“That’s so depressing!” was my American friend’s reaction to me saying that opening a bank account was the easiest thing since I moved here.
If, like me, you are moving to France from North America you will find that life can get a little let’s say “complicated”.
So I decided to make it fun, while leaving some tips that may be helpful for other fellow Canadians/Americans who may be facing a similar situation.
Normally, if you have the right documents, as in a visa and a proof of address, opening a bank account and getting it to work should be a very straight forward manner, unless you are in France.
Keeping in mind that the French have a different definition for customer service than we do in North America, I gathered all my papers and went around the banks in my neighborhood. Most of them broadly answered my questions with some obviously losing interest after a couple of questions or clarifications. I ended up choosing Credit Agricole because they actually answered all my questions.
You will need to wait couple of weeks for the carte bleue to arrive to the branch, while the pin code will be mailed separately to the address you put down, so don’t expect to be able to use the card right away. And while you are at it, order a checkbook, it is free and checks are widely used in France, it will take about a week to arrive.
Now, I was told that I should have “un peu d’argent” in my account in order to be able to use the card but nobody will actually tell me how much that is. I figured it is about couple of hundred euros, especially that I needed an active visa card so I can actually transfer money. But I guess that wasn’t enough, when I went to check if the card arrived, they initially said no but when I explained that I am leaving in 2 days and asked if I can expect it to arrive before, they looked again and “found it”. They also insisted that I should have “un peu plus d’argent” before I can use it again without specifying what that actually meant. Needless to say, the card didn’t actually work and I had to wait to come back and inquire when I realized that they gave me the card without taking the hold off it.
So, to make a long story short, if you have your documents after a few visits to the bank you should enjoy the luxury of owning an operational carte bleue.
– You can open a bank account without having a job.
– You can only open a bank account in the arrondissement corresponding to your address.
– You need your passport and a copy of your long-term visa in order to open the account.
– Your proof of address can be a note from the person who is hosting you (without pay) and it can be immediate, or a proof that you are renting a space AT LEAST FOR THREE MONTHS.
– Stay away from HSBC, it is expensive and doesn’t really work as well as you think an international bank should.
– PNB Paribas has some connection or partnership with a Canadian bank, but the receptionist couldn’t remember which one (and I chose not to go with them so I didn’t inquire further).
– If your home bank doesn’t allow international transfer to be done virtually, make sure you get a “visa carte bleue” with a bank that your home bank approves transfers to.
– AND, do not expect things to work from the first time!