Banking in France is obviously an important aspect of living in the country.
In this guide, we’ll go over all the facts of banking in France for non-EU nationals: what you need to open a bank account in France, what your options are and what to do if you are refused an account in France.
The process for EU nationals is pretty easy, as they have a legal right to open an account in any EU country.
Can a foreigner open a bank account in France?
Any foreigner (non-citizen) can open a bank account in France. Providing you have a valid form of ID and proof of a fixed address, you’re eligible to open an account with various national banks.
The proof of address doesn’t need to be a French one (more on this later). Your required ID will depend on the bank and your nationality but is at the very least your passport. Some banks might require a copy of your birth certificate, too.
On top of this, you might need to show proof of savings, tax statements, revenue, payslips, and more. It varies between banks, and, in a typical French style, even between branches of the same bank.
Some banks (e.g., Credit Agricole) are easier for foreigners to use because they provide some English-language services on their websites.
Is it free to open a bank account in France?
Most banks in France don’t charge a fee to open an account. Some even let you open an account without depositing any money in it, although they won’t give you a debit card until you do.
However, some banks do charge a fee for opening an account online via their website. You might still need to see someone in person with your documents, but for others, the fee covers digital processing. If a bank doesn’t charge for opening an online account, it might charge for using in-branch services.
As you can imagine, there’s no single answer for banking in France for non-residents. Different banks offer their own services and charges, much like you’d find in your country. It helps to do some research on the larger French banks, as these are more likely to be favourable for foreigners.
How much does a bank account cost in France?
Depending on the bank, you may not be charged anything to keep your account open. However, many are incredibly strict about spending beyond your means. For example, some banks charge €49 or more if you go past your overdraft.
Some general banking fees are as follows:
- Admin – free to around €10 a year
- Using a cash machine – almost always free
- International transfers – highly variable; anywhere from €10 to €30
- Debit and credit card use – anywhere from €30 to €100 a year
Again, it entirely depends on the bank you choose. You might find some offer more favourable rates based on your finances, so ask around before making a decision.
Can I have a French bank account without a French address?
You can technically open a French bank account without a French address, but your options are far more limited. Almost every bank will require proof of address in France, such as a utility bill.
If you don’t yet live in France but have proof you’re moving there, some banks will let you open an account. While the proof differs, it can include proof of purchase of a French property or details from a lawyer/estate agent that you’re in the process of buying.
However, an account of this nature is limited in what it can do. For example, you might be able to receive money but not send it or you can use it to pay bills. It entirely depends on the bank you choose.
A final option for opening an account without a French address is an attestation d’hebergement (accommodation certificate). The French are big on attestations, which are official documents that serve as proof.
It’s a useful option if, say, you’re moving in with someone but won’t be listed on the property deed (such as children moving in with their parents). It’s also a viable option for those looking to rent. Luckily, the French government provides an online template for you to fill in.
Without a French address, you can open a non-resident account, but these are relatively limited in what they can do.
Opening a non-resident bank account in France
As mentioned, your options for banking as a non-resident are more limited (understandably). There are a few high street banks that allow you to open a compte non-resident (non-resident account).
Banks in France where you can open a non-resident bank account:
- Societe Generale
- Credit Agricole
- BNP Paribas
Each has different eligibility criteria, so it’s worth shopping around before settling on one. Importantly, you must provide far more paperwork for a non-resident account, as France is strict on preventing money laundering.
First, you’ll need to open it in person rather than online. When attending your appointment, you’ll need some (or all) of the following documants:
- Proof of address (from your country of residence)
- Current banking details (again, from your country of residence)
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of income
- At least 3 bank statements
- Your tax ID number from your country of residence
Expect plenty of questions about why you’re opening an account as a non-resident. Of course, if you’re in the process of buying a home in France or becoming a resident, this should be fairly easy.
Some banks require a minimum monthly deposit to keep the account open, while others limit how much money you can transfer.
What to do if you’re refused an account as a non-resident
In some circumstances, you can be refused a French bank account as a non-resident. If this happens three times, you can do something called a request to the right to an account.
You contact the Banque de France after three refusals from three different banks providing you fulfil one of the following:
- You can provide a French address (even if it’s temporary)
- You’re a citizen of the EU
- You have French nationality
Providing the Banque de France is willing to listen to your case, you must show them:
- A certificate of refusal from the three French banks
- A statement (another attestation) saying you don’t have a French bank account
- Valid ID
- Proof of address
If all this meets the criteria, the French national bank will then instruct a bank of its choosing to open an account for you.
Opening a resident bank account in France
Banks are legally obligated to offer a French resident a bank account. But, this doesn’t mean all banks will jump at the chance of giving you one. As in any other country, there are restrictions based on credit, banking infractions, and more.
As a resident, you’ll usually only need to provide ID and proof of address. Some banks might be stricter depending on how long you’ve been a resident or your previous country of residence, but you’ll find this out during your application.
Residents have access to current accounts (compte courant), savings accounts, and credit cards. It’s also much easier to apply for mortgages and loans, as you’d expect.
You’re also more likely to be able to open your account online, although you might need to attend an in-branch meeting depending on the bank’s requirements.
Alternatives to national French banks
The world of banking is ever-changing, and there are more alternatives than ever before for physical banks. Your options range from online banks (neobanks) to multi-currency accounts.
Many high street banks in France have online versions that technically aren’t associated with the physical branches. They operate entirely online, and most allow non-residents to open an account. Some of the main players include:
- Axa Banque
- Boursorama Banque
- ING Direct
- Orange Bank
Different neobanks offer different benefits. For example, N26 allows bank transfers in 18 currencies, while Revolut allows free monthly cash withdrawals up to €200.
The other option is a multi-currency account, such as Wise. This kind of service gives you bank details (such as an account number) for countries of your choice. You’ll need to link up your main national bank account, but from there you can transfer money almost anywhere in the world.
Many also provide you with a bank card that you can use to make purchases. However, you won’t have access to loans or overdrafts, but it’s a good option if you have a holiday home in France or don’t plan to live there permanently.
Final thoughts on French bank accounts for expats
Whether you’re moving along the French residency journey or are thinking of moving to France, having a national bank account provides clear advantages.
Understandably, getting your head around another country’s banking regulations is challenging. Add to this France’s love of “winging it”, and you’ve got a potentially confusing system.
French residents have a much easier time opening an account, as do EU nationals. For non-residents, it’s still possible but requires a lot more administration.