With bank rates set to increase in France once again in the new year, The Connexion has compiled some tips for reducing your bank charges.
Bank charges, known as frais bancaires in France, can come as a nasty surprise particularly if you are newly arrived in the country and unfamiliar with how they work.
These fees, commonly deducted directly from your account monthly or quarterly, can make a big difference to your balance so it is important to keep them as low as impossible.
Check your statements
The most important step in managing your bank charges is to check your accounts and statements regularly.
Your monthly account statement shows the amount of bank charges deducted during the period covered.
In addition, once a year, usually during the month of January, you will receive an annual statement of the bank fees collected during the previous year for the management of your account.
Checking through both of these allows you to take stock of what you are paying and to act to reduce the fees.
If you are concerned you will forget to do this yourself, almost all banks now offer online management tools with alerts if certain thresholds or limits are exceeded. This will help you avoid any oversights.
Avoid ATM charges
Although a rarity in some other countries, charges for using the ATMs of other banks often still apply in France, particularly if you do this multiple times per month.
The exact charge depends on your bank, as well as the rules of the bank from which you are withdrawing your money.
The best way to prevent any surprise charges for ATM withdrawals is to only withdraw money from the ATMs of your bank, or if you can’t avoid using them, withdraw larger sums each time so as not to exceed the number of free withdrawals.
Another useful tip is that online-only banks do not charge you for withdrawing at all ATMs across France if you use the cards issued by them.
Physical extras can incur charges
It is not just with services where you can make savings, but also with the physical products offered to you.
Although becoming less common, many people still use or have a chequebook and most banks in France will charge customers for having one (and even more for posting one to a customer). So if you do not or rarely use it, it is an easy place to save money.
The same advice applies to bank cards. There are a number of different ones you can use, ranging from simple ones only used for withdrawing money from ATMs to premium credit cards that come with a range of additional benefits.
If you do not use many of its features, downgrading your bank card to one with fewer charges can immediately reduce the price of your account plan.
Keep an eye on your overdraft
Fees will be levied by your bank if your account balance goes into the red, in addition to any unauthorised overdraft charges.
If you regularly find yourself overdrawn, it is better to negotiate an agreed overdraft; provided you stay within the agreed limit, the charges will be lower than in the event of an unauthorised overdraft and you will not incur the associated fees.
Use an online bank
In the last few years, online banks have become increasingly popular across Europe, with those such as Monzo, Revolut, Monabanq, and N26 attracting millions of customers.
These banks usually charge much lower fees – or even in some cases none at all – compared with traditional banks.
You may also minimise charges like international transaction fees with an online bank.
It is important to note that online banks tend not to have a physical presence and so do not have in-person branches you can walk into to seek assistance.
This may also make it difficult to deposit cheques (and cash) to your online account, as there is no physical location in which to pay them in.
Check charges are correct
It is important to check regularly that you are not being charged for something you should not be, and equally that anything you are being charged for is the correct amount.
In the event of erroneous bank charges, a customer may request the reimbursement of costs incorrectly received by the banking institution.
To do so, a customer must send a registered letter to their bank explaining the purpose of their request.
Attach to the letter a copy of the bank statement showing the incorrect direct debit, and to highlight the sums concerned.