Opening A Bank Account In France

Discover whether it's possible for you to open a bank account in France as a foreigner, and how to do it.

If you are living in France, even for a short time, your life will become far more convenient with a French bank account.

In most cases, you’ll need a French bank account to receive payment from French companies, rent a French property, pay bills or pay taxes.

Thankfully, most French banks do allow foreigners to open a bank account.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the process you’ll go through when opening a bank account in France.

Can a foreigner open a bank account in France?

Yes, most French banks will allow foreigners to open a current account, provided you can meet its eligibility criteria.

If you’re a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), you’re likely to find it easier. If you’re a French resident, it’ll be even simpler.
For non-resident accounts, you may have to make an initial deposit of a minimum size. You’ll also have to provide a lot of paperwork as part of your application.
Bear in mind that French bank accounts tend to have a lot of fees associated with them. You’ll most likely have to pay an annual account management fee and a monthly fee for having a debit card.

Which documents are required?

These are the documents you can expect to be asked for when applying to open a French bank account.

  • Proof of identity.
  • Proof of address.
  • Residence permit (if applicable).
  • Proof of income, such as a recent payslip or tax notice.
  • Recent bank statements.
  • Foreign tax identification number.

If the bank requests a hard copy of these documents, you may need to get it authenticated, perhaps using an Apostille stamp or visiting a branch of your old bank.

Some banks may require updated versions of some of these documents every year.

How does the application work?

Some French banks will allow you to open a non-resident account online.

Others require you to make an appointment with a staff member in a local branch. Make sure to check what paperwork is required before this meeting.

In many cases, you’ll have to provide details of your previous transactions with your previous bank. That’s because French law requires French banks to be highly aware of their customers’ previous activity to avoid playing a role in money-laundering. You can expect to be put through a credit check and background checks too.

Either way, you should be able to receive your bank account number (RIB) at the end of your application. You can then expect to receive your debit card in the post within a few days.

Can a foreigner open a bank account if they are not physically in the country?

Yes, with some banks, it’s possible to apply for a French bank account online.

If you aren’t able to provide proof of a permanent French address, it could be a struggle. However, there are potentially ways around this.

If you can prove you have intentions to live in France for a long period (perhaps with proof of employment ), some banks will waive the need for you to provide proof of address straight away. Instead, you’ll be asked to provide it a a later time.

Can a bank account be opened online?

As mentioned above, some French banks will allow you to open an account online.

You’ll also have an option to open an account with an online-only bank.

These challenger banks don’t have any physical branches in France or anywhere else, but they tend to have good rates on international transactions, such as card payments or ATM withdrawals.

A key advantage to using these accounts in France is that you can avoid the fees charged and the excessive documentation required by French banks.

Alternative options

If you’re looking for an alternative to opening a bank account in France, you could consider a digital bank like Starling Bank or Revolut. The application process can be completed by downloading the respective app, making it quick and hassle-free, and foreign transaction fees are competitive.

With Starling Bank, you can choose from a personal account that charges no fees for overseas ATM withdrawals or transactions, or a Euro account which allows you to hold, send and receive euros for free. With Revolut, you can transfer money abroad in more than 30 currencies with the interbank exchange rate and its multi-currency card lets you hold up to 30 currencies at a time.

Pros and cons of opening a bank account in France

  • Most French banks allow foreign residents to open accounts. France’s banking system is relatively open for foreign residents to open current accounts.
  • Avoid currency fluctuations. By opening a bank account in France, as opposed to using an online-only bank from the UK, you can help avoid the fluctuations in the currency markets that may reduce the purchasing power of your money.
  • Makes working and living in France easier. In certain circumstances you won’t be able to work for a French company or rent a property in the country unless you have a French bank account.
  • Hard to do without a permanent address. It can be more difficult to open a French bank account if you don’t already have a permanent address in the country.
  • Beware multiple account fees. French bank accounts tend to have a lot of fees associated with them. You’ll probably have to pay annual account management fees and a monthly fee for having a debit card.

The bottom line

The majority of French banks allow foreigners to open bank accounts.

However, it’s recommended to shop around for the best deal, as most of these banks charge excessive fees.

In many cases, you may be better off opening an online-only account, especially if in-branch customer service isn’t important to you.

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