There are two main divisions for French bank accounts: those for residents and those for non-residents. In each case it’s highly recommended to make an appointment with your local branch in order to set up your account.
If you are not residing in France you may open a non-resident account, but this process is significantly more involved. You will need proof of identity (usually a passport), proof of residency (an electric bill, a lease, etc from your home, wherever that may be) and usually your most recent bank slips (last three months of bank statements). A letter from your current bank attesting to your good standing is also necessary. Few banks will give checkbooks or overdrafts to non-resident account holders.
For a resident account, you will need to provide: your valid passport, your carte de sejour, proof of residency (your French lease, a French utility bill), and the last three pay slips from your employer. You may often substitute your signed work contract for this requirement, if it clearly indicates your salary and you have not yet received three pay slips. The process is quite quick and your account will be opened the same day. Your debit card and checkbook will arrive at your home within 1-2 weeks.
Checking Accounts – These are by far the most common accounts. You will receive a carte bleue which functions as a debit card, not a credit card, with a PIN that you will enter for each purchase. You will not sign slips in France, but rather enter your PIN, so ensure that you are very discreet when you enter your number. French banks are extremely strict about bounced checks; your account may be closed if you do this. Be very sure that you have enough funds in your account before writing a check (or using your carte bleue), particularly as it is very difficult to cancel a check once written in France.
It is quite common in France for stores or services to accept smaller, equal payments instead of requiring the entire purchase price at once. In order to do this, they will request that you give them the number of checks necessary already filled in. It is illegal, however, to post-date your checks. You will have to date them with the current date. The company/service will keep your checks on file and deposit them on the dates that you have agreed upon together.
Saving Accounts – If you wish to earn interest on your money, you may wish to set up a savings account. Until quite recently French law prevented interest-earning checking accounts. This has changed but rates can be quite low. Thus, savings accounts present a substantial improvement in rates. The process is the same as above, and you may request a carte bleue to access these funds, as well.
HSBC is one bank that offers a multi-currency bank account. For more information, visit https://www.expat.hsbc.com/1/2/hsbc-expat/ways-to-bank-with-us/banking-in-multiple-currencies.