Chamonix – Seasonal life series
The chamonix valley is a great place to spend your winter season. It is a ski resort that is known for some of the best free-style skiing in the world, as well as a place of extraordinary natural beauty. The town itself is a little different to other resorts. The main town sits in the valley with lifts and bus services connecting to a whole host of different ski areas. This makes this area an incredible base year round, especially over winter. You can explore all of the different areas surrounding the valley as well as the many places within.
However, before you go gallivanting across the alps, you will need money and a place to keep it beforehand. Anyone that has seen ‘Coyote Ugly’ knows keeping your savings in the toilet tank is not a good idea, especially if you’re out dancing on the tables till god knows what time. Here is our guide to setting up a bank in France and alternatives that you may find useful.
One thing you will learn almost immediately in France; the bureaucratic systems love to collect paper. You will need to provide documentation for everything, especially when you are looking at setting up something like a bank account. The majority of branches will ask you for the following:
- A valid proof of identity (it is best to bring your passport as the drivers license isn’t accepted as your id)
- Proof of residence (a rental agreement, or rent payment receipt. You can also bring electricity, water or telephone bills provided they are not older than 3 months.)
- For non-eu citizens you will need to bring your residence permit or a long stay visa.
- A deposit for your account.
You may also be asked to provide proof of your income, so it may also be useful to bring your most recent payslip or contract from your place of work. Make an appointment with the branch of your choice and bring these documents with you.
How to choose a branch?
It is possible to set up an account online, however I personally prefer to go into the branch and meet with an advisor directly. This is definitely a good idea if french isn’t your first language. It can be really helpful to speak to somebody directly and ask them to explain anything you don’t understand. My advisor even helped me ring up a EDF to pay an electricity bill when I first moved to France. However, that definitely isn’t a guarantee as part of their services.
Here is a list of some of the banks with branches in the town centre in Chamonix:
- La Poste*
- BNP Paribas*
- Société Générale*
- Caisse d’Epargne
- Crédit Agricole*
- Crédit Mutuel*
- Banque Laydernier*
- Banque de Savoie*
There are a few things that are important to consider such as current account fees, fees for transfers, currency conversion, debit card and management fees, overdraft limits, online features and interest rates. These elements can vary significantly from bank to bank, it really depends on what works for you or what you need from your account.
This is another particularly popular option among the expats in Chamonix. Revolut offers banking services for GBP and EUR bank accounts with no fees for currency exchange, and ATM withdrawals in 120 different currencies. The app is also really useful, with lots of different functions such as uploading or sending 29 currencies, splitting the bill, sending payment links or peer to peer payments among other functions. I actually had this card alongside my french account. It had a better exchange rate and the app was a lot easier to use. They also have a chat service within the app that was really useful for resolving any issues.
N26 is a neobank based in Berlin, Germany offering its services throughout the SEPA (single european payment areas). The operations in the UK have been suspended since April 2020, and you should take this into consideration if you have money that is being moved from the UK. They provide their customers with a free basic account and a debit mastercard, and a maestro card in some countries for certain customers.
Similar to the Revolut, Monzo is an online bank based in the UK with a debit card. There are limits on ATM withdrawals, single payments, top-up amounts and the overall balance on the card. These limits apply to all card providers. The app similarly offers a range of services such as payments, balance and freezing cards etc.