Opening a French banck account is one of the first things you will need to do upon arriving in France. Please note that for renting an appartment, a bank account in France may be obligatory. Therefore, opening a bank account prior to your arrival may be a critical first step to getting settled in France. 

You can open a bank account at any bank. We recommend that you choose one of the main French banks such as Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Lyonnais, Caisse d’Epargne or the network of the Post Office banks.

In Orsay, Société Générale and BNP Paribas have staff members that provide dedicated banking services to international students and researchers.

To find the list of the nearest banks, visit the Pages Jaunes.

You will need at least the following documents to open a bank account:

  • an ID or passport,
  • a residence permit,
  • a proof of address (electricity bill, rent receipt or tax bill),
  • a proof of enrolment (only for students).

You may be asked to submit additional documents. 

Cheque (chèque bancaire or chèque postal)

You should request a chequebook when you open a bank account. You will receive it within 15 days. Make sure that your account has always a positive balance. If you write a cheque when your account is negative, you are charged multiple fees and your bank can ask you to return your chequebook and you may be banned from holding a bank account (interdit bancaire).

To prevent theft, storekeepers usually ask for an ID before accepting cheques.

Foreign cheques are rarely accepted.

Debit card

In France, bank cards are usually debit cards enabling you to purchase, check your account balance, and withdraw cash at ATMs. A bank card is provided with a secret PIN code which you must remember. The annual bank card fee varies depending on the type of card and the bank. It costs annually between 15 and 40€.

Main debit cards, such as Visa and MasterCard, are accepted by most retailers and restaurants.  

Please note that credit cards are rare in France. Therefore, you must maintain a positive account balance.


With your bank card, you can withdraw cash. There are many ATMs all over France including Paris. Cash payments are accepted only when you pay in euros.

Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (RIB)

In France, the RIB is a document issued by your bank that includes your banking details (account number, personal address, etc.). For instance, you need it to get your salary or your medical expense reimbursements. Usually, there is one RIB in every chequebook. You can get several RIBs from your bank counter, the ATM, or online.

Bank statement (relevé de compte)

Usually, bank statements are sent to you on a regular basis. They show all banking operations carried out on your bank account. It also tells you the current balance of your account at the exact moment the bank statement is issued.

Upon your arrival in France, you will find foreign exchange offices in international airports and train stations.

We recommend you to have at least €50 in cash when you arrive in France.