Opening a French Bank Account

Understand what is required to open a bank account in France...

Anyone who is resident in France has the right to open a French bank account (un compte bancaire). 

It is also possible for foreigners who are not resident in France to open a non-resident's account (compte non-résident).

How to Open an Account in France

It is relatively simple to open an account as long as you have the right papers to hand. Documents required to open a French account can vary, but in general you will need the following:

  • Proof of residential address ( utility bill, rental agreement or property deeds)
  • Proof of identity (a valid passport or ID card)
  • Non-EU citizens: Proof of residence (Carte de séjour)
  • Proof of earnings or status: Contract of employment/proof of earnings/proof of status (example: a student card)
  • Reference: from other banks where accounts are held (usually only required for loans and overdrafts)
  • Students will need to provide proof of their enrolment in a French school. 
  • In some cases, a birth certificate

If you are not working or a student you may find it more difficult to open a French account, however, if you are resident you have the right to an account in France. A bank may refuse to open an account for you and they don’t have to give a reason. If this is the case, ask for a refusal letter (lettre de refus) and take this to your nearest Banque de France office and fill in a form requesting a Droit au compte (the right to have an account). Enter your postcode here to find the nearest office, or request an appointment online

A bank is then designated, and is required to open an account for you. Note that this doesn’t apply if you are ‘interdit bancaire’, which means that your account has been closed due to an overdraft and unpaid debt.  

Opening an account can be done in a day and methods of making payments (cash cards and cheque books) will usually arrive within a week to ten days of the account being opened.

Accounts may be held in joint names.

Note that an account held by two parties will have the words "et" or "ou" between the names. In the case of an account held in the names M et Mme Xyz, both account holders must sign a cheque, while in the case of an account in the name M ou Mme Xyz, either account holder may sign.

French banks will charge for certain items, for example in some a fee is payable to have an account, there's a fee to have a card (and second card), there may be a charge for the Internet banking facility and for transactions in certain banks. In general students pay reduced fees for their account. It is worth trying to negotiate some of the fees when you open an account, in some cases you may be offered a free visa card for a year. Other banks offer a bonus (for example 80 euros) to encourage customers to open an account with them.

The compte non-résident

Not all banks have provision for a non-resident account, and others impose restrictions on who may open an account, based on their place of residence (it is generally easier for EU-residents than those in non-EU countries), the minimum opening balance and other factors. Some banks have facilities for an account to be opened from outside France.

Banking Hours

In general banks are open from Monday to Friday from 08:30-17:30 and many banks are closed at lunchtime. Larger towns and cities, and those situated within shopping malls often have banks open until later on at night. Some banks are open Saturday morning and may be closed on Mondays.