Last year, I started testing a few online banks, as I was getting annoyed at the commissions and fees taken by my brick and mortar bank : 17€ per month for a professional account with credit card for an incorporated business, 1.5€ each time I was paying for some software abroad, not to mention the extra 2€ here and there which could not be justified in terms of services provided.
I therefore tried different accounts for my two businesses and also asked some of my customers for their feedback. Here are my findings so far. If you would like to share your experience, email me a short summary (pros and cons) and I will add it to this article.
Online bank accounts for your French business
Having a dedicated bank account is very helpful to manage your business. According to Loi Pacte micro-entrepreneurs with a turnover of at least 10,000€ for two consecutive years, have to open a bank account dedicated to their activity, but this can be a personal bank account. You might want to read my previous blog entry on how to open a bank account in France which also covers brick and mortar banks.
In this article, I am reviewing several of the online banks available for small entrepreneurs. There are also other online banks available, so please take the time to make your own research. You can also send me your feedback by email. PS: no emails from banks please...
N26 is a German bank launched in 2017 with an exclusive offer for auto-entrepreneurs, called N26 Business.
Summary of N26 Business offer:
- Free bank account, no income requirement.
- Free MasterCard, no fees on payments abroad.
- 0.1% cashback on your purchases.
- Application to manage your finances.
- 5 cash withdrawals offered per month (extra are invoiced 2€).
Pros: ease of use.
Cons: with N26, you cannot collect cash or checks.
Valerie’s feedback: This is one of my favourite online bank. Very easy to set up and use, the saving pots or sub-accounts are very useful to save for your social charges and it works well for people making purchases outside of France (no fees) or travelling. The only downside is that it isn’t a French IBAN (i.e starting with DE rather than FR). This is not an issue for micro-entrepreneurs not liable to TVA. But for those having to make TVA payments to Impots, the tax office currently does not accept payments from non-French IBANs. As an alternative you have to transfer the money to your private account, then make a SEPA payment from your personal French account.
Chris Blackouse's feedback : I took out an account with N26 just over 2 years ago and have nothing but praise for them. Whenever I have had a problem, their online chat has been really quick and easy. Their website and mobile app are also very easy to use. There are no charges PLUS I get cashback on a percentage of my card spend. It was all too good to be true for my French Accountant who just couldn’t believe it was legit. I’ve only had 2 problems,
1. setting up a lease - the French bank initially said they couldn’t deal with a german bank account so I would have to open an account in France. I responded that EU law gave me the right to have an account in any country within the EU. They “fixed” their internal systems within a week.
2. Gouv.fr - the TVA section wouldn’t accept the bank account, saying it wasn’t a proper account. I still haven’t got this working fully, but they have at least accepted that the problem is their end and not with the bank.
Chris' website www.percipero.com
MonaBanq, from the CIC Group, also has an exclusive offer for Auto-Entrepreneurs, from 7€ per month, without a bank card, and without income condition.
Summary of MonaBank’s offer:
- Account from 7€ per month.
- Optional Visa Classic card for an extra 1 per month (so 8€ in total).
- Online advisors are available.
- Voted best customer service in 2018.
- You can cash checks and cash in CIC agencies (max 5 times per year for cash).
- SMS reminders or emails set for your social security payments.
Pros: Great customer service. French IBAN.
Cons: an international credit card /Visa will cost an extra 24€ per year.
Orange’s online bank was created in 2017. It does not have an offer dedicated for auto-entrepreneurs, but you can use a personal account dedicated to your activity.
Summary of Orangebank’s offer:
- Free online and saving account.
- Free credit card (if you make at least 3 payment per months) and cheque book.
- 7.99€ per month for the Visa Premium card for free payments worldwide and free cash withdrawals in Europe.
- Pay with your mobile phone.
- Voted best digital offer for 2019.
Pros: As an existing customer for your landline, you will get up to 120 euros.
Cons: The credit card is only free if you make at least three payments per month, otherwise it will cost you 5€ per month. Commissions on payments made abroad.
Valerie’s feedback: Easy to use and manage. It’s a shame that the free international payment only comes with the Premium credit card. French IBAN. Not the best option for auto entrepreneurs travelling or receiving payment from abroad. Good for your home budget.
Discover OrangeBank’s personal account offer.
Qonto is a Neobank dedicated to freelancer and entrepreneurs, small or incorporated businesses. Qonto has two key offers for entrepreneurs: Solo for the freelancers and Companies for incorporated businesses.
Summary of Qonto’s offer:
- Solo offer starting at 9€ per month for a current account with a MasterCard.
- First month for free.
- 20 free SEPA transfers.
- Check deposit (2€ per check).
- Mobile application and website to manage your accounting.
- Reactive customer service
- Integrated to iZettle an online payment terminal to get paid in your shop or by phone (one-off payment of 19€ for the iZettle, then 1.75% per transaction, no fixed fee).
Extra with companies/ SME accounts:
- Open the account to deposit your working capital Attestation de capital (require to register an incorporated business)
- Scan and store your receipts.
- Labels your expenses and detects TVA automatically.
- Manage your team's expenses and cards.
- Bookkeeping software.
Pros: You can open an account and get your working capital attestation to register a French incorporated business.
Cons: More expensive than the micro-entrepreneur offers, but full accountancy details. French IABN.
Valerie’s feedback: This is a good option for incorporated businesses, as Qonto can issue the legal document to register your business called “Attestation de dépôt de capital”. This can be a faster option than going to a brick and mortar company. You can also manage your team’s cards.
Discover Qonto’s business account offer.
Boursorama is a subsidiary of Société Générale. In 2017, it launched an offer for professionals that works for Auto-Entrepreneurs.
Summary of Boursorama’s offer:
- Pro offer starts at 9€ per month with a Visa Classic card.
- Free offer for a personal account.
- Free and unlimited SEPA transfers.
- Check cashed in (sent by postal mail).
- Overdraft authorisation up to 4,000€.
- 80€ offered when creating your account.
- Credit card payments for shops with the iZettle terminal payment. One-off payment of 19€ (22.8€ with TVA) for the terminal, then 1.75% per transaction.
Pros: Saving account and storage area for documents. French IBAN.
Cons: More expensive than the micro-entrepreneur offers, but full accountancy details. You can deposit checks, but cash deposits are not possible.
Valerie’s feedback: The Pro account comes with a saving account “Livret Pro” at 0.05% (whatever the length or amount placed). You can also upload your bills and receipts in your online account.
Discover Boursorama’s Pro business account offer.
TransferWise Borderless Account
The Borderless account was designed for travellers, expats and freelancers working with multi-currencies. Dedicated offer for businesses.
Summary of TransferWise for businesses
- Offer for solo freelancers and small business.
- Free debit Mastercard.
- No fees on foreign transactions with your Mastercard.
- Auto-convert any currency (50+ currencies).
- Receive money for free and send money with low fees.
Pros: if your customers are based outside of France, this may be an option for you.
Cons: no French IBAN. You cannot pay checks into this account.
PS: The contributors to this article will not receive a commission if you decide to open an online bank account. So this is our unbiased point of view