Are you settling into your new life in France? Why not take charge of your finances as well? Learn about the best banks in France for English speakers, banking fees, account types available, and how to open an account there.

If you’ve relocated to France to study, work, or spend your golden years, you’ll need to be able to make local payments easily.

You have international banks for that, we know. However, having a French bank account may be required when purchasing a property or renting a place in France. Even if you don’t need a French bank account to make your planned purchase, keeping local currency is good to avoid foreign transaction fees.

We have put together a quick guide that explains the different types of bank accounts you can open in France, the fees you should be aware of, the best banks in France for expats and English speakers, and how to send money from any country to France.

Contents hide

What Is The French Banking System Like?

The French banking system is highly developed, though less prominent than in various parts of Europe, with national banks, internet banks, mobile banks, local financial institutions, and branches of international banks.

Despite digital banking hype, face-to-face or physical banking is still more popular in France.

The country currently has over 200 banks and credit institutions (including specialised and municipal credit banks). The Banque de France supervises and regulates the country’s banking sector as the French central bank.

What’s The Currency In France?

Previously, the franc was France’s national currency. However, France has replaced the franc with the Euro (EUR) as a Eurozone member.

The country now has seven Euro notes (5, 10,20, 100, 50, 200, 500) and eight Euro coins (1 and 2 Euros, plus 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50).

The Euro has a currency exchange rate of 0.83 against the USD (US dollar), 0.63 against the AUD (Australian dollar), and 1.16 against the British pound sterling as of June 2021. (GBP).

Key Considerations When Choosing A Bank In France

When comparing and contrasting bank options in France, it is helpful to consider the five factors listed below.

  • Fees – Will you pay a recurring fee to keep your account active? Is it higher or lower than other banks?
  • Ease of set-up – Is opening a bank account a simple and straightforward process? Is it possible to do it online?
  • Ease of use – Does the bank offer instant access to your account and a user-friendly mobile app to help you track your spending?
  • Customer service – Can you reach the bank’s customer service team by phone or online, and will they have representatives who speak your native language?
  • Additional features – Are the bank’s other valuable services, such as savings accounts and overdrafts, available?

French Banks For English Speakers

If you struggle to communicate in French, choosing a bank with English-speaking staff or services can be highly beneficial. Crédit Agricole, for example, has a ‘Britline‘ service that provides English-speaking banking services to clients in both France and the United Kingdom and Ireland. Now that you’ve determined what you’re looking for let’s look at the various French banks and online banks for English speakers.

Best French Bank For English Speakers 1

Street Banks In France

The major French banks continue to be the most popular among locals, and most English speakers will open an account with one of them. There are four French high-street banks to choose from, some of which have recently merged.

  • Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribas
  • HSBC France
  • Crédit Agricole (CA)
  • Banque Populaire – part of the ‘Groupe BPCE’ 
  • Société Générale
  • La Banque Postale – The banking field from the French post office.

Online Banks In France

In addition to traditional banks, several online banks are now gaining popularity. They frequently offer low fees and competitive interest rates. So, they can be a strong competitor, particularly in savings accounts and mortgage loans. Many online banks in France are subsidiaries of the major high-street banks. Here are a few of the key players:

  • Revolt – the best all-rounder
  • AXA – the online banking of Axa insurance
  • Boursorama – the online banking arm of Société Générale
  • BRED – the online banking of Banque Populaire
  • EKO Banque — the online banking of Crédit Agricole
  • Hello — the online banking of BNP Paribas
  • N26

What Can Banking Services English Speakers Get In France?

French banks typically offer the following products and services to English speakers:

Savings And Investments

In addition to traditional savings accounts, many French banks may offer stock exchange options, pensions, and investment funds.

Current Accounts

Current accounts at French banks include debit and credit card options and other services for managing day-to-day expenses.

Mortgages

Several French banks offer various mortgage options if you wish to purchase a home or other property in France.

Insurance

There may be a wide range of French insurance products available to expats, from home and health insurance to life insurance and vehicle insurance.

Loans And Overdrafts

Many French banks offer overdrafts and consumer loans for things like renovating your home, buying a car or apartment in France, going on vacation, etc.

Business Banking

If you want to start freelancing or a business in France, you can find out which French banks provide banking services to businesses, professionals, and organisations.

Mobile Banking

Some banks in France may provide most or all of their services through a mobile app, eliminating the need to visit a physical branch. You need a smartphone to access banking services, make payments, and manage your money in general.

Online/Digital Banking

The digital or online banking facility is a crucial feature of most modern French banks. Loans and other products and services should be available online. You can contact the bank via their live online chat systems if you have any issues.

Expat Services

Some major banks in France offer expat-specific services, such as multi-currency accounts.

What Kind Of Bank Accounts Are Available In France For Expats And English Speakers?

General Savings Account (Livret)

A bank account where you can keep your money and transfer it to and from your current account whenever you want. At some banks, you may also find Livret A or a TFSA (tax-free savings account).

Long-Term Savings Account (Compte d’Epargne Logement Or Compte A Terme)

It is a high-interest French bank account. With this type of account, you can save money for a large purchase, such as purchasing a home in France.

Current Account (Compte Courant)

These are regular banking accounts, with some banks offering no-fee basic packages. Non-resident accounts, student accounts, and other specialised accounts are available at some French banks.

Offshore Bank Account

If you frequently transfer money between countries or spend significant time in more than one country, then opening an international offshore bank account may be beneficial. Offshore accounts at many central French banks typically provide lower fund taxation, cross-border services, and other distinct benefits.

Best French Bank For English Speakers 2

What are The Best French Banks For English Speakers?

Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribas

BNP Paribas’s headquarters in Paris (as the name suggests) is the largest bank in France. It is one of the biggest banks in Europe.

To open an account in this bank, you need to be a resident of France; there are no conditions as to how much your minimum income has to be.

The bank provides various savings accounts for various customer segments, such as an Innovation Savings Account, a Young Booklet, and Livret A. The Innovation Savings Account is great for young innovative business owners and students.

Yes, with the Savings Account, you must maintain a minimum monthly balance of €10 EUR, earn interest at a low yearly rate of 0.02%, and pay income tax on your savings.

On the plus side, there is no cap on the quantity of money you can save in the account, and you can withdraw funds for free.

A Livret A, on the other hand, offers a significantly higher interest rate (0.50%) and a savings cap of €22,950 EUR ($27,378 USD). What’s more, this account is tax-free.

BNP Paribas provides insurance products, consumer loans, real estate loans, and investment funds for both expats and French citizens.

Revoult

Revolut, a significant name in digital banking, has recently been at the frontline of Europe’s low-cost online financial services sector. London-based fintech has over 12 million users and is available globally and in the EU and EEA. However, because it is yet to be a bank in all the EU countries, Revolut is best used alongside, rather than in place of, a central bank account.

Revolut is a fully-fledged bank in France and other EU countries, such as Germany, Italy, Portugal, and a few others (licensed by the Bank of Lithuania). It offers deposit insurance and products such as credit cards and loans).

Due to the rare ability to offer low fees and an impressive scope of service, Revolut’s banking platform offers a wide range of financial services similar to traditional banks, making it an appealing alternative to high-street banks.

Opening a ‘Standard’ account with Revolut is free, but the first debit card will cost you around €5. While ATM withdrawals are also free, after the first €200 or five monthly withdrawals, a 2% fee (minimum of €1) will be charged. Furthermore, money transfers to other Revolut users are free and instant. This makes the service a dependable option if the people you frequently send money to are also Revolut users.

Furthermore, Revolut charges low fees for international money transfers, making it an appealing option for those who frequently send money across borders. There are no exchange rate margins on weekdays, and users only pay a flat 0.50% fee on all international transfers. However, Revolut charges twice as much for international transfers made on weekends, with the fee increasing to 1% on Saturdays and Sundays.

Best French Bank For English Speakers 3

Banque Populaire

This cooperative bank group, based in Paris, was founded in 1878 and is controlled by more than ten independent regional banks.

You can also open a Livret A with this bank. The Livret A available at Banque Populaire is tax-free, and this bank guarantees the same interest rate as the one offered by BNP Paribas. The maximum savings amount is also the same, and the minimum cost deposit for opening a Livret A account is €10 EUR.

You can withdraw funds from this account anytime without penalty or charge. Keep in mind, however, that you can only open one of these savings accounts and cannot set up this account as a joint one.

You can also set up Selection, a monetary savings contract at the bank if you want to save for your child’s education or generate extra income for your retirement. It is, basically, a bundle of fixed-rate progressive term accounts.

Banque Populaire also offers stock savings plans, personal loans, real estate investments, and credit financing in addition to savings accounts.

Banque Populaire, as the name implies, has long been a popular choice among French customers (since the 19th Century, in fact). There are a few different versions of its Crystal Package account so that you can find exemplary service for you. The entry-level account is called Essential Crystal, and it delivers on the essentials by offering online banking, an overdraft facility, and a dedicated advisor. This costs around €6.90, depending on where you live in France.

You could pay a few extra euros per month for the Crystal Comfort account, which includes enhanced insurance policies and waives fees for going overdrawn up to €500. There’s even a Premium Crystal account with even more perks, such as a Platinum debit card. You can apply for either of these accounts, and the Banque Populaire savings account online if you prefer.

Societe Generale

Societe Generale also allows you to sign up for a Livret A account for your children. However, what distinguishes them from the other two French banks is many financial solutions for young people and students under 29.

Societe Generale has student loans and other options to help you get your driver’s licence or finance your studies in France.

For example, if you are under 26, you can finance your driving licence training for A, A1, A2, and B permits with a bank loan ranging from €600 ($715.76) to €1,200 ($1,431). You only need to repay the bank up to €1 EUR per day, with no interest.

Société Générale, also known as SocGen, accommodates its customers’ needs by offering two account options. There’s a low-cost Kapsul account that costs €2 per month, includes access to the bank’s useful mobile app, and a cashback scheme that gives you percentage refunds when you use your SocGen card to make certain purchases.

Alternatively, you can pay €6.20 per month for the Sobrio account, including an overdraft facility and your personal adviser. Sobrio also allows more weekly, monthly, and cash withdrawals than the Kapsul account. Whichever option you choose, you can sign up and open an account online, and the bank also offers savings accounts and insurance policies if you require them.

La Banque Postale

Because it was founded as a subsidiary of the French postal service company La Poste, having an account with La Banque Postale gives you access to thousands of post office contact points. But how is the account itself? We recommend the fully digital Ma French service, which was recently launched and can be joined online in minutes. Customers pay a low monthly fee of €2, including the current account and a budget management app.

According to the bank, Ma French is a streamlined, fuss-free account explicitly designed for people seeking “autonomy, speed, convenience, and independence.” It lacks extras like an overdraft facility, but La Banque Postale does offer a definitive account if you want a more comprehensive banking service. Insurance and other financial services are also easily accessible.

Best French Bank For English Speakers 4

What Banking Fees Do Expats And English Speakers Have To Pay?

Fees may differ not only between French banks but also between branches of the same bank. You can use this rough guide as a starting point:

General Account Maintenance Fees 

A current account may require an annual fee of around €10 EUR (or approximately $11.92 USD), though some French banks offer this account for free. Of course, higher-level and premium accounts have higher fees.

ATM Charges

Taking money out of ATMs in France is mostly free, even if you use a foreign card. However, a privately installed ATM may charge up to €2 EUR ($2.38 USD) per transaction.

Credit Card Fees

Though annual fees may begin as low as €40 ($47.71), premium credit cards may charge as much as €100 EUR ($119.29 USD) per year.

Debit Card (Carte Bleue) Fees

The fees vary depending on your debit card type, but they typically range between €30 ($35.78) and €40 per year.

Standing Orders And Direct Debits

Some French banks charge a small nominal fee for these services, whereas others may not.

Penalty Charges

When searching for a bank in France, you must be able to find a list of fees for defaults, late payments, and so on, so you know what to expect if, for example, you overdraw your account without authorization or your checks bounce. Bounced check fees, for example, can range from €30 EUR to €50 EUR ($59.64 USD), depending on the bank.

Mortgages And Loans

Of course, loan and mortgage charges will be determined by the Annual Percentage Rate Charge. Lenders may charge additional fees, so ask them directly about it.

International Money Transfers

The cost of international money transfers at French banks can range from €10 for smaller payments to €30 or more for larger payments. This will depend on the destination, the amount you are receiving or sending, and the speed with which the money will be sent.

How Should An Expat And English Speaker Choose A Bank In France?

Continue your search for the best banks in France by considering the following factors:

Ease Of Access

Does the bank provide telephone, online, or mobile banking services besides face-to-face banking?

Fees And Charges

Before making a decision, compare the service costs of various French banks and their advantages and disadvantages.

Language Support

Check if your preferred bank provides English-speaking services or contains staff members who speak the language. Although such language support is more difficult in regional and smaller banks, most international and online banks readily provide English-speaking services.

Services

Find out if the bank offers French pension savings plans or foreign transactions in addition to the usual basket of services.

How Can An Expat And English Speaker Open A French Bank Account?

To open a bank account in a French Bank, you must go to any branch (try to find one near your home, so you don’t have any problems in an emergency) and fill out an application form.

If you are not fluent in French, bringing a translator may be a good idea, because what if there is no English-speaking staff at the bank?

The following documents are typically required:

  • Your passport (valid, of course) or any other form of identification
  • Proof of your French residence, such as a phone or electricity bill
  • Your French visa or other documentation proving your residency status
  • Proof of your student or employment status
  • Your signature, handwritten

It would be preferable if your documents are in French, but if not, you may need to have them translated with an Apostille stamp or provide a notarised translation.

Most French banks will provide you with your debit card, account number, and other banking documents within 7 to 14 days.

Best French Bank For English Speakers 5

How To Send Money To Your Home To Or From France

Are you transferring funds internationally with a French bank? Return to the banking fees section to find out how much that will cost you. You’ll have to deal with multiple transaction fees, but that’s not all; you may also have to deal with unfavourable currency exchange rates.

But there’s no reason why you should.

An online international money transfer service is great here. A good example is Xe. They can assist you in sending money to over 130 countries at competitive exchange rates, allowing you to save time and money on international transfers. Follow the simple steps mentioned below:

  • Register for a free Xe account or sign in to your existing one.
  • Choose the currencies you want to convert and enter the amount you want to send.
  • Enter the recipient’s name, address, and banking information (such as bank name, bank code, account number, and BIC/SWIFT code).
  • Choose between direct debit, bank transfer, and card payment.
  • Enter your payment information and confirm all of the information you’ve entered.

So, regarding speed, price, and overall ease of use, international money transfer services like Xe are your best bet. You can transfer money to your country of origin or to your family in France.

But, to keep your money safe and manage your finances in general, congratulations on your new bank account in France!

FAQ

Which Bank Is Best For Foreigners In France?

  • BNP Paribas has a discount on subscriptions for young people between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • Crédit Agricole, one of France’s biggest banks, requires only proof of identity and address.
  • HSBC France, because it’s an international bank, you can carry out the whole process in English.

Which Is The Best Bank To Use In France?

  • BNP Paribas.
  • Crédit Agricole Group.
  • Société Générale.
  • Groupe BPCE.
  • AXA Banque.
  • Crédit Mutuel Group.
  • La Banque Postale.
  • HSBC France.

What Is The Best French Online Bank?

  • Best current account — N26.
  • Best for sustainable banking — Tomorrow.
  • Best local account — Nickel.
  • Best CHF account — Yuh.
  • Best all-rounder — Revolut.
  • Best for foreign currency spending — Wise.
  • Best paid current account — bunq.
  • Best for cashback — Vivid Money.

Is It Hard To Get A French Bank Account?

All French residents and French citizens living abroad have the legal right to open a bank account in France. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy—you’ll have to jump through a few hoops first. You’ll need identification, proof of address, and proof of residence status to get started.

Conclusion

Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribas is the most well-known and easily accessible bank and is popular among expats. HSBC France is the best English-speaking branch bank available to all nationalities. Societe Generale is a long-term bank with excellent features for everyday banking, particularly for young people and students. 

Finally, regarding online banks, Revolut is one of the best bank-like products present on the market, offering a capable spending option in addition to the primary bank account. It is ideal if you want to avoid the high fees linked with essential banking services at high-street banks. It is especially well-suited for international travel, especially if you spend less than €1,000 (or equivalent) and spend the majority of your money on weekdays. For these reasons, we consider Revolut the best all-around online bank in France.

Many French people have multiple bank accounts, so it is perfectly acceptable to open two separate accounts to bring more structure to your finances while living in France.