How to open a bank account in France?

How to open a bank account in France? Even with a basic level of French it could be intimidating (we’ve been there!), but it’s a straightforward process as long as you have the necessary documents and choose the right bank for your needs. 

In this post, we’ll share our experience with you about the process of opening a bank account in France, step by step.

Table of Contents

Key points about banks in France

It is very important to open an account in a french bank while living here. It will help you a lot with your daily life such as receiving payments, salary, paying groceries, etc. However, opening a bank account is not that easy, not that fast and comes with some costs. So you have to be mentally prepared to face some bureaucracy. 

Some local specificities about Banking in France: 

  • Limited business hours. Each branch and office has different business hours. 
  • Need to order in advance important cash withdrawals. You can’t just show up and ask for your cash. 
  • Card transactions are not visible instantly online. What you spend today, may be visible tomorrow or next business day. 
  • Wiring money takes time. Even though some banks propose instant wire for an small fee. 
  • Safe deposits / vaults are rare.
  • No car drive through.
  • Checks are still used. 
  • No credit card, but debit cards (carte bleue) with a monthly fee and with spending limits. 
  • Small bank notes only: 5€, 10€, 20€, 50€ (200€ exist but rare). 
  • No global credit score 😉  
  • You can opt-in to get charged all your expenses at the end of the month. 
  • Overdraft charges (découvert). You may want to avoid having negative balance in your account, else you will be charged a fee. 

Which bank account type in France is the best?

Current / Checking Account:

A current account is the most common type of bank account in France. It allows you to receive your salary, make deposits and withdraw money at any time, and also provides you with a debit card for making purchases and withdrawing cash from ATMs. 

The main advantage of a current account is its convenience and flexibility. However, there may be fees associated with certain services, such as international transactions or overdrafts.

Savings Account

A savings account is designed for people who want to earn interest on their deposits. The interest rate is generally lower than other European countries. Read our saving accounts in France blog to learn more. 

Joint Account

A joint account is a bank account shared by two or more people. This type of account is typically used by couples, roommates, or business partners to share expenses and manage finances together. 

Student Account

A student account is designed for students aged 18-25 who are enrolled in a recognized educational institution. Additionally, it  often has lower fees and higher interest rates than other types of accounts. 

Professional Account

A professional account is designed for self-employed individuals or small business owners. Normally it includes features such as invoicing and payment processing, and may also offer business loans and lines of credit. 

It offers as well tailored services and support for small business owners, but it may also come with higher fees than other types of accounts.

Foreign Currency Account


A foreign currency account is designed for people who frequently receive or make payments in a foreign currency. You can hold and manage foreign currencies, which can help avoid currency exchange fees and fluctuations. 

It can help you save money on currency exchange fees, but it may also come with higher fees that may not be suitable for everyone.

Criteria to select a bank account in France

Choose a bank type

Once you’ve determined which type of account you need, it’s time to choose a bank type. There are numerous banks in France, ranging from large national banks to smaller regional, classic, and online banks.  

We recommend selecting a national classic bank if you will be looking to request a mortgage and prefer to talk in person with an agent. It could be important to have access to your bank branch anywhere in the country.  

If you are not expecting to request a loan, maybe an online bank can be better fit for you.  We like their low fees, and great digital experience. 


Check fees


If you spend hours selecting an internet article to save some euros, why spending those savings on bank fees?  So, it’s important to compare the fees charged by different banks. 

Look out for hidden fees and make sure you understand what you’re paying for.  We have noticed charges for ATM withdrawals, or online deposits, etc. 

In France, debit cards (carte bleue) are charged between 5 to 12€ monthly fee depending on the level (Basic, Premium, etc.). In our case, we negotiated to get it for free but we have to subscribe to another bank service in exchange. 




Next up, let’s talk about services. What services does the bank offer? Do they have online banking? Can you easily transfer money to other accounts? Do they offer a mobile app? These are important questions to ask. 

Nobody wants to be stuck with a bank that’s still living in the Stone Age, and believe us, there are many in France. 




Location is important if you need to visit the bank in person. You may want to make sure it’s conveniently located. You do not want to trek across town just to deposit a check. 

Plus, if you need to speak with someone face-to-face, it’s always nice to have a branch nearby (specially if you are moving around the country). 


Customer Support


Let’s face it, we’ve all had terrible customer service experiences. So, it’s important to consider the quality of customer support offered by the bank. Are they easy to reach? Do they respond quickly to inquiries? Are they friendly and helpful?  

It is not pleasant dealing with a useless service agent when you need it the most. 

Based in our experience, this is the only positive point of classic banks compared to online.  




Last but not least, let’s talk about reputation. What are people saying about the bank? Do they have a good track record? Have they been involved in any scandals? Nobody wants to be associated with a shady bank that’s up to no good.

If you are concerned about how your savings are protected in France, bear in mind that most of national banks are good and savings are protected

In France, banks are well monitored by the government agencies, however we have seen some scandals on the news about bank traders taking high risks without control, etc. So it could be wise to check quickly online the bank reputation. 


Step by step to open a bank account in France

Gathering necessary documents


Before you can open a bank account in France, you’ll need to gather some necessary documents. This typically includes your passport or ID card, proof of address (such as a utility bill), and proof of income. 

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to provide additional documents, such as your tax returns.


Making an appointment

Different to other countries, do not expect to just walk-in and open an account right away. It’s important to make an appointment in advance, as it could take some time to process new account openings. The bank agent will need to collect all your documents (payslips, proof of residency, passport, etc.) and fill up some documentation. 

Notice that many banks in France allow you to make an appointment online or over the phone. 

Attending the appointment

When you attend your appointment, you’ll meet with a representative from the bank. They’ll go over your documents and ask you some questions about your financial situation. 

You’ll also need to sign some paperwork, including the account opening contract. Be sure to ask any questions you have about the account, fees, and services offered.

Receive your bank card

Once your account is open, you’ll receive your bank card in the mail within a few days. This card can be used at ATMs and to make purchases in stores and online.

Some banks will limit the number of withdrawals without fees. You may want to ask this in advance to avoid unnecessary costs. 

Online bank accounts in France

Almost all banks in France allows opening an account online. Some are hybrid (classic bank+ online), others are just online. Here a list: 

  1. Boursobank (Online)
  2. Revolut (Online)
  3. Hello Bank (Online)
  4. BNP Paribas (Classic & Online)
  5. Société Générale (Classic & Online) 
  6. Barclays (Classic & Online)
  7. Crédit Agricole (Classic & Online)
  8. Axa bank (Classic & Online)

Choosing a classic bank will give you the opportunity to talk to an agent to negotiate a mortgage for your future home, as an example.  

We use ‘Boursobank‘ (a.k.a as Boursorama, branch of ‘Societe Generale’) as our main bank to receive salaries, to manage our PEA, and request loans. All this with reasonable fees. 

As complementary bank, to pay our daily expenses we opened a Revolut account as we love their customer experience, advanced security,  cool expenses analytics, possibility to buy cryptos, stocks, an high yield savings accounts. 

myFrenchMoney tip

We have recently discovered a FinTech startup proposing services to open bank accounts for foreigners arriving in France without the hussle and so many pre-requisites. Click on the green star and discover it by yourself!

What bank account for kids?

In France, there are multiple choices for children:

The well known “Livret A.” This account allows children to save money and earn interest on their savings, and parents can oversee the account until the child reaches the age of majority. 

Additionally,  there is the “Livret Jeune” or “Livret Épargne Études,” which are designed to help children save for educational expenses.

Our experience and final thoughts

As foreigners in France, the most important challenge will be to gather all required documentation from the bank. Sometimes it could be easier to ask a local to sponsor you with his own bank. A referral can be facilitate things. 

In our case, we could not open a bank account during our first days in France as our ‘carte de séjour’ was not issued. 

Banks were reluctant to open an account for us. So we have to asked our company’s HR to give a hand. They end up calling a local bank who accepted to open the account for us while our papers were ready. 

Choosing a classic bank vs one fully online will depends on your own requirements. Maybe the best combination could be to open 2 accounts (a classic + online). We have done this with good results, taking the best of both. 

We use our classic bank account to receive our salaries, and pay our mortgage. In the other hand, we use our online bank for daily expenses, and to take advantage of the user experience and to limit any security issue we may have. 

If you found this blog useful, please share it with friends and follow us in LinkedIn to receive more content like this. You can leave your comments below or contact us in case of any further question.

Bon chance!  


Please remember that we are not financial advisors. We are just sharing our best understanding based in our own experience. This blog is for educational purposes only. Do not make investment decisions solely based on what you read in this blog. What works for us, may not for you. Do your own research and look for professional service if required. Read our full disclaimer in the ‘about’ page.

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