The key to a successful new life in France is a bank account. With it you can go anywhere and do anything. Without it you are stuck, dead in your tracks. Almost all of your bills are paid directly from it and your income is put directly into it. Your debit card is tied to it and you use that “carte bleu” to pay for everything from restaurant meals, to train tickets, to supermarket purchases. Even your monthly rent or mortgage payment comes right out of your account and into the landlord’s, perhaps at the same bank, and there’s the rub.
In order to rent an apartment or buy a house in France you need a French bank account. In order to open a French bank account you need a permanent address in France. Got cha! So what do you do? We are fortunate to already have friends in France and we did think about asking if we could use their address temporarily but we didn’t want to risk anyone getting in trouble since we weren’t really going to live at their house. Then we looked at Internet banks based in France that would let you open an account online. That looked promising until we got to the part about wanting our French bricks-and-mortar bank information. Yep, you already have to have a bank account to open another one. We did read of one person being able to open an account there while they were on vacation, using their US address, but we think that was a few years ago before the international banking rules changed. Actually there is one bank that will indeed let you open an account online as long as you maintain a minimum balance of $100,000. No thanks.
What we’ve gone with is the route many others have followed before us. We’re renting a fully furnished holiday house where the landlords have accepted an advance rent deposit with a refundable security deposit in exchange for the lease. We will be able to take that contract to the bank of our choice, along with a host of other documents we’ll address in another blog post, to open our account. Anyone remember when they would give away a toaster-oven if you opened an account?