Guide to Banking in France

3. Opening a French Bank Account

  1. Eligibility
  2. Types of Account
  3. Bank Charges
  4. Application to Open Account

3.1. Eligibility for French Bank Account

Whether you are resident or non-resident you should be able to open a bank account in France.

Both residents and non-residents from the EEA have an automatic right to a bank account, although this is not the case for those who live outside of Europe.

Many US nationals find it difficult to open a bank account in France, due to the 'FATCA' (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) law in the US, as a result of which many High Street banks are unwilling to take on US nationals. One solution in many cases is to open an account with one of the 'neo' on-line banks, such as Transferwise or Revolut.

Alternatively, if the bank does not respond to an application to open an account, a 'tacit refusal' rule can apply, and you have the right to complain to the Banque de France, who will designate a bank to open an account for you. You will need proof of the request to open the account.

Neither do you need to own a home in France to open a French bank account.

If you are non-resident then you would open a compte non-résident.

You are likely to find that the rules governing the operation of the account as a non-resident are tougher, such as the need to maintain a minimum deposit, and limits on the amount you may be able to transfer each month.

Few high street French banks will allow you to open an account as a non-resident without actually presenting yourselves in person to them. This is because of the legal obligations imposed upon banks concerning the control of money laundering.

Most of the Internet Banks also allow non-residents to open an account, although each has their own rules.

Expect to have to provide a lot of paperwork to be able to open an account, eg, marriage certificate, passport, current bank details, address confirmation. You may also be asked to provide confirmation of your income. In general, bring anything with you that confirms your identity and status.

As we indicated in an earlier page, one of the most interesting offers around on the market is the Multi-Currency Account from Wise (formerlyTransferwise), who offer a multi-currency account with a Mastercard, for which there is no annual charge. The company do not offer loans or overdrafts, but it is easy to open an account with them and without the need for an address in France. Their charges are also very reasonable.

If you want to remain discreet you can open an account using a pseudonym, provided you are resident, and provided the bank is satisfied about who you really are!

Similarly, a woman, if she so wishes, can open an account using her maiden name.

However, do not assume you can run a secret bank account in France.

The French tax and other regulatory authorities maintain a list of all bank accounts held in France, through a registration system called FICOBA - Fichier national des comptes bancaires et assimilés.

This system only provides summary details of the account holder and type of account; it does not provide them access to the operations of the bank account, although the tax authority, police and courts are able to obtain information on transactions in the context of an investigation.

Business accounts held in the name of the company are also on the system.

The banks are also required to inform the tax authority of the closure of an account, or change of account holder, and to inform them of funds in the account of a deceased person.

Notaires have access to this system, so that they can deal more efficiently with inheritance, divorce and other cases handled by them.

The level of monitoring of customer withdrawals and transactions by the banks themselves has increased significantly in recent years, with the banks required by law to notify the regulatory authorities about 'suspicious' transactions.

Next: Types of Account

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