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Online Banks for Exchange Students in France: Offers, Fees and 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

bank student

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 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.

Selection of the best online banks for students (valid as of May 2019)
Name of the bank
Conditions to open an account
Price of the card
Welcome offer*
How to sign up

Logo N26

N26

Provide ID

No income / deposit requirements

Classic Card: Free

Black Card: €9.90/month

None

Sign up to N26

HSBC

HSBC

Provide ID and a French address

No income / deposit requirements

Visa Classic: from €45/year*

€80

Sign up to HSBC

Logo Société Générale

Société Générale

Provide ID and a French address

No income or deposit requirements

Visa or Mastercard:

€35 to €45 per month*

Up to 50% off on the first year fees*

Sign up to Société Générale

Logo LCL

LCL

Provide ID and a French address

No income or deposit requirements

€1/month the first year* None

Sign up to LCL

*conditions apply.

Which banks have offers for foreign students in France?

student

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.

N26

n26 card

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

hsbc bank card

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.

Société Générale

Societe Generale

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

lcl

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*

*Conditions apply.

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.