This is my random “other things I’ve had to do for life in Nice” post. First up: bank account!
There are lots of banks in Nice: Banque Populaire, BNP Paribas, LCL, Societe Generale, HSBC, and Caisse Epargne are some of the big ones. I went with Banque Populaire because my roommate did and he said they were good with technology (they have an app), and there is one close to my apartment. As you can see, a super-informed decision!
I’ve been really happy with Banque Populaire overall. I didn’t have any problems opening my account, my debit card came fairly quickly (1-2 weeks, if I remember correctly), and they do have an app that works well, although I only use it for checking my account balance. My only complaint is that I asked for a checkbook when I opened my account, and was told I would receive something in the mail when it was ready to be picked up at the bank. Nothing ever came, so I emailed the woman who opened my account asking about that as well as receiving sign-in information for online banking. She didn’t respond, so I resent the email. Still no response, but a few days later a piece of mail came with my online banking information, but no checkbook. I decided it wasn’t worth the effort, since I don’t think checkbooks are free and transferring money is pretty easy here.
I haven’t heard much about any of the other major banks I mentioned except for BNP Paribas. I’ve heard bad things about them from no fewer than three friends: two of them had to wait a long time to get their debit cards (it took one of them, like, MONTHS to get her card) and the other one has a card that says “Mademoiselle” on it even though his name is Sam. As in Samuel. So if you decide to go with them for your banking needs, maybe do some research ahead of time. I’m sure plenty of people have had good experiences with them, but it’s worth being informed!
To open my account, I just went into Banque Populaire during their open hours (they’re closed from 11:55-2:00 and close PROMPTLY at 4:55) and told the reception guy person that I’m not French and would like to open a bank account. We made an appointment and he gave me a piece of paper with all the documents I would need. I don’t remember what they all were, but they included my passport, a copy of my lease, and some document showing how much money I would make, among a few others. The day of the appointment I went in and met with the woman assigned to my account. She was really nice, spoke no English, and opened my account no problem. It was great! I’m not sure closing my account will go that well, I’ll report back in a couple of a months…
Getting my bus/tram pass was just as easy. I’m not sure how it is in other places in France, but here’s how it went in Nice! In my opinion, the pass is totally worth it; each tram or bus trip is a euro, and if you get caught without a ticket, it’s 45€. For my first three months here, I didn’t get checked ONCE. Then one random evening in January my friends and I were walking from a friend’s apartment to a bar and decided to hop on the tram. We even talked about how mad we would be if we got a ticket after riding it two stops (I have a pass, but I had forgotten it in my school bag and didn’t have it with me). And you guessed it… I got checked by controllers for the first time ever and got a ticket! I think three of us ended up getting tickets that night, but mine was only 32€ because I had a ticket that wasn’t validated (one I bought for my parents). So learn from me: get a pass (since buying tickets each time gets expensive), and carry it with you EVERYWHERE! Since then I have gotten checked one more time.
Lignes d’Azur (the public transportation network in Nice) has a yearlong pass that’s 15€ a month, but you only pay for nine months; the last three months are free. Sounded like a good deal to me! That’s the one most of my friends here have gotten. I just picked up the form from the Lignes d’Azur office (there are a few around Nice), filled it out, got copies of all the necessary paperwork, and took it to the office! I believe I decided a copy of my lease (it’s a joke around here that you need a copy of your lease for everything), a passport photo, my passport, and my RIB, or releve d’identite bancaire. RIBs are used for everything around here; you can pay for big purchases with your RIB, I use my landlord’s RIB to transfer rent money, and my school even got a bunch of students’ parents’ RIBs to refund them each 5€ for a play they paid to go to that was cancelled. Ridiculous, I know.
I’m not sure how it’s going to work to close my bank account with the automatic payments I have set up with my bus/tram pass and cell phone. Perhaps I can figure out how to cancel them before I close my bank account, and then it won’t be an issue… lots to figure out before I go home! I’ll report back how it goes at some point.
Well look here, a relatively short post! Any questions about anything else I had to do to set up my life here? Ask away!