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FRENCH BANK ACCOUNT


Julie Mills

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Can anyone tell me which is the best Bank account to have in France?  We have had a property for over 10 years and bank with Credit Mutuel. They charge 2.5 Euros a month for the account.  We don't have a cheque book, paying bills is a nightmare as we have to use an "RIB" for each payment, which they only give us 6 at a time.  We pay the electricity by automatic payment but nothing else as we don't know how to do it and they won't help us.  Also paying money into the bank is a nightmare - this can only be done in person when we are in France (which as we both work full time is not that frequent) or payment from England with a charge of at least £15 each time.  Surely there must be a better way to run a bank account and pay bills and pay in money for French property owners - can anyone help please?

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Paying cash in is often a face-to-face affair and banks will cite 'money laundering' as the reason. But the 2.5euros a month ... do you get a cash debit card for that, or perhaps it is for an overdraft, or for you to be able to access your account by internet? Sometimes there is a charge so that, with a statement, you receive one of the bank's newsletters (in French). A friend of ours was being charged by Credit Agricole and it turned out that she had an overdraft facility (which she hadn't requested) and also that she got the newsletters which she never read! Stopping both those also stopped the charge.

We're with Credit Agricole and no charges, apart from 30-odd euros a year, one off charge, for the provision of a cash-card. Most banks charge for those but often, each time you use the cash-card for purchases, they give you a small 'cash-back' into your account. It's worth having one of these cashcards so that you can purchase petrol at a 24hr unmanned station.

Others may have their own advice but I'm happy with Credit Agricole, although I've never had to pay cash in so can't advise what their policy is.
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You can complete, date and sign the tear-off section at the bottom of your bills, the Titre Interbancaire de Paiement (TIP), and send it back together with a RIB. They usually even provide an envelope for this, with a reminder of what to include printed on it. From then on the company will take payments directly from your account.

I believe this is explained on the bills.

I was pleased to find such a simple system in place when we bought our first house in France some 20 years ago.

If you are running out of RIBs just make a few photocopies. They are only bits of paper with your bank details.

 

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I know its the easy option but my Britline account has worked very well for me.  I dont pay in anything but reasonably large top ups when I think the rate looks ok but I have internet access (including a "generate a new rib" function) cheque book and debit card.  I pay about €30pa for the card and under €2per month as the minimum account running costs.  Have had no problems whatsoever.
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Many English people seem to be opposed to RIBs, which give your bank details. I think they see RIBs as laying their accounts open to fraud, whereas RIBs have been in common use in France for years. The TIP system for paying bills is very simple, exactly as explained above, or this site explains it in full detail.

It is simple to arrange a regular, or intermittent, bank transfer between British and French banks. The high street banks will all do this, for varying small charges, so it pays to shop around, and the French bank should not make a charge for receiving such a payment. You can avoid transfer charges altogether by using a currency broker, many of which operate a regular small payment scheme if you open an account (for an example try www.currencies.co.uk - other brokers are available) though you don't get the same security as with a regular bank.

But really, 2.5€ per month is about right for operating a bank account in France. Also, in general French banks don't like handling cash. Many operate an envelope system for paying in which is far more open to fraud than using a RIB.

Despite the well publicised 2008 fraud (since when many other banks have been far more seriously discredited) we have always found Société Générale to offer a good, nation-wide service. Many other banks operate on a regional basis which means you can only pay in at a branch in your home region.

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[quote user="Julie M"]

We don't have a cheque book, paying bills is a nightmare as we have to use an "RIB" for each payment,[/quote]

I don't understand why you don't have a cheque book. I thought it was obligatory for all banks to provide this.

You could also look at La Banque Postale ie your local post office. A no frills account, with free internet access, which costs about 4€50 a year in charges and provides a cheque book, though a bank card would be extra.

Sue

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[quote user="Julie M"]

 We pay the electricity by automatic payment but nothing else as we don't know how to do it and they won't help us. 

[/quote]

If I have understood you correctly you are trying to get the bank to arrange the automatic payments. As in UK Direct Debits (Prélèvements Automatiques) are normally arranged through the supplier and not the bank.  If you wish to set them up you should contact the supplier stating that you want to set up a Prélèvement Automatique and they will provide an authorisation for signature which you return to them and they then forward to the bank.

The various taxes (Foncière, Habitation) can also be done this way either on line or by a visit to your Tresor Public when you are in France.

Apologies if I have misunderstood or am "teaching you to suck eggs."[:)]

Also, as has been said, you can just photocopy some RIBs as they are nothing more than pieces of paper giving the necessary information.

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[quote user="Julie M"]

No we don't have newsletters, debit card or cheque book!  I'm now going to write to my bank to see what they can offer!

[/quote]

I'm pleased to see that you wrote "offer" not "give" - French banks don't.

John

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Credit Ag have been very good for us - yes they do charge around 6 euros a month but we get a monthly statement and can pay in money/cash and draw out without any problems - we do not have the Britline version and they pay direct debits on time for us without hassle. We have cards and chequebook - by only having one card you can save on that as well.
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I'm a big fan of Caisse d'Epargne. Have never had any of the problems mentioned here, can do fast and efficient online banking, and all bills are paid by prelevement. I pay a small fee for a gold card, cheque book etc. I have a lovely personal banker, too, in case I have any queries (though admittedly he doesn't speak any English). More RIBs can be printed off from the website and I've not had one rejected.

Plus, they pay better interest on current and savings accounts than my UK bank does, and this pretty much covers the fee.

I use Currencies Direct for a monthly £150 transfer for which there is no transfer fee and which keeps the account more than topped-up enough for all the bills plus a bit extra in case I need it suddenly. Before I set that up I was able to pay cash into the account with no problem when here.

It's just over four years since I opened my Caisse d'Epargne account and I don't have a bad word to say about them!
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72 euros a year sounds quite a lot! 

When we still lived in the UK we got statements and a cheque book.  We were charged around 4 euros a month which we assumed was a charge for a foreigner's account. After 5 years a French friend said we shouldn't pay charges and I discovered it was for insurance - which we had never asked for, didn't need and would have refused if offered!  There was no apology and when I wrote to complain it took a month to get a bland reply ignoring all the points I had made.

We now live in France and do not pay charges as we don't have a bank card.  Most bills are paid by cheque and we withdraw cash and pay in shops with our Nationwide debit card.  We thought of changing to La Poste but the queues there are always long and very slow moving.

 

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