Using a French Bank Account
The products and services available from banks in France...
Depending on the type of account chosen a cheque book, and payment and cash withdrawal card (commonly referred to as the carte bleue) will be issued.
Paying by Debit Card in France
Card payments by carte bleue are accepted in most places in France. Payment is made using the PIN code; signatures may be requested over a certain amount. Contactless payments are becoming more frequent, although not all stores are equipped to accept them yet. You can pay up to 30 euros using this method. It is also possible to pay with your smartphone if it is equipped for contactless transactions. Note that the CB is a debit not a credit card - you can choose to have your account debited immediately (débit immédiat) for purchases or at the end of the month (débit differé)
Cash machines, ATMs (distributeurs) are easy to find in most towns and villages and are straightforward to use (being much the same as elsewhere in the world): enter the card and follow the text instructions. Many machines allow for the option to select English-language text
There may be restrictions on the use of an account when travelling outside the département where the account is held; speak to the branch to make arrangements.
Currency and cash
Many banks don’t hold cash, and you will need to get cash out from an ATM. The currency used in France is the Euro. The notes are issued in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, €5, and the coins in €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c denominations. It should be noted that many shops do not like to accept 500 euro notes, and may refuse to take them.
From 1 September 2015 French residents can only pay in cash up to the amount of 1,000 euros (instead of the previous limit of 3,000 euros). This doesn’t apply between two individuals (for example if you’re buying a car for 2000 euros)
- Read more about payments in cash in France (in French)
The use of cheques in France is becoming increasingly rare, and many shops now refuse to take a cheque. If you do pay by cheque, it is not unlikely that you will be asked to provide photographic ID (for example passport, residence permit or driving licence).
Cheques are accepted as a cash payment. French law makes a cheque equivalent to cash; it is therefore illegal to write a cheque if there are not sufficient funds in the account to cover the payment. If a cheque is written that the bank cannot pay because of lack of funds, the bank is obliged to report it to France's national banking authority, the Banque de France, which can impose an interdit bancaire, forbidding the account holder from using cheques for five years.
- A cheque can only be cancelled if it is lost, stolen or if there is a suspicion of fraud
- It is illegal to write a post-dated or open-dated cheque
- A cheque is valid in France for one year and eight days (12 months, 8 days).
When receiving payment by cheque, always write the account number, bank code and sign the back of a cheque before depositing it.
As a cheque book nears completion, the bank will send another one if a form requesting automatic renewal has been filled in. Postal fees are charged for registered delivery. Renewal can also be made by filling in the form provided in a chequebook, or by simply phoning the bank or sending an email. Collection can be made at the branch.
Paying by personal cheque does not incur additional charges in France; however, a fee is charged to use a bankers draft (Chèque de Banque).
Completing a French cheque
French cheques should be filled out in French.
When writing or reading French numbers, it is important to know the placement of points and commas.
- A point marks the thousands, while a comma separates the cents: one thousand Euro is written €1.000,00 (mille euros)
- A comma marks the fractions in a percentage: fifty-two point six percent is written 52,6% (cinquante deux virgule six pourcent)
Secured cheque/Cashiers cheque/Banker's draft
When receiving or paying large amounts of money in a private sale (for example, buying a used car through a classified advertisement) it is recommended to use a Chèque de Banque, as payment is guaranteed by the issuing bank. This provides both buyer and seller guarantee of proper payment.
The payee must request in writing that the bank prepare the cheque. Provide the account number to be debited, the payee's name and the amount. The request should be made a day or two before it is required; the bank charges for the cheque. It is valid for one year and eight days from issue.
A bankers cheque is secure and watermarked to avoid counterfeiting.
RIB: Relevé d'Identité Bancaire
On opening an account, the bank provides several copies of RIB (Relevé d'Identité Bancaire). This is a form which establishes the bank references and account details and identity. It contains the numéro de compte (account number) the code de l'établissement (bank code) and the code du guichet(sort code).
RIBs are requested when establishing regular contract payments by automatic debit on an account (prélèvement automatique) for example, for the payment of utilities. RIBs are also used when setting up automatic payments into an account, for example Social Security, Family Allowance benefits or salaries.
A RIB is also needed when taking out a contract where monthly payments by TIP (see below) are required.
There are usually about three printed RIBs in the back of a cheque book. Printouts of RIBs can also be made from a cash machine, or via the Internet banking facility.
TIP: Titre Interbancaire de Paiement
A TIP (Titre Interbancaire de Paiement) is the authorised permission to debit an account of the sum asked for by the provider (for example EDF, France Telecom or the Tax Department).
The TIP replaces the use of a cheque, and comes attached to the bottom of the invoice (facture). The first time an invoice is received, sign it and enclose a RIB in the envelope provided (there will be printed instructions). The next invoice amount will automatically have all the bank information printed on the TIP and needs only to be signed, dated and posted off.