The Best Bank or the Banking Blues?

It was raining – no, it was pouring – but, I wasn’t wet. I must’ve been situated ‘neath the rainbow…I mean, I was sitting next to a pot o’ gold, so…

Apicture*Look, he’s even glowing like a pot o’ gold! (picture courtesy of J. Benson.)

It was Thursday evening; I looked up from my comfortable spot next to my trésor to see that many of my TAPIF friends were drenched. But, it wasn’t the kind of wetness you could literally see and touch. No, this was much worse. How do you dry yourself of a tempête, or storm, of the French bureaucratic system? If I had the answer, I’d have told them straight away because no one should have to face this kind of stress.

a picture again                                 *The many faces of bureaucratic stress…

Opening a bank account is simple, right? You walk in, you talk to a banker, you fill out some forms, and then you deposit money into your new account…how could there potentially be any problems with this process? I spoke too soon. The sounds of deafening thunder and the flashes of blinding lightening come out to greet you as the banker asks for your permanent French adresse. You see, you need an adresse to open an account. That seems like a reasonable law, right? How else will the bank mail you your statement and various non-essential things such as a thank you letter? Though, online banking exists in France, banks still use the courrier for most of the important stuff.

IMG_3253  *Basically, this is part of a Thank-You-for-Your-Service letter from my bank.

As you dodge a lightening bolt, you discover that  you need the bank account to receive your pay and before you can sign a lease on an appartement. How do you get a place if you can’t even open a bank account? It’s really a catch 22. Sadly, I don’t really have a sunshine and rainbows answer…but, it depends on how you look at it. My response comes from my own experience: I have a French boyfriend (it’s all sunshine and rainbows for me…). After about a 2 year relationship, it wasn’t until this week that I discovered that he is my pot o’ gold.


Thanks to my trésor, I was able to open a bank account with no problems. First, I opened an account at the same bank he works with. This made things a hell of lot easier for me. For starters, he’s been with this bank forever. And on top of that, his family started banking with them even before he was born. A simple lesson is to be learned from this: the French love referrals. Second, I already have an appartement (also thanks to mon chéri). Third, I had all of the necessary documents (if there’s anything I’ve learned from TAPIF, it’s to carry around multiple copies of all important documents to every réunion, or appointment). Lastly, the banker had just opened an account for an Américain a few days before, so, she knew exactly what to do. So, at the réunion, I handed over my documents and then filled out a W-9 (a US tax form). The banker explained all of the different types of accounts and whatnot – using jargon I’m not 100% familiar with (it’s not every day I’m in a bankers office). But, thanks to mon chéri, I was able to understand exactly what I was signing. I had to return the following day to pick up the paperwork, though, because of the new laws the US put into place to help keep track of people trying to hide their “earnings” in overseas accounts. Apparently, the banker had to fill out a bunch of unnecessary for-my-situation-but-mandatory paperwork because of these laws put into place by the US. Also, super doesn’t even begin to describe the service I experienced from my banker – she went above and beyond when it came to opening my account. Overall, I had the best banking experience in France; however, as previously mentioned, I know several of you that got caught in the orage, or storm (yes, there are two words that mean ‘storm’ in French…a grammar lesson for another day). There is a ‘better’ answer, though, than finding a French partner. If there wasn’t a better answer, then 1. there would be more American-French relationships. 2. There would be less assistants in TAPIF. My advice is to try several different banks – but, a good place to start is at your sister bank – if your US bank has one. For example, Bank of America has a relationship with BNP.

Things needed for an American to open a bank account in France:

  • Your passeport
  • 1 copy of the identity pages of your passeport
  • 1 copy of the visa
  • 1 copy of your work contract (Arrêté de Nomination, for TAPIF candidates)
  • 1 copy of an EDF bill
  • 1 copy of an attestation de logement (this is a piece of paper explaining that that the proprietor or person who’s name is on the EDF bill gives the right to you to live there. This is only if the EDF is not solely in your name)
  • 1 cellphone number (I gave the banker my fixed number, and then mon chéri gave them his cell number because I hadn’t gotten a cell phone yet)
  • Your French adresse & your US adresse
  • Your US phone number (I no longer have a US number, so, I gave them my mom’s number) ♦

What was your banking experience like abroad? Did you have a fabulous experience or did you experience the banking blues?