Banks in France: Top Choices for Non-Residents
Because most banks in France reserve their standard account offers to French residents, as a non resident you may find it a little tricky to find yourself an account given your situation. However, even if your main residence is outside and you pay taxes abroad, it is possible for a non-resident to obtain a non-resident account in certain institutions. What are the best offers? How to open an account by being non-resident?
A list of the best banks in France for non residents
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First off, let's look at a few of the banks in France which are very well fitted to non-residents, and why so. Our selection below focuses on banks offering English-speaking customer support, substantial services for non-residents and attractive welcome offers.
|Bank||For more info||Main characteristics|
|More info on N26||
|More info on HSBC||
|More info on Societe Generale||
|More info on Boursorama||
|More info on Nickel||
N26: a neobank easy and quick to set up
First on the list is N26, a German neobank which is entirely online-based. The N26 bank account is arguably one of the easiest options for a non-resident, since all it takes to open an account is to fill out an application form online - and your account is ready!
You only need a few minutes and a proof of ID to get started, plus the account is totally free to open and maintain. What's more, there are no commitment or inactivity fees tied to your N26 account, which you can close for free whenever you want to.
With N26, you'll be granted a German IBAN (which will start by DE), but this shouldn't be an issue for transferring money or making online payments. You should receive your MasterCard debit (which is free), within the next few days.
In order to sign up to N26, you need to fulfill the following requirements:
- Be 18 or over
- Be a resident of country in which N26 operates - namely Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom)
- Have proof of ID, a postal address and an email address
- Have a smartphone (you'll have to download the N26 app) - you'll be able to track your spendings and balance on your mobile in instantaneous or on the website
HSBC: an international option
- You can open an account online, in France or abroad (in one of the 37 countries where the bank is present)
- They offer an English platform
- You don't need a French phone number to get started
- You can schedule an appointment online and then proceed on to sealing the deal in an HSBC branch, where an advisor will be able to help you through the process.
- You don't have to meet any income requirement to get started
- You'll be eligible to receive €80 as a Welcome offer.
Société Générale, a traditional French bank option
Another good bank option for non-residents is the Société Générale. As with HSBC, you can start applying online and finish the process in a Société Générale agency. And you luckily don't need to own a French phone number in order to get started.
A slight issue is that the bank doesn't provide any English-speaking support, which may be a problem if you don't feel at ease with French quite yet. In addition, the Societe Generale doesn't grant any form of welcome bonuses.
Boursorama Banque, your choice for an online banks
Even though this bank offers €80 as a welcome offer, which comes with a free card, we wouldn't make this your top choice as a non-resident, because the process is quite harduous and, on top of that, you won't be able to receive English-speaking support from this bank.
In other news, Boursorama Banque has been awarded the prize of "Cheapest Bank" again and again for over a decade, by the French newspaper Le Monde. And as with N26, there is no commitment or inactivity fee tied to your account, meaning you can close your account for free whenever you wish to.
Warning about opening a Boursorama accountAs a non-resident, you won't be able to open a Boursorama Banque account online, since this is only reserved to French residents. You'll instead be required to ring the Boursorama customer line, and then send on supporting documents via mail.
Who is considered a non-resident?
In France, a non-resident is defined as either:
- A person, French or not, whose main residence is outside of France
- A foreign military or civil servant based in France
So, if for instance, you're an Erasmus student spending a year in France, a businessperson frequently travelling to France, or a British citizen with a second home in France, you'll be considered as a non-resident. The rule is that this applies to anyone whose main residence is abroad, or who pay their taxes elsewhere than in France.
Non residents, French banks and the law
The French financial law stipulates that the conditions to open a bank account in France as a French resident or non resident are the same.
Why should I open a French bank account as a non-resident?
Even though you don't spend all your time in the country, you'll probably find that holding a French compte courant will make your life a lot easier and cheaper.
You'll avoid getting charged commission fees every time you make a payment or withdraw money in France, and if you're from outside the EU, it'll make transferring money to another European account a lot more seamless.
Also, holding a French account is a prerequisite in order to set up the majority of utilities, since many French phone providers, internet providers and gas or electricity suppliers will only accept a French IBAN.
What documents do I need to provide to setup a non-resident account?
In order to sign up, your bank of choice will have to verify your identity. You will thus need to provide the bank with a photocopy of an official ID (passport, ID card) which clearly displays your full name, date and place of birth, date and place of the delivery of the document, and the name of the issuing authority.
What information will I be asked about?
Prepare to also answer the following questions:
- What is your current address?
- What is (are) your professional occupation(s)?
- How much do you earn?
- What is the scope of your financial and physical assets?
Be sure to gather any supporting documents that will backup your answers, since the bank will not be able to process your application without evidence.
Banks in France are legally allowed to deny you an account, without providing an explanation.
What types of accounts can I open as a non-resident?
As a non-resident in France, you have the choice of going for many traditional banks or a neobanks, but setting out an account with an online bank is a lot trickier.
Traditional bank accounts for non-residents
Your first option is to go for a "traditional" bank. These include:
- HSBC: As mentioned above, you can open your account online and only need to provide ID and a proof of address.
- Société Générale: another possibility - you will just need to go to a physical store to get started, and again provide proof of ID and address
- BNP Paribas: to sign up to BNP Paribas as a non resident, you'll have to go to a physical store. You'll also need to already hold another French or European bank account
- LCL: again, you can open a non-resident account but will have to do so in a physical agency.
Online bank accounts for non-residents
Except for Boursorama Banque, online banks aren't accessible to non-residents.
Indeed, virtually all these banks - BforBank, ING Direct, Hello Bank! and Monabanq just to name the few - require their users to be a French tax resident, which by default excludes non-residents from the word go.
As stated above, Boursorama Banque has not set this prerequisite, but they do make it slightly more inconvenient for non-residents to sign up (these are not eligible for the 100% online process, so you'll have to call them and then send off the necessary documents by post, as explained earlier).
The only other restriction applies to American nationals: because of US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) regulations, United States residents aren't eligible to opening an account with Boursorama.
Neobank accounts for non-residents
The French banking landscape has seen the rise of new players known as neobanks.
These new types of banks are very low-maintenance and easy to operate. You can open a French current account and you will get an IBAN and French bank card attached to it. The only disadvantage with these banks is that services are limited - they don't provide cheque books, credit offers or overdraft possibilities.
The main neobanks in France are:
- N26 - there are no income or payment conditions to sign up to this bank. You'll be able to transfer money for free in 18 currencies
- Revolut- with this bank, your account will be free, on condition that you withdraw under €200/month from an ATM. You can also transfer money for free in 26 currencies
- Orange Bank- here, your account is charge-free so long as you carry out at least 3 transactions/month with your Orange Bank card, else you will be charged a €5 monthly fee
- Nickel - this neobank is suitable for EU and EFTA residents (you'll have to prove this either with ID or a valid resident permit). A slight drawback here is that you'll have to go to a Nickel partner-tobacconist's to sign up, but for a one-off €20 payment, followed by a €20 annual payment, you'll get both a French bank card and account with an IBAN. Note that to sign up to Nickel, you need a mobile phone number and a French address (which can be temporary).
What can I do if a bank refuses to open an account?
This scenario is rare, especially for neobanks, but it can happen. In France, banks can deny you an account without communicating their reason for it. You can maximise the chances of seeing your application accepted by opting for a neobank, as the application conditions are minimal and you just need to send off a couple of documents.
This said, French nationals or EU residents can appeal to a resort named the right to the account (droit au compte).
Non-residents and the droit au compte (right to account)
The droit au compte was set up in the French Monetary and Financial Code in order to fight banking exclusion. Indeed, this type of exclusion can be real issue for those affected, as it stops them from carrying out transfers, direct debits, paying rent, collecting a salary...
If you see yourself refused an account by 3 banks in a row, you can seize the Banque de France, which will designate a bank that'll be responsible to open you an account. You can do this provided that:
- You can prove you are an EU resident, or
- You have a French ID or passport.
To get the process started, you must contact the Banque de France, to whom you will need to send:
- An account refusal certificate issued by a French bank you applied to
- A letter in which you swear on the honor that you don't already possess a French bank account
- A valid ID featuring your photo
- A proof of address, no older that 3 months old.