The debate on French banking has certainly provoked some discussion - not surprising in view of the banks' mindset in France - but having been established here for a number of years I've found AXA Banque excellent. They bought out Banque Direct (the first internet banking service in France) in 2003 and provide an on-line service as good as any UK bank - including a cheque book, paying-in slips, direct debit and credit facilities, mobile app, Visa card etc. If you use their Visa card to spend at least 6,000 euros/year they refund 50% of the annual card fee; use the card to spend/pay 12,000 euros/year and get the annual card fee refunded 100%. Google axabanque.fr for details.
For transferring sterling to my euro account I have been using Transferwise since their inception. Brilliant.
I use Credit Agricole, fairly happy with them, think it's 5.65 Euro per month and we paid something like 39 Euro for a debit card. We have a cheque book with the account.
I noticed a couple of people recommend ING Direct and another couple of people saying don't use Barclays; haven't Barclays just bought ING Direct though and are in process of transferring all the accounts to their own (new) Barclays Direct business.
We were using The Post Office to transfer GBP to our Euro account, better rate than banks, but just used the new TransferWise service which was really easy to use and a great rate with low charges.
I have used credit agricole britline for several years. Like other french banks, it charges for credit cards, a monthly charge of about 50 cents, and a small fee for international paying in. It’s online banking based in Caen, but you get a cheque book and I’ve never had problems using local CA branches, and because its English speaking it was helpful for starting up in France when things seemed a bit scarey.I use WorldFirst for international payments, which may not be the absolute best rates but is always near enough, and is very efficient and helpful even for small transactions. Alas, in response to another question, too many French still use cheques, especially at lengthy supermarket checkout queues, where the ladies usually have to dig around for hours in their handbags after packing all their sacs.
When we first moved to France, we opened a Barclays account thinking it would be easy to transfer money. It was awful! No links between English and French Barclays outdated internet banking and they never seemed to do anything we asked even though it was verbally agreed. We were forever having to chase them up. Maybe it was just the branch in Grenoble which was poor but having now switched to Banque Populaire des Alpes, we are much more satisfied. I would absurely recommend them.
We use Britline. A small sub-section of Credit-Agricole Normandie especially set up for British ex-pats. Because it is a small unit, we have enjoyed the kind of personal service that has long since become a distant memory in the UK. Things like real human beings answering the phone after just two rings and then actually answering all your questions without having to put you through to another department. Because we use their online interface, transfers and cheques etc are all free of charge and the only slightly expensive thing is the annual charge for the debit card (15€ each card).
Having to pay cheques in by post is the only other downside, but for us, with 99% of our transactions going over the net, its not an issue.
Personally I would recommend this bank over any of the 'Big Four' in the UK - all of whom I had dealt with over the years and become increasingly disappointed with.
I opened an account with HSBC in the USA and they helped me to get an account in France. I have not noticed any fees and I have all my bills automatically paid. They mail my statements to my address in Washington DC.
la banque postale expensive, I pay around 1€ a quarter and the rest is free (although I avoid having a CB with them and have a free one from Oney). La banque postale for private and Crédit Agricole for business no complaints but la poste will never be a professional bank!
When we decided to move to France we went to our bank in the UK, HSB, and asked for their help. They opened up the account here in France (in Angouleme) and since then we have dealt with everything with them. The UK bank also arranged a bridging loan when we bought here and our house in the UK had not been sold. We pay for a French Credit Card and we only got that because, at the time, the petrol stations were not accepting UK cards. There is no need for it now as the UK credit cards are still (at the moment) free.
Check whether you UK bank have any agreements with French banks.
I know Barclays have banking facilities in France buit depends where you are as to whether they are near you.
I've been with Credit Mutuelle de Bretagne for 25 years. They charge me 2.40 euros a month because I'm still living in England, but say that will disappear once I'm in France permanently. I pay all my utility bills from the account and have a cheque book. A debit card costs 3 euros a month. They have been proactive in emailing me and transferring money from my savings account to current account when necessary and the only mess-up was when we changed the account name from being a joint account with my sister to my name only. My partner has an account with a debit card and is pretty frustrated by the restrictions on how much money he can withdraw a day when not in Brittany, so not so pleased.
The big question is - how's your French ? If its not good then I'd suggest you go into your local branches and ask each one if they have someone who speaks English. For a couple of years until your French is able to cope with everyday matters I'd suggest IT'LL SAVE YOU A LOT OF GRIEF if not a lot of euros. My initial foray with the so called English speaking branch of Axa in Nice ended in tears and I moved to my local Credit Agricole where I found a lovely young lady who spoke excellent English, has become a good friend, and has subsequently saved me a lot of grief and money.
When I bought my apartment in Montpellier, the agent set me up with Credit Agricole Britline. I've found them great although I don't live in France at the moment so I just use the account for paying my mortgage, insurances, etc and for receiving rent. I do have a current account with them which I use when I'm in France . I can't remember what the annual fee is but it's not very much at all. It's been really helpful for me because I was able to set up the account with English-speaking Bank staff as my grasp of French is minimal at the moment. The Bank I deal with is actually based in Normandy for some reason but it hasn't proved awkward for any transactions. Hope this helps.