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Paris - Bank system

As with all the major economies, living in France (either temporarily or over a longer term), a current bank account must be part of the package.

French banks are no less sophisticated than those you find anywhere in the world and they have the flexibility to cater for most situations. Some have reached global status, (the Crédit Agricole Group is 5th largest in the World).

However local takovers by the major international banks are common. HSBC has bought out one of the smaller national banks, Crédit Commercial de France (CCF) which has an extensive network throughout France.

For the day to day business it is the national banks which have the greatest presence around the country.
Since practically every bank is represented in Paris and if this is where you will be based, or in one of the other major regional cities such as Lyon, Marseilles, Bordeaux or Nantes check with your bank in your home country. If there is an associated bank where you will live in France, it could simplify your options.

On the whole if your requirements are relatively straightforward it is probably easier to choose one of the main French banks because of their widespread coverage. Since your employer will probably want to pay your salary into a French bank account ask for assistance from the HR department . The company might have a preferred bank they can refer you to and the HR depertment can help  you setting the account.


Opening a bank account

  • To open a bank account, you will have the choice through 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 you an account with a check book. If you want to have a credit card you will have to pay it. Check books are really used here in France for paying bills as EDF, France Telecom etc.
    Most of the time they propose you to open a saving account like Codevi, Plan or Compte Epargne Logement etc. It will depend on what you want to buy in the future.
    Banks can also propose you :
    - Different loans : car loan, house loan…If you need to contract a credit for buying furniture or this type of purchase, it's better to contact for example "Cetelem" which is a credit company.
    - Insurance for your house and car
    - Legal Insurance

Normal banking hours are : Tuesday to Saturday (only morning) from 9.00 am to 12.00 am and 14.30 pm to 17.00 pm.


Choosing a Bank
The principal banks in France can be split into 3 categories:

French National Banks e.g.

* BNP-Paribas:
* Société Générale:
* Crédit Agricole:
* Caisse d'Epargne:

International Banks e.g.
· Barclays bank :
· Citicorp :

Online Banking e.g
· ING Direct (

You may also look at all of the above sites for details of online possibilities. Charges e.g. transfers, credit/debit cards and insurances, etc., tend to be less with online banking.

The French Post Office (La Poste: also offers banking services. Here to the advantage is the availability of a post office, meaning you can access your account from even the smallest village post office, where ever you are in France.

Banking hours
Banks now open from Monday to Friday between 8:30-9:00 to between 17:00-18:00. The larger national banks also extend hours on one day a week, but beware in the suburbs where everybody closes for lunch during 12:00-15:00 period. Branches will also open on Saturdays (usually from 9:00-13:00), but are then normally closed on Monday.

Post offices open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 to 18:00-19:00, and on Saturdays between 8:00 and 12:00.

Current Accounts
Overdrafts in France are treated differently so check your account details. Even a few days of overdraft (découverts) in an agreed limit can be expensive. Unauthorized overdrafts mean a bank can block your credit card or withdraw your cheque-book. Depending on the bank and your income, you can apply for various overdraft schemes. Sort out what you are after and be prepared to negotiate when you go to open your account.

Depending on the type of account you can receive statements (a relevé de compte) every two to four weeks by post or, if you have the facility, online. French banks generally provide good phone and internet banking services. While access does not incur additional charges you will be required to subscribe and perhaps pay an annual fee if the service is not included with your type account.

Cheque books are generally provided free as standard on a current account. Cheques are accepted in most paces backed by an identity card or passport. Credit cards have taken the place of cheques nonetheless your bank will inform you when your new chequebook is ready and you must make arrangements to collect it or have it sent to you.

Other Services
Banks provide other services, insurance mortgages savings and investments. In France, current accounts do not pay interest. So if you want an account which will earn interest, the banks can offer you a number of different products, e.g. savings accounts (compte d'épargne) You do not get a credit card with it or an overdraft, but get the information from your  personal adviser (conseiller). Most of them are young graduates, so English as an alternative language is possible, but use your French if you feel confident or ask for someone who speaks English.

If you have specific needs or are dealing with large transfers and balances, you should negotiate with several banks. At any level it is worthwhile to check out the different banks and change if you find something better. Banks are very competitive so with service levels being different, much will depend on your adviser. If you don’t like them or the way your affairs are handled don't hesitate to change branch or even bank.

  • Livret (or properly Compte d'Epargne sur le Livret): general savings account, you can easily transfer money to and from your current account.
  • CODEVI (Compte pour le Développement Industriel): tax-free interest on a balance up to €4,600, money can be transferred easily to and from your current account. Each individual is only allowed one of these accounts, e.g. a joint account can have a CODEVI for each signatory.
  • PEL (Plan d'Epargne Logement) or CEL (Compte d'Epargne Logement) long-term saving accounts (four years or longer) for buying a home. They have guaranteed interest rates and are government subsidized. They are fairly complicated so you will need to investigate the choices thoroughly.
  • Retirement plans
    Different possibilities exist depending on your existing retirement plans, but it is worth seeing what your adviser can offer and also how it fits in with your company’s schemes if at all.

Student and Childrens Offers
Special offers are available for students and children (aged up to 26) to attract new young customers. As you can get lower account costs for credit cards very useful help with university costs, etc looking in to the many offers is very worth while. Even savings accounts for the very young are available.

ATM - Automated Teller Machine

  • ATM - Automated Teller Machine (guichet automatique de billet - GAB)
  • You find them in banks (not all agencies), at the post-office and in the shopping centres. According to the type of credit card you have, you have got a weekly or monthly amount that you can get through the ATM.

Bank accounts

  • There are different types of bank accounts: current account, savings account, insurance life…Banks will propose you all their products.
  • You have to know that you can bargain bank fees. Talk about it with your personnel banker !
  • Closing a bank account
    It's very easy to close a bank account. Go to the bank and ask to close your current account. If you have saving accounts, ask them to transfer your money to an other account. If you want to reduce the fees make a check of the amount you want to transfer to your future bank before closing your current account.

Exchanging money

  • You exchange money in the exchange offices or in banks. It's better to call the bank before going exhange your money in order to be sure that they have enough notes.
  • Exchange office :
    Faubourg du Change et de l'Or (SARL)
    19 r Fbg Montmartre
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4770 0259
  • Global Change
    49 av Opéra
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 5818 3482
    Open every days 24h/24
    150 av des Champs Elysées
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4561 0562
    Open every days 24h/24
  • International Group Exchange (I.G.E)
    79 av Champs Elysées
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4720 9214
    Open every days 24h/24
  • Travelex
    194 r de Rivoli
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4260 3761
  • American Express
    11 r Scribe
    Tel: + 33 (0)1 4777 7000

Identity theft

  • Police phone : 17
  • If you see that your accounts have been defrauded, you have to call immediately your bank in order to cancel your credit card. With your credit card contract, you should have an insurance that cover these fraudulent money withdrawals. The insurance will tell you to go to the police station (gendarmerie) in order to deposit complaint. Then send this complaint to your insurance company that will pay you back in a short delay.
  • You have to know that it's quite common to see this kind of identity theft here on the French Riviera. So be careful when you pay by credit card in a restaurant or when you dial your personnel pin codes at the ATM.
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