French Bank Account & Writing a French Cheque 101
Opening a French Bank Account
As long as you have a French address, you are able to open a bank account here. The bank will require a form of identification (ie passport), and proof of address (normally a utility or telephone bill in your name). The different types of account options are much the same as other countries:
- Current Account – Compte Courant
- Savings Account – Compte Epargne
With a current account you will normally receive a debit card (Carte Bancaire) and a cheque book (Chequier), and you will receive a monthly account statement (Releve de Compte).
It is normal in France to pay a monthly charge (frais) for your current account, charges are also made for any agreed overdraft facility (decouvert), regardless of whether you have used it or not. You will be charged interest while your account is in debit. If you have a Carte Bancaire, you may also be charged a small annual fee.
International Money Transfers
If you need to transfer money from abroad, a small levy will be charged per transaction by your French bank (Avis d’Operation), and it is normal for your foreign bank to also charge for sending the money in the first place. When transferring the money you are exposed to the fluctuations in the exchange rate, and this can be costly. It is possible to protect your money by arranging a foreign exchange contract, such as that offered by Hifx, where you can agree on a rate for 1 or 2 years and arrange the transfer using direct debit.
Bills are normally paid by either cheque or direct debit (prelevement). To set up a prelevement, you will normally be asked for a RIB (Releve d’Identite Bancaire), which is a slip normally found in the back of your checkbook. This states your bank account identity details.
Writing a French Cheque
The amount in words goes at the top of the cheque (the opposite to the UK), underneath is written who the money needs to be paid to. The amount in numbers goes to the box on the right (as in the UK) but use commas instead of decimal points.
Underneath you need to write the name of the place (town, village) where the cheque was written, and enter the date underneath.
Your signature then goes underneath that. Cheque guarantee cards are not needed in France, as it is illegal to write a cheque if you do not have the funds to cover it in your account.