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Banking Services

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Who are the main banks in France ?

BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Lyonnais, Crédit Agricole, Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne.
French banking network is the second worldwide after the US.
There is no legal difference between banks of different statutes (commercial banks, mutual/cooperative societies and finance companies).

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Is there a difference between a French and a foreign bank ?

No, except that is might be easier to find somebody speaking English.

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What are the opening hours ?

8.45 am – 12 noon and 1.45 pm – 4.30 pm and some saturday morning.
Most of the banks offer service by internet or telephone or fax, if you agreed a specific code.

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What are the standard services offered by all banks ?

Cheque book, credit card, sometimes overdraft facility, standing order arrangements, loans for current expenses, loans for real estate.
Further services are dependent on the bank. An offer, which is addressed specially for international clients, proposes for example a telephone assistance for all kind of day-to-day-situations (like administration problems, translation of official documents or assistance for legal or tax matters)

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Do I really need immediately a French account ?

Yes, payments over 1500 € (salary, rent) have to be made by cheque or by bank transfer.

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How to open an account ?

Usually you open a current account and a savings account in the same time.
You need proof of identity, proof of address (EDF or telephone), proof of income, money for the first deposit.
The bank has to check if there is no interdit bancaire (banking bar) registered at the Bank of France

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What types of account exist ?

Generally current accounts do not produce interest

Compte joint or compte commun: two people can make full use of the account and are equally responsible

Compte avec procuration: the holder of the account gives a written proxy to another person which is thereby allowed to withdraw or deposit money and to write cheques. The holder always remains responsible

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How do I get my bank statements ? 

Printed at the cash dispenser in one agency of the branch of your bank.

Send by post at the beginning of the following month.

Via internet, if connected to the service.

Bank statements are only issued if there is a movement on the account.

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Can I have an English version ?

No, not yet, but you can get an explanation of the main entries and its meaning in English, when opening an account.

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What do I have to know about cheques ?

Signed cheque is valid for one year and eight days, therefore it is strictly forbidden to postdate 

To write a cheque: amount in words and in numbers, date, location, name of the receiver (very important) and signature

To deposit a cheque: the receiver signs in the back of the cheque and sends it to the bank or deposits it in the bank office using a specialised envelope

When you pay by cheque you will usually be asked for a proof of identity

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How to pay large purchases or to get sure that a received cheque will be covered ?

Cheque certifié: guaranteed by the bank , money is set aside for 8 days

Cheque de banque: issued by the bank on behalf of the client guaranteeing payment for one year and 8 days

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What is a « cheque en bois » or « incident bancaire » ?

Cheque with insufficient funds

Strictly forbidden: heavy fine has to be paid and details are recorded to the Bank of France, cheque writing is forbidden for some time

There is no way to stop payment on a cheque unless it is lost or stolen

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What is the Bank of France ?

It is the Treasury and the banker’s bank. The Bank of France monitors the banking system, safeguards public interest and centralizes all information concerning private and commercial funds.

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What kind of bankcards do I need ?

Carte Bancaire de Paiement e.g. Carte Bleue, Visa, Eurocard, Mastercard, 

Regular income is the condition to obtain a bank card and an annual fee has to be paid

By using the PIN number the card allows to withdraw money from a cash point machine; Limits may be higher at your own bank than at other banks. 

The card allows to pay in most of the shops, usually for amounts more than 15 €. You can also make purchases by telephone or post by giving your card number (16digits)

Only small amounts are usually paid cash.

Payment cards, offered by most of the bigger shops, offer the possibility to make purchases on credit, but on a high interest rate. This are no bank cards. 

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What to do when the bank card or the cheques are lost or stolen ?

1. Call the bank to stop payment (Cards: 0836690808, cheque: 0836683208)
2. Declare the incident at the nearest police station
3. Transmit the police report personally, by fax or by registered letter to the bank 

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Where to go to change money ?

Bank or change office (change offices may have more possibilities to negotiate prices)

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How to transfer money out of France ?

Electronic transfers using the interbank network are one of the easiest ways of paying bills and sending or receiving money from abroad.

Post office services are generally less expensive than a bank

French bank : RIB (IBAN)

US bank: Swift number IABA

Others: Name, address and sort code of the bank, beneficiary’s name and account number

Within the €-zone a bank transfer costs the same as a French transfer, if you use the IBAN number

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What is a multi currency deposit account ?

The incoming money stays in its original currency until the holder decides to change it in local currency and to transfer it to his Euro account. Though you can profit from better change rates.

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What are the most important charges, which allow to compare banks? What are the hidden costs ?

Use of cash dispenser 

Cheque with insufficient funds

Closing an account 25-38 €

Changing a bank (savings transfer up to 150€)

Charges vary within the same network

Charges for the current account are usually set prices including bank card, insurance, cheque book and transfers (9€/month)

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How to handle current payments (EDF, rent, insurance) ?

EDF, telephone, redevance tele : TIP prepared autorisation to withdraw, send out with the bill

Others: standing order (instruction is given to the bank and transfer is to be paid) or direct debit (autorisation given to the organisation to withdraw directly from the account

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What are the current means of saving money ?

Depending on risk averness, special services for big clients are available


codevi (limited to 4600€), carnet d’epargne


Assurance Vie : has to be kept for 8 years, then there are no taxes to pay, can be subject of a –tax free- heritage (limited to 150.000€ /child)

PEA plan d’epargne en action : if the account stays untouched for at least 8 years, the benefits are not taxable

Condition for the tax advantage: French contract subscribed by French resident

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How to get a credit ?

There is a wide range of different products with fixed or variable interest rates, for consumption or for real estate purposes. The choice is dependent on the client’s situation. Products vary from one bank to another, but only the banker can decide which product fits best to the client’s needs and possibilities. There is for example a totally innovative form of real estate credit, where the credit balance on your current account reduces the balance used to calculate the interest on the loan.

Développement Christophe Arsonnaud - Chris informatique