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Opening a Bank Account in France.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As I am in Chamonix for 4 months or longer this winter, I thought it might be a good idea to open a bank account there.

I am pretty clueless on banking & money matters, but figured that a one off bank transfer from current UK bank to new French bank would provide the best currency rate & least costs, giving access to money in town.

Having inquired in 5 banks in Chamonix on my holidays, they all said NON, unless I could provide proof of future residence in town for at least 12 months for a starter.

Is this typical? Any suggestions for how to best manage paying for things over my length of stay?

Thanks.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
. Open a Eur a/c in the UK that won't generate foreign use charges if such exists?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Surprised about the non - I had my account to facilitate a purchase and it is registered to my UK address - I don't think they even know my French address! I use UK Forex to transfer funds (far better than a high st bank - and after the 1st transaction its all on line) - but I still get a better rate on my Barclaycard I24 so I tend to only use cash in the bars and restaurants on t'hill
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You might consider
https://www.britline.com/
A Credit Agricole online English language bank
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
another vote for Credit Agricole Britline - very easy, and you can do it all in English if you like!
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Impossible to get a short term bank account in France, certainly without a job; you'll have to tell them you're moving here or buying a holiday home.

French bank accounts require monthly fees and they don't like foreigners just disappearing and running up debts.

Even as a five year resident with two stable jobs, I have to undergo interviews to be accepted by a bank. The UK idea of just doing a form online doesn't exist here yet.

If you manage to open one, expect to put down a deposit in case you do anything silly, and get handed a Fisher Price cash withdrawal card.

None of that applies to the wealthy chalet owning snowheads, you're viewed as long term and a sales opportunity for insurances etc so have no problem. Season workers and bums are just scum.

La Poste are supposed to be the easiest to open and have the advantage of being truly national, should you ever come back to another resort.

Personally I wouldn't use Credit Agricole again if you paid me, but if it works for the folk above go for it.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
As an owner I have a Britline account , although it saves some hassle it's not all plain sailing .
You have to pay a monthly fee.
You have to pay a monthly for your debit card .
You are restricted on your spend on the card and ATM withdrawals regardless of amount in account ,to increase either you must pay a fee .

Don't think it's worth the hassle may be better to get a pre loaded euro card .
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
HammondR, alternatively, get a Halifax Clarity Credit card and use your UK online banking to pay off the bill.
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I just went to my local HSBC branch here in England and opened an account at a branch of my choosing in France. All correspondence comes to my UK address. Very straightforward. There is a monthly charge and I also recall there being rules about being overdrawn in France. It's taken seriously, I believe.
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We have had a Britline account with CA for 15 years now and its been fine, no hassles.

What you could do HammondR, would be to have an account with something like FairFX. We both have these - just load the account online and then you can withdraw cash from a cashpoint machine, or use it in shops, supermarkets, restaurants, petrol (have to be a bit careful if using at an automated petrol station ie no attendant on duty as it seems to take something like 100 euros, even if only putting in 30 euros of fuel. You get it back of course, but it takes a few hours)
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For four months I would have thought it was hardly worth having a french bank account just use an english credit card that does not charge for foriegn transaction ie Nation wide and if you need cash a debit card but change a lot to reduce charges Most people are happy to take cc in france even for small amounts.Nationwide cc normally gives you comercial exchange rates.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
HammondR, will you need to pay local bills? In which case a cheque book will be necessary which maybe a local HSBC a/c for example linked to your UK account might help.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Hi - Citibank do EUR accounts (I have one with them) and a French account. It really depends on what you are going to use the account for. the UK EUR account is handy as I can easily transfer between that and my GBP account.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I opened an AXA Banque account but tbh it is useless... It serves my mortgage payments and allows my tenants to pay into... But there are no branches (making it impossible to 'do' banking when out in France, and for those who don't do internet banking to actually get money to me), and the website is French only and I don't understand how to use it... Also they take literally weeks to return any correspondence I send to them...

RUBBISH!!!!

I tried to go to my local branch of 'Banque Populaire des Alpes' in Les Contamines and got pretty much the same response as HammondR... unless I lived in France for 6 months or more and paid taxes in France, I couldn't open one...

So, next visit I'll be popping along to Credit Agricole to open one of their accounts...
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
AlpineAddict wrote:
So, next visit I'll be popping along to Credit Agricole to open one of their accounts...


You'll probably get the same response as from the BPA.

The only branch of CA that seems to work is this Normandy based Britline one mentioned above.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I found it easy to open a CA acct in Moutiers but I am a home owner locally and did have to show my annual tax record (a UK P60 in this case) correspondence comes to my UK address. They do charge 5Euro/month fee and only supply said fisher price cash card which only operates from the home branch. When used alongside a prepaid Euro card its fine but some automatic fuel stations will not accept debit cards, which pre paid cards are, at all (normally the ones with the lower prices).
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Unless things have changed you can open a Britline account by post .Britline is credit agricole Normandy. Credit agricole is almost like a franchaise each of which cover about 3 Departements and are separate banks.I have not tried but have been told that it is not easy or possible to pay cash into a branch other than CA Normandie. The obvious advantage to Britline is they have a dedicated English speaking service.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
brock, it is very difficult to pay cash into a CA branch that isn't in your own region. They lost 300€ of my money, and because the account balance then dipped to zero, closed the account. Eventually was found floating around the ether (on a desk in Briancon), and sent to my Barclays France account.
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I've had an account with La Banque Postale since 2012. The first year was free of charges. Now its €16.90 a quarter plus €18.75 annually for the visa debit card. There's a limit of €300 per week withdrawal from some ATMs, but a higher limit of €1000 a week from an ATM operated by Banque Postale. I've had no problems with using the debit card at any merchants.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
OK, so let me get this right... So in France, unless you live or pay taxes, it is nigh on impossible to get an account where you actually see someone and 'bank'...? Am I also right in understanding that Britline is only available to customers at the Normandy Branch, and you would not be able to go to any CG bank and speak to someone about your account etc. etc.???
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AlpineAddict, you seem to have understood wink

The banking system in France is divided into regions and branches; you can only do things within your region or from without by post. In some cases you must also visit your specific branch - the Credit Agricole in Moutiers would not let me pay in a cheque because my branch was officially Brides-les-Bains - these banks are both in the same 'region' and less than three miles apart. Even in your branch, only your dedicated councillor will be allowed to help you with account matters, loans etc. If he or she is on holiday, you must wait until they come back...

The only national banks are La Poste and the big ones such as BNP, but with the exception of La Poste none of them has branches in ski resorts. There isn't even a transfer system for these regional banks; imagine you had an account in London but moved house to Liverpool. You could continue to use your London account cards and pay in cheques by post, but if you wanted to speak to the Liverpool branch or pay in cheques there, you would actually have to close the London account and reopen a Merseyside one.

This is as much a hassle for French people who move around as it is for foreigners.

To open an account you typically need:
Passport
Proof of address
Proof of employment / residence / home ownership

On opening my last account I was asked why I wished to do so. I expressed my disgust at the repeated incompetence of my previous bank, expecting the new one to be delighted to have a new customer. In fact the question was 'why our bank?' rather like a job interview 'but why do you want to work for us?'
It's all very strange.

For the record, there do exist a new generation of banks online, offering reduced fees and and freebies. However they have a very bad reputation (call centres in Morocco etc). They are of course run by the old banks anyway, so in essence you get the same shitty customer service but without the ability to storm in and yell at someone to get things done (obligatory in France at least twice a year).

edit: to clarify region of Moutiers + Brides-les-Bains


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Thu 18-09-14 12:10; edited 2 times in total
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albinomountainbadger wrote:
AlpineAddict, you seem to have understood wink


Can't see any point in opening an account anyways, it will just cause hassle. Just use your UK credit card.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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davidof, +1

And use your UK debit card to draw cash out at the cash machines.

Far easier than all the hassle and expense of the French banking system. It's what I do and I have had a French account for 12 years, I just use it to pay bills by cheque or standing order.
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Yes an account for four months is far too much hassle, and the monthly fees would most likely cancel out any savings over smartly using a UK card. With the full introduction of SEPA, the single European direct debit scheme, it should also be easier to pay monthly bills etc from a non-French account but I've no idea if the UK banks have got on board with that yet.

andy1234 wrote:
I've had no problems with using the debit card at any merchants.


It depends on the card, if it's eg plain white with a magentic strip but no chip then it's just a cash withdrawal card; that's what I mean by Fisher Price.

Next up is Moneo and VISA Electron. These ones get given to kids and people with questionable incomes. They check your account balance prior to every transaction so you can never go in debt. They don't always work in automatic machines such as Petrol Pumps, but it's all a bit hit and miss. They should work in every shop, but they will not work with those 'pay in 3 or 4 goes' offers you see at all the supermarket tills.

As a foreigner, if you seem honest enough and don't specifically ask for a real card, you'll probably have one of these as it's less risk for the bank.

Finally there are the real 'credit' cards, mostly identifiable by the numbers being embossed, and in varieties such as Classic, Gold, Infinite etc. With these you have a limit set by VISA or Mastercard, and the payment is covered by them and checked with the bank later. So you can go overdrawn with these. Despite the credit card name, they are still debit cards - you don't get months to pay off a minimum amount like in the UK.

They can either be 'immediate debit' in that the transactions show up on your statement within a couple of days, or 'differed debit' meaning the purchases are stored up to a set date eg end of the month when everything is debited from your account at once.


A classic VISA card my cost 50€ a year but an Infinite will be more like 500€. They come with higher credit limits and additional insurances and services, like in the UK.
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Quote:

Despite the credit card name, they are still debit cards - you don't get months to pay off a minimum amount like in the UK.


My UK debit card works exactly the same as my French one. The money goes from the account in a day or two. But I have been caught out by the very low usage limit on the French card while using it in Italy IIRC it was in the order of 1000 euro in a week. The UK card didn't appear to have a limit but the bank took 4% of each transaction.

On a separate point has anyone used the peer to peer transfer services like midpoint or transferwise? They appear to offer good rates and stop me having to ask friends if they have euro they wish to change.
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You can have those usage limits adjusted by your bank - I've had mine reduced as the only person who would spend 3,000€ abroad with my French card will be a fraudster (as has happened twice already). Be careful though, I initially said 'put the overseas limit at zero, I only ever use it in France' but then the card wouldn't work with Paypal, Amazon etc as they all go through Luxembourg...

johnE wrote:
Quote:

Despite the credit card name, they are still debit cards - you don't get months to pay off a minimum amount like in the UK.


My UK debit card works exactly the same as my French one. The money goes from the account in a day or two.


Exactly, I'm just trying to alert people to the fact that what a French bank calls a credit card is what we consider to be a debit card (with some minor tweaks). You couldn't for example, pay off a Credit Agricole card from another account, or using a balance transfer, because it is tied to your bank account.

It does get more complicated now as the supermarkets and petrol stations also offer credit cards which appear to be more on the UK model of spend what you like then pay it off from a separate bank account later, but these require 'CDI' lifelong employment contracts and substantial wages - I'd imagine that even 9 out of 10 French people don't qualify so Brits have no chance.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
johnE, we've used Transferwise to send and receive and it works very well.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
davidof wrote:
albinomountainbadger wrote:
AlpineAddict, you seem to have understood wink


Can't see any point in opening an account anyways, it will just cause hassle. Just use your UK credit card.


Unfortunately I need a french bank account for my french mortgage... As mentioned I currently use AXA France, but they border on absolutely useless, hence my decision to change to someone that has a branch close by, and I low there is a CA branch in St Gervais...
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
AlpineAddict wrote:
davidof wrote:
albinomountainbadger wrote:
AlpineAddict, you seem to have understood wink


Can't see any point in opening an account anyways, it will just cause hassle. Just use your UK credit card.


Unfortunately I need a french bank account for my french mortgage... As mentioned I currently use AXA France, but they border on absolutely useless, hence my decision to change to someone that has a branch close by, and I low there is a CA branch in St Gervais...



If you already have a place it should be easier in theory, but then they will look suspiciously on the fact that you want to leave the other bank... If you have a neighbour who knows the bank manager and will introduce you, the problems tend to go away.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

the Credit Agricole in Moutiers would not let me pay in a cheque because my branch was officially Brides-les-Bains


Are they in the same region? We happily pay cheques in to our Chamonix a/c from Annemasse - but both are CA des Savoie.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

With the full introduction of SEPA, the single European direct debit scheme, it should also be easier to pay monthly bills etc from a non-French account but I've no idea if the UK banks have got on board with that yet.

to all intents and purposes, that's effectively like using BIC+IBAN as the only account numbers, and the payment slips etc. and international bank transfer are the same thing. since UK is not in Eurozone, you just need to factor in exchange rate and costs, and accept that you're going to pay them all. All UK accounts should have BIC+IBAN numbers available somewhere.

for 4 months, it hardly seems worht the hassle. for 4 months every season, I'd be trying to get a Euro account.
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under a new name wrote:
Quote:

the Credit Agricole in Moutiers would not let me pay in a cheque because my branch was officially Brides-les-Bains


Are they in the same region? We happily pay cheques in to our Chamonix a/c from Annemasse - but both are CA des Savoie.


Yep, both CAdS. Perhaps your managers simply say, "what the hell, stick it in the internal post this afternoon" where as mine just said "non". I could have probably argued, as arguing does normally get what you want in the end, but I couldn't be bothered that day.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
AlpineAddict, we have an account with Barclays France which we had to have for our French mortgage . They do have physical branches in most large cities, but ours is based in Paris, and everything is done online. I have a personal banker I can call, and he will call me too.
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andy wrote:
Quote:

With the full introduction of SEPA, the single European direct debit scheme, it should also be easier to pay monthly bills etc from a non-French account but I've no idea if the UK banks have got on board with that yet.

to all intents and purposes, that's effectively like using BIC+IBAN as the only account numbers, and the payment slips etc. and international bank transfer are the same thing. since UK is not in Eurozone, you just need to factor in exchange rate and costs, and accept that you're going to pay them all. All UK accounts should have BIC+IBAN numbers available somewhere.


But you couldn't previously pump those into a French direct debit form (and the BIC is being phased out within two years).
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:

Unless things have changed you can open a Britline account by post .Britline is credit agricole Normandy. Credit agricole is almost like a franchaise each of which cover about 3 Departements and are separate banks.I have not tried but have been told that it is not easy or possible to pay cash into a branch other than CA Normandie. The obvious advantage to Britline is they have a dedicated English speaking service.


I went into the CA branch in Bourg st Maurice and paid a couple thousand euros of cash into my Britline account and apart from money laundering checks (does anyone remember 500 euro notes) it was no problem.
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johnE, my apartment manager was told it was OK when she paid it into the bank in Monetier too, so not sure what happened in the next few days that changed that to CA losing the money and it being returned to the Briancon main branch.
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johnE wrote:
Quote:

Unless things have changed you can open a Britline account by post .Britline is credit agricole Normandy. Credit agricole is almost like a franchaise each of which cover about 3 Departements and are separate banks.I have not tried but have been told that it is not easy or possible to pay cash into a branch other than CA Normandie. The obvious advantage to Britline is they have a dedicated English speaking service.


I went into the CA branch in Bourg st Maurice and paid a couple thousand euros of cash into my Britline account and apart from money laundering checks (does anyone remember 500 euro notes) it was no problem.


It's true that cash should be accepted anywhere, I've done that repeatedly with CA PACA when I had an account in CA des Savoies. They did advise me that it would take a week to show up in my bank (des Savoies) and if I was doing it a lot, I should open an account with them (PACA). When you are in the branch they have two paying in slips, one is for customers of the region and the other is for customers of another region.

Cheques are different though, many will insist that it is sent by post to the home branch. I've seen friends experience this with many different banks because as season workers we often get the first month pay as a cheque due to employers forgetting to set up the bank transfers on time. Cue nobody having any money for two weeks after Christmas and New Year's Eve Laughing
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HammondR, I opened an account at the Post Office in Chamonix- got a debit card, was very straightforward- I think I paid 8 euros a quarter for the account-just needed an address- try and close it while you are still there though- I've been trying to close it in writing for the last 2 years and no response! I then used a company called www.thefxfirm.com to transfer funds from UK to French bank account if needed- they had very good rates and lots of recommendations on line.
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Yep, took me five years to not succeed in closing a Credit Agricole account in Meribel by post, and when I went in on holiday to do it in person they'd no records as I had been magically transferred to Val d'Isere.

On the other hand, when I wanted them to transfer my account from Brides to Morzine it took five weeks despite going to each branch in person and signing the same form three times, because both agencies had repeatedly lost the incredibly important paperwork without which an account transfer is completely and utterly impossible (unless by magic, as before)...
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Nat West is just as bad. I can't change my address from overseas to overseas "because they don't have my signature on file". And I can't close it either. 11 years with invalid address and a hold on all postal contact, so far... (and a balance of £10 last time I cared)
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