Best French Bank - with online facilities

OK! Its pick your brains time again! We need a French bank account, with online facilities that we can open from the UK.

What do you consider to be the best?

We decided that we wanted to move to France approximately 5 years ago and intially did a grand tours of France in a motorhome during 2008 & 2009 to establish which area we would focus our house search. I had researched French banking prior to the trips and determined that at most banks you had to pay and pay ... but not all.

By 2009 we had decided on either Alsace or Ariege - we were in Alsace towards the end of of the trip. With virtually no French, I walked into a BNP Paribas branch - sat down filled out the necessary forms. Returned 1hr later - in which time a current account and three savings accounts had been set up. All I had to do was hand over the minimum deposits for the saving accounts (~15€). There was a promise that a cheque-book would be in the post to address in Scotland, also password for internet access. They were, a week later.

In 2010 we bought our house in Ariege now in the process of selling house in Scotland. Over the past 2 years we have spent ~ 1/3 of each year in France. We have just returned from France. In all that time I have never had to pay any fees to BNP and have had no difficulty operating their online banking (made easier by using Google Chrome as the browser as it automatically translates pages into English).

I cannot speak too highly of the service I have received, I can actually ring them up and speak to someone in the branch with less hassel than in the UK. In 2010 the manager organised for a banking card to be sent to another branch in Northern France so that I would receive it at the beginning of the trip South and subsequently the new manager photographed the atm screens and emailed them to me with english annotations after I had a problem.

Downsides - for us none, but that's in part how we manage our finances. It would not suit everyone.

The banker's card I use is BNP's own - so it can only be used at their atms and the weekly limit is 125€. As in the UK we never, well hardly every, use cash. I withdraw 100€ at the start of our last 6 week trip and returned with >80€. We use a Nationwide Visa card in France for everything. It carries no foreign transaction charges and uses the real time international Visa exchange rate, e.g. on 25 April our last transaction was converted at 1.224290. All the DD for utilities have been setup seemlessly and I get bimonthly paper copies of statements posted to UK, as well as being able to see transaction summaries on-line.

Nationwide card services have no problem with French addresses when we move, so at the moment I cannot see any reason to change when we do. My state pension is being paid into the French account and my company pension into a UK bank which will be used to DD the card balances.

When I checked out online banking recently (as I am setting up as auto entrepreneur) it appeared to only be free if one had a regular sum of money coming in to your account on a monthly basis, otherwise there were charges, so it didn't seem very good for me as I don't know how much I will be earning. I have a personal account with Credit Mutuel but have been advised to open another account for the business with a different bank.

Hi Jon,

You don’t need a separate business account if you’re an Autoentrepreneur. ING don’t do business Acs.

I forgot to say here that with Boursorama also there are no charges & free credit cards, it was the real incentive for us to change bank.

Hi Finn
Thanks for all your fabulous help and info on this subject!
We have indeed decided on ING direct, but I have a question for you first, do we need to be french resident to open the account, or can we open it from the UK before we come?
Best Regards

Friends use HSBC. Although their french branch is in Toulouse, they manage their money on the internet between UK and French HSBC accounts.
You can also open an account with Credit Agriclole from the UK.

This one looks like a winner! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I’ll let you know how it goes.
You must have had a lot of experience researching banks in France.

I just checked and unfortunately since I do not live permanently in France, ING is not an option :frowning:
I appreciate your advice though!

I was just about to reply the same - change to ING where almost everything seems to be free.
I cancelled my Visa card with LCL a few months ago and will just keep the LCL account open for occasional transactions with the cheque book (which is free).

Thanks! I’ll check into this.

120E per year on a chequing account. This is no charge per cheque issued, but is a flat rate of 30E 4 times a year. This includes a carte bleue. Am I being ripped off?

What kind of fees are charged? Isn’t there free checking?

Hi, I’m a Canadian with a French property and it was very difficult to find a French bank that let me open an account. This was only 2 years ago, so maybe things are better now. Anyway, Banque Populaire Centre Atlantique was the only one I could find and it has been a pleasant experience with their service and getting information (aside from the ridiculous bank fees!!). The online banking is only available in French.

Have been with Banque Populaire since about 1993 or 4. Superb online service. Easy to use, transfers no problem all your accounts at a glance, then the detail.
They have recently brought out heir dashboard feature showing your tendencies over a twelve month period. All in all pretty nifty and you can hav a gamble on the stock exchange from the comfort of your own home - so a big thumbs up.

We just moved from Credit Agricole (which is only regional so a bit of a pain if you move!) to Boursorama which is totally online so really flexible and so far are really impressed with the service!!
Of course the best bit is that it has reduced the operational costs to a minimum. Apart from a limit on number of handwritten cheques, we have not seen any downside: and even with this there is an online cheque facility that they encourage you to use instead.

personal, i do not trust any online money transactions,being easy for bad those,who are eating each day from others money.

the best bank for the clients, is the Bank who does not charge any client taxes. Many USA Banks are doing that, investing clients money= with many benefits for banks. The Banks are using our money and they must treat us with respect, as partners. Only European Union must give the right,legal direction to all the banks, if we want to trust them and prosper together

thanks to all,
any info to new comers are very helpful.

Christopher, are you sure. I was told specifically by the Charles Schwab bank people that notwithstanding the fact that I have been a Charles Schwab investment account client for 20 years, they could not open an account for me because I was not physically resident and I doubt a post office box counts as a resident address. Having said that, how do retired people who live permanently roaming North America in RV’s handle mail and this business of banking based on the need for a physical address?
As Finn mentioned, the banking security rules have tightened after 9/11. The governments need to know where to get you when they want to talk to you.