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Is it difficult for an expat to open a bank account in France?

Opening a bank account is one of the first jobs you will want to get sorted when relocating to France. After all, you will need it to have your wages paid into and any bills that need to go out, as well as day-to-day living expenses.

The process of getting an account set up, the products on offer and the documentation you will need tends to be different all over the world. With this in mind, here is your guide to everything you need to know to get your banking sorted in France.


You do not have to be a resident to open a bank account in France, but the process tends to be easier if you are. This means it may be worth waiting until your residency status is confirmed before trying to set up your account.

Selecting the type of account for your needs

Just as in the UK, there are a number of different types of bank account available and it is important to understand the features of each one. This will allow you to get quick access to your funds if necessary, but also earn more interest on those that are not likely to be needed at short notice.

The first type is a current account, which can be called compte courant, acompte à vue or compte de depot in French.

Alternatively, a deposit account may be what you require. Money which you will not need immediate access to can be placed here. Ask for a compte sur livret, or Livret B or compte à terme.

Tax free savings accounts are also available from all banks and these are referred to as Livret A.


There are many options for opening free current accounts in France, with the majority of banks offering this service. They are likely to try and coerce you into buying a package that includes a number of other services as well. Do your research and find out whether these would be any use to you. If not, insist on opening a free current account instead.

Always ask for a list of the charges a bank levies as you may be surprised what they include. In some circumstances these include issuing a debit or credit card, cheque book or new PIN if yours is lost. These can be on top of fees for the likes of going overdrawn and making transactions in foreign currency.

Document checklist

Take these items along with you when going into the bank to open your account:
·         Passport

·         Proof of address

·         Last French income tax return or a contract of employment to prove earnings

·         A copy of your signature

·         Visa de long séjour – long-stay visa – or a titre de séjour – residence permit

·         Non-residents will need two previous bank statements

Application process

In the branch they will present you with a mandat, which is an application form, to fill in. This will then be processed and the documentation you have brought with you will be checked and often photocopied.

When this has been done you will be presented with a convention de compte, which is the contract between you and the bank. Read it carefully to ensure that you don’t get any nasty surprises later. If there are any areas that you don’t understand due to technical French language, get a native speaker or a translator to explain it to you.

The process of opening the account should take more than a day and as soon as it is set up you can start depositing money into it, but some of the other arrangements may need a little more time to complete.

You will also receive relevés d’identité bancaire (RIBs), which allow you to have your salary and any direct debits transferred to your new account. The next thing to do is to make a request for a bank card and a chequebook, which are usually sent through the post and take between a week and ten days to arrive.

Joint accounts

It is possible to open a joint account in France, but they come in two forms, which may appear to have subtle differences, but have large implications. If the two names on the account are separated by the word ‘et’ then both parties must sign a cheque. Accounts where the names are separated by an ‘ou’ allow one or the other person to sign on their own. Be sure you know which one you are opening.

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