Studying in France and you need a bank account ? Keep reading to find out what documents you need to open one, and what are the best banks for you.

PSA : This article is not sponsored, and all the opinions expressed in it are my own 😊

french bank account for international students

First of all, it’s important to note that you don’t need to have a French bank account to withdraw money or make payments. Indeed, most international credit cards will work in France. Keeping that in mind, there are some situations in which you will need a French bank account. I would advise to open a bank account if :

  • You plan to stay for more than 6 months
  • You plan to work in France
  • You plan to apply for housing benefits (Aide personnalisée au logement/ APL)
  • You plan on getting a French mobile phone 

What do you need to get a French student bank account ?

To open a French bank account, you’ll need :

  1. A student visa (“VLS-TS visa in French”)
  2. Proof of enrollment in a French university
  3. Proof of accommodation with your name and your French address on it. (“justificatif de domicile” in French). The document must be recent (depending on banks, less than 3 to 12 months old)
  4. Optional : A French phone number (not a prepaid one !) 

Here are the different documents that can be accepted as proof of accommodation : 

  • Bank statement
  • Water, electricity, gas, Internet or mobile phone bill
  • Home insurance statement
  • If you live with someone else, you can use instead : proof of accommodation of the person hosting you, the ID of the person hosting you and a letter handwritten and signed by the person hosting you (attestation d’hébergement in French)

What are the best banks for foreign students in France ?

To get a French bank account, you have two main options : 

  • Online banks (Lydia, Compte-Nickel, etc.)
  • Traditional banks (LCL, Société Générale, BNP Paribas, etc.)

How to choose between the two ? Well, it depends on your preferences, and the university you study in. Indeed, opening a bank account in a traditional bank is often more time-consuming, and will require you to make an appointment in person, but it can cheaper, especially if your university has partnerships with specific local bank branches. For example, Sciences-Po students get 80 € and a credit card for free when they open a bank account at some branches of the BNP Paribas (more info here)

On the other side, if you can’t be bothered by paperwork, and you want a bank account ASAP, then you should probably look for an online bank instead. Here are some of the best options : 

Lydia

  • What is Lydia ? : Lydia is a French startup that has a premium offer well suited to the needs of international students. With Lydia you can have a French IBAN, a physical card with no fees abroad and payback friends if they also have the Lydia app. Your account is managed exclusively online, through the app, and they don’t have physical bank offices. To open a bank account, you need to download the app and then go through the online sign up process.
  • How much does it cost ? 5€ for the card + 3,99€/month to use it
  • Do you need to make a minimum amount to open an account ? No
  • Do you need an initial deposit to ppen a bank account ? No
  • Do they offer a welcome bonus ? No
  • Can you sign up in English ? No 
  • Can you sign up online ? Yes
  • Website for more information : lydia-app.com

Nickel

  • What is Nickel ? : Nickel is a French startup with one of the easiest processes to open a bank account : all you need is to have an ID, a French phone number, and 20€ and then you can head to one of the 5716 tobacco shops who have a partnership with Compte Nickel to sign up and get a credit card on the spot. Your account is managed exclusively online (website and app) and they don’t have physical bank offices.
  • How much does it cost ? 20€ for the card 
  • Do you need to make a minimum amount to open an account ? No
  • Do you need an initial deposit to ppen a bank account ? No
  • Do they offer a welcome bonus ? No
  • Can you sign up in English ? No 
  • Can you sign up online ? Yes, but you have to go pick up your card in person.
  • Website for more information : nickel.eu

HSBC

  • What is HSBC ? HSBC is an international bank present in 84 countries, with more than 256 local branches in France. HSBC offers all the traditional banking services (physical credit card, loans, mobile app, chequebook..). To open a bank account, you can either go through their online process, or make an appointment in person. 
  • How much does it cost ? 45€ for the card 
  • Do you need to make a minimum amount to open an account ? No
  • Do you need an initial deposit to ppen a bank account ?
  • Yes, 200€.
  • Do they offer a welcome bonus ? No
  • Can you sign up in English ? Yes
  • Can you sign up online ? Yes.
  • Website for more information : hsbc.fr

Traditional banks (LCL, Société Générale...)

  • How much does it cost ? On average, opening a bank account from 0€ to 50€ a month depending on the bank.
  • Do you need to make a minimum amount to open an account ? No
  • Do you need an initial deposit to open a bank account ? No.
  • Do they offer a welcome bonus ? Sometimes, it depends on the branch.
  • Can you sign up in English ? No.
  • Can you sign up online ? No.
  • 💡 Quick tip

    The Paris Student Guide app has more info on how to find the best bank for your needs 🙂 

    Click here to join and have access to our tools to help you open a bank account easily ! 

What to do if a bank refuses to let you open a bank account ?

Having a bank account is a right that is recognized by French law. A foreign student residing in France can open a bank account in any bank in France. If your application is refused by a particular bank, you make an appeal by writing an appeal letter (template available here), and bring it (with your supporting documents)  to the nearest Banque de France. They will select another bank that will legally have to let you open a bank account. 

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