It’s September. A time for fresh start. A different season. And new people.
Every year at this time, Paris is hit with a huge wave of new expats. We know that right now there are thousands of you out there – students, families, professionals and a lucky few just hanging out – trying to get settled into your new life here.
Of the many items on the new expat to-do list, opening a French bank account is one of the most important…and one of the most puzzling if you don’t understand the relevant vocabulary.
Let’s rectify that, shall we?
Must-know French bank account vocabulary
Un justificatif de domicile = a proof of address
You’ll need this critical piece for most administrative procedures. They can be: electricity bill (facture d’électricité), a receipt of the payment of your rent (quittance de loyer), income tax receipt (avis d’imposition sur le revenu), tenant insurance receipt (certificat d’assurance locative). Usually, the bill must be less than three months old. Note: phone bill are in general not accepted.
Un compte bancaire = a bank account.
This general term covers a variety of accounts, including checking/current accounts (compte à vue/ compte courante), savings accounts (compte d’épargne), and fixed term saving accounts (compte d’ terme).
Un compte joint = a joint bank account.
With this type of account, a couple may have equal access to the bank account. But when signing up, pay particular attention to whether the account is for X “ou” Y, or X “et” Y. With an “ou” account, either partner may sign legally check. If it’s an “et” account, both partners must sign each check for it to be valid.
Un compte sur livret = a government-regulated savings account.
Unlike other savings accounts, livret accounts usually have a deposit maximum, but the interest rates may be slightly higher. Most livret accounts are tax-free.
Une carte bancaire = A bank card. Upon opening your account, you will receive your carte bancaire. This card is used to withdraw money from the bank from a distributeur automatique (ATM). It also serves as a debit card, with payments either being withdrawn from your account immediately, or in a lump sum at specific date.
Les frais bancaires = Bank Charges/Fees.
When signing up for your account, be careful. Most French banks will hit you with a dazzling array of frais bancaires. This may include account administration fees, direct deposit fees, and foreign currency transfer fees. At most banks there’s even a charge for having a carte bancaire! Be sure to about fees and charges associated with your account in advance. Fees pile up if you accept a bank’s “package” even if the basic checking account is free.
Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB) = Bank account details. This is a handy slip of paper that contains your – surprise, surprise – relevant bank account details, such as your bank number, branch code and account number. RIBs are used for prélèvements (direct debits) from your account or virements (transfers) to your account. You’ll be asked for a RIB to set up automatic bill payment deductions for gas, electric, telephone, etc., or if your employer wants to make direct deposits into your account. RIBs are usually found at the back of your checkbook, but some banks allow you to print them at ATM machines or print them online.
Key phrases to know when opening a French bank account
• I would like to open a checking account
Je voudrais ouvrir un compte.
• What are the charges and fees for this account?
Quels sont les frais et charges pour ce compte ?
• How much must I deposit to open an account?
Combien dois-je déposer pour ouvrir un compte?
• How long will it take to receive my checkbook ?
Combien de temps faut-il pour recevoir mon chéquier (carnet de chèques)?
French phrases you may hear when opening your bank account
• Puis-je avoir une pièce d’identité ?
May I have your identity card /proof of identity ?
• J’ai besoin d’une facture d’EDF ou gaz….
I need (to see) an electricity or gas bill…
• Vous devez remplir ces formulaires.
You must fill out these forms.
• Combien voulez-vous déposer pour commencer ?
How much do you want to deposit to start ?
If you need help with French bank account vocabulary or speaking with your banker, contact us! We can help you practice the specific conversations you need to know to settle into your life in France!