How to Open a Bank Account in France

If you’re relocating and need an account to hold, spend and receive euros, you may be wondering how to open a bank account in France. While there are lots of great banks to choose from in France and the broader Eurozone, getting an account opened before you have a French proof of residence can be tricky. That can mean opening your French bank account ahead of time – or before you have a full set of documents – can prove impossible.

This guide walks through account opening options and requirements for some major French banks – and some alternatives like Wise and Revolut as a more flexible comparison. More on that, later.

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What documents do I need?

The exact documents you need to open an account with a traditional French bank will vary a little based on the account type.

However, in most cases you’ll need proof of identity, and proof of a French residential address. You may also need proof of income depending on your account preference.

To give an idea of what’s accepted, here’s what HSBC asks customers to upload to open a French bank account online:

  • Proof of ID – passport, National identity card or French resident card (additional documents like a driving license may also be requested)
  • Proof of address – utility or phone bill, rent agreement, or proof of staying with a French host family
  • Proof of income – pay slip, tax statement or student ID

It’s helpful to note that there are some banks – like N26 which we’ll look at in more detail later – which accept proof of ID from some other European countries as well as France.

If you’re already a European resident you might find you have more choice for your French bank account – but if you’re still in the US you may find it trickier to get started. More on a smart solution, next.

Save the paperwork with alternative solutions like Wise or Revolut

If you’re trying to set up a euro bank account before you move to France you may be better off with a modern online alternative like Wise or Revolut, instead of a traditional French bank.

Providers like these offer accounts which can hold, send, spend and receive euros, alongside a range of other currencies. You’ll be able to open your account with a US proof of identity and address, which means you can access EUR bank details even if France isn’t your home just yet.

Set up your account online or via the provider’s app and complete the verification process digitally before you travel.

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How to open a bank account in France

If you’re already in France and have a proof of ID and address, you’ll be able to open a French bank account online pretty easily. Providers like HSBC let you upload images of your paperwork, and a signature, to get verified and access your account details.

If you don’t have a French mailing address you’ll probably find it harder to set up an account with a traditional bank – check out some digital alternatives like Wise or Revolut for EUR accounts you can open from the US.

Can I open a bank account in France before arrival?

It’s pretty standard to need a proof of French address to open a bank account – which in practice makes it tricky to open a regular bank account before arrival.

The key exception to this is for people with a residential address which is also in the EU or a Eurozone country. Some banks will allow customers from elsewhere in the region to open accounts using their home proof of address, even if it’s not in France.

If you’re not in Europe yet you’ll probably need to try a specialist account service – we’ve got a couple coming up to kickstart your research.

Which account is best in France for foreigners?

While there’s a huge choice of local, regional and global banks in France, you may struggle to find an account you can get fully set up before you arrive and get a proof of address. Instead, digital specialist services may be a better option.

Let’s take a look at a few examples, including a couple of specialist account providers, digital bank N26 and global giant HSBC:

ServiceWiseRevolutN26HSBC
Currencies covered50+ currencies including EURTypically around 28 currencies including EUREUREUR
Open before you arrive in FranceYesYesOpen with proof of residence from one of 22 European countriesNo
Open onlineYesYesYesYes
Opening feeNo feeNo feeNo feeNo fee
Maintenance feeNo feeFee free standard plans are available – or customers can upgrade to accounts which have a monthly chargeFee free standard plans are available – or customers can upgrade to accounts which have a monthly charge2.5 EUR/month
 
Additional annual fees apply if you want a linked bank card
International money transfersLow fee, varies by currencyFee varies by currency and payment valueIncoming and outgoing EUR payments to EU countries are usually free. Receiving a SWIFT payment: 12.50 EUR + 0.1%. Outgoing international payments are processed through Wise – low, variable fees applyGlobal transfers have no fee, exchange rate markups will apply

We picked out N26 and HSBC as a couple of the more flexible French banks – N26 will let you apply with a proof of address from a range of European countries, and HSBC has fully online account opening options. However, in both cases you’ll struggle to get an account set up without being in France or the EU already.

If you’re still in the US an online account provider like Wise or Revolut can be a smart choice, to access low cost banking services in euros alongside USD.

Go to WiseRead Revolut Review

Wise

Wise offers multi-currency accounts which can be used to hold, exchange, send, spend and manage 50+ currencies including both US dollars and euros.

You can open your account while you’re still in the US and get bank details for up to 10 currencies – including USD and EUR – to receive payments, as well as having the option to send money to 80+ countries and spend internationally with a linked Wise debit card.

Wise is a specialist in low cost currency conversion which uses the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. Use your Wise account as you transition from the US to Europe, to get low fees and great rates every time you need to switch from one currency to another.

Account types: Both personal and business customers can open a Wise multi-currency account from the US with no minimum balance or monthly fees to pay. Read Wise fees to learn more.

Eligibility: Accounts are offered in most countries around the world – you’ll need a government issued ID and in some cases a proof of address or tax number to apply. Full details of availability by location available on the Wise website.

Is Wise safe? Yes. Wise is also overseen by a range of global regulatory bodies around the world.

Go to Wise

Revolut

Revolut describes itself as a financial super app. Accounts are offered to customers based in the US and a range of other countries, and can hold and exchange around 28 currencies including euros. You’ll be able to spend on your linked debit card, get some fee free currency exchange depending on your account type, and even earn interest on your account balance.

Revolut offers free standard accounts, or if you want to unlock more features you can upgrade to a paid plan for a monthly fee.

Account types: Standard account plans are free or you can upgrade to a paid plan on a variety of different tiers – if you’re in the US, plans range up to 16.99 USD/month.

Eligibility: Available to customers with addresses in the UK, the EEA, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Japan, and the US.

Is it safe? Yes. Revolut operates safely in the countries it serves, with oversight from a range of global bodies.

Read Revolut Review

N26

N26 is a European digital bank which offers accounts to customers in 20+ countries around Europe, including France. It’s free to get a basic standard account, or you can choose to pay a monthly fee of up to 16.90 EUR to upgrade to a premium account tier.

It’s worth noting that at the time of writing, N26 has some limitations on the number of accounts that can be opened per month, due to overwhelming demand. This may mean some or all products are limited based on your country of residence. Restrictions change based on demand – check the latest before you choose N26 for your euro account.

Account types: Standard, Premium and Business accounts are available. Standard accounts are free to open, with no monthly fee.

Eligibility: Available to residents of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Is it safe? Yes. N26 is a reputable European bank with a full banking license for the EU.

HSBC

HSBC is a very familiar banking name which offers services in a broad range of countries around the world. HSBC has a Continental Europe division, which offers accounts for French residents which can be fully opened online. To get started you’ll need to register an account and upload images of your documents for verification. Account options vary and can be tailored with different linked credit and debit cards, which have their own features and fees.

When you open your account you’ll be assigned a dedicated relationship manager who can help you manage your money and use your account. Support can be offered in person and virtually, and English speaking staff are available for customers who aren’t confident to transact in French.

Account types: Range of account options which all offer a dedicated relationship manager and English speaking customer service.

Eligibility: Accounts can be opened online but you’ll need a French address to apply.

Is it safe? Yes. HSBC is a reputable global bank with a long history, huge customer base, and banking licenses everywhere it offers services.

What are the costs?

Opening a bank account in France will not usually involve paying any specific fee, but you may be asked to deposit a set minimum amount of money.

You may also find there are monthly or annual account and card fees, as well as transaction costs. Because banking in Europe can come with significantly different fees compared to the US you’ll want to review the fee schedule carefully before you start using your account.

Online specialists like Wise and Revolut can offer low-cost and often free options. Revolut has different account types with various monthly fees, including a Standard account which is free, while Wise personal accounts are free to open and there are no monthly fees.

Go to WiseRead Revolut Review

Tips for transferring money

If you’re moving to Europe you may well need to manage your money across both EUR and USD for a while, which will mean sending transfers internationally.

Overseas payments can be pretty costly, with fees that are often confusing. You’ll need to compare both the transfer fee and the exchange rate being applied whenever you send money to make sure you get a good deal.

Here are some tips to cut the costs on international wire transfer fees:

  • Compare the exchange rate you’re offered against the mid-market exchange rate to see if a markup is being used
  • Review the terms and conditions of your specific account to see the transfer fee which will apply
  • Check if there are third party fees associated with the SWIFT network – these can push up the overall costs

Conclusion

French banks commonly ask for a proof of address from France – or in some cases from another EU or EEA country. That can make it hard to open a French bank account with a regular bank before you relocate, or if you’re only planning on being in France on a temporary basis.

If you need a euro account but can’t provide a French proof of address, check out specialist providers like Wise or Revolut, to get an account opened and verified online, with EUR banking details and a linked payment card.

Go to WiseRead Revolut Review

FAQ:

  1. Can a foreigner open an account in France?

Yes, foreigners can open French bank accounts. However, you’ll often be asked for a French proof of address, or at the very least an address from another Eurozone or EEA country. If you’re still based in the US a flexible multi-currency account from a specialist provider may be a better option.

  1. How much do I need to open a bank account in France?

It’s usually free to open a French bank account, but there may be a minimum initial deposit, monthly or annual card fees, and there are always some transaction fees to consider, depending on how you use your account.

  1. Can I open a French bank account online?

Some French banks do allow online account opening if you have a proof of address document. Check out HSBC as one option with online opening, and English language customer service.

  1. Can I open a bank account in France before landing?

You’ll normally need proof of your French address to open an account with a mainstream bank – making it almost impossible to arrange before you arrive. However, online and digital specialist services like Wise and Revolut may be more flexible, with accounts you can open with proof of address from your home country instead.

 

By Seyma Mektepli Updated October 10th, 2022