Which bank do you use to look after your money in France? We asked Connexion readers for their recommendations.
‘The answer is La Banque Postale’
Keith Wooldridge, who owns a house in Cher, commented: “The answer is La Banque Postale. Go to any large town post office and open an account, as we did in 2004 when we moved to our holiday home.
“Superb service as you can go to any post office in France, flash your cheque book and ID and withdraw up to €500.
“A few euros a year in bank charges when in credit.”
‘Closed my BNP account’
Anthony Bromfield, who has owned a second home in Pas-de-Calais since 1990, said: “I have closed my BNP bank account because they are charging €15 per month from June 1.
“I am now using a euro account with Wise and have been able to set up direct debits to pay all my regular suppliers, except taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière. The finances publiques refuse to accept this account because it is not a ‘French’ account - this means that I am unlikely to be able to pay these taxes in future by monthly instalment.”
Mr Bromfield has therefore been using a credit card to pay these bills.
“In other respects I do not believe I need a costly French bank account nor a cheque book,” he said.
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence resident and retired pilot Paul Bainbridge suggested: “Try Britline, which is part of Crédit Agricole Normandie.
“They are staffed by and for English speakers and I have found them to be very helpful in all financial matters.”
Ken Ford, who has a second home near Riberac (Dordogne) with his wife, shared this view.
“My wife and I have used Credit Agricole’s Britline services for the last five years,” he said. “We operate a joint current account and each have a savings account.
“The bank is actually based in Caen in Normandy but operates online like any other Crédit Agricole account.
“The extra services include English-speaking account contacts and ‘Gold’ Visa debit cards giving ample cash withdrawal facilities worldwide.
“In addition to Britline we also use Smart Currencies and find them quick, efficient and on the button with rates and no ‘extra’ charges.”
Tracy Deakin, who has lived in Dijon with her husband since 2019, also uses Britline, commenting that: “all the documentation is in English and you get a dedicated agent who also speaks English.
“They were very helpful when we moved over.”
“I have lived in France for over 40 years and initially held accounts with the traditional banks Société Générale, BNP and Crédit Lyonnais,” another reader in Hautes-Alpes said.
“Accounts with the two former I held for over 20 years, in fact, until online banks became so efficient and inexpensive that I insisted on giving two of them a try.
“Whilst neither have any local branches I was initially uncertain about using them in practice as both my routine, and occasionally complicated, financial affairs are far from straightforward.
“My original reticence has long since evaporated, my experience of dealing with both banks on euro and sterling matters has been far more than satisfactory.
“The availability and competence of advice by telephone at extended hours on six days per week has more than compensated for an absence of branches.
“In fact, the advice and action online has been more effective and speedy than with any branch of my previously held traditional bank accounts.
“Now, as classic French banks close more and more agencies, and demand that clients do most of their routine issues online, other than for business clients it is difficult so see arguments against pure online banking.
“My choice of online banks has been Axabanque and Boursorama Bank, the latter being a subsidiary of Société Générale. I would recommend either without reservations.”
‘Been with Société Générale for 20 years’
“I've been with Société Générale for 20 years without any real complaints,” said another reader. “Service and opening times of branches are similar to other banks and their cash dispensers – if you use cash still! – are relatively frequent.
“Their online service works well enough; their security seems adequate. Charges for services like international transfers are as exorbitant as others!
“What I would recommend is the international bank transfer company Wise. Their service is excellent, the website clear and the exchange rate among the best.”
‘Go for Wise bank’
Several other readers also recommended Wise.
Chris Hibbert, who retired to Rennes in 2011 following a career in IT, said: “If all that is needed is a multi-currency account with debit card payment facilities, online payments and the lowest possible exchange rate costs, go for Wise Bank.
“Easy set up, good web page account management and mobile app, very low fees, very helpful helpline when needed. No cheque book though.
Mr Hibbert added: "I would very much recommend AXA to anyone looking for full French banking facilities. Our branch speaks English, and has provided a very good and friendly service.
"AXA Banque, by virtue of its also being a major insurance business, has acquired English businesses (Equity & Law Life Insurance, notably), and has a considerable presence in the UK insurance business.
"I think that this has perhaps given them a much friendlier attitude to British expats than some of the traditional French banks. Any Brit finding difficulty being taken on by a French bank could do worse than seeing if there is a Branch of AXA Banque within reach.
"The online facilities are also very good, so doesn't need to be very close geographically)."
‘Avoid Crédit Agricole!’
“Avoid Credit Agricole!” one reader said. “Sky high prices and staff in branches who lack empathy with English-speakers.”
"Crédit Agricole's computer system is probably the worst we have come across, with nothing being processed over the weekend and if that’s followed by a holiday you may wait a day or two after that to see a transaction go through," another couple said.
"We increasingly use Revolut and have switched our pensions to the platform as it is invariably paid on the day before they were due unlike Crédit Agricole, where we waited days, sometimes up to five!
"Revolut’s computer’s are super-efficient and most transactions are free. Crédit Agricole is on borrowed time as far as we are concerned."
This was echoed by another reader, who said: "We have had a Credit Agricole account for six years now. Every time we try to use it online the website has changed.
"Today we could not pay our plumber because his details had been removed from our account. The explanation was that a new account had been opened in my name and our payees had been transferred over. Our account is in joint names.
"Two weeks ago, €8000 had been removed from our account on a Friday, causing us much worry over the weekend. It turned out that a new account had been opened without our knowledge and the money was in that. This new account was in only one of our names despite our account being in joint names.
"Our experience this year has been appalling."
'Crédit Agricole - excellent service'
The above views were not shared by all. Another reader stated: "We have had an account with Crédit Agricole since we got our house in France eight years ago.
"They have an excellent service for the English speaking community. Our manager is always there for advice or sorting out any problems.
"We have a yearly meeting with him to catch up on any new services or just see if we need any help. The French staff are always helpful. Would never change banks."
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