How to open a bank account in France the easy way

5 min read

If you’re living and working in France, or planning on doing so in the future, opening a bank account in the country will make local life a lot easier. While you don’t necessarily need one for your daily shopping, if you’re planning to pay taxes and utility bills, get a paycheck, or buy property in France, a French bank account is essential. In this article, we cover all you need to know about how to open a bank account in France. 

Which type of bank account should you choose?

There are three main types of bank accounts at traditional French banks. Here’s a quick overview of each of them. 

  • Current account (compte courant)—Most likely, this is the account you’re looking for. A compte courant is a basic bank account for everyday use. This allows you to withdraw money from the ATM, pay bills, and make purchases with a debit card. Many banks offer specialized accounts like non-residents accounts and student accounts, which offer different benefits. 

  • General savings account (Livret)—This is a savings account that also allows you to easily transfer money in and out of your current account. There is also a tax-free savings account option called Livret A, which has more restrictions. 

  • Long-term savings account (Compte à Terme or Compte d’Epargne Logement)—This savings account offers higher interest for those saving money for a house or another large purchase.  

When researching banks, keep an eye out for banking fees. It’s common for French banks to charge fees, such as a monthly service fee and a debit card fee. There are also ATM fees, which differ from bank to bank. To help, the French government has a free tool where you can compare the fees at different banks. 

What do you need to open a bank account in France?

Legally, all French residents and French citizens abroad have a right to open a bank account in France. That doesn’t mean it’s easy—there are a few hoops you’ll have to jump through first. To start, you’ll need identification, proof of address, and proof of residence status. 

How old do you have to be to open a bank account in France?

You need to be 18 or older to open your own compte courant or savings account. That said, some banks offer options for minors. In that case, an accompanying letter from a parent or guardian will be required.

What documents do you need to open a bank account in France?

There are three categories of documents required—identification (your passport), proof of address (such as a rental contract and/or a utility bill), and proof of residence status (a visa or other titre de sejour). 

This can be a bit challenging, as you often can’t pay a utility bill or sign a lease until you have a French bank account. It’s best to build a dossier with as much documentation as you can and bring it all with you. The more proof you have, the better.

How to open a bank account in France, step by step

Before you open a new bank account in France, it’s worth taking a look to see if your current bank has a branch in France. If so, it could be easier to transfer your existing account.But if you’re opening an account from scratch, the first step is to make an appointment by calling the local branch or walking in. If you aren’t prepared to have the conversation in French, bring along a translator or a French-speaking friend. 

It’s possible that your local bank branch will send you to another branch that caters to foreigners. If so, you’ll need to call and make an appointment there instead. When it comes time for your appointment, bring all your documents and prepare to sign some paperwork. 

If your appointment is a success, you’ll walk out with a bank account number, also known as an RIB (relevé d'identité bancaire). Your bank will call or send you an email when the account is ready for you to make your first deposit. If the bank rejects your application, they are required to explain their reasoning. If this is the case, you can appeal to the Banque de France, which will assign you a bank.

Can I open a bank account online in France?

If this sounds like a lot of steps, you can consider opening a bank account online instead. Online banks offer all the services you expect from a traditional bankand then some—plus, they’re easier to set up. Keep in mind that not all online financial institutions are created equal—to access all the services of a traditional bank in France, you’ll need to open a bank account with a licensed bank. 

What is the difference between a banking license and an e-money license?

There are many finance companies that can help you manage your money online. However, there are important differences between companies with a banking license—called banks —and e-money institutions. 

For a company to call itself a bank, it needs to have a banking license. Since July 2016, N26 has been fully licensed as a bank, adhering to all the regulations of the European Central Bank. As such, N26 is able to provide all the services a bank typically provides. E-money institutions, on the other hand, can only offer limited services such as money transfer and currency exchange. 

How to open an account with N26

How to open a bank account online with N26

It just takes a few minutes to open a bank account online with N26. Download the smartphone app or head to the N26 website. Confirm your personal details, email, and shipping address, then select the type of account you’d like to open. You’ll be asked to prove your identity via a quick video verification. You can add money to your account by bank transfer. Once your account is live, you’ll be able to start making contactless payments right away from your virtual Mastercard. Questions? Just contact our customer support team. 

Your money at N26 

Opening a standard bank account with N26 is totally free (up to a €50,000 balance), and comes with your own contactless virtual Mastercard, which can easily be linked to Google Pay or Apple Pay.. For more control over your finances, N26 Smart comes with Spaces sub-accounts to sort your savings according to your personal goals. Think of your Space as a digital piggy bank to help you save for a small project, a big investment, or something special worth splurging on. We’re sure France has plenty of those.

By N26

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