Updated: more of your feedback on French banks

Readers give their views after surprisingly positive poll shows almost nine in 10 French people surveyed have a good opinion of their bank - and particularly their local branch

Our readers’ views on banking in France do not in the main match the results of a recent poll

[This article was updated on February 14 to add further responses from Connexion France readers]

A recent poll shows that 88% of French people have a good opinion of their bank, with confidence returning to pre-2008 levels.

Over 4,000 people across France were polled online, with results providing a comprehensive positive account for banks across the country.

Furthermore, 86% of respondents reported having a “good image” of their consultant or key contact at their local bank branch.

In light of this poll, we asked our readers for feedback to see if they share the same view.

We highlight some of the responses below (we have used initials rather than full names). Thank you to all who responded. If you would like to add your view please email it to news@connexionfrance.com

Mixed response on customer service

Reader R.K wrote to criticise Crédit Agricole’s “astonishing” [in a bad way] service and in particular its mandatory extra charges.

“It makes customers pay a monthly fee just to use their debit cards and then the bank hits them a second time with a hefty annual charge”, they said.

Most physical banks in France have monthly charges, for actions such as using a debit card, receiving or making online and international payments and for using certain ATMs, amongst other reasons.

Banks must make you aware of its charges at least once per year, and you can usually find this information in your online account.

Online banks, such as Boursarama, and streamlined services such as Nickel, can have no monthly charges, yet the downside is that they have no dedicated physical branches, which can make it difficult to resolve problems that may arise with your account.

Another reader (D.B) called Crédit Agricole “appalling” due to poor customer service, with clerks often leaving pre-arranged appointments to take phone calls.

“On the last occasion (mid-phone call) we simply stood up and left,” they said.

The efficiency of this bank was also called into question by B.L, who says they feel the bank's practices are "from a past century", with transfers being slow and charges seemingly random.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Crédit Agricole, however, as D.D from South-west France said they “cannot praise them enough” for their help, and S.R highlights that despite several moves around France, customer service has always been "outstanding" from the bank, which provides nothing but "help and good advice."

Reader C.R also banks with Crédit Agricole and is happy to pay the bank's charges as they keep a "local banking service" operational that other countries may lack, and that this provides "peace of mind" when issues arise.

"Our town of less than 6,000 inhabitants has six banks. Our village in England, with over 10,000 inhabitants, lost banking services over 10 years ago. The nearest bank is 10 miles away," they said.

Praise for an English-speaking service

Further feedback for Crédit Agricole continued to be mostly positive, specifically regarding the bank providing assistance for readers in English.

Two readers, J.L and S.H, gave praise to the bank for providing English-speaking services, particularly in Normandy. The so-called 'Britline' is "quick to respond" and "always friendly and helpful."

Both readers specifically called the service "efficient", although one did mention that the English-speaking aid was lacking from face-to-face interactions in local branches.

One last comment for Crédit Agricole draws a distinction between their personal service (which S.B from Saumur says is excellent), and the banking service provided to an association they are involved with, which they describe as "appalling" due to "ignorance and lack of customer service."

Branches not banks

In the original poll, even more people had a positive opinion of their local branch (89%) than their bank.

Problems with local branch advisors were a recurring issue highlighted by our readers, however.

C.W, who moved from East France to the South, commented on the difference in customer service between branches of BNP Paribas.

Their former branch was “very proactive and efficient”, yet after moving to a new department they found assistance lacking.

“We either get no response from our advisor or have to wait weeks for an unhelpful reply,” C.W said, and trying to get in-person assistance does not yield better results.

“Visiting the branch is a waste of time as whoever is in attendance indicates they are unable to help”, they concluded.

Reader B.T agrees that service varies from branch to branch, but that their best bank had been Crédit Mutuel, which "has always been helpful and advised us well," whilst reserving harsher words for Banque Populaire, which is a bank they "advise people to avoid at all costs."

International payments cause issues

In-person issues were a cause of ire for customers from not only national banks in France but also localised Crédit unions.

One reader claimed that their bank (Crédit Mutuel Bretagne) was good under “very limited fields” but that anything out of the ordinary seemed to stump them.

When trying to make a payment outside of France the bank only permits it for certain ‘pre-approved’ countries, which meant I.S had to go into their local branch to complete the transaction.

Further troubles arose, they claim, when the advisor did not understand why she was being given a SWIFT code during the process (this is part of information needed when authorising international payments).

More accounts, more problems

A damning “avoid at all costs!” was levelled against AXA France by one reader, who claimed that the bank’s regulations caused them to pay over €150 in charges over three months.

J.H owned two accounts with the bank, yet was unable to automatically transfer money between them.

This caused one account to have negative funds and overdraft fees levied against the account holder despite other accounts having over €4,000 in them, they said.

For some readers, issues have led them to start the process of changing banks.

"AXA is awful... the worst financial institution I ever dealt with", said T.L, who had their card frozen by the bank, then was charged for exceeding card payment minimums despite the card being frozen and remaining unused. They say they are changing banks because of this issue, hopeful that there are no further problems in trying to switch funds to their new bank.

A replacement card for an account holder at La Banque Postale took over four months to arrive - a process that should have only taken days. This, combined with issues over international charges for receiving pensions, has left N.W looking for a new bank.

La Poste's banking services were praised by H.B, who said they kept services open in their town despite other banks, such as their previous institution Société Générale, leaving.

"With no warning, and not even a letter to local clients, just a piece of paper sellotaped to the window," their former bank closed the branch, forcing them to open their new account at La Poste which is "open 6 days a week... and has been very helpful."

Are you happy with your branch and advisor? Let us know via news@connexionfrance.com

*Study conducted by the Fédération bancaire française in December 2022, surveying over 4,000 French adults online across France.