French banks are extremely reliable, though the French are known for their passion for paperwork. The banking system is no different. When opening an account with a French bank, it is vital to take every piece of identification you can gather, and proof of where you live, in the form of a household bill. There are two different tier systems in the French banking sector, one for foreigners who are not French residents and one for those who are.
The banks in general have many branches, though if living within a country community, it is wise to check for nearness of a local Branch. Banks such as Credit Agricole have branches all over France, whereas banks such as Societe Generale may be more distance apart. In general the banks are very reliable in the way they deal with customers, though they do have a tendency to try and tempt you to take out all of your Insurances as a package together with your banking account. The disadvantage of this is that although the rates may seem reasonable, they very soon take for granted that they have won your custom and tend to be each one as expensive as the others when shove comes to push.
The bank’s ability to deal with Insurance claims is a little limited, since they only spearhead the Insurance company, on the high street, and inquiries must be taken up with the Insurance company themselves. The process of dealing with Insurance claims can indeed be onerous.
As far as charges are concerned, these are pretty standard no matter which bank you bank with. A single monthly charge covers the cost of a check book, debit card, and statements being provided on a monthly basis. However, if you do need to talk to the bank or withdraw money be aware that France differs from other countries, and you may have to give advance warning that you want to withdraw funds. It’s not because they do not have the money. It’s because the organization of banks in this day and age in France are such that cash withdrawals often have to be arranged, rather than spontaneous.
Getting loans depends upon insurances, which ask for health checks or for proof of salary. These are normal standard requirements of high street Banks all over the world, though banks are a little flexible in their approach, and loans can be easier at some times than others, depending upon the strength of the bank’s investments.
Mortgages are relatively simple to arrange, though the equity is a little different from other places in the world, in that they don’t count the house itself as sufficient equity for a loan. Being a society who rarely foreclose, it is much more likely that clients are asked for other forms of security, such as having a good job.
All loans from banks are explained in advance, and over a set amount, the client is given time to reflect about whether they accept the terms given. Short term or bridging loans are possibly more easily available in France, since the housing purchase chain system is non existent. Once an offer is made on a house, and after a week’s reflection, there is no backing out. Thus if a loan is arranged for bridging between houses, the bank will be reliable in contacting the lawyer involved in the sale of the old house so that their money is paid directly to them upon completion.
It’s a messy business, though the banks are reliable enough to understand that in this day and age, it isn’t always possible to sell within the period of the bridging loan, and can extend for a further year. It is actually better to have a two year period to start off with, since for each loan arranged, there are administration payments to make.
Contact with bank.
Getting hold of branches has become harder, since centralization of the banking system means telephone call centers, and these often use voice to repeat words, in order to pass to the next stage of the call. No more irritating than in other countries, though the system is irksome.
The reliability of Internet Banking from French banks is refined and well laid out, though possibly a little more difficult for foreigners, since all instructions are given in French. Some banks, such as Credit Agricole, offer foreigners the possibility of English layout which is handy for ex pats wanting a site they can readily understand.
The credit card system in France is very different from other countries, in that Carte Bleu asks for a payment in full every month. In some ways this makes better sense than credit cards in other countries, as debt is hard to accumulate in this way.
In general the banks in France are reliable. Usually you can get an appointment with the local Branch Manager relatively easily, and most are open to discussing all aspects of finance on an appointment basis. One area where the French system is extremely reliable is that it doesn’t tolerate bouncing of checks, which is illegal, and banks will ask for check books to be returned in the case of this happening, and may even keep members who default on this from having a check book for a set period of time.
It’s a fair system, and one which encourages savings, and wise use of services available. There are systems in place to encourage the young to invest, accounts for homeowners who want to invest for the future of their properties in what are called Livret or investment accounts. French banks also give an assurance to customers on investments which are 100 per cent guaranteed, and are honest enough to talk about higher investments which carry risk.