Opening a French bank account

IMAGE: Pile of Euro notes

One of the first things that you’ll need to do is to open a bank account

One of the first things you’ll need to do when setting up your new life in Paris is to open a bank account. It’s important for lots of reasons, ranging from paying utility companies, some of which can insist on direct debits, to arranging a mortgage if required. It’s true that there’s a fair bit of paperwork involved, and it can all seem a little overwhelming at first, but with this straightforward guide, you’ll soon be on your way.

First off, before you actually get to the bank, you’ll need to decide which kind of an account you would like. For example, if you’re a non-resident, you’ll be looking at the account called a compte non-résident. This kind of account can sometimes be a bit more limiting than the normal kind, but will still do the job.

A current account (compte courant or compte à vue) works in the same way as most countries, apart from the fact that there can quite often be charges such as a monthly fee. In fact, there are several things you may be charged for with French bank accounts, such as a debit card, statements and foreign currency transactions. Also, expect to have a cheque book, which are still common in France. If there are two of you, it might be that you wish to go for a joint account.

The other kind of account is a savings account, known as a compte sur livret (or a compte à terme if it’s not instant access), which again work in a similar way to what you’ve probably already encountered.

When choosing which kind of account to go for, you may wish to think about things like the amount of interest you will receive, whether there are any limits on the number of withdrawals and what the charges are for transfers to a non-French account.

Once you are ready to roll, you will need to obtain the application form – called a mandat – from your selected bank, either during a visit or by writing to them. In addition to completing the application form, you may also need any or all of the following documents (depending on which bank you have chosen):

  • Copy of passport
  • Social security number of each person
  • A utility bill that is dated in the last three months
  • Possibly other documents depending on your choice of bank

Finally, you will also need some all-important funds to open the account, remembering to deposit enough to cover any ensuing fees.

If that all sounds a bit too much like hard work, here at VINGT Paris, we can help to organise everything for you through our bespoke concierge service. If you let us know before your arrival that you would like to go ahead with this, we can forward some forms to you in order to obtain the necessary information to set the wheels in motion.

We generally recommend that you open a bank account with HSBC – although, if you have an alternative preference, we can often facilitate that too.