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I'm thinking of moving to France quite soon, and based on this question on opening a French bank account, I've some idea of what'd be involved in opening a new account there. However, I already have a Euro denominated bank account from a different European country.

Will I be able to just keep using my existing Euro bank account? Or will I have problems with French specific ways of paying bills, landlords only accepting bank references from French banks, credit checks etc?

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    I can't tell for sure since I don't have any direct experience with the French system. However, with SEPA the difference between accounts in Euro in different countries should be minimized. – Ondřej Černotík Mar 13 '14 at 9:44
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    I can't tell for sure, so this is just a comment: while you can probably use your debit card easily in France, you might have troubles when you need to set up direct debits – SztupY Mar 13 '14 at 9:47
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    Starting from Feb 2014, direct debits are progressively being replaced by SEPA Direct Debits (SSD). – Xavier Mar 13 '14 at 9:58
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    @Xavier I have heard about this process EU wide but how do things look like in France in practice? I remember having to provide a “RIB” for different things, would utilities accept an IBAN number instead? – Gala Mar 13 '14 at 10:33
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    @GaëlLaurans I personally have an SSD set up between my bank (ING Direct) and my internet provider (Free). Not sure about utilities though. – Xavier Mar 13 '14 at 11:46
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For most of day-to-day life, Euro cash and a credit card is fine. You need a credit card with a chip to buy train tickets, but it doesn't need to be a French one. Many utility bills can be paid by credit card.

On the other hand, some subscription services want to have a debit authorization (“autorisation de prélèvement”) on your account. This requires an account with a French bank (some services may not accept a foreign bank). Debit authorizations are bad because they allow the payee to take the money with no limit on the amount; unfortunately, while you can refuse this system, some companies charge extra for not using it. ISPs and phone service providers are especially bad in this regard.

Checks were traditionally heavily used in France, but they are on their way out. Nowadays, there is only one area where the use of checks remains strong, and not being able to pay with a check on a French bank may be a problem: paying for housing — rent and condominium bills (“charges”). If you don't have a checkbook, you'll still be able to find housing, but possibly with extra hassle.

Another area where checks are occasionally used is for guarantees — “chèques de caution”. This consists of you giving a check which is only be cashed in case something goes wrong: for example, you rent something, and the check will be cashed only if you don't return the object or if you damage it. The more modern places, such as car rentals, have switched to holds on credit cards instead, but the local power tool lending club might still want a check or cash.

If you're employed in France, then normally the employer will deposit your salary into your bank account. As far as I know your employer has no obligation to accept a foreign account, though I can't think of a good reason to refuse now that there are no extra fees given that your existing account is in Euros.

I recommend opening a bank account in France. Basic services are free, and if you show that you have a foreign account in good standing, a job that earns you money and a stable address in France or abroad, then you're likely to get a checkbook and debit card without any hassle.

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I have been using my non-french EU bank account in France without any problem while residing there in 2003 and 2004. I was able to pay at all terminals with the CB (carte bleue) logo as much that I was able to do money transfers at no cost.

I had a French bank account, because my salary payments required it and for receiving CAF payments. An additional benefit of a French bank account is that they still use cheques. For a mode of payment that feels like being so 20th century, they are still quite handy in France. Especially in paying rent or when traveling through France and paying for lodging. I still frequently visit France and I really miss those cheques then.

  • Yea I can confirm this for other countries. As long as the card is in Euro and has Visa/Mastercard symbol on it and paying at a terminal they accepts these, there is no charge and works fine. You can even use a your paypal account and paypal mastercard, create a EURO wallet and pay in EURO. – Piotr Kula Mar 13 '14 at 11:22
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It depends a lot on what you're going to do.

My experience is that many organizations want you to have a French bank account and RIB (Relevé d'identité bancaire) in order to send you money (salaries, scholarships, social support of any kind, money you claim back from whoever after paying it etc.), and as well for paying: a lot of institutions prefer check or standing order payments, and it's quite popular that they collect the money from your bank account themselves -- therefore having a French account can turn out to be extremly useful.

However, if you're not involved in anything like that, you can live with any account. It mostly depends on whether you can pay your accomodation cash-or-card, and whether any salary you recieve can be sent to a foreign account. If these are satisfied, you should be pretty fine with any Euro account.

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