11: Banking


Banking should present no special problems or difficulties, once accustomed to the French currency and banking procedures. Many banks have English-speaking personnel who will be pleased to assist with your banking needs. (We’ve noted some below and you may wish to add to this list.)

If reading this before your move to France, you may wish to consider joining your company’s local bank, which has a three-fold advantage:

1) By being “introduced”, you will be treated with more defference and small issues will be more easily resolved.

2) Your account can be opened using your company’s address because no account may be opened without an official French address.

3) The automatic transfer of your monthly salary will go a bit quicker. Remember, companies in France tend to directly credit your salary (to a bank account that you will nominate) and not give you a check.

Regardless of the bank you chose, familiarize yourself with its bank charges, which has become increasingly complicated but nonetheless necessary. These charges should be sent to you on a yearly basis to inform you of any changes.

The bank you will use and the way in which your money will be received while in France may be defined by your company’s policies and their choice of banking system. Be certain to understand what system will be used, when money will be transferred into your account and to which branch, as well as the “conversion rate” to be used. Some French banks will allow deposits of foreign/home country checks into a French account. ATMs will dispense euros against your home country credit card for the usual and customary fee.


The European Union has switched to the common currency, the “euro” (€). For the full complement of EU countries employing the Euro as their currency, see here.

Beginning January 1, 1999, private or commercial business transactions must be conducted in euros, if that were the choice of the parties involved. Checking accounts in euros became available on September 1, 2001. Franc coins and notes were last released by banks at 23:59 on December 31, 2001. From January 1, 2002, all contracts in participating countries were converted into, and all transactions carried out in euros.

Both French francs and euros, (change always being given in euros), were in use until midnight on February 17, 2002, after which the French franc ceased to be legal tender. After that date, only euros were accepted in stores. From July 1, 2002, French francs can be converted at the Banque de France, (and other currencies from all countries of the euro area at the corresponding Central Bank), for a period of three years for coins, and ten years for bills.

Euro Coins

There are 8 euro coins denominated in 2 and 1 euros, then 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents. Every euro coin carries a common European face. On the reverse, each Member State decorated the coins with their own motifs. No matter which motif is on the coins they can be used anywhere inside the 12 Member States. (For example, a French citizen will be able to buy a hot dog in Berlin using a euro coin carrying the imprint of the King of Spain.) The common European face of the coins represents a map of the European Union against a background of transverse lines to which are attached the stars of the European flag. The 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins put emphasis on Europe’s place in the world while the 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins present the Union as a gathering of nations. The 1 and 2 euro coins depict Europe without frontiers.

Euro Notes

There are seven euro notes of different colors and sizes, denominated in 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 euros. The design on both sides of the notes is common to all Member States. All notes will carry advanced security features and are legal tender in all countries of the euro area.

For complete information on national cash changeover plans for the different Member States, as well as on the symbolism of the designs of the notes, visit ‘www.europa.eu.int/euro/’, and select the text “ONE CURRENCY FOR EUROPE” to enter the English version of the website

When using automatic money machines, take in mind that the Post Office generally charges less for their distributors than other banks. Yes, the Post Office has a bank — and many post offices have cash distributor machines that will work with your credit card (and its PIN-code).


Many banking offices will have at least one English-speaking employee who can help you. This, however, is in the larger French cities only.

French regulations now require a French bank to stipulate clearly its list of Bank Charges. Ask for the list before opening an account at a number of banks in order to chose that which is the least costly.

To begin any banking procedures, bring your passport and/or carte de séjour along with a France Télécom (telephone) or EDF (electric bill) as proof of residency in France, as well as a bulletin de salaire (pay slip) as proof of employment. (A lease for an apartment or house may also be used as proof of residency). If self-employed or otherwise independent in France, you will be required to make a deposit by money transfer before being given a checkbook

All documents must list your local French address. A true joint account must be opened in the name of “Mr ou Mme” (Mr. or Mrs.), which allows either of the parties access (withdrawals, checks, payment orders) individually. An account labeled “Mr et Mme” (Mr. and Mrs.) requires the signatures of BOTH parties for access (withdrawals, checks, etc.), and so cannot be accessed by a surviving spouse. This results in considerable legal delays before a survivng spouse has access to the account.

France has also a number of online bank Current Account services. The two most current are, in fact, run by insurance companies. Their site addresses are www.agfbanque.fr and www.axabanque.fr. You should read carefully their bank charges schedules, but you may find either a bit less expensive than the traditional banks. Both of these online banks have current accounts that are remunerated at an interest rate for as long as you maintain a credit balance in the account. To open an account, contact any office of the respective insurance agent nearest you. You are not obliged to accept any offer of insurance in order to open an account.

Note that due to recent changes (2009) in French Banking regulations, you are now obliged to report all foreign bank accounts that you hold to the French tax authorities. As is the case presently, if you are a resident of France and maintain a foreign interest-bearing savings account, the account will be deducted a percentage of the interest and it will be sent to the French Treasury. This is not the case, however, for equity investment accounts, which must nonetheless be declared.

Here below is a list of banks with access intermediaries who speak English. If contacting them, please tell them you read about their services in this Guidebook:

* Crédit Agricole Toulouse 31 International Clients: Phone 05 61 50 09 99, Mail: , ‘; document.write( ‘<a ‘=”” +=”” path=”” ‘\”=”” prefix=”” addy30524=”” suffix=”” attribs=””>’ ); document.write( addy_text30524 ); document.write( ‘<\/a>’ ); //–> Web site: www.ca-toulouse31.fr/international-clients.

* HSBC: Odile HEMENIER, Agence Toulouse-Blagnac, 17 Avenue Didier Daurat, Batiment Euclide; ag-toulouse-blagnac(a)hsbc.fr (insert at-sign), tel. 05 62 48 63 10.

Notify us (president(a)americansintoulouse.com) if the contact name changes or should you come across any other banks with an English-speaking customer service.


As a general rule, banks do not “cash” checks. Once a check is deposited at the bank, the account will be credited and the funds will become available in two or three days, once the check has cleared. The check must be endorsed on the back before depositing it with a remise de chèques (deposit slip), to be filled out with the following information:

• Source and amount of each check to be deposited

• Total amount being deposited

• Number of checks being deposited

• Date

• Code for the agence where the account resides

• Numéro de compte (account number)

• Nom et adresse du bénéficiaire (name and address of the account holder)

The same form is used for cash deposits. At some banks (e.g. Crédit Lyonnais Blagnac), simply give the check or cash to the teller along with the account number to be credited. The teller will fill out the form and return a copy for your records. Deposits (checks or cash) may be made using a carte bleue and the ATM at any branch of your bank. Many banks, particularly those around the Blagnac area, will accept for deposit checks drawn on a USA bank account. (Before opening an account, ask the bank if they provide this service, as well as any additional fees that will be incurred.) It usually takes four to five days for the actual transfer of funds from the USA to appear in your French account.


When opening an account, you may apply for a Carte Bleue (debit card). It is highly recommended that you take advantage of this very convenient financial service. There is an annual charge for the card, which is valid for two years. The carte bleue is widely accepted throughout France by retail merchants, hotels, restaurants, service stations, toll booths, paring plazas and practically every business enterprise. Most shops do require a minimum purchase, although toll booths and many service stations have no minimum requirement. You will also need the card to obtain cash from an automatic distrbutor of any other bank in France.

The Visa or Mastercard international Carte Bleue is accepted wherever the “Visa” or “Mastercard” sign is displayed, as well as at ATMs throughout Europe. Other American credit cards, (American Express, Diners Club, etc.), are less readily accepted.

The French debit card is linked to your checking account and, as indicated above, allows you to withdraw money from any bank or post office cash machine. Cash withdrawals are immediately debited from the account. Purchases are debited either at the end of the month or immediately, depending on the option chosen when opening the account. All debits incurred with the Carte Bleue will appear on the bank statement, and will not be billed separately. Banks generally limit the amount of cash withdrawals and charges allowed per week.

If you employ a French debit card whilst maintaining a negative balance on your account, expect the ATM to swallow your card. Settle matters with your bank and another card will be sent … at your expense.

Keep a record of the card number in a safe place; if it is lost or stolen, you will need the number in order to faire opposition (block the use of the card). A contact telephone number for reporting lost or stolen cards appears on the document issued with any new card. All ATMs also display the number to call in case of loss or theft of a card.


If planning to be in France for less than two years, you may prefer to use a non-resident account. With a non-resident account, unlimited amounts may be transferred to and from abroad, or from one non-resident account to another. You may not hold a resident and a non-resident account simultaneously.

With the arrival of the euro, the restrictions for deposits of “foreign” currency into non-resident accounts may have changed. It is recommended that you inquire at the bank where the account will reside about any specific restrictions that might apply.

Note also that as a resident of France, new rules indicate that you should inform your tax authorities of any accounts that you may be holding in a foreign country. EU regulations in place makes any interest bearing investments on those accounts are taxable and revenues sent to the EU country of residency.


There are two methods for transfering money automatically. One is a SWIFT transfer, employing the references found on your RIB and handled directly between the sending and receiving banks. Thee information on your RIB must be given to the sending bank in its entirety – meaning as indicated on the RIB, the following numbers: Etablissement, Guichet, Numéro de Compte and Clé RIB.

The other is PayPal that can also be used. Whatever you do, avoid Western Union, which has some of the highest tranfer costs.

International transfers can be time-consuming and expensive (about 25€ per transaction). Money transfers, even within France, often take five banking days. Cashing a check in foreign currency may take up to ten days and is very expensive — so to be avoided if possible.

Many find it easier to be paid by automatic deposit in local currency. Funds can be transferred from a foreign account with a foreign Visa or Eurocheque card. Euros may be drawn from a foreign card at ATMs that accept them, or at a bank. Some banks, like Crédit Lyonnais, will deposit a USA check in an account for a nominal fee. It is recommended that you inquire at the bank where the account will reside about their specific policy.


It is considered a serious crime to overdraw a compte courant (account from which debits are allowed by check or carte bleue) beyond the amount that your bank has allowed as an overdraft limit. Should you receive an overdraft notification, you will usually be allowed a 30-day grace period to rectify the situation. Otherwise, you will be penalized by ten years’ interdit bancaire (blacklist), meaning that you will not be issued a carte bleue or allowed to write checks for 10 years within France. This restriction is all encompassing. You cannot go down the street and open a new account with another banking institution: a “restriction” from one bank is automatically transmitted to all other French banks.

Most banks offer a service that links a type of non-checking account to a compte courant; (the name given to an account used for this purpose varies from bank to bank). Funds are automatically transferred into the compte courant as needed and the excess is returned to the non-checking account at the end of each month. It is recommended that you inquire at the bank where the account will reside about available services; merely opening a savings account at the branch will not ensure that the account will be used to cover compte courant overdrafts.

Because of the serious consequences of “bouncing” checks, payment by check is readily accepted everywhere in France (shops, restaurants, service stations, etc.), often without proof of identification (passport or carte de séjour) unless the sum is over 50€.

Note that if you “bounce checks” too often, your bank will report you to the French Central Bankng authority and you may be deprived of any checking account for a lengthy period of time. Which means you will be obliged to pay everything by cash or postal order — and not the least bit amusing. Many banks will put in place an “overdraft credit facility”, so ask first how much this facility costs

Unlike in the USA, banks do not return canceled checks with the bank statement. Bank statements indicate only the date and amount of checks presented for payment. Since the name of the beneficiary is not included it is important to record both the amount and beneficiary on the check stub each time a check is issued. A check register is usually included in the back of the checkbook, but they are not as convenient as those supplied with checkbooks in the USA. Regardless of the method used for recording transactions to the compte courant, French law requires banking records to be kept for a minimum of five years, so the name of the beneficiary must be recorded.

Barred checks (standard issue) cannot be endorsed to a third party by the beneficiary. Post-dated checks are not recognized legally, and therefore cannot be cashed prior to the date on the check.

How to write a check:

In most large shops the cash register fills in the check automatically. You will be expected to sign the check and give it to the cashier. Once the machine has printed the appropriate information, the check will be shown to you for your approval.

If your French is limited and writing out the numbers is a problem, ask the cashier to fill out the check for you. Another solution would be to keep a cross-referenced guide to numbers, such as the list included in this section, with your checkbook.

If there is any conflict between the written amount (alphabetically) and the numerical amount indicated, it is the alphabetic amount that prevails. So, be sure to get it right.

To the right is a box or line preceded by “€” for the amount to be written in digits. The decimal point is replaced by a comma, (e.g. “365,14€” rather than “365.14€”). To the left are two long lines preceded by “Payez contre ce chèque” for the written amount, including the cents. (It is recommended that a double-dash be placed before and after the amounts to prevent alteration of what has been written.) The third long line, preceded by “à” is for the beneficiary’s name. To the lower right are two lines preceded by “A” (at) for the place of issue, and “LE” (the) for the date of issue. Sign the check in the large space on the lower right. Do not make any changes on the check.


* 1.792,00 euros = Mille sept cent quatre-vingt-douze euros

* 243,30 euros = Deux cent quarante trois euros et trente cents (or “30 cents”)

* 175,65 euros = Cent soixante-quinze euros et soixante-cinq cents (or 65 cents”)

In fact, it is permited to write numerically any quantity in cents, but the euro amount must be written alphabetically.

Rules to remember:

* Always cross sevens or they will be taken as ones!

* Use a decimal point in place of commas and commas in place of decimal points, compared to the USA.

* The date must be written the French way as day/month/year (e.g. “November 6, 2001” would be written “11/6/01” in the USA, but would be written “6/11/01” in France). To eliminate confusion, it is recommended to write out the month whenever possible (e.g. “6 novembre 2001”).

* In writing the check, as mentioned above, if there is a confusion between the amount written in letters and the amount in numbers, it is the former that prevails. So, you must learn how to write correctly amounts alphabetically.

Prélevements (Automatic Debiting):

If desirous of having monthly recurrent bills paid automatically, you can have the bank establish a prévèlement (automatic transfer facility) that will debit your account every month (or other period that you stipulate). The amount is transfered to the bank account of the beneficiary of the debit; for instance, the electricity or telephone company or your landlord (for the rent).

(PayPal is also available for those who wih to pay by means of their VISA or Carte Blue card.)

Ordering a checkbook:

Most banks will automatically restock checkbooks in the branch where the account resides, upon request of a renouvellement automatique. To avoid running out of checks, use one of the last ten checks out of sequence, as banks automatically order a new checkbook upon receipt of one of the last ten outstanding checks. If there are numerous outstanding checks, (which is often the case if many checks have been voided due to errors), most banks will suspend the renouvellement automatique. Bring or send a signed statement to the branch indicating the numbers of the voided checks in order to reduce the number of outstanding checks so that the renouvellement automatique can be re-instated. The RIBs (see “Relevé d’Identité Bancaire”, below) included in a checkbook can also be used to request a renouvellement de chequier (new checkbook). Checkbooks are not usually mailed to your home unless specifically requested (at an additional fee). Checkbooks sent to the home arrive by registered mail, and require a signature for delivery. Checkbooks usually contain fifty checks.

Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB):

This piece of paper contains the name of the bank and branch where the account resides, as well as the account number and name and address of the accountholder(s). The French commonly pay their various regular expenses (i.e. rent, taxes, electricity, gas, and telephone) with an automatic payment directly from their bank account. When filling out a form for automatic payment, a Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB) will be required. There are several RIBs included within checkbooks for this purpose. Bank will provide additional RIBs upon request.


Chèques de voyage or “travelers” (travelers’ check), are available in different currencies, but must be ordered up to a week in advance. Order foreign currency in advance as well, to ensure that it will be available. If unable to give sufficient advance notice to a local branch, traveler’s checks and foreign currency can be obtained on short notice from the main branch of most banks in Toulouse center.

Travelers’ checks, whether in dollars or euros, are not readily accepted in France. It is recommended that travelers’ checks be cashed at a bank or exchange office in advance, or that some other back-up form of payment be available when attempting to use them.


Short-term loans (fewer than twelve months) are more difficult to obtain than loans for one to three years. Longer-term loans require the information typically required by lending institutions in your home country. Remember to supply proof of employment and salary.


Most checking accounts do not earn interest on the outstanding balance; non checking accounts pay about 3% interest. Larger sums (over 1.500€) can be invested in a SICAV, which offers a larger return. Contact your local bank for information on current rates and regulations.


Most banks offer Saturday service (10:00 to noon) and are often closed Mondays, downtown Toulouse being the exception. Many banks close over the lunch period. On the day before a public holiday, banks will usually close around 11:00 and will remain closed until their next normal working day.


When closing an account, any unused checks and charge cards issued on the account must be returned. The account must be closed in person at the branch where the account resides. Make sure that all checks and overseas charges to any cards issued on the account have cleared and that any automatic payments have been cancelled in writing.

Banking Vocabulary:

Agence ……………………………………………………… Branch

Guichet ……………………. ……………………………….. Cash or teller’s booth/counter

Retrait d’espèces ……………………………………………. Cash withdrawal made at the bank counter

Retrait CB …………………………………………………… Carte bleue cash withdrawal from a cash machine.

Prélèvement ………………………………………………… Authorized automatic payment. (See “Relevé D’identité Bancaire” above.)

Facture carte ……………………………………………….. Charge made with carte bleue.

Remise …………………………………………………….. Funds that have been deposited in the account

Chèque sur rayon ………………………………………….. Check that has been deposited in the account

Opération de change ………………………………………. Purchase of foreign currency

Versement …………………………………………………… Money paid into the account (deposit)

Virement reçu d’un tiers …………………………………… Deposit made to the account by a third party

Relevé de compte ………………………………………….. Bank statement

Remise de chèques ………………………………………… Deposit slip

Solde …………………………………………………………. The account balanc

(Dix) jours débiteurs ……………………………………….. Number of days (10) the account is overdrawn

Déposer de l’argent ……………………………………….. Make a deposit

Distributeur Automatique de Billets (DAB) ………….. Automatic Teller Machine (ATM)