3. Opening a French Bank Account
3.3. French Bank Charges
Numerous international surveys regularly show that the costs of maintaining a bank account in France compares well with many other countries, in large measure due to consumer and government pressure to keep down charges.
The main problem you are likely to find is getting a clear explanation or communication of the tariffs. You will find that banks have their own vocabulary, although the main terms have now been standardised and banks are legally obliged to use them.
However, because of the complexity of the tariffs and the numerous offers that exist, you are likely to find that it is difficult to obtain a clear comparison of tariffs between different banks. We published an article on the issue at French Bank Tariffs 'Incomprehensible'.
What you will also find is that within the regional bank structure of the mutual banks (Credit Agricole, Credit Mutuel, Banque Populaire) different charges will operate. Credit Agricole has the greatest disparity in the level of their charges.
Historically French banks have not provided a detailed statement of charges to their clients on a periodic basis, so it has often been difficult to easily establish the charges and their origin on bank statements.
This situation has changed in recent years, as the banks are now required by law to show charges and provide a regular (at least annual) summary statement to their customers of the charges incurred on their account(s).
Items for which there is often a fee, will include:
- Package Service
- Supply of Cheque Book
- Re-issue of PIN Code
- Bankers Draft
- Credit/Debit Card
- Cash Withdrawals outside of Branch
- Internet Transactions
- Paper Statements
- Stopping a Cheque/Card/Direct Debit
- Foreign Currency Transactions
- Standing Orders
- Direct Debits
- Overdrawn Account
- Overdrawn Letter
You may also wish to read our Newsletter on Bank Charges and Inheritance.
The banks are obliged to give you three months' notice in writing of any increase in their tariffs.
Although banks set their own charges, legal controls have been imposed for charges on refused cheques, direct debits and standing orders, and overdraft fee.
Where such irregularities in the running of the account occur, these are termed incidents de paiement.
The handling fee associated with incidents arising our of an overdrawn account are called commissions d’intervention.
i. Refused Cheques
A refused cheque is called a chèque sans provision.
The charge imposed on a cheque you write to where there are insufficient funds in your account cannot be greater than:
€30 if the cheque amount is lower than €50; €50 if the cheque is greater than €50.
The ceiling includes any letter the bank may send you regarding the cheque.
In addition, if the cheque is presented a second time within 30 days the charge cannot again be imposed.
It is also irrespective of currency.
ii. Direct Debits/Standing Orders
A direct debit is called a prélèvement automatique, whilst a standing order is called a virement permanent.
A refusal to pay is called a rejet de virement/prélèvement
In either case where the bank refuses to honour it the charge cannot be greater than €20, or lower if the debit is lower.
As with cheques, the bank can only make one charge for the same operation.
iii. Unauthorised Overdraft
Where irregularities in the running of the account occur, these are termed incidents de paiement.
The charges have the general technical term commission d’intervention.
These charges must now appear on your account statement, and you must be provided with an annual summary of charges.
An unauthorised overdraft is called a dépassement de découvert or découvert non autorisé.
If you exceed your authorised overdraft then there is a ceiling on the charges that can be imposed:
€8 for one transaction; €80 per month.
iv. 'Fragile' Households.
There is a cap of €25 a month on the total of all charges or €20 a month (max €200 a year) for those who have a specific offer, for individuals or households in precarious circumstances (fragilité financière).
From 1 November 2020, to be considered 'financially fragile' for a minimum period of three months and benefit from the ceiling of €25 per month, a customer must accumulate "five irregularities or incidents in the same month".
In addition, customers who have an surendettement file being processed will, as from 1 November, also be considered financially fragile for the entire duration of their registration in the national payment incident file, i.e. up to five years. Previously, only debtors whose file had been declared admissible by the Commission de surendettement were considered.
There is a cap of €4 an operation, €20 a month (max €200 a year) for for individuals or households in precarious circumstances (fragilité financière).
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