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The Basics of Banking in France

There may not be huge differences when it comes to banking in France and the UK or other countries, however there may be some.

Before looking at the general differences, let’s break the myth that many people have that unless you have a French address (main residence or holiday home) you cannot open a bank account in France. This may indeed be the case with some banks, where their policy doesn’t include accounts for non-French address holders, but there are several banks which accept customers with an overseas address.

Here is a simple guide to banking and how to avoid the snags and stress that may occur.

Banks in France

The majority of UK banks, no matter at which branch you have opened your account, can provide you with an over-the-counter service and carry out the requested transactions on your account, no matter where you may be in the country.

In France, many banks are co-operative mutual banks which can be regionalised. This means that your account cannot be visualised, (and therefore managed) in a region outside of it’s headquarters. You will still be able to use each branch to withdraw cash from their ATM’s but any day to day discussions and in-branch management of your account must be carried out with your original branch. This can take some getting used to, especially if you normally do everything over the counter.

Making payments

Cheque books

Cheques are still commonly used in France without a cheque guarantee card. It’s important to have funds in your account to cover the cheque. Postdating a cheque in France isn’t relevant as the beneficiary can pay it in and it will be processed immediately. If this happens and you go overdrawn, you may become what is called Interdit bancaire and may be banned from writing cheques for up to 5 years. This may affect all your French accounts. If it does happen, contact your branch immediately to resolve the matter.

Debit cards

Debit cards in France tend to come with an annual fee (payable monthly or annually). Debit cards are usually classed as Immediate or Deferred debit (all payments being taken on one given date of the month). Not to be confused with a UK Credit card which may have similar facilities.

Debit card limits are built in for withdrawals of cash per week and purchase limits per month. For example standard cards offer withdrawals of 450€ per 7 day rolling period and monthly purchase limits of 2300€. Go over these limits and you’re likely to experience your card being rejected online, in shops and ATMs.

Some banks offer tailor made debit cards with higher spending limits. You can use them in France, UK, overseas whether that’s inside or outside of the EU, and withdrawals and purchases are fee free.

Banking Fees

From bank to bank and region to region the fees applied may be slightly different, but generally it’s not a huge difference.

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