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I opened a bank account with Société Générale in France and got access to their Internet banking. I was surprised to see that a wire transfer can only be done online to another bank in France. For international transfers (to countries outside of the European Union) I'd have to go into a branch (and pay a hefty fee). Is this the case for all French banks or can anyone recommend some that allow international transfers online?

To make matters worse, it turned out that I can only go to the branch ("agency") where my account was opened! Other Société Générale branches have no access to my account whatsoever, so they cannot do anything for me. Is this also the case for other French banks? Is there a bank that allows its accounts to be used at any of its branches?

Edit: please do not suggest "money transfer" services - that's not what the question is about. Neither is there any mention of currency exchange above.

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    If you want to transfer money, in EUR, between UE banks, they can only charge you the same fee of sending money inside French (for an amount < 50.000 EUR). Of course they could have different fees for online, telephone and "in person" operation. – Matteo Sep 5 '14 at 13:08
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    Welcome to French banking... – Gagravarr Sep 5 '14 at 13:11
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    I'm told that some of the online banks are miles better than most of the branch ones, but it's hard to open one until you've got an established presence in French. Getting an account with BNP isn't trivially easy (see my questions here on the topic!), but their online banking happily lets me make domestic, SEPA and International payments online – Gagravarr Sep 5 '14 at 13:16
  • @EM I have an account with Soc Gen and I am currently trying to send money to my US account. Fun?! – dearN Sep 5 '14 at 14:56
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    How about PayPal? – Karlson Sep 5 '14 at 15:03
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What you describe is not universal, but it is not unheard of either. Remember that France is still a country which makes heavy use of cheques - this is somewhere with some very modern banking features, and some things which feel very archaic...

You've stated that you want to send money abroad, and to a non-Euro country. Given that, you might not actually want to use your bank for sending the money! For medium to large payments, it's probably worth instead using a currency broker. (Many exist, I quite like Currency Fair, though amongst friends and family I'd say there's a half dozen we use for different reasons!). With this, you'd make a domestic (French) euros transfer to the bank account of the currency broker, use the broker to change the money, then instruct the broker to pay out to the destination account. This typically means "domestic" transfers at each end, so no need to worry about your bank in France not supporting easy international transfers. For some kinds of amounts of money / currencies / frequencies, this could save you a fair bit on fees and get you a much better rate, but by no means on all cases, so check first!

Next option - ditch your "traditional" bank, and get an online one. There are quite a few banks (mostly it seems from other European countries) who offer online-only bank accounts in France. With these, there's no branch staff, no branch network, just a bank card and online banking. (Quite possibly no cheques, it depends). There's normally low, or sometimes no fees for these. I'm told they offer very good online transfers. Downsides are there being no branch network, often no cheques, and needing to have an established French financial presence before you can open the account. You should be able to get one now, and could always get it alongside your SG account and just use it for online-y stuff. (Do a domestic transfer from SG to your online account, then from there abroad)

Final option - get a different bank. I asked various expats in the pub, and they suggested (for the city I'm in, it's not universal!) just two banks as being good for expats. I opted for the one nearest where I'm staying, BNP Paribas, who do offer online international transfers: BNP Online Banking screen As with SG, some things can only be done by your in-branch advisor, so make sure you like who you'd be getting, and that they're contactable. (My advisor was willing to put up with the faff of opening an account for me with mostly English documents, and has given me her phone number and email address so I can sort some things out remotely, but I'm told not all are that good...). I'm certainly paying more for my BNP account than friends using online-only banks do for theirs, and the fees/fx rate BNP offer aren't as good as a currency broker, but things are easy (by French banking standards), there's a national network of banks where I can do some things in person, and they'd let me open an account!

So, I'd suggest you ask around amongst other expats on bank suggestions, check out the advantages and disadvantages of currency brokers, investigate if you could cope with an online-only bank, then change as needed for your situation!

  • Thanks! Is there a particular online bank you recommend? – EM0 Sep 5 '14 at 19:27
  • None I've had experiences of. Best ask some other expats or friends, see what they think are the advantages and disadvantages of the ones they use! – Gagravarr Sep 7 '14 at 10:43
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Credit Mutuel allows international wire transfers using Internet banking. There is even a video on their website showing this. I've opened an account with them and successfully made a small transfer (to a bank outside of the European Union), so I can personally confirm that it works.

The fees are: €11.60 for up to €1,500; €22.70 for up to €12,500 and €41.40 for larger amounts. (I somehow doubt that I could transfer €12,500 in one go anyway - my advisor seemed a bit unsure about what the limits are.)

  • This sounds promising, but from the video you linked to (or any other resources) I can't tell if they allow transfers to US bank accounts that don't have an IBAN. – Iguananaut Mar 2 '16 at 17:41
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Depends what you mean by "international". EU banks are obliged by law to treat SEPA transfers exactly the same way as national transfers. Deadline for compliance, already extended few times, was August 1, 2014. SEPA covers all of EU (including countries that do not use Euro), as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino.

On the other hand if you're going to send money out of Europe or even within Europe, but to country that doesn't use Euro, you're better off using third party services. See for example this question: "What is the cheapest way to send large amounts of money from EU to US?" For the countries it supports I recommend TransferWise.

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    Yes, I meant non-SEPA and I've edited the question to clarify. I'm not looking to exchange currency, just to transfer euros. – EM0 Oct 31 '14 at 20:00
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I contacted my conseiller (adviser) at Société Générale at Gif s/ Yvette, in the Paris region about international money transfer from SocGen to say WellsFargo in the United States. This is the reply I received. It would seem that my conseiller ended up using google translate so I am yet to decipher this entirely and would appreciate it if fellow banking/monetary transfer enthusiasts (?) chime in!

There is neither minimum amount nor maximum to make a transfer. For a transfer in a currency other than the Euro or a transfer towards a country except the zone SEPA, the expenses are 0,9 for one thousand amounts of the transfer with a 13.75-euro perception minimum and a maximum of 70 Euros+ committee of exchange of 0,5 for one thousand amounts of the transfer with a 14-euro perception minimum.

Edit 09/09/2014

So on asking my advisor again, I am told the following:

For a 1000-euro transfer, expenses will be 13.75 euros+14 euros of committee(commission) of exchange.

I wonder if this helps.

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    That's basically what's on this page and it does not even include all the costs – “Ce tarif s'entend hors commission de change et de port (frais SWIFT)”. This basically confirms the OP's issue (rather hefty fee, no online transfer) but does not really help find a better solution. – Gala Sep 7 '14 at 8:05
  • @Gala What exactly is "hefty"? Is it 50% of the transfer amount? 5%? I would be interested to know that. Thank you for the clarification so far. – dearN Sep 7 '14 at 8:08
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    Well, I take it that EUR 14 plus currency exchange and some other unspecified fees is “hefty” for the OP because he or she basically wrote as much. But it's true I have seen worse… Question is: What else is available that you could do without going to the branch? – Gala Sep 7 '14 at 8:10
  • @Gala Apparently my bank in the US has an intermediary bank in EU. Perhaps I should have the money transferred to the intermediary EU bank to save on bank fees. – dearN Sep 7 '14 at 11:19

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