Buying a house in france: part 18: banking & finance: French banks

BNP Paribas

Most French banks are what would be termed building societies in the UK and consequently the banking scene is fairly different in nature in France.

There are only two proper banks, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas. These both operate nationwide networks but their branches are largely confined to the towns so they may not be entirely practical if you live in an isolated village.

As in other countries the Post Office and co-operative movement operate their own banks offering some advantageous accounts which we’ll be covering separately.

The majority of banks are effectively small regional building societies. For example, the Credit Agricole you see in Normandy is a totally different outfit to that which you’ll see in Paris. Although it is possible to open an account in one region and operate it via the branches in another region, this will entail delays in having your deposits credited and limits the facilities you have access to. So, I can’t use the deposit machines in Perpignan with the card from my account in Normandy.

The other banks worth looking into are those of the various supermarkets. By and large these are re-branded versions of some of the banks covered above but not always, for example Auchan operates its own bank. Generally speaking, the charges for these accounts are lower.

The main postal banks are those operated by Axa (a full-service bank) and Ing (savings accounts only).

One difficulty that you will have in opening any of the accounts is that you are usually required to provide proof of income. If you are living in France, they will ask for proof of a French income and this can take several years to acquire so it’s generally better to open an account with one of the banks before you move here or very shortly after you get here.

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