You can bank on it
Banks in France are different from what we were used to in Atlanta. Here they have fees for pretty much every service and we understand that it can take at least a couple of weeks to get an account open. It’s not uncommon for your branch to close for lunch, be open on Saturday mornings only, if at all, and not at all on Mondays. Combine that with the US government’s requirement that the Bank of France report all financial activity of any American who has an account here and you start to understand the delays and the challenge. Thanks to the Internet, we may have a solution.
Currently we have only one recurring monthly bill: the rent. Since that includes everything else such as the electricity, the water, the Internet, even our taxes, there’s just nothing else for which we really need a bank. Enter a German online-only bank called Number26 that lets you open an account via a video chat, sends you a debit card in about 4 days, will allow us to pay the rent and any other routine bill automatically, and charges nothing at all for their services. Yep, in 8 minutes we opened a totally free checking account.
So what are the drawbacks? The first is that there are no paper checks; everything is done electronically so if we should have to write an actual check to someone, we’ll have to find a solution. The other potential shortcoming is that there is no way to deposit checks or cash, at least in France, although there are 6000 shops in Germany that will accept a cash deposit. Since we anticipate that the majority of our financial transactions will be electronic, we don’t believe that this will be a problem.
Since our income is all from US sources, we will maintain our bank account there and use that bank’s debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM here. That will meet our budget goal of using cash only and we have calculated that it will be cheaper to pay the minimal ATM withdrawal fee for daily expenses rather than a banking transfer fee each time we need to top up this new Number26 account.