International Money Transfer in France: A simple guide for expats

If you’re planning on sending or receiving money in France, you’re in luck. As a major financial hub in Europe, there are numerous options available to you. In addition to the country’s four major banks, there are other safe and reliable services for international money transfers in France.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about international money transfers in France. We’ll discuss the different options available to you, including online international money transfer services, traditional bank transfers, wire transfers, and foreign exchange brokers. We’ll also provide recommendations for the best services to use, along with comparisons of their costs and features. Whether you’re a new customer or a seasoned pro, we’ve got you covered.

International Money Transfers in France

As a major European economy and a popular destination for expats, France sees a significant amount of international money transfers on a daily basis. To oversee financial services in the country, all banking activity in France operates under the authority of the French Central Bank, which is part of the Eurosystem. The Prudential Supervision and Resolution Authority is the lead banking regulator in France, overseeing the financial sector’s stability and ensuring compliance with regulations.

When sending money to France, it is essential to consider the exchange rate and any hidden fees, as these can significantly impact the amount received by the recipient. The cheapest way to send money to France is through a low-cost provider that offers competitive exchange rates and minimal fees. Additionally, some providers offer cash pickup options for added convenience.

For those sending money from the USA to France, it is crucial to compare exchange rates and fees between providers to find the best way to send money. The fastest way to send money to France is through a provider that offers instant transfers, but this may come at a higher cost.

In 2022, the World Bank estimated that remittance inflows into France totaled US$30 billion, while outflows were at US$14.4 billion. As such, international money transfers play a significant role in France’s economy and the livelihoods of many individuals.

Online International Money Transfer Services in France

When it comes to online money transfer services in France, there are several options available to choose from. Some of the most popular and core players providers include Wise (referral link), XE Money Transfer, Paypal (referral link)and OFX. These providers offer cheap and convenient services for international money transfers.

Fees for these services vary, with some providers offering lower fees than others. For instance, PayPal charges a fee of 5% of the transaction amount for international transfers, with a minimum fee of €1.99 in 2022. However, Wise, XE, and OFX offer more competitive rates, making them a better option for larger transactions.

In addition to offering lower fees, Wise, XE, and OFX also provide fast and easy transfers. This is particularly useful if you need to transfer money quickly and securely. Other online money transfer services such as CurrencyFair, Instarem, and Western Union also offer similar services in France.

Overall, if you are looking for a reliable and cost-effective way to transfer money internationally, online money transfer services in France are a great option to consider.

International Money Transfers in France by Traditional Bank

Transfers Outside EU/EEA

When transferring money from France to countries outside the EU/European Economic Area, the banks in France are free to apply their own tariffs (normally high). It is important to check with your French bank for specific details on the charge rates before making any transfers. The transfers typically take around three to five working days.

Cost of International Bank Transfers in France

French banks offer international bank transfers online, in a branch, or via phone. However, they may charge more than €30 in fees, and their exchange rates are not transparent, incorporating a five to 7% margin on top, which is another hidden fee. The comparison site International Money Transfers has outlined some of the basic rates you can expect when transferring money through one of France’s big four banks:

  • Crédit Agricole – €54.70 to €66.70 (plus a debit fee, SWIFT fee, and foreign exchange commission)
  • BNP Paribas – €24.50 to €104.50 (plus transfer fee, foreign exchange commission, and reception costs)
  • Société Générale – €29 to €90 (plus foreign exchange commission and correspondent fee)
  • Caisse d’Épargne – €52.45 minimum (plus 0.1% direct debit fee, correspondent fee, and 0.05% foreign exchange commission)

It is important to note that French banks are free to set their rates, and these can vary over time and between larger and smaller, regional banks.

How Long Do International Bank Transfers Take in France?

France uses SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) to speed up international transactions. Sums generally appear in a recipient’s account in one to three days. However, in some circumstances, it can take as long as 10 days, depending on which countries the transactions involve and the type of normal activity on your account. If the transfer is taking place within the EU, then you benefit from SEPA, and it should take only a day for your transfer to reach the account of the recipient.

How to Make an International Money Transfer by Bank

To make an international money transfer in France through a bank, you will need the following details:

  • The recipient’s full name, exactly as it appears on their bank account
  • A SWIFT code or sometimes a Business Identifier Code (BIC)
  • The International Bank Account Number (IBAN) of the account you want to credit

Most French banks will simply require you to have your account card and to know your pin when making the transaction at the branch. However, some banks will ask for a photo ID and proof of address.

How to Receive an International Money Transfer in France Through a Bank

Before receiving an international payment, you will need to provide the sender with some details, including your IBAN, which will be on your bank statement. It might also be on your card. You will also need to provide the BIC, which is different for every banking institution, so search online for your specific one. Additionally, you will need to provide your sort code (unless you’ve provided your IBAN), account number (unless you’ve provided your IBAN), full name, address, and the amount and currency you’d like to receive the payment in. You and the sender need to agree on who pays the charges if the money transfer into France comes from outside of the EEA.

International Money Transfers via Online and Mobile Banking in France

Money Transfer Service Charges

When it comes to international money transfers, digital and mobile banks in France offer cheaper options compared to traditional banks. However, it is important to note that costs may vary between providers, and it is recommended to shop around for the best deal.

Mobile-only banks such as bunq, N26, and Revolut (referral link) offer free basic accounts, but advanced plans with additional features may have a monthly fee. Many of these banks also provide free or low-cost international money transfers, peer-to-peer payments, and global ATM withdrawals. Some may have a limit on the number of free transactions per month.

Most of the popular mobile payment apps in France do not charge fees for general payment services. However, additional costs may apply for services such as instant transfers to certain accounts, payments to foreign currency accounts, or payments that exceed a certain limit.

Security is a top priority for digital and mobile banks in France. Most offer secure payment methods, such as debit and credit cards, as well as 2-factor authentication and encryption to protect user data. These banks also have anti-fraud teams and data protection measures in place to ensure safe transactions.

Overall, digital and mobile banking in France provide convenient and cost-effective options for international money transfers. With the rise of mobile banking and the availability of various payment methods and apps, transferring money abroad has never been easier.

Wire Transfers in France

How Wire Transfers Work

Wire transfers are a popular way of sending money to someone in another country. To initiate a wire transfer in France, you need to fill out the necessary paperwork with all your important details, including your name, address, contact information, and passport number. You also need to provide the details of the recipient, although a passport number is not required.

It is important to note that both you and the recipient need to have a valid ID to send and receive the money. Without a proper, valid ID, the transfer will not be possible. Once the paperwork is filled out, you can send the money through a money transfer operator, such as Western Union or Moneygram.

The Reference Code

After you have completed the paperwork and handed over the money, you will receive a reference code. This code is crucial and must be remembered, as the transfer will fail without it. It is important to check the code before leaving the store, as mistakes can be made when writing down or communicating the code.

As the sender, you must provide the reference code to the recipient, and it must match perfectly. One wrong number or letter can result in the transfer failing. As the recipient, it is essential to check the code with the sender to ensure it is correct. If the code is incorrect, the money will not be received.

Wire Transfer Fees

Wire transfer fees can vary depending on the amount of money you are sending and the transfer type. Some wire transfer services offer deals and calculators to show estimated costs, but they don’t necessarily use the mid-market exchange rate. Western Union, Ria, and Moneygram all have different fee structures, with Western Union offering a handy fee table, Ria having a price calculator, and Moneygram providing a fee estimate from their web portal if you enter the amount you’re sending and the country it’s going to.

It is important to note that transfer fees can cost up to 5% or more of the transfer amount, and this varies depending on the amount you are looking to transfer. Additionally, fees for fast, worldwide delivery can be higher than other options. Therefore, it is essential to compare the fees of different wire transfer services to find the best deal.

In conclusion, wire transfers are a convenient way of sending money to someone in another country, but it is important to fill out the paperwork correctly, remember the reference code, and compare the fees of different wire transfer services to find the best deal.

Foreign Exchange Brokers in France

How Money Transfers Work at Forex Brokers

Foreign exchange brokers, also known as bureaux-de-change, are widely available throughout France. However, it is important to be cautious when using foreign exchange kiosks in ports, airports, ferries, and other traveler-oriented locations, as they may charge substantial commissions or use exchange rates that are well below the official rate.

Before using any forex broker, it is recommended to look online for the mid-market rate, also known as the interbank rate. This is the real exchange rate that banks use to transfer money between themselves and serves as a good guide. You can find it on Google Finance, Reuters, and XE, among other sites, to know the exchange rates and what you should expect.

Some forex brokers, like RIA in France, allow you to transfer money online or through their app, much like wire transfer companies. Bureau de change can also act as agents for global money transfer companies. For example, Change Canebiere in Marseille is a local agent for GlobalTransfert.

To send money through a forex broker, follow these general steps:

  • Go to the transfers counter at the forex office.
  • Provide your valid ID and the amount you intend to send.
  • Pay the transaction fees.
  • The cashier will give you a form to sign and the money transfer control number (MTCN). Verify this number before leaving the store.
  • Send the MTCN number to the recipient.
  • The recipient can collect the money almost immediately from the nearest partner payment points or have it sent to their bank account (which takes longer).

Receiving money transfers through a forex broker is simple. The recipient presents the MTCN number at a local branch/payment partner and provides a valid ID. The money should be available no later than 20 minutes after being sent.

It is important to read all documentation thoroughly before making any transactions. By following these steps, we can ensure a safe and secure money transfer through a forex broker in France.

Final words

At the beginning of our journey in France, we requested our classic bank to make some transfers abroad. At that moment we realized about the high fees. Later on, we started using PayPal and most recently Revolut. We use and recommend both providers considering their simplicity, and low fees. 

We have provided both provider’s referral links. If you register using those links, we can both earn benefits (conditions in the provider web site). 

Finally, time to time, we have used Western Union but only when the receiver do not have a bank account and need the money in cash. The fees are not as low as PayPal and Revolut. 

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Bon chance!  


Please remember that we are neither financial nor tax 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 work 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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