French cheques or checks – all the facts you need to know.
Unlike other countries where they may be being phased out, cheques are widely used in France. French cheques clear quickly – usually the day they are presented or the day after; even if you back date a cheque it will be cleared when presented as cheques are treated as cash under French law, beware of this when you’re writing a cheque out and make sure you have sufficient funds in the account for a rapid clearance.
The rules on misuse of cheques are extremely tough in France and issuing a cheque without sufficient funds to clear it is illegal. If you do this your bank will instruct you to rectify the situation and if you do not do this in the time line given, your account may be frozen and you may be banned. The ban is logged with the Banque de France and you will not be able to open or operate an account in France. If you do inadvertently go overdrawn and resolve the matter, take care it does not happen again within 12 months as this will incur a 12 month cheque book ban. This isn’t just rumour mongering, this is serious and the penalties get more severe according to how seriously your behaviour is taken including heavy fines and occasionally a prison sentence – saying that you didn’t know the law will not be accepted as defence.
A cheque is valid in France for one year and eight days (12 months, 8 days) and it is illegal to back date a cheque or leave it open dated.
You will find in your cheque book some Relevé D’identité Bancaire pages known as RIB slips, these will have all your details on and enable you to set up utility accounts, standing orders, pay bills by post and other actions related to bill payment. If you run out of slips in your cheque book the bank will supply more on demand.
You can only stop a French cheque for a valid security reason, for instance if it’s been lost or stolen or fraud is suspected – not because you have changed your mind as you can do in some countries.
Some banks limit the amount of money you can pay out of your bank account during the course of a month – including cheque payments, cash payments and bill payments. When you open a French bank account ask your bank to confirm that monthly outgoing limit so you don’t encounter problems later.
If you think you might have a gap between money going into your account and money going out, consider an overdraft facility.
Information on cashier’s checks/Bankers Drafts.