Whether you are resident in France, buying a second home or intending to relocate in the future, life will be much easier if you have a French bank account, particularly if you are hoping to take out a loan or mortgage. We chatted to the Banque Populaire in Céret, who gave us the following useful tips to guide you through the forest of paperwork and acronyms of the French banking system.

Documents needed

☛ Personal identification (an identity card or passport)
☛ Proof of your address in France (utility bill, rental or sales agreement dating back less than three months)
☛ Written proof of income or earnings

There are a lot of forms to fill in (this IS France!) so try to call in to your chosen bank and open your account in person if possible. The Banque Populaire will provide you with an English speaker to take you through the paperwork and fill in the application form (called a mandate), as will many other banks, most of whom are very interested in attracting foreign custom.

RIB: Relevé d’Identité Bancaire

When you open your bank account, you will be given several copies of a RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) which provides all your account and bank details – account number, (numéro de compte) code guichet (sort code)…. .
The RIB is similar to an IBAN in English and will be required by anyone who will be sending you funds, or taking utility payments from your account.
RIBs are also provided in your cheque book and are available at bank cash points

Utility services such as EDF or telecom will automatically send you a direct debit form (prélèvement automatique) with your first bill. Send this back to them signed and dated with a RIB.
You will be asked for your RIB when setting up monthly payments or receiving regular amounts into your bank. A RIB helps you to ensure that your account details are passed on correctly and mistakes are not made in the filling in of transfer requests.

TIP (titre interbancaire de paiement).

This is the detachable payment slip at the bottom of bills received, where you do not already have a regular direct debit or standing order set up. It is quite simply a one-off permission slip authorising the service provider to debit your account with the sum requested and will usually already be printed out with your account details. (If not enclose a RIB when sending back). Of course, if you are not resident, the easiest option is to set up a direct debit (prélèvement automatique) so that you do not have to worry about sending the payment slip back every month and ultimately risk being cut off if the payment does not arrive.

Transfers (virements)

Set up a ‘virement permanent’ for making regular payments of the same sum and a ‘prélèvement automatique’ for paying bills which vary in amount. Both are easily set up by sending your RIB to the party concerned who will then pass it on to the bank.


down payment
bank notes
Carnet de chèques/Chéquier
cheque book
Compte courant
current account
Compte d’épargne
savings account
Crédit hypothécaire
Security code on a credit card (last 3 digits on back side)
Distributeurs (automatiques de billets) DABcash point (get statements, RIBs, put in cheques and cash…..)
Foreign Currency
Espèces/Argent liquidecash
Faire oppositionstop a payment order
 IBAN International Bank Account Number
Prélèvement automatique
Direct debit
Power of attorney
Relevé de comptestatement of account
Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB)Bank account identifier codes
Retirer (de l’argent)Withdrawal of funds
TauxRate of interest
Taux de changeExchange rate
TitulaireAccount holder
Virement bancaireBank transfer/Direct deposit


  1. In our experience it is not possible to book an appointment to open an account at ANY bank in less than a week; sometimes it takes more than 2 weeks for them to find a slot. They usually want details of your French taxable income – and if you don’t have any (eg it’s a holiday home) the quantity of documents they want instead rises … and rises … so that one appointment is never enough. Some documents must be less than 3 months old, which is fair enough, but when you rock up with say a letter from your insurers that you got for the previous appointment 10 weeks earlier (which had to be aborted as they’d decided a few minutes in they needed yet another different document you’d not been told about) you’re told it’s too old, even though dated less than 3 months earlier.

    Be aware that service in French banks is generally poor: the bank we have been trying to move from for over two years first stopped accepting or issuing cash (which some might say is a primary function of a bank); then shut up in the town altogether, relocating somewhere miles away not near a station or bus-stop. They don’t respond to emails and increase their charges whenever they want (there is no free banking in France even for a very simple no debit-card account).

    Bonne chance!

    1. That sounds awful and I totally understand how you can dislike french banks so much, but I don’t think that’s true of all banks.
      Certainly, mountains of (to us often irrelevant) paperwork is hard to swallow and some ‘fonctionnaires’ actually seem to thrive on it, and equally certainly, the many unclear charges that seem to appear on statements are frustrating to say the least, but i think that banks are like anywhere – nice people and good service, unfriendly people and unfriendly service. You just have to be lucky to find the first!!
      Have you read this?
      Bonne chance

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