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France - Bank Accounts

Bank Accounts

  • There are different types of bank accounts: checking accounts (compte courant) , savings accounts, life insurance… Banks will show you all their products. Be aware that, although the names of the products may sound similar, you may have different conditions to what you're used to.
  • Know that you can bargain for bank fees. Talk about it with your personal banker!

Opening a bank account

  • To open a bank account, you will have to choose among the different French or international banks. Documents that you will need are :
    - your identity card or passport
    - a proof of your address in France (electricity bill, phone bill…)
    - last three bank statements
    - three payrolls or your work contract
  • They will automatically open an account for you and hand you a check book. If you want to have a credit card you will have to pay for it. Check books are very common in France for paying bills as EDF, France Telecom etc.
    Most of the time they suggest to open a savings account like Codevi, Plan or Compte Epargne Logement etc. It will depend on you want it for.
    Banks can also reccomend:
    - Different loans : car loan, house loan…If you need a smaller loan, i.e. for buying furniture, it's better to contact a credit company as 'Cetelem'.
    - Insurance for your house and car
    - Legal Insurance

Closing a bank account

  • It's very easy to close a bank account. Just go to the bank and ask them to close your account. If you have a savings account, ask them to transfer your money to the new account. If you want to reduce the fees, make out a check to your new bank for the amount left in your account before closing the old one.

Normal banking hours are:
Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm and 14.30 pm to 17.00 pm. Saturday from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm

Writing a cheque

Starting with the amount in the numbers box (right-hand side) of the cheque (with the € sign in it), write in the amount to be paid in numbers. If it is for a large amount, in excess of a thousand Euros use a decimal point (e.g. €12.345) or a space (e.g. €12 345) as the separator for the thousands. If you are including centimes the number (representing cents) should be separated from the euros using a comma (e.g. €12.345,67). Quite often you  will come from your home country which uses the comma and decimal point in the opposite way! Finally less important these days but the text part must be in French.

First two lines on the left (sometimes with the added text 'payez contre ce chèque'):
write the amount of the cheque in words.
Third line on the left (sometimes commencing with the words 'à or à l'ordre de'):
to whom (i.e. name of the payee). If you do write  a cheque to withdraw money, write your name or 'moi-même' – and hand it to the cashier, but you may be charged.
Fourth line (Fait à or à):
place where the cheque is written; and (le) date. The date is written always in numerals in this order: day, month, year; using slash as separator (e.g. à 'your town' le dd/mm/yyyy)
Bottom line:
write your signature
Numbers written:
there is a lot more writing to written french numbers so the following table may help, adding un, deux, trois, quatre, etc., where appropriate (e.g. quarante-quatre, trois cents, cinq mille.) Hyphens can be used between the numbers if you wish and the centimes may be left as digits, e.g. soixante-et-onze euros, 82 (71,82 €).


11 Onze                         21 Vingt et un                      40 Quarante
12 Douze                      22 Vingt deux                       50 Cinquante
13 Treize                       23 Vingt trois                        60 Soixante
14 Quatorze                 24 Vingt quatre                      70 Soixante dix
15 Quinze                     25 Vingt cinq                          71 Soixante et onze
16 Seize                        26 Vingt six                             72 Soixante douze
17 Dix-sept                   27 Vingt sept                         80 Quatre-vingts
18 Dix-huit                    28 Vingt huit                           81 Quatre-vingts
19 Dix-neuf                   29 Vingt neuf                         90 Quatre-vingts
20 Vingt                         30 Trente                                91 Quatre-vingts onze
    100 Cent
    200 Deux cents
    1000 Mille

Please Note
Cheques are widely used in France and there is usually no charge when you pay by cheque.  Some shops have a minimum you need to purchase before they will accept a cheque, usually around €7.50. You will normally be asked for identification when paying by cheque and the information will be written on the back of your cheque. If you are sending for something by mail order you can also send a cheque but be prepared for a small extra delay whilst your cheque is processed.
Standard cheques will be crossed (cheque barrés) so they can be paid to the payee detailed you specify when writing the cheque (this is done for security and tax purposes). In France it is important to remember that writing a cheque without adequate funds (or agreed overdraft) in France is a criminal offence which may be quite different from your home country.  This is why they are so widely accepted for your purchases.
Paying a cheque written into your account, you need to sign it on the back and ideally include your account number. Either pay it in at a counter filling in the appropriate 'fiche' supplied to you or use a machine that allows you to make deposits. These are not the ATM machines, used with your credit cards, and are usually found in the banks' premises.

Lost or stolen cheque book
If you are unlucky enough to have your cheque book stolen or simply lost, you should immediately report the loss to the police sous-prefecture and make a declaration of theft or loss (procés verbal) and to your bank (faire opposition). Visit your bank immediately if possible or call the national cheque helpline at the Banque de France: 08 36 68 32 08.

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