not accepted in most of the small shops and restaurants.
Exchange offices (bureaux de change) are usually open during business hours (roughly 8:00 - 17:00) and can be found at points of entry and around tourist attractions. Fees and rates should be clearly posted. be sure you understand charges before agreeing to exchange. Note that the best rates are by taking money from an ATM. This depends on your home bank, but this continues to be the safest and cheapest way to exchange.
Electronic money transfers require some effort and a fee, but may be the easiest way to move funds between countries.
The easiest way to complete a transfer is if you have a dual-currency account, such as the connection between Deutsche bank and Bank of America. Electronic transfers to dual currency accounts incur no or very low fees.
Banking in the France is usually easy to set-up. Current accounts are called compte courant (or compte à vue or compte de dépôt). Most banks offer similar quality services and online banking is standard. However, do shop around to find the best fit for you with agreeable fees.
It can take time to establish yourself as a foreigner and receive a debit or credit card. Proof of employment offers greatest credibility, especially if you have a letter of recommendation from your employer. You will need to demonstrate proof you are a resident with an address. Proof includes: utility bills (gas, telephone, electricity) or a rental contract. A letter of recommendation from your current bank (in French) may also speed the process. One of the easiest options is to open an account with a partner bank in your country.
If you are non-resident, you can open a compte non-résident. These are more difficult to open and maintain. Accounts must be opened in person (to prevent money laundering). There is usually a minimum deposit, and limits on the amount you may be able to transfer each month. It may be easiest to open an account with an internet bank as a non-resident.
Savings accounts are the most popular savings option in France. Deposited funds earn modest, but guaranteed, returns and can be withdrawn anytime. Some accounts, such as Livret A and Livret de Développement Durable are tax-exempt and pay interest rates backed by government decree. Another option is a long-term savings such as life insurance or Plan d’Epargne en Actions (stock savings plans). These products enable you to invest in markets and offer higher or lower risk and return potential.
Essential services such as bank statements and chequebooks are free. Many banks try to sell a "package" which groups charges. Paid services may include.
Cheques are still used widely in France. Banks provide chequebooks with 20 detachable cheques free of charge. The account owner fills in the amount and beneficiary of the payment. Vendors often request proof of identity to verify that cheques have not been stolen. Two pieces of identification may be required for large sums. Cheques take an average of three working days to clear.
Certified cheques are issued at the request of account holders. Banks guarantee payment of a certified cheque by removing funds corresponding to the value of the cheque from your account. Vendors often require certified cheques for large purchases such as real estate or a vehicle.
The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) is a standardised account number used in all European Union countries for transactions such as transfers and payments. Comprised of a country code (FR76 for France) followed by 23 digits, an IBAN allows you to communicate your banking information to creditors (e.g., telephone company, Internet service provider, utility, tax office) and establish pre-authorized payments. It is common practice in France for creditors to transfer bill payments automatically from your account to avoid late payment and interruption of service.
Banks are usually open between 9:00 and 17:00, Monday through Friday. Branches in larger cities may be open on Saturdays or open earlier or close later one day each week.
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