French banks are not the easiest to deal with. They can be a bit bureaucratic and do not give you so easily a bank account. Therefore, to open a bank account in France can be a bit tricky for most people who are going to live in France. But thankfully, you can now open French bank accounts online without much trouble.
French bank accounts come with a French-based IBAN. This is the bank account number that you use in France, as well as in the whole of Europe. To open a French bank account, you often need a French telephone number and an official address, as well as a proof of income. But new online banks and account providers such as Bunq and Monese, that are not based in France, can also give you a French-based bank account.
France is attracting people from different walks of life, including students, workers, and expatriates. Its natural and cultural paradise also makes it an excellent destination for tourists. If you are planning to move to France, you will need to open a bank account. If you receive salary in France, it should be possible and without extra cost to have your salary deposited on your foreign European-based account.
Is it possible to open a bank account remotely?
If you are a citizen of member states of the EU or the EEA, it is possible to open a bank account even if you are not a resident of France. Non-residents will be confronted with many restrictions such as minimum deposits and limits in withdrawals. Thankfully, there are workarounds. For example, using online banks and account providers such as Bunq and Monese, that are not based in France. These can also give you a French bank account.
Opening a main street bank account involves a lot of paperwork, and most banks require you to visit the bank in person. Bank accounts at one of the virtual banks are a lot easier to open remotely. Aside from WISE, you will have to be an EEA resident.
Documents Required For Opening Bank Account In France: Proof of identity (like a passport or driving license). Proof of address (a certified, translated copy of a utility bill). A valid visa, residence permit or EU passport. Proof of employment (a certified, translated copy of an employment contract, or a student admission letter).
It is good to know that you do not need to open a French bank account if you already have a European-based bank account. Bank accounts in Europe operate mostly the same, and you can easily transfer money from one account to another, thanks to IBAN and the SEPA-zone.
Online Bank Account France
As a foreigner, it’s likely that you’re going to transfer money internationally. Since main street banks use high exchange rates and fees, it might be profitable to look at some online, or virtual banks.
When using an online account, you also don’t have to worry about visiting hours at local bank franchises. Setting up an account takes very little time, as does nearly every banking action.
Like all virtual banks, bunq, based in the Netherlands, solves a lot of complications that you will have when trying to open a bank account at a main street bank. If you have the right documents (a passport), you can open a fully functional bunq account online in minutes (2.99 euro a month). Website and service in French, English, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian.
All citizens of the EEA can open a bunq account with an International Bank Account Number (IBAN). Non-EEA-citizen residents of one of bunqs countries of operation (most European countries) can also open an account, but fewer IDs will be accepted. The best option is to use your passport.
WISE multicurrency account
Transferring funds across the border can become expensive. However, with WISE, you can transfer and receive funds at low competitive exchange rates at a small charge.
You can open a French IBAN as a foreign French resident, free of cost. You only require an ID, an address in France, and a phone. Only 2 withdrawals, totaling 200 Euro, are free each month (250 Euro from 03/01/2023). Above 200/250 Euro, it’ll cost 50 cents per withdrawal plus 1.75%. But no monthly fee. And receiving money is free.
Revolut accepts customers who are residents of the European Economic Area (EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Revolut is a crypto friendly bank that offers multi-currency accounts in 28 currencies, IBAN for personal accounts and business accounts, virtual cards, money transfer services, and crypto trading.
Monese is a British Online Bank. Even after BREXIT, it’s available for anyone living in the EEA or the UK. Monese offers a multicurrency digital bank with IBAN and supports SEPA payments. By default, it comes with a Belgium-based IBAN, but when registered, you can contact them via the app and directly ask for a French IBAN. Since the account is for free, and does not require visiting a bank, this is one of the easiest ways to get a bank account in France.
N26 is available for UK and US citizens living in France. You’ll get an online account with French IBAN in Euro.
N26 only asks for a valid ID and a valid address in France. The address is to send your bank card and mail to. They trust you’re a resident of France. Technically, you could use the address of a trusted (!) friend or family member living in France. No further certificates are required. You do need a smartphone for the identification video call.
There even is a free N26 bank account, but there might be a waiting list. That’s because the German banking authorities (BaFin), where N26 headquarters is stationed, have limited their growth to 50k new customers per month. N26 paid bank accounts cost 4.90 Euro a month and up.
Best Banks in France
The following are some main street banks that you might consider while opening a bank account.
You can open a bank account with Britline Bank before moving to France.
It is also possible to manage the account using your phone in English. They have provided all the bank charges on the internet in English.
2. BNP Paribas
BNP Paribas Bank is among the largest banks in France and it has many distributors. In most French banks, prices are related to usage in the sense that when you take more services, you pay less.
The bank has low costs for student accounts and more savings and investment services. It offers current accounts and savings account. They have products for customers between 18-24 years.
3. La Banque Postale
La Banque Postale Bank operates through services that are offered by the post office. They also have many agencies that do banking services such as paying bills.
The application for opening a bank account is made in French and you might need to have a friend who can take you through the process. You might also need to hire an interpreter to help you in the process.
4. ING Direct
ING Direct Bank is one of the best online banks in France. You must live in France to have the account opened.
The application is available in French. They provide services with free debit cards at different charges depending on the service.
Important things to note
There are many basic current accounts, but it is equally important to note that those banks accounts do not come without any restrictions. Most of them require monthly minimum deposits and there are other charges for using bank cards, account handling fees and SMS balance updates.
Most banks operate from 8 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday, while some banks open on Saturday morning. In case you reside in rural areas, check the hours of operation, since it is not unusual for some banks to close for lunch.