Mortgages for property in France and the French banking system

If you have decided to look seriously at mortgages for property in France, it won’t be long before you will need to consider how you will manage your finances once you are living abroad. If you are planning on just spending a few weeks of the year at your French holiday home then it may be feasible for you to continue banking in the UK using traveller’s cheques and withdrawing from cash machines in France. However, if you are considering spending a large proportion of your time in France, it makes sense to open a French bank account.

If you do decide to continue with an English account you have to be aware of a few difficulties you may face. Whilst most major credit and debit cards are widely accepted, paying for goods and withdrawing cash in France on an English credit card can be costly due to the charges imposed by your bank. While this can be got round by using a debit card, the fluctuating exchange rate can mean that you don’t get as good a deal on goods as desired.

Mortgages for property in France and French banking

Everyday matters such as paying for petrol can prove problematic without a French card. While you will have no problems paying at a petrol station which has an attendant, the automatic pumps used out of hours only accept French cards. This also applies to tolls on autoroutes as the payment tills do not accept any English bank cards.

French banking is slightly different to the English system. Most people in France tend to use their debit card more than their credit cards and are also less likely to carry cash with them. Debit cards are known as Carte Bleu and have the CB symbol displayed on them whilst credit cards have the Mastercard or Visa symbol.

French credit cards are more similar to debit cards with purchases being deducted either immediately or at the end of the month. If you open a joint account, the card is normally only issued to the first account holder although a second card can be applied for if desired.

Found mortgages for property in France? Now onto French bank accounts

To open a bank account in France, all you need is proof of identity such as your passport and proof of your address, in most cases a recent utility bill will suffice. Some banks may also ask for a reference from a previous bank either in France or in the UK.

The French banking system is stricter than the English system which is reflected in the handling of cheques. While most English banks are fairly lenient if a cheque bounces and might just issue a fee, in France the matter is taken quite seriously. French cheques are generally accepted as cash payment and it is illegal to write out a cheque if you do not have sufficient funds in your account to cover it. Going overdrawn by even a small amount is not allowed unless you have already arranged an overdraft facility with your bank.

Bounced cheques and mortgages for property in France

Bounced cheques are known in France as wooden cheques or chèques en bois. If you issue one of these so called wooden cheques, a chain of events is triggered. Firstly you will receive a registered letter from your bank requesting you to put in the necessary funds within a certain time frame. If this is not done or if you overdraw your account twice within any single year, your account will be withdrawn by the bank. You will be then on a blacklist for three years and unable to open any account in France for the first twelve months of this period. It is therefore something you most definitely want to avoid.

The French banking system does, therefore, have a few differences from English banks which can be alarming when you first set up an account. As with any aspect of a move to France, speaking the language will make things much easier. However if you do struggle, there is the option of Britline which is a service run by Crèdit Agricole which is one of the co-operatives banks. This facility provides English-speaking banking services for the whole of the country and can prove a reassuring service if you have any banking worries.

With a mortgage in France, a French bank account is the most viable option as you can pay the utility bills for your house by direct debit and you will not incur any charges for using your credit card.

Find mortgages for property in France with Conti

Moving to France can be a daunting experience. Here at Conti, we have years of experience helping clients choose from the array of French mortgages we have on offer. Our team of French mortgage experts can help answer any queries you may have about your overseas mortgage and ensure that you fully understand what is involved in the process.

Contact us today to find the best mortgages for property in France. Our team of friendly advisers are always ready to help.

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