Bank card limits in France

My nesting instinct hasn’t quite kicked in yet (the freezer remains mostly empty and the closets horribly disorganized) but my shopping definitely seems to have picked up a bit this month. So I’ve been having lots of fun, but in the back of my head, I have to keep in mind the spending limits on my bank card.

Since I moved to France right after college, I’m not sure how different things are here, but I know my dad was upset recently that his free checking accounting was no longer free. I’ve been paying a few euros a month since the very first month for my account here, so I couldn’t really sympathize with him. I do know that what I pay is because I have a debit card; the joint account with my husband only has a checkbook so we don’t pay anything for it.

In addition to the monthly fee, there are limits on how much I can withdraw each week, and how much I can spend in a month using the card (there are no limits to withdrawing at the bank, other than the amount actually in the account!). When I first arrived in France, these limits were pretty low, which wasn’t a big deal, since I didn’t make that much. And it’s nice to know that if my card gets stolen and someone tries to buy or withdraw a lot, they won’t be able to. Recently I asked my banker to increase the limits, since my work situation is stable, but I still need to keep that number in my mind when buying big ticket items over the next few weeks.

Both my husband and I are at Société Générale now, but before he was at Crédit Mutuel, and I’m not sure if he had the same limits. I remember the first time we tried to buy plane tickets with his new card, and we couldn’t, because he was close to the monthly limit, and he swore he’d never had one at his old bank. It could just be that he had never reached his limit before, so never knew what it was.

One nice thing is that there re no fees when withdrawing from an ATM at another bank, with, of course, a weekly limit. This is something I loved when I first got here, since there was nothing more annoying to me in the states than paying an extra 2 dollars when I didn’t use my bank’s ATM. 2 dollars is a lot to a college student on minimum wage! That’s like, enough for an essential studying snack or bus fare to the mall.

I’ve been looking into purely online banking for a while, but I’ve been at the same bank since I first got here, and with the same banker for over 4 years. He knows us, knows our goals, and gives good advice. We also manage to get enough “new” services every year that we help him meet his sales quota without him having to call and badger us every few months. So if we called him and asked to up the limit so we can buy a crib, he’d do it, no problem. I don’t feel like I can’t spend my own money how I want to, it just takes a bit more planning. Which, when dealing with budgets, is probably not such a bad thing.

I’ve gotten used to my bank card limits in France just like I’ve gotten used to everything being closed on Sundays and after 7pm. Sure, a part of me feels like this is somehow denying me my freedom of choice, but at the same time, it’s made me more organized and conscious of how I spend my money (and time).

4 thoughts on “Bank card limits in France”

  1. The limits kind of drive me insane and were a huge pain while we were renovating our apartment. We were able to temporarily raise them for 2 months, but I just feel like I’m an adult and I should have full access to my own money. Personally, I think it’s just the banks being cheap (it means they can carry a lower fond de roulement if they can control how much money people have access too) more so than for fraud protection – plus most fraudulent charges are 1000-1500€ or less for this exact reason (ie they know that’s the max on the card).

    Also just a word of warning – most of the major banks have now instituted withdrawal fees for using non-network ATMs – though they usually give you 4 or 5 non-network withdrawals for free per month before they start charging, so unless you take money out of the ATM more than once a week, it shouldn’t really affect you. It should say on your bank’s website though, under their annual fees PDF they are obligated to post.

    1. Oooh, good tip. Looks like SG gives me 6 free per month. I also forgot about how complicated it can be to do business with a branch that isn’t where your account is. But I remember having trouble with this in the states, since I opened my account in one state, and when I was at school, the bank there was like “you don’t have an account here” and I was like, uhhh, yeah I do, and they couldn’t find it because I forgot to mention the state I opened it in. But by now, my US bank has changed names like, eight times, so who knows what their rules are now!

  2. I was really stung with the withdrawal limit when I went to Ukraine. Hello being stuck in Lviv for a couple of days with only the equivalent of about 20€ cash! Luckily, you could have a meal with wine for about 2€ or I’d have really been screwed!

    1. That’s definitely happened to us once or twice too, though unfortunately in more expensive countries! Now we tend to withdraw a fair amount beforehand, which also helps us keep track of how much we spend. Until we see the super expensive souvenir we MUST have, then all rules go out the window, lol.

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