Need a free French bank account?

We have lived in France since 2014 and have always had a La Banc Postale account with two cards (one each) and cheque book. Unfortunately we get charged for this “priviledge” and quite a lot it seems? We also receive no interest on our account balance. As it contain the funds for our renovation it is a decent sum of money. I would like to set up a separate account for the renovation funds so I can ringfence that money, but I don’t want another account with La Banc Postale. We have one monthly salary (French paid) going into this account, plus all our direct debit payments.

With money becoming ever tighter due to the cost of living rises we wish to explore changing bank account. How straightforward is this? Can anyone recommend a reliable online banking service in France that we can have with a card, but which has either low fees or even better is free. I don’t recall ever paying for a current account in the UK? Why do French banks charge so much?

In the short term we will just open another account for the renovation funds and will not need a chequebook, just a card. After that we would like to leave La Banc Postale and open up a current account for bills/wages etc.

Can anyone advise please?

Because they have a much more prudent and responsible banking system. Give me the French system in preference to the UK any time.

Boursorama do a free account and the card is free if you use it once a month
Boursorama Banque.
Their online app is good too, unlike CA, the transactions appear in your account almost instanteously.

1 Like

I will investigate thank you.

Look around for incentives before you sign up - I am sure I have seen some and I think boursorama was offering.

Cashback sites like might have offers for opening a new account too (though in UK cashback sites often have very slow payout and this may be the case in .fr as well). Also some sites have a minimum total earnings before they will pay out so always check.

Can I bring up again are there any decent credit cards in France? Not the sort that just debit your bank account for each transaction, or graciously hold off doing that till the end of each month.

I am looking for similar to what I have in the UK - where I can choose to pay a card statement each month or let some larger payments run on a month or two if I wish. Does that exist in France?

1 Like

Visa, Mastercard, American Express… I believe all of these are available as Carte de Credit

Borsorama are owned by Societe Generale.

They have various different free cards. If you keep a high balance (I have 5000€ in a Livret A) or pay in a monthly income in Boursorama you can get a free Gold Visa card and insurance.

I moved from CA to Boursorama and haven’t regretted it. Their phone app works well. They provide a cheque book but do not have any high street banks so you have to post cheques you receive to them.

The only niggle I’ve found is I use MSMoney for my accounts and the Boursorama statement download is not the easiest to use (although it does work).

As I understand, French bank Visa cards are either debit or credit cards. The only difference is the debit cards debit your account at the time of a payment/withdrawal whereas the credit cards only debit all the monthly transaction once per month. The credit cards do not allow you to roll over and pay interest on the unpaid amount as is the case with UK credit cards.

1 Like

I’ve no idea how the credit cards work… I only read that they are available.

Thanks very much elsie, I hadn’t put much effort into looking yet but I had rather been fearing that as the few times I had a quick look everything seemed to be a debit type of card when I looked closely. I don’t call paying at the end of the month a credit card, but a delayed debit card as you’ve explained.

It kinda feels like the French banks don’t believe people have the right to manage their own finances.
Why should I be forced to run everything on a cash basis (and yet the banks don’t want to let you have much actual er…cash).

I can’t see myself keeping my UK Mastercard, for example. I’d planned to switch to a French-issued Mastercard as here is where I live and things like 3D so-called security is a pain across countries.

If I get hit with a sudden expense I don’t want to have to suddenly have to waste loads of time and go begging to whichever bank I happen to have a relationship with. I’m used to just putting it on a card then sorting out myself if I settle the card as usual in full or let it slide a month or two. And I don’t consider that’s my bank’s business.

I am quite shocked to have you confirm this elsie. Perhaps I’m being unfair but this only adds to my previous impressions that the financial world here feels like 1978.

I have never found this kind of credit card in France. Although I have not really looked for it. But I believe that borrowing is a lot more tightly controlled in France than in the UK. I remember legislation about surendettement being brought in arounnd 10 years ago, I think it was Christine Lagarde? I suppose that running up a credit card is classed as borrowing so the lender will be under the same obligations to check your financial situation etc.

Yes, of course for any credit line such as a revolving credit (=a credit card such as we have in the UK), the lender (issuer of the credit card) will verify your situation, approve you or not and decide what size line of credit he is willing to give you. This will be the limit on your card.

After that you are basically managing your own line of credit yourself. ie your credit card. If you pay it all every month as most of us should all the time, the lender will be happy to increase your limits. Cards in the UK actually used to increase people’s limits automatically quite regularly, without the customer asking for it. Luckily legislation stopped that - now the cardholder has to request/agree it.

The point was that you are approved for a certain credit limit ie how much risk the card issuer is prepared to take. The card issuer hoped you would earn them the commissions on the amounts you would spend on the card. And maybe they could charge you some fees. And maybe they could occasionally earn some interest - but not too much, otherwise their comfort with your risk profile might reduce. You were trusted to manage it, and they trusted you more as you built up a track record. And your first card issuer might have been your bank. But after that you could choose in the market and card issuers could choose you (your risk profile and how much they thought they might make for taking that risk on). E.g. some card issuers actually won’t take very high income people as they won’t make any money from them, if the card issuer wants to focus on profiles that are likely to pay some interest).

I do understand it from the government control of money supply point of view, but it’s a bit of a shock!

Well I am no expert but as I understand it, whenever a new loan is granted the provider has to ensure that your total monthly repayments do not exceed a certain percentage of income. It seems to me that having significant amounts of credit available to use or not use from one month to the next, would prevent that system from working as it is designed to work. How would new loan applications be assessed, would the available credit be taken into account? What would there be to prevent you applying for a credit card when you have no loans to pay off and then as soon as the credit limit has been set, taking out new loans?

I do not think the credit card restrictions are about the government controlling money supply, it is more about protecting people from taking on too much debt. I think there is certainly a temptation, with the UK system, for people to find themselves deeper in debt than they realised. Credit card interest rates can be punitive once they build up.

Would it not be a solution to agree an overdraft with your bank? That would give you the same kind of flexibility. Once you have an overdraft figure agreed you would not have to ask every time you wanted to use it.

1 Like

This is the trouble with France not working like the US, U.K. etc and having the big 3 CRAs run the show. They do so many terrible things, most of which were not generally even aware of, that overall things may well be better off without them, but the complete lack of joined up thinking in France makes things like credit a horrifically difficult concept to run on all sides, for providers and customers. Going forward at least open banking should make it all easier as you can just give the credit provider authority to connect to your other financial products to do what they need to do, run their modelling and scoring, and come back with a decision without having to take in whole forests of paper and be quizzed about how much you spend in Pierre Marcolini on an alarmingly regular basis, and in fact I think some of the Oney type providers already do this.

Sandcastle I think you can now consider yourself French :slight_smile: !

(1) the point is that the card issuer makes a risk assessment to award the revolving credit (ie credit card) that the cardholder then manages. The cardholder is not a child. Of course there are review points. And these days constantly running credit review reports running and flagging anything beyond certain norms immediately to the card issuer, whether a change of factors in the environment like a change in interest rates, an out of norm ratio of bad debt in a particular set of customer profiles, or someone has used more than 80% of their credit limit for a 3rd month etc.

(2) the customer is not just tied to one bank.

@kirsteastevenson terrible things by the CRA’s? Do tell us more.

Reading through this thread… it sounds as if France is very different to US and UK (and others?) with regard to Banking and Credit Cards

Perhaps these differences are something which a potential immigrant should seriously consider/learn-about before moving to France… depending on how they prefer to run their finances.
On the other hand, perhaps there are other money/credit possibilities which need exploring further…

I’ve now found there is at least one revolving credit card available in France Carte de Crédit Renouvelable - Carte ZERO
This is one review/explanation of how it works/advantages/disadvantages Carte Zéro : une Gold MasterCard gratuite qui coûte cher ? [Avis]

I still have my Barclaycard which works fine when I need credit.

Otherwise, despite Karen’s comment …

most of the time I have no cash whatsoever in my purse because everything goes on my debit card, even the smallest transaction.

I will always keep UK a/cs (I still have my HSBC and a FD joint a/c) because I would never say never about one day needing to return to the UK. I’ve seen it happen with friends who never expected to go back. And I also have small pensions that need a home in the UK - they don’t have the capacity to pay into overseas a/cs.