Choosing your bank when moving abroad

Destination country

The essentials of choosing a bank

  • Find out what you can do remotely and what you can't
  • Check the costs of your bank's international services
  • Keep a bank in your home country
  • Plan at least two months in advance, so you have time to change banks if you need to

Things to check with
your current bank

If today most of your current tasks can be done via a secure website, these features are sometimes reserved for transactions made in France and in the EU.

Transfers can usually be done online if the recipient is located in France or in the EU. For international transactions outside the EU, it may be necessary to unlock a special access.

Sending documents:
Can documents be sent abroad, for example to send a Bank Card or a checkbook? If so, how much will it cost?

Contacting your advisor:
Many banking networks do not allow advisors to make international calls on their phones. If you want to keep in touch with your regular advisor, you need to find out if they can call you. On the other hand, if you need to call your advisor and calls are charged at international rates or your advisor is only reachable via text message, will you be able to communicate with them easily?

Verification SMS codes:
Some transactions must be confirmed by entering a code sent via SMS. Can this code be sent to a number in your host country?

You will have to close some of your passbooks:
You will be able to keep your Livret A and B passbooks, Plan d'Epargne Populaire PEL and Compte and Plan d'Epargne Logement CEL. On the other hand, you will be allowed to keep certain regulated passbooks, such as Livret Jeune, LDD and LEP. You should therefore close these passbooks before you move.

On a more basic level, will the opening hours of your bank be compatible with the time differences?

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Compare costs

International transfers can be very expensive. It is therefore advisable to check these costs at least two months in advance in order to have enough time to change banks.

This will be the case, for example, for international transfers (10 to 30 euros, excluding exchange fees), foreign exchange transactions, sending documents, telephone costs (if your advisor is accessible via an 08 number, the calls may be free of charge via options such as Skype), etc.

The question of exchange rates is particularly important, especially if you plan on making large transfers, such as for the purchase of a car or real estate, or even just for paying advances and deposits for a rental. These exchange costs are often difficult to evaluate because they are only apparent when comparing the buying and selling prices. These costs vary from 1.5% to 5%, depending on the currency.

The costs can be negotiated either at your expatriate bank or at your home bank. In this case, you may need to open an account in the desired currency to make the exchange before the transfer.

The costs can be reduced to less than 1%.


Should you change banks?

Why change banks?

If the two previous points have led you to think that your bank will not be able to provide satisfactory services abroad, you can change banks before leaving. Don't wait until after you leave, because some banks will refuse to open a remote account.

In this case, you may want to choose a bank that has a network in your country of destination, or a department dedicated to managing expatriate clients, as this will make opening an account easier.

Several banks have specialized departments for expatriates. These banks offer services that are especially adapted to your situation. This is the case, for example, with HSBC, Banque Transatlantique, a subsidiary of CIC, and BNP Paribas.

These banks offer services to simplify your life: a multi-currency bank account; free international transfers (excluding correspondence fees); the option to open an account online; a transactional website with access to the largest financial markets.

Keep a bank in your home country

Even if you have decided to cut all ties with your country of origin, it will be important to keep a bank account there, at least for the first year, because financial flows will not stop overnight: you may continue to receive your income tax, housing tax, property tax and social security contributions several months after your departure.
It can take up to two months for the deposit for your rented apartment to be returned to you.
An employer may continue to make payments to you several months after your departure (profit-sharing bonuses, for example).

If you no longer have an account in your country of origin, you will have to make transfers for which you will be charged fees and exchange commissions. You will no longer be able to cash checks made out to you without paying a large fee.

In some countries, opening a bank account can take a few days or even weeks. Your old account will provide you with payment options during this transition period.

Choose specialized
alternative services

A number of banks or startups which are banks but are financial intermediaries or banking service providers offer useful services for expatriates. Below, we will consider three specific examples.


N26 Bank GmbH, as its name suggests, is a German bank.

Its status as a bank allows its clients to benefit from a financial guarantee of €100,000 on deposits. It also allows credit operations and therefore bank overdrafts.

Its services are 100% online and its costs are said to be very low with a free bank account and a free Mastercard.

For expatriates, N26 offers free or very low withdrawal fees and low exchange fees for foreign currency transfers.


Initially, Revolut was a financial services provider. However, Revolut obtained a banking license in 2018, but for now, its banking services are being tested in Lithuania.

Revolut is what you might call an e-wallet that allows you to optimize your transaction costs. You load your account and then use Revolut's services, such as free foreign currency payments, free withdrawals, free international transfers, etc.

To do this, you will need a card and an app. Depending on the option you choose, you will also have access to assistance and insurance services.

Currencies direct

Currencies Direct is a currency broker that offers fewer services than the two previous providers, but it can be used less frequently without any time commitment.

It operates via bank transfers. You transfer an amount to Currencies Direct in the currency of your choice and then transfer it to another currency.

There are no fees for receiving or making transfers and the exchange rates are better than those offered by traditional banks.

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