CA Britline: is it a good bank for Britons with homes in France?

Many second-home owners need new bank accounts due to Brexit complications

French bank Crédit Agricole
At least 60 British second-home owners had their accounts at Credit Agricole closed due to complications over Brexit
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Many UK tax residents with a French bank account have seen their banking options reduced due to post-Brexit complications. One exception to this is online bank Britline - we examine whether this is a good option and look at what alternatives are available.

There is no rule preventing non-tax residents from having a bank account (including a debit card and ability to have French cheques) in France, however banks are free to accept or not accept customers. They are also free to close bank accounts if they so wish.

This has happened to at least 60 British customers of the Crédit Agricole in the south-west in 2024, who received notice that their banks would be closed within 60 days, leaving them scrambling to find an alternative.

Crédit Agricole Nord Midi-Pyrénées told The Connexion in April that the closures were due in part to complications linked to the UK leaving the EU, as well as strict anti-money laundering rules which state that it must ‘know’ each client, which is harder when they are abroad.

Read more: French bank to close dozens of Britons' accounts citing Brexit

This is by no means the only instance of Brexit causing banking issues for Britons, however the regional nature of French many French banks - divided into local caisses - means that whether a particular bank accepts non-resident British customers is decided locally, apparently on an opaque internal evaluation of cost and benefit.

Read more: Barclays closes accounts of Britons in France: what about other banks? 

Accounts that do not have debts, mortgages, insurance or investment options and that require particular administrative checks due to money laundering rules may be seen as being of little value to banks. 

This includes some non-residents who use their accounts to make bank transfers into euros to pay bills rather than to subscribe to financial services. 

Patrick Sourdin, the general secretary of banking consumer body France Conso Banque, told The Connexion they suspect that banks “sift out customers that aren’t profitable enough”.

“Banks don’t communicate much on the subject of closures, or sometimes give false reasons.

“It has been increasing since the 2015 terror attacks and even more since the war in Ukraine.”

Read more: How does the takeover of HSBC’s French branches affect customers? 

Is Britline a good alternative?

Some Britons whose accounts were forcibly closed by Crédit Agricole’s Nord Midi-Pyrénées caisse were surprised to be told that an alternative could be an account at Britline, run by the same bank’s Normandy caisse.

Similarly, UK-resident account holders in Normandy, were moved automatically to Britline, with several saying the decision came as a surprise. However, the bank’s director, Eric Morvan, told The Connexion in April that this was not Brexit-related.

“Our customers are satisfied with the quality of service, so we thought it was better to ask our teams to look after them, rather than having customers spread out across local branches,” he said.

Britline has been in operation for 25 years and offers a fully English language service that caters to both residents and non-residents.

“About half the people who work here are from the UK,” a spokesperson for Britline told The Connexion. “The Brexit rules have made things seem more complicated for many Brits, but we have been doing this for a long time and we are not going anywhere.”

Britline is an online bank, though customers can use basic services at branches of Crédit Agricole throughout France. 

Otherwise, customers are limited to (English speaking) telephone and online services.

Customers are allocated a specific advisor, and the bank says it is introducing the option of webcam meetings with them. Three-way meetings including experts on certain topics, such as inheritance, are also possible, it states.

Its services are comparable to most French banks, however this means that some services are paid for - as is the case with most high-street banks - including debit cards, certain bank transfers, and access to a French credit card.

Non-residents are also more limited than tax-residents in the banking options available to them on the service, but can still open a current account and a livret a, however the tax-free benefit of this account will depend on their domestic tax status.

The bank previously required that people open their account with a set sum, however this is apparently no longer a systematic requirement.

It is also possible to apply to the bank for a mortgage, and for loans for home renovations.

Which other banks offer English language service?

Many French banks have English speaking personnel, but Britline is the main one we are aware of specialising in offering a service in English; in addition many of its staff are of British nationality and it states it offers a ‘bi-cultural’ experience, as advisors are familiar with UK laws and regulations. 

Several other banks offer English language versions of their websites, including, for example, the Banque Populaire Occitanie.

Some fully online ‘neobanks’, such as N26 and Revolut also offer English language services.

Which banks accept non-residents in France?

Non-residents who are in France for less than 183 days in a year can only open a current account, and not all banks offer this service.

These accounts are called comptes non-resident, or non-resident accounts, and are subject to more stringent limitations on cash withdrawals, bank transfers and payments than residents’ accounts.

Some banks that offer this service include:

  • Boursobank

  • CIC

  • BNP Paribas

  • Société Générale

  • Revolut

  • N26

  • Lydia

Most will ask you to provide a copy of your passport (and visa where applicable), proof of income and proof of address to open an account, however this is not the case for N26 and Revolut, which only require proof of identity and address.

Which banks accept American expats in France?

Several banks avoid accepting American customers due to the complexities of the US tax administration

Britline only accepts UK or Irish citizens, and likewise, some otherwise straightforward online banks, including Boursobank, do not accept American citizens at all.

The banks that do accept them include: 

  • Fortuneo

  • BNP Paribas

  • Crédit Agricole

  • Monabanq

  • N26

  • Revolut

  • bunq