TAPIF: How to open up a French bank account

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Related imageOpening up a bank account can be a pretty hard thing to do whether you are doing it in your native language or not. As I mentioned in my previous posts, I had the opportunity to learn a lot (including how to open a bank account) while living in France. I've heard mixed reviews when it comes to opening up a French bank account from former assistants. A lot of assistants will have their referent teacher help them with the process have an appointment set up with their local bank who is aware of your situation. Unfortunately, this was not the case for myself and I had the chance to learn how to open a bank account for the first time in a foreign country (yay!). For those of you who are currently in the same situation as I was, here is a guide on what you'll need to do for opening a bank account.

You will need the following documents:

(1) Your contract (bring multiple copies)
(2) Passport
(3) A signature from a reference
(4) Filled out application form from the bank
(5) Permanent address

I should let you know that depending on which bank (and branch) that you select, you might have to bring additional documents.

As an American, I had a harder time opening up a bank account in Montpellier because they realized based off my contract that I could only legally live in Europe for less than a year's time. Hence having a person that can guarantee that if something happens, they are able to back you up. Don't worry, you won't have to ask an old grandma off the street for money or that random family connection that you have in Grenoble, your principal or school teacher can sign the form for you saying that they will back you up.

Extra materials that I would recommend include your current American bank account statement along with a statement from your principal. Many banks will see your visa and notice that you won't be living in France for even a year and laugh at the idea of even opening up a bank account. Explain that you do in fact have money, but that your GOVERNMENT POSITION requires you to have a French account. 
When opening a bank account make sure you know what kind you are setting up. You have two options of the type of bank accounts to open up: either a savings or checking account. It's honestly up to you on what kind you prefer to have. Personally, I preferred having a checking account. When opening up a checking account, you will receive a code (similar to SSN) called a 'RIB'. THis number is used when completing an order that requires a subscription- such as a gym or SNCF's 'Happy Card'.

Lastly, it's time to answer the question of which bank to choose. This is a great question to ask your teachers about what the previous assistant did. Typically, there is one bank that they work with (even if the teacher doesn't hold your hand for the entire process). If you don't have any suggestions, I recommend looking at which one not only works best for your area in France but also around Europe. Having been a member of Banque Postale (don't recommend), limited my options when I was outside of France I was forced to use my American debit card. My personal favorite is BNP (Paris Bas) because they are located not only in France but also around the world. BNP even has an office located in New York City (right off of Times Square) and is (supposedly) connected with US Bank.

Here's a short video to help explain the process (dont' worry, it's not THAT bad).

Have you opened a French bank account? How was the process for you? Comment below!

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