Opening a French Bank Account

Recently, I discovered just how different banking and France from banking in the United States. We were able to make it financially here in France for the first several months with the money we brought with us, but recently we have had to look into opening a bank account here since we plan to stay longer. We have a debit card we can use internationally without paying extra transaction fees, but realize we still need a bank account to deposit our earnings.

One thing we quickly noticed here in France, is how the credit and debit card systems work differently here. There are two kinds of cards you can have, credit cards and ATM cards. If you are using a credit card, you can make charges on it and take out money from an ATM. If you have an ATM card, you can only take cash out of an ATM, not make any purchases.

Below are some of the things we have learned about opening an account in France:

  • Set up an appointment with a banker that speaks English. Have them discuss the options with you and make sure you read all the fine print regarding their monthly charges, online banking, etc. This is important even if you speak French fluently, because some of the banking terms they use may be different than what you’re used to.
  • When you go to the bank, take your proof of residence, your passport, and any other paperwork you need to show you are working in France.
  • Never try to open a bank account in France from your home country. Opening the account once you are there is so much simpler.
  • Ensure that the bank you choose charges a flat fee for transferring funds to a non-European bank account. This way, if you decide to leave the country for good, you will know how much money you will lose instead of having to worry about a percentage.
  • Find a bank that is close by and convenient to where you live or work. You will have to visit the bank in France more than you would if you were in the US.


Hopefully, the lessons we learned in opening a bank account will help you if you ever visit France. We are glad to have this step behind us now and the ability to transfer funds to and from our accounts in the states.