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France - Banking
There are a number of local, national, and international banks to choose from. Many expats do, however, tend to opt for open accounts with larger banks as they are less likely to encounter language barriers. The main national banks include BNP Paribas, CIC, Credit Agricole, and Societe Generale.
You can also choose to open an account at the French Post Office (La Poste), this can be particularly useful for expats living in more rural areas as you will be able to access your account from almost every village in the country.
Internet-only banks are becoming increasingly popular in France and they usually offer lower fees and charges than other accounts. There are now a number of trusted internet-only banks operating in the country, including ING Direct, Groupama, BRED, and Monabanq.
With the influx of UK and US nationals to certain areas, many major banks within these regions now have English speaking staff within their branches, which can be a huge help to expats whose French skills are not yet up to the job.
Standard banking hours vary from branch to branch depending upon the location, the bank, and the size of the branch. Typical banking opening hours in cities and towns are Monday to Friday, 08:30-900 until 16:00-17:30, some banks are also starting to offer extended opening hours one day per week. Smaller branches and those in rural areas usually close between 12:00-14:00 each day. If you choose to bank with the Post Office, branches are generally open from 08:00 until 18:00 or 19:00 Monday to Friday, and 08:00 until 12.00 on Saturdays.
Opening a bank account in France is generally a straightforward process, although the exact requirements will vary depending upon the bank you are opening your account with and the type of account you choose to open. Although it is possible to open an account before you arrive in France, many people find it easier to wait until they arrive in the country, as fewer documents are required.
There are various types of accounts on offer, many of which are similar to those available in other countries. It’s important to note, however, that expats who have resided in France for less than 3 months are only permitted to open a non-resident account (compete non-résident), which usually will not entitle you to an overdraft or any form of credit.
Non-residents will be asked to present proof of identity and proof of residence when opening an account. You may also need a letter of recommendation from a financial institution and an initial deposit of up to 10,500 Euro.
Alternatively, to open a resident’s account, you will usually need proof of identity, proof of earnings, proof of residence (carte de sejour), and occasionally a reference from your employer or a financial institution.
There is a high level of consumer protection in France, and their banks are amongst the strongest and most reliable in the world.
Although many businesses accept debit cards (carte de debit) and credit cards (carte de credit), not all of them do, particularly when it comes to smaller businesses or smaller transactions. In rural areas, many shops and restaurants operate on a cash-only basis, so it’s advisable to ensure that you always have a supply of cash with you.
Some expats are surprised to find that cheques are still often used to pay for all manner of goods and services. When paying with a cheque, however, always ensure that you have enough funds to cover the payment as a declined cheque is considered to be a severe fraudulent offence and the account holder may be placed on a blacklist with the Banque de France, meaning that they may be prevented from opening any further accounts in France or receiving any form of credit.
French banks are extremely cautious when approving loans and overdrafts, so if you are applying for either of these products, expect to be asked for proof of residency and income (which will need to be stable and regular).
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