Paying Bills & Banking In France
The basic French systems for paying utility bills and opening bank accounts are similar to those in the UK. Online banking in France is on the rise and there are also some familiar UK banks now physically operating across France, so you might be able to stay with your existing bank.
Paying Utility Bills
Typically in France utility bills are sent every two months. You can pay upon receiving each bill (by bank transfer or cheque) or you can set up a direct debit to automatically pay each bill as it arrives. Meter readings are usually taken once or twice a year, however smart metres are increasingly common.
Bills from utility companies tend to be split into three charges.
- Subscription Charge (‘Abonnement’) – This is based on the tariff you have agreed to.
- Usage Charge – Based on the actual amount of energy/water used.
- Fees & Taxes – These are separated in your bill but payable at the same time as the other two charges.
Paying By Cash
Cash is still king in France and more commonly used than in the UK. Legally transactions above €3,000 are required to be paid by other means (such as cheque or bank transfer).
Paying By Cheque
Cheques are still widely used in France. French cheques clear much more quickly (usually within 48 hours) and are treated as cash under French law, so even backdated cheques will be cleared immediately. Should a cheque not have sufficient funds to be paid, charges are applied. Failure to pay charges will result in fines and can prevent you from obtaining a debit/credit card or opening another account, even with another bank.
Paying By Transfers
To pay via bank transfer (virements), you’ll need to provide full account details of the payee (name, account number, branch name, branch address). These details can be found on the bill which will either be an RIB (rélevé d’identité bancaire) or RIP (rélevé d’identité postal).
Paying By Direct Debit
The most common and practical way of paying regular bills, direct debits (prélèvements automatiques), can be set up in branch, via online banking or telephone banking. Once again you will need the payee’s details in advance using the RIB or RIP.
As with most European countries, online banking is becoming increasingly common and most French banks have apps to manage your account, set up direct debits, make instant payments/transfers, etc.
It is generally easier to have a French bank in order to make payments but not a legal requirement (despite some claims to the contrary). However, you may find sticking with your English speaking bank easier for communication or dealing with problems.
If you do prefer the idea of staying with an English speaking bank, Barclays, HSBC and Citibank all operate in France. It’s also worth noting that larger French based companies like BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole have English speaking telephone banking.
Opening A Bank Account In France
If you do wish to open a French bank account, it’s a relatively simple process, similar to opening an account in the UK. You can open a French held account before moving to France as long as you place some funds in it. You will be provided with a bank card, access to online services, direct debit facilities, although some banks won’t provide credit cards to non-residents.
Depending on where you’re banking and the exact circumstances, you are most likely to be asked to provide;
- Photo ID, proof of identity.
- Proof of address.
- Proof of earnings/employment contract.
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate (if opening a joint account).
All the above information was correct at the time of writing. French legislation is liable to change and we recommend you check with the correct French authorities in regards to all legal requirements prior to your move to France.