If you need to make a payment from your French bank account, the easiest way is often to make a bank transfer, known as a ‘virement’ in France. Here’s how to do it.
Types of Bank Transfers in France
Most banks offer a number of transfer options from your current account. All banks vary when it comes to the transfer types offered and the time they take to go through, so it’s important to check with your bank. Some banks may put maximum transfer amounts or daily limits in place—these restrictions can often lifted or increased if you talk with your bank.
Internal transfers (virement interne)
These are transfers between accounts of the same bank, either to another account in your own name, or to that of a third party with the same bank. These transfers are typically the quickest, sometimes offering instant transfers or taking up to 24 hours to clear.
External transfers (virement externe)
These are transfers between your bank account and an account held by another branch. Some banks charge transfer fees on external transfers and although these are often nominal, it’s still worth checking, especially if it’s a service you plan to use regularly.
Sepa (Single Euro Payments Area) transfers are international transfers between SEPA member states (including the EU, the UK, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland). These are international cross-border transfers made in euros between bank accounts in the zone. Some banks charge transfer fees on sepa transfers, but they are almost always the cheapest and easiest way to do direct bank transfers within the eurozone.
Most banks will allow you to make international transfers directly from your bank account, but currency exchange rates and fees may vary considerably between banks. For some accounts, you may also need to ask at your bank in order to activate international bank transfers. If you do need to send money overseas, transfer savings, or make large deposits, a far more cost-effective and convenient option is to use a foreign currency exchange specialist —visit our Currency Exchange zone to learn more.
How Long Does It Take to Transfer Money from a French Bank Account?
One thing to note when transferring money from a French bank account is that many banks require verification of the beneficiary (bénéficiaire) prior to making a transfer. This can take up to 48 hours and sometimes longer if this falls over a weekend or bank holiday, meaning it is often not possible to set up an immediate transfer to a new beneficiary. This only has to be done once and you can save the details of all the accounts you have previously paid, so future payments will not have this delay.
Once your beneficiary is set up, transfers can take between 48 hours and 3 days for a domestic external or sepa transfer, or up to 5 days for an international transfer—check with your bank for the maximum transfer times.
How To Make a Bank Transfer from Your French Bank Account
Bank transfers can be made in person in your bank (be sure to bring ID such as a passport with you) or over the phone, but the easiest way is to set up the transfer online. Every bank’s online banking system is slightly different, but here’s an example taken from a Banque Postale account.
- Log in to your online banking account or app (on a desktop this will typically be called the ‘espace client’ or similar)
- Select the menu option ‘Virements’ (transfers).
- You will likely have three options:
- Nouveau Virement (to make a new transfer)
- Historique (a list of previous transfers or those in progress)
- Bénéficiares (to see your list of beneficiaries)
- If you are making a transfer to a new beneficiary, click on Bénéficiares, then ‘ajouter un bénéficiare’ (add a new beneficiary). If you already have the beneficiary set up, go straight to step 6. You will then need to either scan the IBAN if you have a copy of the beneficiary’s bank RIB or enter it manually. You will also be asked to enter:
- Intitulé de compte (the beneficiary account holder’s name, as shown on their RIB, for example, Joe.E.Smith)
- Nommer ce bénéficiare’ (the name you choose for the beneficiary for your own reference, for example ‘Joe the Plumber’)
- Adding your beneficiary may take up to 48 hours depending on your bank, so you will then have to wait before setting up the transfer. During this time you will see the beneficiary’s name in your list of bénéficiares, typically with a note at the side saying ‘en attente de validation’ (waiting for validation).
- Once your beneficiary has been validated, click on ‘nouveau virement’. You will see three options:
- Virement occasionnel – for a one-off transfer or payment
- Virement permanent – to set up a direct debit or recurring payment
- Épargne programmée – to set up a monthly, quarterly, or biannual savings plan.
- For a virement occasionnel, you will need to select the compte à débiter (the debit account from which you want to make the transfer – you will be able to choose from a list of all the current, savings, or business accounts you hold with the bank) and the compte à créditer (the account to which you want to make the transfer – you will be able to choose from a list of all your beneficiaries). You will then type in the ‘montant’ (the payment amount) and click ‘valider’ to confirm the payment or ‘annuler’ to cancel the transfer if you’ve made a mistake.
- You will then see details of the virement on the screen and be able to select either virement standard or virement instantané (if this is option is available for your account), the date of the transfer (either today, or up to 90 days later). Finally, fill in the Motif du Paiement – this is the reason for the payment that will show up on the recipient’s bank account so include details of the payment or any invoice number you have been given, for example, ‘Mrs Davidson, Bill no.123456’.
- Click continuer (continue) and check the transfer details before clicking either ‘confirmer’ to confirm the transfer, ‘modifier’ if you need to change any of the details, or ‘annuler’ to cancel the transfer.
- Your transfer has now been made and you can check its status under the Historique (History) page.
- For a virement permanent or an épargne programmé, you will follow the same steps as above, but you will also need to add the following information:
- Périodicité (payment frequency) – choose from mensuelle (monthly), trimestrielle (quarterly), semestrielle(biannually), or annuelle (annually).
- Date d’exécution (payment date) – remember this will be the date that each payment goes out from now on.
- Durée (the duration of the standing order or recurring payments – choose from jusqu’à nouvel ordre (until further notice) or jusqu’au… then choose a date of dernière execution (final payment date).
- Note that if you want to edit or cancel a virement permanent, you can do this by searching for the payment in your Historique and clicking on it.
Setting Up Your Finances in France
Managing your finances in a foreign country can feel like a constant challenge, but FrenchEntrée is here to help! Whether you need advice on paying French taxes, taking out insurance, or managing your wealth, our handy Essential Reading guides, expert FAQs, and up-to-date news reports will answer all your questions. And if we don’t have the answers, we can connect you with our trusted financial advisors.