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TIPS

Readers’ tips: Which bank offers the best account for foreigners in France?

Each week The Local asks its readers to share their tips about various aspects of living in France. This week we asked their opinion on which bank offers the best account for foreigners living in France. Here's what they had to say.

Which bank offers the best account for foreigners living in France?
 
Our readers chose Britline, a branch of Credit Agricole Normandie, as the bank account of choice for foreigners in France.    
 
What is Britline?
 
Britline is an online English speaking French Banking service for people resident in France, the UK and Ireland. 
 
Its slogan is “French banking, English thinking” and the idea is to simplify banking in France for people who would rather not deal with their financial affairs in French. 
 
Britline's headquarters is in Caen in Normandy and was founded in 1999.
 
The majority of its customer service agents are British and many of its 60,000 clients are based in the areas most popular with Brits in France, such as Brittany, Normandy and the south west, according to a Britline spokesperson. 
 
Unlike some other French bank accounts you can open an account with Britline online before arriving in France. 
 
Photo: Screenshot/Britline website
 
Why is it so popular?
 
Britline clients said that the staff were helpful, that they appreciated being able to deal with their French finances in English and said the bank's services were of a high standard. 
 
Brian Smith, a client of Britline who lives in Normandy, told The Local: “Britline deals with a lot of UK people and I've found them very helpful on all banking issues.
 
“They have got very good staff and good insurance rates and can cover all your needs. They also have some good savings accounts. Most staff speak English and are very knowledgeable.”
 
Another Britline client also stressed how important it had been for her and her husband to be able to set up an account with a bank with an English service.
 
“My husband, who had a career in finance but whose French language skills were limited, chose Britline,” Jan Tapp said. 
 
“Britline called us in the UK to set up our accounts, spoke very good English, answered all of our questions and all has gone well since,” Jan Tapp said, adding that she and her husband have also organised their insurance through Britline and “have had no problems at all in the last four years”.
 
However Ms. Tapp also noted a possible downside for some which is that if you have an account through Britline with Credit Agricole you can't go into a CA bank to talk to someone, you have to speak to Britline over the phone.
 
 
Were any other bank accounts recommended?
 
For several American readers, BNP Paribas was the bank of choice due to its partnership with Bank of America which means a lot of perks for anyone with a BofA account back home. 
 
Claire Rush who lives in Paris said: “For Americans, BNP has a partnership with Bank of America. If you have the latter back in the states, that means no foreign ATM withdrawal fees when you use your BofA debit card at ATMs in France (and vice versa).
 
“As far as opening French accounts, I have Credit Cooperatif, a 'socially conscious' bank. I like their philosophy — they’re partners w/ NGOs like Médecins du Monde and the customer service is decent. But there aren't too many branches and I’ve had trouble using my card for online purchases.”
 
Another BNP Paribas client from the US also highlighted the convenience of the connection with BofA. 
 
“I use BNP for the partnership with BofA and they made it relatively simple to open an account, which was often not the case at other banks,” said Jim Lockard, who lives between the US and France. 
 
And any banks readers recommended avoiding?
 
One reader advised steering clear of Boursarama Banque, a subsidiary of Societe Generale. 
 
“Do not use Boursorama Banque at all! Terrible/ no customer service and they made a huge mistake with my account,” one reader told The Local. 
 
If you would like to ask The Local's readers a question to hear their tips on life in France, email us at [email protected]
 
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Member comments

  1. After 25 years in France I found that La Banque Postale is the best for service and services. The charges are much less than any other bank and there is an overdraft without any interest if repaid within 30 days which is helpful if you are waiting for money to be paid into your account. As there is a Post Office in nearly every town and often villages have a Post Office service once a week usually on market day, it is easy to pop in for advice etc.

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TIPS

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets… and tips to avoid them

If you're someone who has had their holiday to France ruined by a pickpocket, then you're certainly not alone. And it isn't only in the French capital that you have to watch out.

Readers reveal the worst places in France for pickpockets... and tips to avoid them
One reader said that people should watch out for pickpockets at Lyon train station (pictured above). Photo: AFP
A recent report revealed that 2019 has seen a surge of cases of pickpocketing on the Paris metro. But the French capital isn't the only place in France where you need to watch out for petty crime. 
 
We asked our readers who know France well to tell us where else in the country you need to be that extra bit cautious about your handbag, wallet or phone and for any advice on keeping possessions safe.  
 
Unsurprisingly many of the places mentioned by readers were in cities with high levels of tourism. 
 
One of the places that came up again and again was the eastern French city of Strasbourg, with readers noting that thieves tend to operate around the train station, old town and the very popular Christmas markets. 
 
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Photo: AFP

“I was targeted by pickpockets in Strasbourg walking near the old town. Two women – a 40-year-old woman with a 20-year-old girl — walked very close behind me, as I was walking very fast, and tried opening a small shoulder bag,” said Greg Moore from the US. 
 
Another reader said that they “watched a group of girls working the crowd at the Christmas markets.”
 
The beautiful southern French city of Nice was also highlighted by several readers as a place where it is wise to keep a close eye on your belongings. 
 
One reader noted that there are “pickpockets in abundance” and that the city in general “is horrible for pickpocketing”. 
 
“My credit and debit cards were stolen and used when we visited there a few years ago,” they said. 
 
Lyon, the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, is very popular with tourists who are drawn to the city for its architecture, culture – and of course the world famous cuisine. 
 
But while it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by beautiful surroundings, Lyon was also highlighted by readers as a place to be cautious. 
 
Linda Martz, who has lived in the city for three years, told us that a pickpocket stole her wallet while she boarded a train. 
 
And another reader Sandra Beard told us that drivers should be particularly careful due to “scam artists” targeting people with cars.      
 
There are “scam artists who “help” you at parking ticket machines while they palm (and take) your credit card (and tells you the machine took your card),” she said.
 
“They have your PIN after looking over your shoulder,” she said, adding that when this happened to her the man “withdrew €5,000 from three banks before we froze our account (within 10 mins).”
 
Photo: AFP
 
It might not be so surprising that the resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera, which has a reputation as a bit of a playground for the rich, was also on readers' lists, with one saying that his brother was pickpocketed as he stepped onto a train at Cannes train station. 
 
Meanwhile reader Leslie White, who lives in Paris, said she and her husband were “hit with the 'bird poop scam'” while strolling in the grounds of the Domaine de Chantilly in northern France. 
 
“A plop of green goop landed on my head. A helpful couple walking behind us helped to clean us off with disposable wipes. My husband somehow had some on him too. They also cleaned out his wallet and of course it was they who had thrown the 'poop' at me in the first place. We didn’t figure it out until the next day,” she said. 
 
Other readers mentioned Tours train station and tram stop, the market in Arles – where reader Sue Byford said her gold necklace was snatched from her neck – and Disneyland, where one person told us they had their new phone stolen, as specific places where pickpockets operate.  
 
Advice
 
Police around France are aware of the high levels of pickpocketing in certain cities and have offered advice on how to avoid becoming a target, including avoiding the “temptation to make valuables, such as expensive handbags and jewellery, too visible or easy to take”. 
 
They have also advised caution when sitting on the terrasse of a bar or café. 
 
It's important to be “very vigilant, do not leave a wallet or phone on a table, in front of everyone” or leave your valuables in your jacket if you leave it slung over a chair,” the Rouen police previously told the French press. 
 
Our readers also had some suggestions of their own, including using zip ties on bags and neck pouches for credit cards and your phone. 
 
One reader said they take the extra precaution of putting mini-locks on all the zippers on their backpack. 
 
Two readers pointed out that unfortunately it is “necessary to be wary of friendly people”.
 
“Any distraction is an opportunity,” said one. 
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