TAPIF Finances | How to open a bank account (not!)
I thought that opening a bank account was going to be no big deal; after all, my host teacher was kind enough to make an appointment for me at her bank and was going to be coming with me, and the last assistant had successfully opened an account there as well. I had plenty of time before the deadline to turn in my paperwork so that I would get paid for the first month.
Or so I thought.
The saga begins
I went in with my teacher to her bank with all my documents (including my passport and lodging certificate) and think I managed to understand most of what was happening. The agent took a copy of my passport and told me that he’d be in touch once all my paperwork was processed. I figured I was set until I received a message saying that he wasn’t able to open a bank account for me.
It was the Friday before the deadline for RIBs to be handed in to my school, and banks would be closed Sunday (and I think on Monday?). I had a pretty narrow window of time to make this happen. So the next morning, I walked around Bethune and made appointments at every bank that was open before they all closed at noon.
How to open a bank account? It’s a numbers game!
My first appointment was at a bank where other American assistants had been successful at getting accounts and RIBs (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire), a document with account information that needs to be turned in to receive a salary. I’d been under the impression that they’d gotten it fairly quickly, even on the same day, so I wasn’t too worried.
I went in for my appointment and the woman I spoke to was incredibly nice. She mentioned the names of other assistants who’d come in for their accounts, which seemed like a breach of privacy…I then signed tons of documents in French and what seemed like my entire life away. She told me to bring in some extra documents (I think she sent me a form letter for my certificate de logement to fill out instead of the version that my roommate had given me).
I then asked when I’d be receiving the RIB, and it turned out that it would be past the deadline, due to some stringent laws that the United States government had passed (I swear I’m not evading taxes by storing my millions of dollars abroad!).
At this point, it was looking like I wouldn’t be getting my salary for the month; I’d be fine, but it would still be nicer to get paid at the end of the month instead of needing to wait two months. I asked my secretaire if I could have my paperwork so I could just mail it myself, but she was adamant that she would need to do it. I decided to try out another bank and see if they’d be able to give me a RIB sooner.
Getting more bank savvy
This time, I’m pretty sure it was one of the first questions I asked, and I was told that I’d get a RIB the same day. I was skeptical it would work out, and I don’t think this bank had dealt with any other assistants, let alone American ones. However, my agent was again incredibly nice. He also made sure I got a student bank account, which did not have fees (I think a normal bank account would be 3-8 euros a month).
At one point, the bank manager was called in, and I was sure that it wasn’t going to work out, but they told me to come back later in the day to pick up my RIB. Still skeptical, I went back, and was surprised to actually receive my RIBs!
I was given a lot of copies, which came in handy later on. I let the other bank know that I would like to cancel my application; she asked me why and I told her I was able to receive a RIB immediately from another bank. I kept getting mail and texts from that bank for months, even though I asked them to stop.
A month of suspense
I turned in my paperwork; I didn’t receive a confirmation that it was received and processed, but at the end of the month, I got paid! I also received a debit card and a checkbook, which I needed to pay for my mutuelle (supplementary health insurance) and nothing else.
In case it helps anyone out, the bank I ended up going with was Credit Mutuel. Let me know if you have any questions or experiences with opening up a bank account for TAPIF!