Transfer Money to France - or somewhere else

The European Directive number 2007/64/EC on payment services in the internal market lays down strict rules for the provision of payment services to make them simpler, cheaper and quicker and to protect the consumers. Many of the provisions concern not only the euro but all the currencies of the EU.

One of the important news, in force as of January 1, 2012, is the maximum transfer time of one banking day for payments within the EU, regardless which EU currency is used, and regardless if it is a domestic or cross-border transfer. This is mentioned by the Articles 2 and 69.

Money Transfer between the United Kingdom and France

Figuring out what is the best way of sending money to France from the UK can be a real headache. Not because it is complicated but because of high cost and stealth fees practised by British banks which - with a few exceptions - are totally shameless when it comes to piling on known and hidden fees on foreign money transfers. It is claimed that HSBC has an online facility for commission-free transfers, but I have not seen figures to support this yet. The question is, if there is no commission, do they recover the 'lost' fees on other services?

Foreign Currency Direct is Streetwise-France's partner that I recommend

Foreign Currency Direct provide good service and competitive exchange rates. By using them for your international money transfers, you indirectly support, a site that is free to use but not to provide. All you have to do is contact them using one of the links or banners on, or simply tell them you found out about them on However, in all fairness to my readers, since it is a main principle of this site that advertising should not exclude other information, there is a list of other money transfer companies on this page.

In general, using a UK high street bank to send money to France or another country is one of the most expensive ways of doing it. Exchange rates and commissions provided by UK high street banks are significantly less favourable than those typically offered by specialist foreign exchange brokers, and - Moving abroad? Foreign Currency exchange many banks are not transparent about the amount of commissions directly or indirectly debited. Every time a European law is published to make the cost of international money transfer transparent, the British banks find ways to circumvent it and call their stealth fees something else.

First they collect an exorbitant flat fee of typically £25, where the postal bank in Luxembourg charges €0.20 for the same service and Danish banks typically €2.

Next, they charge a known or hidden commission on the exchange rate. This typically costs you 3% of the money transferred to France. Transferring £100,000 to France, for example, would cost you close to £3,000. Ask your bank for an exchange rate quote and compare their rate with the European Central Bank rate to check this. You cannot trust that the commission rate they give is correct, as they don't base it on the ECB rate. They may well tell you there is no commission, yet - if you were to transfer money to France and back again - you might find out that in addition to the flat fees, 6% of the original amount has evaporated. Compare this with Danish banks where you lose only about 0.2% commission. Ask yourself what happens to the 2.8% that somehow disappears in the murky waters of British banks.

Unfortunately, you can't easily use a Danish bank to transfer money to France from the UK, so the next best solution is a currency broker. An estimate of the typical savings is in the region of 1% to 2% of the money sent to France, or £1,000 to £2,000 saved for every £100,000 transferred to France. It is typically possible to reduce the exchange rate commission to just over 1% compared with the ECB rate.

Another question to consider for larger amounts is the future development of the exchange rate. If you are to pay a large amount, for example for a property in France, in the future, you risk that exchange rate fluctuations make the purchase significantly more expensive. Some currency brokers propose various options to secure the exchange rate in the future (forward contracts), in some cases protecting you against less favourable rates while allowing you to profit partially from more favourable rates.

Currency Exchange

Selling and buying currency is not a complicated deal. It's mostly a question of finding the places where you get the best rates. In France, many high-street banks don't change currency, and if they do, their fees are generally prohibitive. The best is to find a specialised currency exchange office and check if their rates are good. The best deals you get will give you an exchange rate that is about 4% less favourable to you than the daily European Central Bank rate with no fixed fee. If you change in an airport, you risk losing 8% instead of 4%.

Outside city centres, it may be difficult to find currency exchange offices. In that case, you may consider online change. If you send them foreign currency to be changed to euros, you pay the cost of a recorded letter, a colissimo packet, or a special envelope they will provide for large amounts. They pay you by cheque or bank transfer. If they sell you foreign currency, you pay the cost of posting it to you. But keep in mind that you save the cost of driving around to find a currency exchange office.

Of course, there is an element of trust involved. Be sure to verify that there is a genuine company behind the web site. You can do that on one of the business information sites. Also verify their business results as posted on these sites. Only trust a company that has posted decent results the last couple of years. If it makes you feel more secure, you may also want to scan or take photos of the notes (bills for Americans) before posting them. Be sure to scan or take photos of the sides with the serial numbers.

You will find several web sites offering currency exchange, but one I will recommend is

Comptoir des Tuileries (CDT) in Paris. Their rates are slightly better than their competitors, their procedures are simple, and they are quick.

The Euro

France is part of the Eurozone which covers:
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • the Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

Bank notes and one side of the coins are identical throughout the Eurozone. The other side of the coins are different in each country, but all coins are valid tender in all Eurozone countries.

Monaco, the Vatican and San Marino have special agreements with the Eurozone, including their own motives on the euro coins.

Andorra, Montenegro and Kosovo also use the euro as currency, without being members of the Eurozone.

See the European Central Bank and Wikipedia for more details about the euro.

Other Finance

Disputes: look under either banking disputes or insurance disputes on this site.

Banque de France.
SEPA France. Official French site about the Single European Payment Area
European Central Bank: Daily euro exchange rates. 
Fédération Bancaire Française. French banks organisation.
RIB to IBAN/BIC converter. If you are given a French account number in the classic national RIB format, this site will generate the IBAN and BIC for you.


Successions in Europe. Official site explaining succession law in all member states and how international succession works - an often neglected subject.
Inheritance tax: The intricacies of the expat will. Helpful Telegraph article written by Robin Paul, Partner at international law firm Withers LLP.

Credit, Leasing, Mortgages

Bail Actea. Leasing, financing of vehicles and other equipment. For business and individuals. Very friendly and reasonable, personal service, non-aggressive behaviour in case of late payment. It is rare to find a human face in the financial world these days. I warmly recommend Bail Actea.
Bernard Tapie. Consumer credit and mortgages.
Financeimmo. All about French mortgages and other credit and investment, real time rates, quotes online, advice ...
Financeinfrance. Mortgage broker and information.
Meilleurtaux. Mortgage broker and information.
. French mortgage information in English. Targets UK buyers.

Credit Insurance

Credit insurance can take over your mortgage or consumer credit payments you in case of loss of income because of illness, accident, unemployment, etc.

As du Grand Lyon. Credit insurance specialist. Covers mortgages and consumer loans.

Fiancial Problems, Insolvency

Banque de France. Information for insolvent individuals. Government portal's overview for insolvent individuals.
Surendettement. Private informational site for individuals with excessive debt. Government portal's overview for insolvent businesses.

Financial News and Information

ADVFN France.
les Clés de la banque. Information for individuals and businesses.
Euronext. Stock exchange news. In English and French.
Expatinvestor. Brings news and information to high-earning British expatriates around the world.
la Financepourtous. Informational site for individuals.
France Inflation. Inflation figures, calculator and information.
la Lettre de la bourse.

Financial and Fiscal Expat Advice, Accountants

Ordre des Experts-Comptables.
Advice France. Provides advice to English-speaking clients on personal affairs and businesses in France. Bilingual French accountant with a bachelor's degree in management and finance and a master's degree in accounting and finance.
Financial Expat. English Chartered Institute of Insurance qualified expatriate based in Troyes helps with finance and insurance for expats in France.

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