If you are going to be living in Paris for a few months, it will be very useful to have a French bank account. You will need it for all sorts of things, from paying bills to sorting out your rent subsidy (for more information on this, see the article on APL). You will almost definitely need one if you are getting a job, as your employer will need to pay you into a French account. You can still use your English bank account in France but you will often be charged extra for making transactions, so opening a French bank account can save you some money, too.
To open a current account in France, you can go into the bank of your choice and you will probably be able to open it the same day. Your Carte Bleu (the French debit card) and chequebook should reach you within about 10 days. In order to open the account you will need:
• Proof of identity – a passport or driving licence
• Proof of residence (carte de séjour). This is only necessary if you are a non-EU resident.
• Evidence that you have an address in France (bills or a contract) or, if you don’t yet have one, proof that you will be living in France for a given amount of time, for example a letter from your university
• Proof that you are a student/that you are working in France. A student card, a letter or a convention de stage will be adequate.
• A reference from your bank in the UK confirming that you are a good customer (not always necessary but useful to have just in case)
• Birth certificate (again, not always needed)
Once you have opened an account, you will be given several copies of you RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire), which shows your account details. You will need these to set up direct debits for paying bills or rent. If you are working, you will need to give a copy to your employer so that they are able to pay you each month. You will also need to provide one when applying for APL.
One drawback to having a French bank is that you are likely to find yourself subject to charges that don’t apply in English banks. For example, you may have to pay just to have an account, to have a card and to make certain transactions. Some banks will charge you to withdraw from cash points of different banks. You might even be charged to use Internet banking.
However, look around for student deals, as they are plentiful. Société Générale, for example, often offer good student deals – at the moment if you recommended or are recommended by a friend you are entitled to €50 of free gifts. HSBC also offers a generous financial reward each time you recommend someone. Other banks may offer a generous overdraft, or charge cheaper fees for students.
A number of banks which operate in France are listed below:
As with much of the admin you can be faced with when moving to another country, setting up a bank account can be stressful if you don’t give yourself enough time. It is advisable to come to France a few days before you begin your work or study placement so that you have a chance to sort everything out without having to fit it around lectures or working hours.