There has been a shift towards mobile banking in France in recent years, with many residents using online payment apps to pay bills, transfer money and even pay for their groceries.
The growth of digital banking has been one of the most significant financial trends in Europe in recent years. France, one of the largest economies in Europe, has seen a big shift towards online and mobile banking and most French banks now advertise digital services. bunq, a mobile-only bank that offers services to expats in Europe, explains how it all works.
With bunq, you can open your full bank accounts in just five minutes using nothing more than your mobile phone. You get real-time access to your account, instant payments and dedicated customer support available in English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish.
Mobile banking in France
Banking providers in France are now a mixture of high street banks, international institutions and internet banks. Many of the big name banks now offer digital services that can be accessed through internet browsers or banking apps, as well as traditional services offered at branches. This reflects the increase in online and mobile banking in France. According to Eurostat figures, 63% of the French population currently use internet banking, above the EU average of 54%. Mobile banking is also on the rise, with 47% of French smartphone users favouring their mobiles over computers when it comes to banking services.
Mobile banking providers in France include:
Popular national banks such as BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and CIC who all offer mobile services and apps.
Communications providers such as Orange, Apple and Android who now offer mobile banking and payment services.
Features of mobile banking in France
Mobile banking capability relies on banking apps being downloaded onto smartphones or tablets. These enable users to perform functions and access services from their device. Each French bank will have its own app, and customers can use these banking apps for things such as:
Making payments from their device, including paying bills, transferring money to different accounts, reimbursing friends for their share of dinner, and even shopping.
Checking account balances, monitoring accounts and budgeting.
Monitoring investments by accessing up-to-date financial information.
Contacting financial advisers at the banks for relevant information and advice.
Accessing money from mobile accounts anywhere in the world.
Having 24/7 access to account services and information.
Advantages of mobile banking for expats in France include the ability to move money around between accounts and across borders with less hassle, speed of service (money can be transferred immediately), lower costs and availability of services in English. bunq allows you to make international payments in other currencies up to 8 times cheaper as well as saving you 3% on card transactions overseas.
There are, however, limitations to smartphone banking compared to desktop and traditional banking. Loan services are limited and you can’t currently move money between foreign currency accounts. Another issue is reliance on wifi connection which could be an issue if you live in a rural area, although France generally has good wifi and internet coverage.
Making mobile payments in France
Like mobile banking, mobile payments in France are also becoming more widespread. This form of financial transaction is an alternative to using cash or credit/debit cards. Innovative functions include contactless payment systems where mobile devices can be waved over a payment terminal, digital wallets that link to bank accounts and can store and send money to third parties, and QR codes that can be scanned to pay for goods such as concert tickets.
Mobile payment apps installed on smartphones and tablets are usually linked to bank accounts. Two of the most popular apps are Apple Pay and Google Pay (formerly Android Pay), released in France in 2016. Several big stores have also released their own apps, such as French multinational retailer Carrefour which launched its Carrefour Pay app last year. There are also many new companies on the market providing different mobile payment services in France. Examples include Lydia, Lyf Pay, Buyster and S-money.
Mobile banking security in France
There have been fears over just how safe and secure mobile banking is. In France, despite the growth of mobile banking, studies have shown that levels of trust remain lower than with traditional banking, with issues including data protection, transaction safety and encryption.
However, banking providers are working constantly to tackle challenges and minimise threats. Safety features on mobile banking and payment systems include the use of fingerprint ID with many systems, high levels of encryption and a disconnect function after periods of inactivity.
You can protect yourself against fraud and security breaches by taking measures such as:
installing a high-strength password to protect your account
avoiding public networks when logging into your app
logging out of your account immediately after you’ve finished using it
Opening a bank account in France
There are no legal restrictions on residents or non-residents opening up a bank account in France. It is also possible with some banks to open an account before you move, which is handy for expats who might want to make arrangements ahead of travelling. Regardless of when you decide to open an account, you’ll need to provide proof of ID, address and residence status.
If you want to open an account before moving or don’t want to go through the rigmarole of travelling to a branch, you can sort the process out online or choose an online-only bank such as bunq or N26. This will give you the flexibility of operating your account from anywhere in the world.
See our full guide to opening a French bank account for information on the banking process in France.