Banking In France

You will need to have a general knowledge of the banking system if you are to purchase a property in France. Below is some general information that will help familiarize you with banks and their related services in France.

France has a highly efficient system of banking although you will need to be prepared for more paperwork and waiting than in the UK, particularly when applying for a mortgage or other loan application.

French banks employ particular measures to cut down on fraud and bad debt: In France banks will issue only Visa and MasterCard debit cards for a yearly fee of around 33 euros, while credit cards are not widely available, as in the UK. Payments via debit card can be made in one payment at the end of each month rather than immediately. In addition, a pin code needs to be used with each over the counter card transaction. These measures successfully cut down on credit card debt and fraud problems notorious in some other countries.

The largest French commercial banks, such as Societe Generale, Credit Lyonnais, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, le Groupe CIC and Credit Commercial de France, rank among the largest banks in the world. Societe Generale is a favourite amongst foreigners seeking mortgages and seems to require a little less paperwork than in other banks.

French banks can normally offer 100% mortgage finance to foreigners and, with interest rates capped at 4%, a French mortgage is a very attractive option to many investors. Fixed rate mortgages are available for long terms only of between 10 and 20 years. The maximum term for a French mortgage is 20 years or up to the age of 70, whichever is sooner.

To open a bank account you will need:

  • Passport or a residence permit
  • Proof of home address in France (eg. a bill or rental/sales agreement)
  • Proof of earnings (pay slip or similar) in order to decide upon your overdraft limit

Online banking is a highly popular option and it is widely used, however quality can vary greatly and most banks make a monthly charge for the use of online services. Websites for the major banks often have an English version for non-French speakers.

Links to main French banks and financial institutions:

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