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Bank Charges in France in 2014

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Bank charges in France have fallen by an average of 2% this year to €171, but there continues to remain substantial differences in the charges imposed by the banks.

The fall in bank charges in 2014 comes about after ten continuous years during which charges have risen, according to survey of 130 banks carried out by Choisir ma Banque.

The fall in charges is due to several factors:

  • the enforced capping of charges for an overdraft as a result of legislative action;
  • the imminent introduction of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) within the EEA, which has brought down charges for standing orders and direct debits;
  • the growth in the number of on-line banks in the market.

The survey suggests that "the impact of these changes has yet to be fully realised and further reductions in charges are likely in 2014", says Ludovic Herschliovitz, the CEO of Choisir ma banque.

However, there has also been a change in tactics by the banks, who are increasingly promoting 'à la carte' services at the expense of monthly fixed fee which offer a package of services.

This may well be a response to widespread criticism of the various fixed fee accounts by consumer groups in France, who consider that the packages effectively make a charge for services that are infrequently used.

It is often much cheaper to simply open a basic account, without having any frills attached to it, and pay-as-you-go for the individual services that you need.

Nevertheless, if you do go this route, you need to carefully read the list of services for which you will need to pay, and their cost. It is sometimes very revealing to find out the lengths to which some banks will go to impose a charge on even the most mundane of services.

The survey by Choisir ma Banque undertook a comparative analysis of similar accounts in all of the banks for different client types - young, employee, executives, retired persons etc.

Not surprisingly, the internet banks occupied most of the leading positions, notably through ING Direct, Fortuneo, AXA and Boursorama.

Some of the traditional banks also have their own on-line offspring, leaving them in the somewhat contradictory position of having them as a competitor, eg Hello bank!/BNP Paribas.

They are of course able to do so as they are not obliged to bear the costs of operating a retail network borne by the traditional banks.

The problem for the consumer is that the internet banks frequently require a minimum level of earnings and that your monthly income is deposited with them each month.

For expatriates there is also potentially a language barrier to using internet banking services in France.

Those of retirement age also generally preferred to deal with a local branch office, rather than use the internet for their transactions.

In addition, the internet banks had it less their own with retired persons, perhaps because the traditional banks have gone out of their way to attract and retain them as customers.

The survey showed that the average annual cost of holding an account for a retired person was €156. However, it varied from the lowest at €104pa to the most expensive at €357pa.

The following table gives a summary of the top 10 cheapest accounts for a retired person as shown in the survey. However, the table excludes the strictly on-line only banks, whose charges will be considerably lower.

Bank Accounts 2014
Banque Populaire SudEquipage€103
Crédit Municipal de ParisNo Package
MACIFNo Package
Groupama BanqueASTREA€108
Crédit Agricole Ile de FranceModule Compte Sécurisé€112
Bred MétropoleMultipass€118
AXA BanqueOligo€123
Banque Populaire Aquitaine Centre AtlantiqueAffinea€124
Crédit Agricole AquitaineNo Package
La Banque PostaleNo Package€131

Source: Choisir ma Banque

Since 1 January 2009, banks have been required to provide their clients each January with a detailed statement showing all of the charges incurred in the year. The statement should provide the basis for you to make a decision on whether or not it might be worth changing your bank, or at least changing the bank account that you hold with your bank.

Alternatively, to consider opening a free bank account on-line for some of your transactions.

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