When you open a new French bank account, you will receive a brand new bank card, which may come with hefty fees, up to €240 for Premium cards! If you’d rather avoid these fees, this guide has you covered: find a list of all the best banks in France that offer free credit cards below.

  • Signing up for an online bank in France entitles you to a free credit card.
  • The procedure is straightforward, but certain conditions must be met.
  • If you cannot meet an online bank’s requirements, digital banks are another option for obtaining a free card.

Quick Overview of the Best Free Credit Cards in France

If you want to avoid the fees associated with obtaining a French bank card, your best bet is to use an online bank. Indeed, because these banks are fully Internet-based, they have way lesser structural costs to be paid than traditional banks, and the savings are reflected in lower client fees. The list below contains the major online banks in France that have made their respective bank cards free of charge due to these savings.

It should be noted that most French online banks accept customers only who have proof of French income, a French address, and a French IBAN. However, you can only partially meet these requirements to open an account at N26, which has the simplest non-resident account opening process. Customers who are not fiscally resident in France and do not have proof of French income are also accepted by Boursorama Banque, but you must provide an EU IBAN.

French Online BankWelcome offer*Card & Requirements to get the card
N26Standard MasterCard There is no minimum income requirement.Available to any significant customer with a fiscal address in a country where N26 operates.
Boursorama Banque€80Visa Classic
Visa PremierWith the Welcome and Ultim plans, no minimum income is required.Customers who do not have a fiscal residence in France can use this service if they provide an EU IBAN.
INGGold Mastercard Deposit of at least €1,200 per month into the accountOr have at least €5,000 in your account at least one day per month.
BforBankVisa ClassicVisa Premier Visa Classic: show proof of a monthly income of more than €1,200.Visa Premier: show proof of a monthly income of more than €1,600.
Fortuneo€80Standard MastercardGold Mastercard Standard: a monthly income of €1,200 or a one-time deposit of €5,000 in savings at the time of account opening.Gold MasterCard: a monthly income of €1,800 or at least €10,000 in savings previously held at Fortuneo
Hello bank!€80Visa ElectronVisa Classic Visa Electron: monthly income of less than €1,000Visa Classic: monthly income of more than €1,000

*conditions apply – check the bank’s website for more information

Five Reasons Why You Should Use a Credit Card in France

Many credit cards provide complimentary access to airport lounges, not only at domestic but also at international destinations.

You may have been advised against using your credit card. However, making the best use of it turns plastic money into a boon. It allows you to earn various other unavailable benefits when using a debit card. It would help if you understood how to use it wisely. When you carry a credit card, you may not have to worry about carrying too much cash, but if it is not utilised within a specific limit, it can cause you to fall into a serious debt trap.

Here are a few strategies for scoring well and earning multiple benefits while making good use of your plastic money.

Credit Score

Using your credit card responsibly benefits your financial health in various ways. First, disciplined usage, which includes spending less than 40% of your credit limit most of the time and paying your bills on time and in full, assists you in building your credit score. A high credit score is critical to being eligible for loans in the future that you might need to fulfil your life goals, like buying a house or dealing with financial emergencies.

Travel perks

Many credit cards provide complimentary access to airport lounges, not only at domestic but also at international destinations. The card will specify how often you can visit these lounges per quarter or year. Some credit cards provide unlimited access to lounges worldwide. Instead of sitting in an uncomfortable chair while waiting for the flight, swipe your card and access a lounge to get comfortable seating, refreshments, and WiFi the next time you travel.

You need access to airport lounges with your card. If you plan, you can obtain various discounts, deals, and benefits that will reduce travel costs. For example, some co-branded air miles cards may offer discounted air tickets with select airlines. Some may offer bonus air miles upon renewal or for spending above a certain amount. Some airlines may waive the base fare on domestic ticket prices. Some airlines may even provide you with priority check-in, extra baggage allowance, and an accelerated reward point structure. Your reward points could then be converted into airline tickets, allowing you to travel for free even more.

Rewards points

Banks also provide a variety of reward points for credit card purchases. Customers should choose cards with reward points or benefit structures that match their lifestyle and spending habits to make the most of these benefits. The list of offers is available on the website of the respective bank. It would be ideal if you also kept in mind that these accumulated reward points have a time limit. As a result, you should make the most of it before it expires.

EMI option

Credit cards can also help you make large-ticket purchases on EMIs to keep your finances under control. According to Arora, many customers use credit cards to finance their vacation abroad on EMIs. “In addition, most banks collaborate with various merchants to provide the option of no-cost EMI, which implies that consumers do not have to pay any interest, which is normally associated with the EMI option,” he added.

Other offers and discounts and cashbacks

You can get discounted or free movie tickets by using your credit card. For example, purchasing your tickets through a well-known booking website may entitle you to a 1+1 combo or discounted tickets at select theatres each month.

Customers who spend a lot of money on gas each month should get a fuel credit card, which is available from many banks. Similarly, frequent travellers should select a travel credit card to earn free air miles, lounge access, hotel vouchers, and other benefits.

High-end credit card companies will go out of their way and beyond to accommodate your interests. Many cards now include limited or unlimited access to golf courses and lessons. Your card could include sailing lessons and access to select racing and football clubs. Premium credit cards also come with gift cards to luxury brands. These benefits will reimburse you for any annual fees you may be paying on the card.

Concierge services are also available with high-end credit cards. These can come in handy in a variety of situations. You can use these services to make reservations for flights, hotel rooms, restaurants, or movies. The concierge may even arrange medical and emergency auto breakdown assistance by towing the vehicle to the nearest workshop.

What Are the Different Credit Card Categories in France?

Credit cards are France’s most famous payment method, with over 68 million in circulation in 2019. However, not all cards are created equal, and each type serves a unique purpose. So, what distinguishes a Visa from a Mastercard? What distinguishes a debit card from a credit card? Is it worthwhile to purchase premium cards? More information can be found below.

  • In France, there are numerous bank cards, each with its characteristics and advantages and disadvantages.
  • Cards are either part of the Visa or Mastercard networks.
  • Choosing a French bank card entails weighing various features to determine which is best for your needs.

In France, there are numerous bank cards, and it is critical to understand their differences to select the right card and manage your payment methods and habits optimally.

ATM Cards

ATM cards, also called cartes de retrait, are not intended for payment. They are simply helpful for withdrawing money from ATMs and usually have a weekly or monthly limit on how much money the user can withdraw.

You can also use a carte de retrait to:

  • Check your account balance
  • Order cheque books
  • Make deposits at an ATM in your bank network.

This card is usually free and is designed for people who want to manage their finances easily. It is useful for students and anyone barred from opening a bank account.

Remember that these ATM cards are not eligible for purchases in stores or online.

Payment Cards

Payment cards, also known as cartes de paiement, enable you to make transactions online or in stores in addition to the services provided by an ATM card. Payment cards are classified into three types, as detailed below.

Systematic Authorisation Cards

With a carte à autorisation systématique, you must have sufficient monetary funds in your bank account to make payments; you will be unable to pay if you go overdraft. You may, however, be granted a small overdraft under certain conditions (which will be specified in your contract).

The payment system will calculate how much money is in your account after you complete a transaction. The operation is completed if there are sufficient funds to pay without overdraft; otherwise, the transaction is cancelled.

So, the primary advantage of keeping a systematic authorization card is that there will be no unpleasant surprises because you will only be paying amounts on your account.

It should be noted that these cards have some limitations, such as the fact that they only work with direct debit and that transaction times are delayed. Furthermore, because these cards do not support authorisation holds, they cannot be used to pay at gas pumps, pay French motorway tolls or parking fees, or rent a car.

Debit Cards

When you use a debit card, also known as a carte à débit immédiat in France, any transaction appears on your account balance very quickly, usually within 2 to 3 days. This can be very useful for the user to keep track of their finances in real-time and quickly know how much money they have in an account.

However, because you can go overdraft with these cards and will be fined by your French bank, keep track of how much credit you have left before making transactions.

Deferred Debit Cards

Unlike debit cards, deferred debit cards, also called the cartes à débit différé, do not cause your transactions to appear on your balance immediately and sequentially.

Rather, your payments will appear as a lump sum deducted from your accounts, typically once a month on a fixed date.

The primary advantage of this system is that the bank gives you 0% credit for up to 30 days. Therefore, you don’t need the funds in your accounts to make a purchase.

Although your banking app should allow you to track your spending, if you use a deferred debit card, make sure that you replace enough monetary funds in your account before the end of each deduction period, or you may get a nasty surprise on the day all your transactions appear!

International Cards

With an international bank card (carte internationale), you can make and withdraw money in the Eurozone under the same conditions as in France and outside of this zone, within the Visa and Mastercard networks, for a fee. This fee varies depending on the bank but is typically lower with online banks.

In this sense, most bank cards in France today are international, as national cards are becoming increasingly rare.

The travel insurances that these cards frequently include, such as health insurance, lost or stolen luggage insurance, death insurance, and, in some cases, exemption from paying a deposit on early hotel reservations and car rentals, are their main selling points.

Credit Cards

A credit card (carte de crédit) in France can refer to either a standard card issued by a bank or a card issued by an account in collaboration with a private company.

These cards can only be utilised in that specific company’s stores and selling points in the second case. They also function as loyalty cards, allowing you to pay for all of your purchases in the relevant stores and receive discounts, expedited check-outs, and coupons.

When a customer uses this payment method as a credit card, he has revolving credit, a pool of money that is available and accessible at all times. The customer then refunds the money at higher interest rates than a traditional loan. The pool is replenished as refunds are made, with a fixed amount (maximum €75,000, allocated for at least three months under the current regulatory framework).

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards, also known as cartes prépayées, allow you to complete transactions for a predetermined and capped amount.

These cards will not allow for overdrafts or credit. It functions similarly to a standard payment card, but you do not need to open a bank account to obtain one. So, an electronic money account is required instead.

You can load up to €1,000 and recharge your card anytime, either with your bank or a tobacconist. These cards are anonymous unless you want to charge them with more than €1,000, in which case you must provide proof of ID and address.

The Mastercard Cards

Mastercard in France offers the following cards:

6 Credit cards:

  • The Standard Credit Card
  • The Gold Credit Card
  • The Titanium Credit Card
  • The Platinum Credit Card
  • The World Credit Card
  • The World Elite Credit Card

4 Debit cards:

  • The Standard Debit Card
  • The Platinum Debit Card
  • The Gold Debit Card
  • The World Debit Card

A standard prepaid card.

The Visa cards

Visa in France offers the following cards:

  • The Visa Infinite
  • The Visa Platinum and Platinum Business
  • The Visa Premier
  • The Visa Classic
  • The Visa Electron
  • The Visa Gold Business
  • The Visa Business
  • The Visa e-Carte Bleue
  • The Visa V Pay
  • A Prepaid Visa card

The CB network

The CB Bank card group, also known as the “Groupement des Cartes Bancaires CB,” is France’s national interbank network. It is unique to France and not found on the international networks Visa and Mastercard. It is frequently abbreviated as CB but should not be confused with “Carte Bleue,” a Visa-owned brand. Thus, all Cartes Bleues are also CB cards in France, but not all CB cards are Cartes Bleues. Some CB cards can be linked to the Mastercard networks and the Visa networks.

The primary goal of the CB group is to ensure optimal interbanking of French bank cards, allowing all cards to be accepted more widely across the country.

If your card bears the CB logo, it may be accepted by French merchants if they have signed an agreement contract and have the necessary software installed. Stickers from all accepted cards should be visible on shop and restaurant windows.

Which Credit Card Is the Best in France?

Mastercard and Visa are both widely accepted in France. American Express cardholders may also find greater acceptance than Discover cardholders, who may need help finding merchants who accept their cards.

As for you, the consumer, no American Express credit card was included in our comparison because they are also quite expensive for owners. The Payback credit card is the only American Express credit card that does not charge an annual fee; however, its foreign transaction and ATM fees are pretty high.

What Are the Best French Free Credit Cards?

When selecting a French credit card, consider the following factors:

  • The kind of card (credit, payment, prepaid, card without an account)
  • The system of debit (immediate or deferred)
  • The cost of the card (paid or free)
  • The card’s reputation ( standard, premium, elite)

You must also confirm that the card is available at the bank of your choice. For more information, see our comparison of French banks for their credit cards.

N26

  • English-speaking customer service
  • Free bank account and card
  • Very easy and seamless to open

HSBC

  • Welcome offer: €80
  • English-speaking customer service
  • An attractive welcome offer
  • Personal support from a banking advisor

Société Générale

  • Numerous branches nationwide
  • Personal support from a banking advisor
  • But no English-speaking support

Boursorama Banque

  • Welcome offer: €80
  • Non-residents are unable to register online. You have to call and visit them instead.
  • Free card and bank account
  • No English-speaking assistance

Nickel

  • Non-residents are unable to register online. You have to call and visit them instead.
  • Free card and bank account
  • No English-speaking assistance

Bonus: American Express Payback Credit Card

We want to recognise one more free credit card in France: the American Express Payback credit card. If you like American Express or loyalty programmes that allow you to collect points, you should look into this.

American Express is usually only accepted in larger stores and high-end restaurants; always inquire ahead of time.

Conclusion

The N26’s Mastercard is unquestionably the best free credit card in France, thanks to its excellent terms. We recommend carrying two credit cards, especially when travelling, in case one is stolen or lost.