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French bank accounts – are you ready to open one?

Posted on 12 March 2013

Owning a home in the French Alps brings with it the need for a local bank account, but before choosing which bank to go with, property-buyers are advised to research their options and familiarise themselves with banking in France.

Utilities bills, council taxes, property management fees, rental income, spending money – some of the reasons you could need a French bank account. As a second home-owner in a French resort, such as Tignes, Courchevel and Val d’Isère, your account will be classed as ‘non-resident’ account and is likely to come with tighter conditions than accounts for residents.

The largest banks in France include Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole (CA), Banque Populaire,  LCL and La Banque Postale. There is also CA Britline, a branch of Crédit Agricole Normandie, which provides a French banking service for English speaking foreigners.

As a rule, always choose a bank with a local branch in the resort where your ski home is located and which has English speaking staff. In France, banking is still done on a personal level and you are likely to be on first-name terms with your bank manager – popping into your branch and talking to someone is always handy and often the best way of resolving something.

Bear in mind that unlike in the UK, banks in France often charge for various services, including using cheques or withdrawing money from ATMs of other banks. So always establish precisely what you will and won’t be charged for before opening an account with a bank. Thankfully, on-line banking is widely available with French banks, so you can manage your account from the UK, and chip and pin is as prevalent there as in the UK. As a final note of caution, going overdrawn without prior agreemet is an offence in France – overdrafts are available, but typically you will have a specified window in which to access and pay back that credit.

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