Advertisement-NordVpn Black Friday

Opening a bank account in France as an American

Opening a bank account in France should be your top priority when relocating to France. In this article, you will learn the reason why opening a bank account in France is challenging for Americans and which banks are American friendly.

You will also learn how French payment cards work and what documents you need to open a bank account in France. Let’s begin.

Disclosure: This site is sponsored by ads and affiliate programs. I may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

Do you need a French bank account?

French institutions rely heavily on people having a bank account. You need a French bank account for pretty much everything. You need a French bank account to:

  • set up recurrent monthly payments that you make (for instance to EDF for your electricity bill)
  • receive a salary (paying a salary in cash is not allowed by law unless it is below €1,500)
  • claim benefits (family allowance from CAF for instance)
  • enroll into the French healthcare system and receive reimbursements for healthcare costs

Should you close your U.S. bank accounts?

I strongly recommend that you keep one bank account in the United States if possible. This will make things easier if you get paid in US$ or when the IRS sends you a tax refund check in US$.

Cashing a check in U.S. dollars directly into your bank account in France is very costly. Read How to use a Wise account when living abroad when you need to transfer U.S. Dollars into your bank account in France.

Can you use an online bank?

Do you absolutely need a brick and mortar bank? You could go instead with an international online bank or a Wise multi-currency account. In theory, this should work fine because SEPA regulations state that a business in Europe should accept any IBAN, regardless of which country it is from.

The reality though is that some French utility companies won’t accept an IBAN unless it is from a French bank. If your IBAN from an online bank is refused, report it at Accept my IBAN.

Since May 2022, Revolut provides French IBANs to their customers living in France. It means that you can easily open a Revolut account without the hassle of a heavy load of paperwork. All you need is a smartphone on which you install the Revolut app and you can be set up in minutes.

How to open a bank account in France from the U.S.?

Opening a bank account in France from the United States is probably the ideal option if you have the possibility. I’ve seen a few people successfully open a French bank account with HSBC before setting foot in France. Read the comments at the bottom of the page to find readers of ma French Life who share their experience on how to open a French bank account from the US.

It’s fine if you cannot open a bank account before moving to France. You’ll open a bank account once you’re in France.

Best banks in France for Americans

As an American, opening a bank account in France can be tricky because of a U.S. federal law called FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). The U.S. government requires foreign financial institutions to report information about accounts held by U.S. taxpayers to the IRS.

That’s the reason why the first challenge for Americans wanting to open an account is to pick a French bank that will accept them, knowing that they are U.S. persons.

In France, branches from a bank don’t always work the same way. Try a different branch if you’re not satisfied with one branch. The following banks in France usually accept Americans.

BNP Paribas logo
Crédit Agricole logo
Société Générale logo

How to open a bank account in France as an American

Most banks in France require you to go to their office to open an account. While I fully understand the convenience of online banking, establishing a relationship with your banker is very common in France. There are a few operations that you cannot deal with online (like transferring a larger amount of money to purchase a home). Your experience will probably be smoother if people at the bank have already met you face-to-face. I know many French who meet with their banker once a year to faire le point (to assess their financial situation and keep in touch).

In order to open a French bank account in person, call your nearest branch to arrange an appointment. Let them know that you are a U.S. person so they can prepare specific documents. There is no walk-ins like in the United States. Be prepared to stay at the bank for about an hour.

Credit Mutuel is one of the banks you can contact to open a bank account in France.

Required documents to open a bank account in France

These are the documents you need to bring with you:

  • justificatif de domicile (Proof of address)
  • passeport (passport) or valid ID (justificatif d’identité)
  • titre de séjour (residency status)

You may be asked to provide more documents like a proof of income issued in the past 3 months.
Because you are a U.S. person, the bank will provide you a W9 form that you’ll have to fill out. The W9 form contains your U.S. taxpayer identification number (TIN). Your French bank has an obligation to report your bank account to the IRS.

Checking account and saving account

The 2 main types of account in France are compte courant (checking account) and Livret A (saving account).

French checking account

Compte courant or compte chèque is your regular checking account and it comes with a payment card and/or a checkbook. Upon opening a compte courant, you have to sign a convention de compte bancaire (bank account agreement). The agreement contains the rules and regulations of your account.

Your account can be individuel (individual account) or joint (joined account).

French saving account

Livret A is a free saving account. Interest rate is 3% and the maximum limit is €22,950.00. The interest earned are exempt from taxes.

You can open a livret A for each of your kids, as long as each person in your family has no more than one account to their name. The rules for Livret A are the same in any French bank you pick. The French government sets the interest rate twice a year. You usually get a cash withdrawal card with each Livret A account.

transfer money with Wise

Different types of payment cards in France

The 3 main types of payment cards in France are: 

  • Carte à débit immédiat (debit card) – That is the type of card most French use. The money is taken out of the account at the time of the purchase.
  • Carte à débit différé (deferred debit card) – The money for all your purchases in a month is taken at once on a date you agreed on with your banker. This does not apply to the cash you get from an ATM.
  • Carte de crédit (credit card) – This is the same as a typical American credit card.
picture of CB logo

France has a national interbank network called CB (Groupement des Cartes Bancaires CB) which makes sure that anyone can easily use their CB Bank Card anywhere in France.You can withdraw cash from ATMs anywhere you see the CB logo with no fees, regardless of the bank the ATM belongs to. CB stands for Carte Bancaire or Carte Bleue.

French payment cards: how do they work?

When using your payment card to purchase something, you don’t need to provide a signature. You have to enter your code personnel (PIN number) instead. One exception though is when you pay for highway tolls, where you don’t have to enter your PIN.

wifi symbol used for contactless payment cards

If your card has a little wi-fi symbol on it, you do not need to enter your PIN for purchases under €50. Approach your card without touching the machine to pay sans contact (no contact).

Plafonds de paiement (Spending limitations)

A bank payment card comes with 2 spending limits, one payment limit and one withdrawal limit.

This is very puzzling from an American point of view that you can’t spend as much as you want off your money without asking your banker first. I found out the hard way when I first landed in France and I had to spend a big amount of money to furnish a home. If your payment card is denied, contact your banker and ask him/her to temporarily raise your limit for the month.

Payment limit

Plafond de paiement sur 30 jours glissants (30 sliding days payment limit) – Every time you pay with your card, if the total amount you spent on the last 29 days plus the one you are about to make puts you above your limit, the payment will not be permitted.

If you need to spend more than your limit for a specific purchase or when traveling, ask your banker to temporarily raise up your limit. 

A payment limit is usually in the €2,000-€3,000 price range.

Withdrawal limit

un plafond de retrait maximum sur 7 jours glissants (7 sliding days withdrawal limit) – Every time you try to withdraw money at the ATM, if the total amount you withdraw on the previous 6 days puts you above your limit, the withdrawal won’t be allowed.

A withdrawal limit is usually in the €500-€1,500 price range.

Payment and withdrawal limits are explicitly stated on your contract when you open a French bank account.

You lost your French payment card

If your card is stolen or lost, report it immediately. The procedure is known as faire opposition. There is a unique phone number you can call: 0 892 705 705. It’s wise to call your bank as well to let them know “J’ai fait opposition”. Note that you cannot use your card after you report it stolen or lost.

French still use checkbooks

Your checking account comes with a chéquier or carnet de chèques (checkbook). I bet you’ll write way more checks in France than you did in the United States. It could be that some vendors don’t have a terminal payment or that the one they do have is broken. This is a good idea to always carry your checkbook along with you.

The person writing a check is called the émetteur and the beneficiary is the bénéficiaire. You need to go to your bank and fill out a remise de chèque (deposit form) to deposit a check. Give the cashier your remise de cheque along with your endorsed check.

If you have an account at La Banque Postale, then you might have to experiment their check deposit process. It takes 6 (!) steps to deposit a check.

Sometimes I remember with nostalgia how easy it was to deposit a check in Los Angeles. I would push it through the little slot in the ATM and be done with it in 2 seconds top.

Depositing a check in my U.S. Chase account from France is very fast and easy as well. I simply take a picture of the check with my cell phone and voila!

Bank accounts in France are not free?!

Sorry but here’s some bad news: in France, banking services are not free (and Reward Programs are un-heard of). Frais de tenue de compte (checking account maintenance fees) range from €0 to €70 per year. A basic bank card like Visa Classic or Mastercard costs around €45 a year, whereas the more upscale versions like Premier, Gold, and Platinum range from €125 to several hundreds euros a year.

Can you bank online in France?

French banks can be accessed online though a website portal and/or a mobile app. There is a limit on how much you can transfer to someone else’s account online called plafond d’un virement bancaire. You might need to pay a visit to your banker if the amount is over the limit.

You might have to report your bank account in France to the IRS above a specific threshold.

Do you have to report your bank account in France to the IRS?

If the aggregate value of your foreign bank accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year, you must report your bank accounts to the IRS by filing an FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report).

If the total value of your foreign assets is more than a certain threshold, you also have to report your foreign account to the IRS with your annual tax return. Read American living in France taxes to understand the basics on how to file U.S. taxes from abroad.

Have you been rejected by a bank in France?

If you have already tried to open a French bank account without success, do not despair. There is such a thing as a right to hold a bank account in France for anyone who is a French resident, regardless of nationality. This right is called Droit au compte.

You can exercise your right by sending a request to Banque de France, who will pick a bank for you. You need to send the following documents (or bring them in person) to Banque de France:

  • letter of refusal from the bank that refused to open an account for you. If you can’t get a letter from the bank, use any proof that your application has been received by the bank more than 15 days ago (accusé de réception or récépissé de dépôt).
  • filled out Banque de France form
  • copy of your passport
  • justificatif de domicile (proof of address)

Send your documents by regular mail to.

Banque de France
31 rue Croix des petits-Champs
75049 Paris cedex 01

Now that you’ve learned about opening a bank account in France, you might be interested in Opening a Wise account to transfer money from the U.S. to France.

Nathalie Nahmani

About Nathalie Nahmani

Nathalie is the creator of ma French Life. She moved back to France after living in Los Angeles for 20 years. She writes practical articles to help expats in France. Nathalie lives with her family in the French Alps near Grenoble.

Related articles

35 thoughts on “Opening a bank account in France as an American”

  1. I live on NYC, have family in Canada, and work for a European company.

    Opened a Premier account with HSBC at home in the US in 2019. They then helped open a Canadian account, and French account. Was actually quite easy!

    But alas – HSBC France has been sold, and appear to not be taking any more new US accounts.

    Same for HSBC Canada.

    HSBC Premier in the US is of no help.

    My goal: to buy an apt in Paris. But I need a reliable bank in France as I live in NYC (no intention of relocating to France at this time).

    So – any strong suggestions on which bank to go after for a new French account for French real estate purchase?

    • Hi John,
      HSBS is (was) the only brick-and-mortar bank I know of that could let you open a French bank account from the U.S.
      You could maybe open an account with Revolut to get a French RIB but I’m not sure that would help in your case.
      I don’t have any other suggestion, sorry!

  2. Nathalie,
    Merci Beaucoup, for replaying back fast to my posts. Have you had any experience with Revolt? Do you know what documents they ask in person? thank you.

    • You’re welcome Sam! I don’t have personal experience with Revolut but I’ve seen many Americans who opened an account with them. I think it’s a good short term solution. You can read a post from Joy Bates in older comments who said opening an account with Revolut was easy. I’m not sure you’ll get a French IBAN if you don’t have a French address though…let me know!

  3. I just stumbled upon this website and am feeling so relieved to have such clear, comprehensive, up-to-date information in one place! Question — could I submit a Revolut account for health insurance reimbursements? I’m mainly looking to open a bank account so I can get health insurance here. TIA!

    • Hi Dina,

      Thank you for your kind words Dina! If you’re talking about reimbursements from CPAM (French health insurance), it depends on your local CPAM since they don’t all require the same documents. There are some chances that CPAM will not accept an IBAN from Revolut as they can be quite difficult at times. French IBAN from Revolut are still pretty new though so I’d say it’s worth giving it a shot. Sorry I cannot be sure 100% but it really depends on who will look at your application.
      Let me know how it goes!

        • Already have an update 😅 Revolut was easy to set up, but I don’t qualify for a French IBAN because I don’t have a NIF tax ID. I’m not sure if Americans usually get one with their visa, but I’m here with my Italian passport, so I don’t have any documentation besides that. Going to try a local HSBC branch here in Marseille.

  4. Hi Joy,
    This is the first time ever I see this mentioned. I’m wondering if this is new. You can try Credit Agricole instead as it’s the most popular one with Americans. I’ll get in touch with La Banque Postale to have more details and I’ll remove it from the list. Most Americans don’t have another account in France when they open their bank account and they make their first transfer from the United States. Thank you so much for reporting this! Good luck and let me know how it works out!

  5. Hi, your site is really helpful. I will be moving to Perpignan next month from a Balkan country (US citizen). I went online and tried to apply for a bank in France and the error message translated: “If you show signs of being an American you cannot apply online”. I thought that was hilarious.
    Anyway, I was hoping to use my Wise account to pay bills, etc. in France since it has a Belgian location. Apparently, that may not work. Regards.

    • Hi Jay,
      Have you tried opening a bank account with HSBC? That is the only bank I know that allows Americans to open a bank account in France before actually living in France. I’m not sure a Wise account will be accepted by most French administrations as they usually require that you have a French bank account…things are changing lately though so it’s worth a try!
      Once you’re in France, opening an account will be much easier in person. Good luck for your move Jay!

      • Jay and Natalie:
        While my Wise card has been accepted* at all in-person locations in several regions in France, I cannot use it online for a recurring subscription– such as a mobile data plan. Those websites specifically ask for a French card or bank account. Some other websites have also declined it, such as when I tried placing a large order for train tickets on SNCF’s website.

        * sometimes the tap-to-pay feature is declined– I have yet to figure out why–, but inserting the card has been fine. However, the vendor will always need a signature from you when you insert your card, so beware at using self-checkout machines at supermarkets like Carrefour, as it may take a while for an attendant to come to you when it’s busy.

          • Hi Natalie,

            Worked perfectly! Opening a Revolut account was a very quick and simple process, and its conversion fees are actually even cheaper than Wise’s while having the same exchange rate! It also provides a free digital debit card to instantly use with Apple Pay.

            Thank you!

  6. I’m happy to report that following Patrick’s instructions, we also managed to get a bank account with HSBC France remotely while being in the US all the time. The process was a bit lengthy and seemed uncertain at some point, however.
    Apr. 7 – Submitted online application
    Even though they said they would respond in 48 hours. There was nothing for almost 2 weeks.
    Apr 23 – I emailed HSBC to ask about the application status (
    Apr 26 – Received phone call from HSBC asking me for more information (e.g., why do I need an account in France)
    Apr 28 – Received IBAN and wired €200 to HSBC
    Apr 29 – Received user id
    May 11 – Finally received the security code to register the app and Web portal (other mail like bank cards and user id cards arrived earlier)

    Thanks again for people sharing so much useful information and thanks Nathalie for this wonderful site!

    • Congrats Scott!
      This is great and it will make it for a much easier start in France! Thank you for sharing all the details with us. I know this will help others.
      Are you moving soon?

  7. Hi Natalie! I just opened an account from the US with HSBC in France. It took about a month or so, but to my surprise it worked. I really wasn’t expecting it to but I received my IBAN to send my 200 euros to open the account, and my user ID and debit card in the mail today. I’m still waiting for my secret squirrel code to log on to my account so I can make sure my money wasn’t sent to Nigeria. One has to show proof of address in US, proof of ID, etc.

    • This is awesome Patrick!
      So, just to be super clear, you didn’t have to show any proof of address in France?
      Having your account right away will make a good deal of tasks much easier for you! Great job!

  8. Thank you for this informative article. I have had HSBC in Paris for 7 years and they are selling to Cerberus. The closing will take place the first half of 2023. I am worried about my direct debits for my Paris apartment. Hopefully, the transition will be easy, but I think I may try to open an account with an established bank in Paris, like BNP Paribas or CIC. I know it’s not easy as an American and part-time Parisian. Thanks again and if you have recommendations, please let me know.

    • Hi Laurie,
      I think you should open a bank account with a new bank right away rather than wait until HSBC closes.
      Many Americans are happy with Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas or CIC and I would start with one of them.
      Good luck to you Laurie and thanks for leaving a comment!


Leave a Comment