French banking

French Banking with a Smile 

After more than ten years of banking in France, we have observed that the amount of funds one has in a particular bank does not necessarily reflect the quality or consistency of service. Our clients have dabbled in Premier banking & regular Private banking in several different banks & had equally disappointing results. The key is learning specific vocabulary, always asking lots of questions, & verifying if you need any extra documents because you are not French. Don’t forget patience; our banking systems are not the same.

After going through several different bank managers (they rotate frequently) & several different banks, some clients were so excited when the latest welcomed them with a friendly, reassuring smile. The manager earnestly informed them that they were in good hands & that she could easily meet all their needs. Relevant questions were answered,  & they left in high spirits, feeling confident that their perseverance had finally paid off. You can imagine how underwhelmed they were when her sincerity proved false, however professional her intentions.

Perhaps they changed their address one too many times, or wanted to send one too many international transfers. It still took three attempts to actually accomplish what they wanted. In the USA, we are accustomed to nearly free banking & can’t help but feel slightly cheated to pay so many fees.  There are almost always significant fees involved in French banking. Although there are sometimes good student account offers, no standard bank is free. There is even a fee to close an account. Occasionally, you will come across a very helpful bank manager who will from time to time follow through a request with precision. Make the manager your friend, & he or she can be helpful. They are the ones who are supposed to understand French banking & all the forms, fees, account options available. However, just like any friend, they may also disappoint you.

If your cash is coming from an US bank that is unaccustomed to sending international transfers, it may not know what routing number you need to make a transfer to & from a French account. You will need the RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) from your French account & the Fedwire BIC number or SWIFT code from your US account. The RIB is a slip of paper containing the account holder’s name, the name of the bank, the branch, the bank code, sort code,  account number, the RIB code. For general banking info, check out our Paris Resources page.

We have finally arrived at a consistent point of service with our own bank, & have no intention of rocking the boat anytime soon. However, some colleagues have gushing reviews of a fairly new online bank, Boursorama. Most of their services are indeed free. There is no physical bank to visit; however, there are videos to assist you with banking actions, & you can request a call-back for further assistance. The site is in French, but if you use Google Chrome as a web browser, it does a pretty good job of translating the site very quickly into any number of languages.

Account receiving money: le compte destinataire

Account holder: Titulaire

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): TEG

ATM machine: un guichet/ or/ un DAB (Distributeur Automatique de Billets)

Balance: le solde

Balance sheet: le bilan

Bank: la banque/une agence bancaire

Bank card: une carte bancaire

Bank card is immediately debited: Débit Immédiat

Bank check: un chèque de banque

Bank statement: le relevé de compte

Bank teller: le caissier/la caissiere

Bank/wire transfer: un virement bancaire

Beneficiary: le bénéficiaire

Bounced check: un chèque sans provision

Cash: du liquide / or/ en éspèces (funds in cash)

Checking account: un compte-chèques

Check: un chèque

Check book: un carnet de chèques / un chéquier

Commission on receipt of international funds: Rapatriement Currency

Credit: le crédit
Credit card: une carte de crédit

(to) Credit an account: approvisionner

(to) Credit an account/make a deposit: Déposer (de l’argent)

Currency: les devises / la monnaie étrangère /  la monnaie
Cancellation of payment: une opposition

Date account is debited or credited: la date de valeur

Date of transaction: la date d’opération
Debit: débit
Deferred credit on a card: Débit différé (more commonly used than a credit card)
Deposit (for a loan or mortgage): l’apport (m)

Deposit/to deposit funds: un depot/ verser des fonds

Details of a bill or loan:  l’échéancier (m)
Direct debit essential for setting up your utilities: un prélèvement automatique


Endorse a check: Endosser un chèque

Exchange bureau: un bureau de change

Expiration date: la date d’expiration

Exchange rate: le cours du change / le taux de change

Guarnatee: la caution

Fees: les frais

IBAN: (International Bank Account Number) Letters and numbers that identify a bank account for international transfers

Interest rate: le taux d’intérêt

Interest paid (on a loan or overdraft): agios (m,p)

Investment: un placement

Joint account: un compte joint

Loan: un prêt
Monthly repayment schedule: Tableau d’amortissement

Monthly payment or repayment: mensualité

Mortgage: crédit hypothécaire

Notice to third party holder: Avis à Tiers Détenteur

Overdrawn account: Commission de compte débiteur

Overdrawn/Overdraft: Découver

PIN number: le code personnel/confidentiel

Receipt slip: Avis d’opération

Reimbursement: Remboursement

RIB: (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) your French account details, to make transfers directly into your French account

(a) Safe: le coffre-fort

(to) Save: economiser

Savings account: un compte d’épargne

Secured loan: prêt garanti

Seizure of funds: une Saisie Attribution

Tax: impôt (m,p)

TIP:  (Titre Interbancaire de Paiement) can be signed by the account holder in order to give permission to directly debit his/her account the amount requested by the company. This is used very often to pay bills that need to be paid regularly

Travellers Check: un cheque de voyage
Valid: valable

Vault: la chambre forte

Withdraw money: Retirer (de l’argent)

Wire transfer: un virement bancaire


About ParisExpat

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