Opening a bank account in France: Fees, advice and service compared

Open a bank account in France: Fees, advice and service in comparison

When you settle or work in France, the question of the right bank arises. Having a bank account with a French bank makes many administrative steps easier, as you often need a RIB (Releve d'identite bancaire, a bank certificate that does not exist in Germany). The following are some good tips on what criteria should be used when choosing a bank to open an account in France. The information is also interesting for all those who are considering a change of bank.

New customer or dissatisfied customer who wants to switch to a French bank?

When trying to obtain clear information about various banks, one quickly encounters problems that largely coincide with the experiences of the consumer magazine Que choisir:

  • bad or no advice
  • overpriced service
  • unclear pricing
  • people try to inflate the monthly costs unnecessarily with small services

Not every bank charges the same amount for the same service. There are no uniform prices and that makes the choice of the bank all the more difficult. One might think that banks are working together to knit an opaque network of prices to discourage their customers from switching.

So what to do?

Informing oneself with friends and acquaintances is a good start. Unfortunately, during our "research" it turned out that almost everyone is dissatisfied in some way, but because it is the "family bank", people do not change or for fear a loan will not be approved after a change of bank, and you can negotiate less.

Furthermore, it helps to analyze one's own profile and needs and to decide accordingly. What services are particularly important to me at my bank? And how much am I willing to pay for it? If one attaches importance for example to a personal advisor in a branch or a pure on-line bank comes also into question? There, the fees are often significantly lower.

Service and advice at a French bank

A good overview of the most favorable banks gives the page Cbanque. Here you can get first information and if necessary you will be redirected to the page of the bank in question for further details.

The service for opening an account is unfortunately becoming more and more rare. Advisors get up to 40% commission for additional insurance or services sold, and are hardly interested in actually opening an account. It is now also very easy to open an account online. Rankings of the best online banks can be found on the Internet. You do all the administrative steps on the site of the financial institution and then send the supporting documents (such as copy of ID or proof of residence) by mail or mail.

Good to know: When making a cross-border payment in the euro zone (z.B. The bank may not charge more for a foreign transfer than for an equivalent service in its own country. So if a French bank charges 1€ for a withdrawal at an ATM of another financial institution, it may only charge the same amount for a withdrawal in another EU country.

Which French bank fits best?

To facilitate a possible decision, you will find below a list of the largest French banks, as well as a link to a listing of all banks in France.

Postbank also exists in France. Here it is only possible to go into the negative to a limited extent, but this can also be a safety factor for some people. Other banks are more tolerant with overdraft, but usually take high overdraft fees. Unfortunately, the Postbank sometimes still has a bad reputation. In the past, the Post Office was obliged to take customers who had their accounts blocked at other banks.

BNP Paribas is part of the World Bank Group, together with Deutsche Bank. From the French ATM you can withdraw money from a German account free of charge and vice versa. This is definitely worthwhile for all those who receive income on their German account in the long run.

If the house bank allows the use of its own ATM free of charge, it may not actually take any fees from other institutions either. Thus allowed z.B. the Societe Generale up to eight withdrawals per month from the ATM – no matter in which European country or at which financial institution. Societe Generale was founded in 1864 and is one of the oldest banks in France, along with Credit Lyonnais and BNP Paribas.

Withdraw money in France

Credit Agricole, like Raiffeisen Bank in Germany, is organized as a cooperative and is one of the largest French commercial banks, with around 54 million customers, according to its own information.

The CIC Bank (Credit Industriel et Commercial) was founded in 1859. It is a group of regional banks with the second largest branch network in France. The CIC group includes Banque CIAL, based in Strasbourg, Bank CIC (Switzerland), based in Basel, and Banque Pasche, based in Geneva. Banque de Luxembourg and Banque Transatlantique are also part of the group.

There are of course a large number of smaller banks. A list of all French banks provides the page Quelle banque choisir. The overview can help you to choose the bank that suits you best: Compare the offers of all French banks

Other countries, other customs

Certain customs that are normal in Germany are not common in France, such as z.B. have a check blocked if one is dissatisfied with the supplier. Other things are again much easier, like e.B. to ask for a refund of an amount paid by credit card, as z.B. the merchant on the Internet has debited, but not delivered.

Cheque payment in France

For an online transfer, you usually have to have the beneficiary's account activated by your own bank before the first transaction (this usually takes between 24 and 72 hours) before you can make a transfer. After that it is always possible.

You should also not hesitate to contact your personal advisor (if you have one) if you have any concerns or problems. A good relationship can go a long way here. If, for example, one finds fees for an overdraft excessive, the bank advisor can defer or cancel fees without any problems.