The French banking system is both safe and efficient, and internet banking is becoming more widespread. In fact, there are certain banks – AXA and Banque Accord – who exist almost solely on the web: http://www.axabanque.fr, http://www.banque-accord.fr. ATMs are ubiquitous and often provide a choice of language when a foreign card is inserted. Banks are usually open between 9 am – 5 or 5:30 pm and smaller branches will close for one or two hours over lunch (usually 1 to 3 pm). Some branches of banks are open for a few hours on Saturday mornings (9 am to 1 pm) but there are also banks which are closed all day on Mondays, or on Monday mornings. Check with your local branch to verify your bank’s hours.
A checking account (compte chèque) and other accounts can be opened at the flagship agencies of major French banks or their branches, or at your local post office (La Poste). You must bring proof of address (lease, electricity/gas or phone bill, etc), your passport, and your work contract (especially important if you do not yet have a residence). An account manager will take care of the formalities and continue to be your personal contact at the bank. International wire transfers are easily done, but take several days to clear into the receiving account.
The following banks have English-language websites and English-speaking personnel. They tend to be slightly more expensive, but are accustomed to dealing with expatriates and are helpful when opening accounts and answering other banking inquires.
- Barclays Bank, http://www.barclays.fr
- Banque Transatlantique, http://www.transat.tm.fr
- BNP Paribas, http://bank.bnpparibas.com
- Le Credit Lyonnais (LCL), http://www.lcl.fr
- Societe Generale, http://www.societegenerale.com
If however, you have a bank near you that is not on this list, it may be worthwhile to dash inside and verify if they have English-speaking personnel. English is the language of business and finance, and more and more Parisian banks have English-speaking personnel. If you intend to maintain an account with a balance of 100K euros, you should contact the Private Banking section of any French bank and you will be put in contact with an English-speaking banker or financial consultant.