If there’s one thing that you learn when you move overseas, it’s to be prepared. Whether it’s a government agency, a utility, or a private business you are meeting with, it always makes sense to take an original and at least one copy of any document that any of these officials have asked from you before. To open a bank account we anticipated the need for our passports and proof of address but a marriage certificate and tax forms weren’t at the top of our list. Luckily both were at the bottom of the file folder that we take to every appointment so it was easy enough to produce those. To cancel our prepaid renters’ insurance, we needed a handwritten statement swearing that we no longer lived at that address, but at least we could write that out on the spot (with a lot of guidance from the woman who helped us). What we weren’t prepared for was receiving a refund check for the remaining insurance that we weren’t going to use. How were we going to deal with that?
Banks in France operate a little differently from those in the US. There are several national chains, all with numerous branches throughout most communities but each seems to operate as an independent office. For example, the fees we pay at the branch at the end of our street where we opened our account can differ from the branch on the main square in town, a 15-minute walk away. We can use the ATM at either of those offices but if we were to move to the center of the city, right next to that other branch, we would need to open an account there to use any of their other services. I just read that bank officials can be held liable for money laundering at their branch which explains why they are so interested in knowing their customers.
So, we had this check in euros, our first in the year that we’ve been here, and we had to figure out how to get it deposited. As with other new experiences here, our first step was to look online to see if others had dealt with the situation before. It was easy enough to find what others had done but as usual, there were several options: just go to the ATM and follow the directions; insert the check into the appropriate slot and the computer picks up the relevant information; drop the check with a deposit ticket into the box; go to a teller.
The bank that we go to has no tellers; only a reception desk, a few offices in back, and a spacious lobby with an ATM, a separate machine that accepts coins, and a slot in another cubicle for the deposit of checks. It was there that we found three piles: deposit slips, clear plastic sleeves, and larger envelopes with holes in them. Following the posted directions we signed the back of the check and wrote our account number below the signature. The deposit slip needed our name, the current date, the name of the company issuing the check along with the bank on which it was drawn, the amount, and our account number. We put those two items inside the clear plastic sleeve, placed that inside the “holey” envelope, and dropped that into the slot marked “insert check deposits here”. Since this was during lunchtime, the reception desk was closed so there was no one to ask but following the rule of “always be prepared” we’ll now just wait for that deposit to show up in our online balance.