Get a bank account in France

That is la banque. Or for all of you English speakers, the bank.

Having worked in finance, I was interested in how the banking system here in France would be different to what we are used to in New Zealand. Do you want to know what I have discovered? Two words: cheques and fees.

Opening a bank account

One of the first things we did when arriving was to open a French bank account. This meant signing about six different forms, an hour long appointment and the account took about two weeks to be operational.

This is because the bank need to send out a registered letter to confirm you live at the address given. (A courier delivers the letter and you have to sign it).

We had to request to have a bank card. This is called a carte bleue and is part of the Visa network. It is usually a debit card, meaning the money needs to be in your account in order to purchase something (as opposed to credit card). There is a monthly fee for having a card also.

You can also request to have a cheque book. In New Zealand, it is almost unheard of to have one these days so we were not sure at first. It has been handy in France as some merchants do not offer payment by carte bleue or only above a certain amount (from 5 to 20 euros).

Once the account and card were up and running, we attempted to make a purchase over the internet. Internet purchases were not authorised with our card. First, we needed a French cell phone number in order to receive secure codes when we buy things online.

There are also limits on how much we can purchase with the card in a month. Each cardholder has a limit. If the limit is reached, the card will decline (Embarassing!).

What you will need:

- piece d'identite: ID, usually your passport including,
- visa de long sejour: long stay visa
- justificatif de domicile: proof of address (utilities bill if you have one, otherwise should be able to use contract for accommodation)
- information on your earnings and assets in original country ie bank statements

French banking vocabulary:

le compte - account

le titulaire - account holder

le compte cheque - cheque account

le compte d'epargne - savings account

le montant - amount / sum

les frais - fees

le solde - balance

le bilan - balance

rélévé - statement

liquidites - cash available

RIB (releve identite bancaire) - account number

IBAN - International bank account number

le BIC - business identifier code  / bank code (8+ letters)


un guichet - ATM / cash withdrawal machine

le distributeur automatique - ATM / cash withdrawal machine


le virement - transfer

le virement electronique - internet transfer / direct credit

effectuer un virement - to make a transfer

le compte destinataire - beneficiary account / person receiving money

le beneficiaire - beneficiary account / person receiving money

deposer - to deposit money

retirer - to withdraw money

le chequier - cheque book

la carte bleue - debit card

sans contact - Paywave / payment by contactless chip card

encaisser un cheque - to cash a cheque

opposition - reversed/cancelled payment

decouvert - overdraft

le pret / l'emprunt - loan

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