Online Banks for Exchange Students in France: Offers, Fees & Services
As a student in France, you may wonder which bank will be able to provide you a reliable offer, with services and fees that are adapted to your situation. With a limited income and the inability to work full-time, students in France will often find their best bet to be to subscribe to an online bank. Find out all about them in this guide.
- To sum things up
- For foreign students in France, banks which don't require you to own a French IBAN before signing up are a particularly good option.
- These include N26, HSBC, the Société Générale and LCL.
- These banks often don't have income requirements, but some conditions (minimum deposits...) still apply.
List of the best banks for students in France
While there are many French banks on the market in France, not all of them will be suitable for students, and even less for international or Erasmus students.
Indeed, some banks require you to meet certain income or be a French resident, place an initial hefty deposit into the account, or hold a French IBAN before signing up to the bank. Moreover, barring N26 and HSBC, no French bank has an online subscribtion service in English.
These financial and technical issues may narrow your options, but thankfully the banks listed below have no such barriers, making them a great fit for students wanting to open a French bank account.
|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||
Which banks have offers for foreign students in France?
Some of the most important criterias you may want to look out for when opening a bank account in France as a foreign student are the following:
- Does this bank ask you to already have a French IBAN? This is quite a common requirement among online banks especially.
- Does this bank require you to meet a certain level of income? This may be a requirement set by online banks and traditional French banks alike, not so much by neobanks.
- Does this bank require me to issue an initial deposit? Some banks ask you to place a few hundreds of euros into your account upon opening, which may also represent a barrier to entry for students.
- Does this bank offer a Welcome Bonus? How much?
- Do I have to pay for the bank card, the maintenance of the account, international transactions... (etc)?
With this in mind, here are a few of the banks with offers for students in France.
A a foreign student in France, one of your best bets is N26. Created in 2013, this German startup is a great choice for international students for many reasons:
- It doesn't require you meet an income requirements (typically €1,000/month) or to make any initial deposits (which can be over €500).
- It is free to open, manage and close the account, which is another strong benefit of this bank.
- You will be granted 5 free monthly withdrawals, in euros, and any withdrawals beyond that will be charged €2. Withdrawals in other currencies are charged 1.7% with the Classic card, and are free with the Black and Metal card, which is also a nice perk for those prone to travelling between coutrnies.
- Transfers are always free.
- Payments and withdrawals in foreign currencies are free or almost free of charge
- Maintaining your account open will be free as long as you carry out at least 3 banking operations per month, else you will be charged a €5/month fee.
- N26 comes with a French current account and an associated Visa Premier bank cards card.
- The bank provides a powerful and innovative user experience, through an ergonomic, easy-to-use and pleasant mobile app
On top of this, N26 is 100% online-based, and comes with an app though which you can manage your finances, block your card, change your transation settings... All this makes it suitable for young, hyper-connected international students eager to save money and subject to travelling abroad.
Be aware, though, that because of its dematerialised nature, the neobank won't provide cheque books or allow you to cash in cheques / make cash deposits. What's more, N26 doesn't (yet) provide a French IBAN to its customers, so bare this in mind if this is something you want to hold while in France.
HSBC is another good option a for students in France.
Indeed, the bank allows you to open a French account online, simply by providing a proof of ID and a proof of address, with no barriers to entry such as income or deposits.
HSBC has an offer dedicated to students between the ages of 18 and 28, who are enrolled in a major partner school, or whose parents are already HSBC clients.
This student bank account gives right to the following:
- Free cash withdrawals in all international HSBC ATMs and in other banks ATMs in the Eurozone.
- A Visa Classic card and a bank account for only €1 the first year + a Visa Premier card if the young person goes to study abroad.
- 50% off your monthly contribution
- A cash facility of up to €500
- Insurance of means of payment in case of loss or theft.
- International services such as help with opening an account abroad or access to the Global View / Global Transfert service.
- A preferential student loan with a 0.8% interest rate.
The Société Générale is one of the main traditional French banks. It puts forward a paying offer, but without barriers to entry.
It has a student-specific offer, the "Compte Bancaire Étudiant", which is available for students between 18 and 24. It comes with the following:
- A dedicated advisor there to help you manage your finances and answer any questions you have about student life
- No fees for the account maintenance until your 25th birthday
- A French set of banking details.
- A customisable bank card
- A banking app via which you can access your balamce and manage your finances.
- Exclusif offers with over 800 commercial partners, thanks to the Grande Avenue Programme.
- An International Option, which you can activaate in order to use your bank card abroad for cheaper rates.
To get started with this student account, you will simply be asked to provide proof of ID (featuring your photo and signature) and a proof of address no older than 3 months (gas or electricity bill, phone bills, rent contract...). You can complete the signing up process 100% online, or go to a Société Générale agency and open an account with an advisor.
Just note that the Société Générale website is entirely in French, so you may want to ask a French friend for help during the signing up process if you aren't yet comfortable with the language.
In some cases, you may be able to translate the bank website's pages into English via your browser - a simple tip which should make your life a lot easier!
LCL is a relatively recent bank, but which has become a major actor on the French banking market today, offering a wide range of services and offers.
One of these is a special offer for students. It includes the following perks:
- Your credit card costs only €1/month during the first year*
- You are authorised a certain overdraft, free of charge;
- You can manage your account online
- You have access to international payments offers, withdrawals and transfers
- You can apply for loans, for your studies or your rent deposit
- Your means of payment cost just €1 during the first year
- You get access to a wide choice of savings booklets*
Other interesting thing to note. If the LCL student's parents are also LCL customers, or if you study in one of the French Grande École which has a partnership with LCL, the student can benefit from the credit card at €1 per year for 4 years.
Just note that, like the Société Générale, LCL's website is entirely in French, so again you might want to reach out to a French friend ifor help with the subscription process.
Which online banks have offers for students in France?
|Online bank||Fees to keep the account open||Price of the card||Welcome offer*||Conditions to open an account|
More info +
|Free||Free||€80||Under 25: copy of your student ID
Over 25: hold a Masters and earn under €1000/month
More info +
|Free||Free if used at least once per month
(otherwise it costs €5/month)
|€80||Open to all, no income conditions|
|More info +||Free||€2/month||Up to €120||Open to all, no income conditions|
|More info +||Free||€2/month||-||Open to all, no income conditions|
One of the biggest advantages of opting for an online bank as a student is that they work out a lot cheaper that traditional French banks, since they induce very low annual banking fees. What's more, these banks seldom require you to meet a certain level of income, making them accessible to young people who don't yet have a stable income.
This said, most online banks still maintain barriers to entry mainly in the form of a minimum income requirement. So if, as a student, you don't have significant savings or work part time (and even then it may not always be enough), chances are you will have a hard time finding an online bank that'll agree to sign you up.
With this in mind, here are a few of the online banks with student-oriented offers in France.
Hello bank is a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas group. It targets young people and students under 25 years of age. This bank gives you free access to a French current account and a Visa Premier card. A great bonus is that you won't have to justify the "standard" income conditions (typically €1,000/month) or make any kind of deposits on your savings account.
Note that you need to present a photocopy of your student card during the subscription.
If you are a student over the age of 25, it is a little harder to sign up as there are some barriers to entry exist, although these aren't as strict as what traditional banks typically set. The student must have a level of education at least equal to "Bac + 4" (4 years of study after your high school diploma) and a monthly income of under €1,000. What's more, if you wish to avoid the set fee to open your account, you will need to deposit at least €1,500 € in your Hello bank account upon opening it.
Boursorama's welcome offer
Boursorama Bank is regularly awarded the title of cheapest French bank - although it does not offer a special offer for students.
For a long time, this bank would only grant free access to a current account and a Visa Classic bank card for those who could prove an income of €1,000/month or who could deposit €2,500 on a savings account online banking. But since 2017, Boursorama' Welcome offer has put an end to this.
Today, there are no fees associated with the account, so long as you carry out one transaction per month with your card (otherwise you pay a month fee of €5). Withdrawals are limited to €200 per 7 sliding days, and payments to €600 over 30 rolling days. Overdraft are capped at €100, while the bank card is systematically authorized.
Monabanq is a subsidiary of the Crédit Mutuel CIC group. It puts forward a paying offer, but without barriers to entry. It doesn't have any student-specific offers, but as a student you can sign up to a Monabanq account like everyone else, and get a Visa Classic card for €2/month.
While Monabanq imposes a €24 fee per year to its clients, it also offers a welcome bonus of €120 - one of the highest among the competition.
It is interesting to note that the online bank offers banking products tailored to young people, such as:
- A checkings account for 16-18 year olds (costing €12/year if the minor opts for a Visa Classic card)
- A youth savings account for 12-18 year olds, with a withdrawal card and a remuneration of 1.2% up to €5,000 (0.40% beyond that)
- An account for 12-18 year olds, with a 2% annual interest, but capped at €1,600
- An account for 18-25 year olds (continuation of 12-18 account above).
Like Monabanq, the online bank ING Direct has removed its income requirement criterion since 2016. It is thus now easier for students to sign up to an ING Direct account, whose offers come with a high-end Gold MasterCard.
To avoid any fees though, you will have to put at least €1,200 per month on your ING Direct account, or place at least €5,000 on an ING savings account - criteria which might block students.
This said, students can still fall back on ING Direct's offer, by instead of meeting the above conditions, paying €5/month. With this option, by paying €60 per year, students can get a Gold MasterCard, which is a convenient means of payment especially when travelling abroad, since it includes extended guarantees in terms of insurance and assistance.
Fortuneo offers access to a current account and a free MasterCard for 18-26 year olds, on the condition that you pay € 5,000 on a savings account a life insurance account upon signing up with the online bank.
A subsidiary of the Crédit Agricole group, BforBank may be one of the least accessible online bank for students, as it imposes high barriers to entry which are among the highest among online banks. Indeed, students and regular clients alike have to justify a monthly income of €1,600, or a net income of €1,200 if they initially deposit €10,000 on their BforBank savings account.
How about digital banks for students in France?
Over the past couple of years in France, a new type of bank has been gaining popularity: digital banks. Also known as "neobanks", these are also very attractive for students - especially Erasmus and exchange students in France - since they don't induce high fees, when transferring other currencies for instance.
What's more, as opposed to online banks, these banks seldom require you to meet a certain level of income, making them accessible to young people who don't yet have a stable income.
Eko by CA
Eko by CA was founded by Crédit Agricole in 2017. Its particularity is that it is at the crossroads of the neo-bank, the online bank and the traditional bank. For €2 a month, as a Eko by CA customer, you will get access to a bank account, a MasterCard International card (but no possible overdraft), and the My Bank mobile app through which you can manage your accounts.
Besides, you will be able to withdraw cash from all Crédit Agricole ATMs (7,000 branches in France), which you can geolocate using the Eko by CA app.
If you ever have a problem or request to make, the Crédit Agricole bank advisors are available to help you by phone, in agencies or via the application.
Created in 2017, Orange Bank is a great choice for students as it doesn't require you meet an income requirement. Maintaining an account will be free as long as you carry out at least 3 banking operations per month, else you will be charged a €5/month fee.
All this makes it suitable for a young, hyper connected population eager to save money. What's more, Orange Bank offers a solid welcome bonus of up to €160, peer to peer refunds, instant balance updates, customisable bank cards, payment by smartphone, etc.
The neobank can also provide savings products and a cheque books, unlike some other banks of its kinds. Just note, however, that you won't be allowed any overdraft, and that there are caps set to your payments and withdrawals.
Other digital bank offers
If you want to open a bank account in France, but don't need credit or savings products, you can opt for one of the following banks, which offer limited services but for unbeatable prices:
- N26, which comes with a free bank card.
- C-zam, which charges €5 to open an account, then charges €1 per month
- Nickel, with a charge of just €2/month
All in all, neobanks are probably your best bet for travelling and for trips abroad. Not only are payments and withdrawals in foreign currencies free or almost free of charge, but they also provide a powerful and innovative user experience, through their ergonomic, easy-to-use and pleasant mobile apps.