Not long after finalising the acquisition of our little maison in France in May this year, the question of money arose … money in a French bank. We needed a French bank account, une banque Francaise, a joint bank account, un compte joint.
Image via The Great French Australian War of 1982
One can’t be insensitive to the full extent of the requirements of owning a home in France, a process that doesn’t end with the completion of the sale. As soon as you think you’ve reached the end, something else pops up, usually quite foreseeable really. The only thing not foreseeable this year is, of course, Covid, an event that’s had & continues to have a seismic effect on our plans.
You don’t need a banque account in France to purchase property. We used an intermediary, a middle man, a reputed broker in London to handle the exchange & transfer of our funds. We simply sent our $AUS to him. When we needed to transact, to pay money, he sourced the best priced euros, the best exchange rate, at the time. When we agreed on the price, he purchased the euros & transferred the money to our nominated recipient. No bank account required.
When the inevitable came & I had to open a French banque account I thought to myself, “Hmmm, where do I start? Here I am, an Aussie in Australia, needing to open a bank account in France. Was this going to be another process of maneuvering my way around those pesky, sometimes voluminous, French documents? French protocols? What was the process?”
I enquired of people met during the purchase process. I enquired of our broker in London, of friends, of Instagram contacts who had or were doing what we were doing – dealing with the French banking system. This resulted in various suggestions & recommendations mainly to do with businesses set up to assist foreign nationals looking to buy property in France, to move &/or to work there.
I quickly learned that one of the larger, more well known & highly recommended agencies assisted UK/British/English but not Australian nationals. Bit odd I thought. Not having much luck, I knew, by now, I wanted something more personal, more tailored to our needs.
One day I mentioned to our Notaire (via email) that we were looking to open a bank account. I wanted une Banque to service our needs located reasonably close to our home. What luck! Our Notaire most kindly not only referred me to the nearby branch of a well known banque Francaise in the region but to a banque employee she personally knew who also spoke English. Ultimately I opened our joint bank account in France at no cost.
I have learned to be clear in what I want & ensuring I understand what I’m doing when navigating the French processes. One must articulate whether un compte bancaire conjoint, a joint bank account, is to be one where both have equal access which is dictated by “ou” as opposed to “et” the latter meaning both parties must sign the cheque for it to be valid.
And then there are les frais bancaires, the dreaded bank fees et al … dont forget to ask what are the bank fees for the transactions? Quels sont les frais bancaires pour les transactions?
And then there’s the information required by la banque before an account can be opened … more coming in Pt 2.