Opening a French Bank Account

On Wednesday I started to go to various cellphone companies asking for information on their plans and what I immediately realized is that in order to get a phone contract you need a French bank account. The last thing I wanted was to open another bank account since I had just opened one at Bank of America but as we kept searching for a good cellphone plan I realized that there was no choice but to open a bank account in France.

Yesterday I visited the nearby BNP Paribas to open an account but unlike American banks you need to make an appointment to open a bank account in France. If you feel like your French isn't good enough to open a bank account make sure to politely ask for someone who speaks English. The guy at the front desk told me that all I needed was a bill from your landlord, an attestation (something that will validate your residency in your new address), and your visa to verify that you'll be studying here for a year.

When I arrived to my appointment I was glad to find out that the woman helping us was a bank consultant who spoke English so that way both my father and I could ask questions. She was extremely nice and despite the fact that I can read French she would still take time to explain every paper before I signed. I brought the attestation and one of letters from the apartment's owner thinking it was a bill but it wasn't but I was told not to worry because the bank is going to send a letter to my address that I will then sign to verify that the address is correct.

Before you sign you have to write "Lu et approuvé" on the box above the one where you sign to show that you understood the written statement above. The consultant explained that with a student account you get a credit card, a savings account (you need at least the bare minimum which is 15€ in that account which you will get back when you close the account), and life insurance ( 5,07€ will be deducted per month month and in case you have an emergency or die your family gets 30 000€). Since most exchange students are here for only the school year the account is free but if you stay in France longer you will have to pay for your bank account. You can deposit money and checks by using their ATM machines inside the bank, just like in the U.S. and in case you're wondering you can deposit American (or foreign) checks but you will be charged fees for those.

And finally I'm going to try my best to explain what you get when you open the account. A RIB (rélévés d'identité bancaire) is basically a slip of paper (which is about the same size as a check) that has all your account details including your bank's branch and your name and address. In the RIB you'll find your bank code (code banque), the branch's code (code agence), account number (numéro de compte), security code (clé RIB), and the area where your branch is located (votre agence de domiciliation). If you want to deposit money in France you'll just need the bank code and account number but for international transactions there is the IBAN (international bank account number which will begin with FR because its a French bank account) and the BIC (your bank's identification code). The purpose of the RIB is to ensure that any operation, whether it may be a payment or transfer, is done correctly to avoid any delays and potential errors. In order to get a phone contract or do a transaction (such sending the money from your account to your landlord's account to pay rent) you will need to present a RIB. And if you run out of of the RIB papers you can always go back to your bank and get some more printed out.

Phew! I think I'm done with all the French bank info. I'd describe my experience opening a bank account as pleasant and quick, I think I managed to open the account quicker here than at Bank of America. Overall it was a good experience, if you have any more questions feel free to ask away. For now I'm going to leave you with a picture from Friday's trip to the Louvre (did I mention I got in for free? Admission is free for people under 25 on Fridays after 6pm).  Now time to grab a seat right in front of my window to enjoy my first Parisian thunder storm.
For more pictures go to my Flickr.

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