Over recent weeks, some British banks have made the decision to start closing the accounts of customers who permanently live abroad, in countries such as France.
This will have a significant impact on those who have made the decision to settle in France – many will have to transfer their banking to French institutions.
Together with the French bank for English speakers, Britline, we give you an overview of banking in France and how to avoid the most common obstacles when opening your first French account.
Banks in France
The first thing that those arriving in France will find is that there’s a lot more choice.
Unlike, for example, the United Kingdom, there is a wider selection of ‘big banks’ with good coverage across the nation, in addition to a number of regional banks. Furthermore, there are many smaller credit institutions offering specialised services.
Like the majority of nations, French banks offer savings and checking accounts, in addition to other services such as personal loans, overdrafts and mortgages. Generally, whatever kind of account or service you have previously used, you will find it offered by French banks.
Now, this is where things differ. Don’t be afraid, you won’t find banks in France to be too different to elsewhere, but there are a few points to be aware of.
Firstly, while France is steadily becoming more digital, many French prefer doing their banking at a physical location. This preference also extends to transactions themselves – there is much greater use of cheques, for example than in the UK.
What this means is that some interactions tend to be completed in person, with bank staff. While there may be English-speaking staff on hand at some banks, don’t count on it – you might have to dust off your French textbook to access certain services.
Secondly, many French banks require a lot more information to open an account than you might be used to. French citizens have set documents that make opening accounts a breeze, whereas internationals need to provide more documentation to meet legal requirements.
To successfully open an account, you will need to provide proof of identity, such as a passport, and proof of French residence such as a carte de Sejour or visa. Depending on your situation, you may even need to supply evidence of your marital and employment status. In fact, many relocation services tend to recommend taking as much as you can to prove who you are and what you’re doing in France!
If you’re an American citizen, there will be an additional hurdle.
The FATCA law means that banks across the globe need to report information about accounts opened for US citizens to US authorities. Designed to combat money laundering, sending information has long proved a hassle for banks, and some French banks have refused to open accounts for Americans as a consequence. A new French law comes into force on June 13 to help Americans if they’ve been turned down due to FATCA, but you may still experience some difficulties or delays in opening an account.
The Britline alternative
Whether you don’t think your French is up to the task, or you have specific requirements of a bank account that you have questions about, there is a specific option for UK citizens who wish to get settled in France.
A subsidiary of French bank, Crédit Agricole Normandie, Britline was set up to offer banking services to UK citizens, who have either relocated to France or are who are planning on doing so – you don’t have to have a secured address in France to set up an account.
Everyone opening an account with Britline will have access to a team of English-speaking advisors – most of whom have gone through the process of moving to France themselves. As a consequence, they are familiar with the situations encountered by new arrivals and know how to navigate them with ease. There are also further financial services available to anyone resident or planning to reside in France.
Britline customers have a choice of account and banking packages– Essentiel, Premium or Prestige, each with their own level of service offered and a VISA or Mastercard debit card. Whatever your circumstances, there is a package that will meet your needs and give you fast access to the experts.
Online banking is also offered to all Britline customers, as well as a fully-featured app through which many everyday transactions can be completed. A wealth of information about French banking can also be accessed through the Britline website, for those times when you need the information at your fingertips.
Banking can be challenging for those in France without the language skills or an understanding of the key differences in how banks work here. Using a specialised bank like Britline can help smooth the way and establish new arrivals financially, quickly.