Firstly, you have to know if you're actually eligible to open a bank account in France. The good thing is, as long as you're a resident, you are! While many countries require citizenship in order for foreign nationals to set up their own accounts in their local banks, France only requires one to be a legal resident. In fact, one's residency permit is part of the requirements that many banks in the country ask for when opening up the account. So as long as you've immigrated to France legally and you have your residency permit, you're good to go!
Speaking of requirements, what will you need to show? Well, similarly to applying for a Schengen visa to get to the country, there's a good number of documents involved. They include a valid ID, proof of residency in France, a residence permit or a long-stay visa, proof of income, and some money for your starting deposit. For your valid ID, your passport is the best document to go for, though some banks may accept your drivers' license too because they tend to still be legal even in France as well. As for your proof of residency, your lease, electricity, or water bills are valid as well.
Now, the first step to actually setting up your bank account is to choose a bank in the first place. Although most French banks operate normally, they vary mostly in internal fees and external services too. By external services, this often means online platforms and what you're able to do on them. So when choosing a bank, you must first bear in mind—and ask the bank advisor before you decide on setting up an account—how much their many fees are, the amount limits for your account, and if they have online services. They make all the difference once you regularly use your account in the country.
The best banks to go for in France are often the local ones. Those with local branches, especially if they're in close proximity to your residence. This makes it easier to make all sorts of transactions with them. Of course, in this day and age, a huge factor should also be their online platforms. Do the banks you're considering have them at all, and if they do, what transactions can you do on them. Some prime examples include La Poste, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole, and Crédit Mutuel. All of thee have various local branches in the many provinces of France.
Upon opening your bank account, you will be given your own Bank Identification Number, also referred to as 'Relevé d’identité Bancaire' or 'RIB.' This will allow you to transfer money from your own account to other accounts within your chosen bank or to accounts in different banks. You could also register your bills with your RIB to make paying for them automatically. And if you want to register your bank account to any online-transferring platform for international purchases, you'll need your RIB to do so. Make sure that you take note and you'll always remember your RIB. It's very important!
While in many countries, getting a credit card is optional, here in France, they'll issue one at the same time you're opening your account. Though during the initial process, they'll only ask you to fill out some paperwork similarly to how you just set up your account. It will take probably one to two weeks for the bank to process your credit card application and once approved, it will be sent right to your address. The fact of the matter is that France is very much a credit-based country when it comes to finances. Most especially since many items in Paris alone are very expensive.
Opening a bank account in France is actually a simpler process than you might realize. There's practically nothing to it and you could do it in half a day, tops! That is, if you already know what you need and what to do in the process!
As already mentioned, you won't be able to set up your own bank account in France if you don't have a place to stay yet. Fortunately, first-class French apartments are easy to rent and book online! And they'll work best for you too!