We all know how useful this site is (otherwise we wouldn't be here) but it wasn't all that easy to find (it certainly took me a while to stumble across it).

Is there a remotely similar site in any other country?
At the moment I am specifically hunting for information in France (en Francais, bien sur) but can find nothing even remotely similar.

Does anyone know of any such site(s)?
Is there an opportunity for Martin to set up a kind of world-wide franchise?


  • Former_MSE_Andrea

    If there's anyone that knows it's likely to be Droopsnout, who lives there. He's a fountain of knowledge when it comes to MoneySaving in France :)
    Could you do with a Money Makeover?

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  • chessfou
    Well, thanks for that MSE Andrea.

    However, any advice on how to contact Droopsnout?

    I looked up the Members list - not there. I also did a search, which turned up nothing. Any idea which forum(s) Droopsnout can be found on?
  • Mado
    Mado Posts: 21,776 Forumite
    I've been Money Tipped!
    Can't say my money saving expertise in France is up to date but if you have specific queries you could try me... I used to be French.(still visit the family!)
    I lost my job as a cricket commentator for saying “I don’t want to bore you with the details”.Milton Jones
  • chessfou
    Thanks mado - it's the whole gamut really:
    - best current account?
    - best credit card? (full statement balance always paid - is cashback available?)
    - utilities - are there options yet (if so which are best) or is it still just EDF, GDF & France Telecom?
    - best savings rate? (ING?)
    - price comparisons for shopping (both online and in-store)?
    - best on-line broker? I actually have made some progress on this one - looks like Boursorama may be best for me (even if not quite the cheapest).

    My French is more-or-less adequate and my wife is just about fluent, so French sites hold no terrors but struggling to make the comparisons and find the answers that Martin has achieved for the UK on this site is way beyond us (and, I think, any individuals).

    No interest in: mortgages, loans.
  • 2ax
    2ax Posts: 645 Forumite
    you could do a search on the Phones Board here for some French cheap calls providers - international calls to UK at local rate, etc.
  • droopsnout
    droopsnout Posts: 3,620 Forumite
    Hello! A fellow MSE-er was kind enough to direct me here, and I find I am mentioned by name! (Thanks for thinking about me, Andrea!)

    If my name is not in the members' list, I have no explanation, as I am indeed a member! Did you try looking for "droopsnout" with a small "d"?

    I'm by no means an expert on the money-saving possibilities in France, but I have lived here for three years now, and have picked up one or two pointers.

    I think chessfou may still have a lot of homework to do, but if I can help, I will. As far as I know, there is no similar site to this in France. There certainly is an oportunity for Martin to set something up here, but it would require someone with his journalistic skills, not to mention his enormous knowledge of and "feel" for the financial world to make it anything like the success that is the UK site.

    I'll deal with chessfou's points in separate posts, so that each may be called up individually when people do a search, and so that no one post becomes too long.

    By the way, I'd be personally grateful for further input from French nationals like mado (and s/he is not the only French person on MSE!), as the more knowledge we share, the better!
    Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. - Thomas Sowell, "Is Reality Optional?", 1993
  • droopsnout
    droopsnout Posts: 3,620 Forumite
    Let me start by saying that I am NOT any kind of financial adviser or whizz-kid, nor do I have any qualifications to give advice, apart fromthree years living here.

    I would strongly advise anyone thinking of buying property in France to make all necessary contacts with appropriate professionals, and to read the wide range of books available, and to consult the various monthly magazines which are readily available these days in major newsagents' stores.

    There are also some very useful websites with discussion fora like these, where no-one need be afraid to ask any question, even ones you may consider to be very naive. I would suggest that you start at the Total France site. There is even a thread there on how to complete a French cheque, begun by someone who was about to do it all wrong!

    So ... current accounts.
    Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. - Thomas Sowell, "Is Reality Optional?", 1993
  • droopsnout
    droopsnout Posts: 3,620 Forumite
    I guess it would be true to say that the best current account in the UK would depend on what the individual wanted from it. The same will apply in France.

    In fact, I have no great experience of current accounts - or banking in general - over here.

    But for many Brits, purchasing either a holiday home or a permanent residence, the services offered by Crédit Agricole Normandie are very helpful, through their Britline division. You can find their website here. They also seem to attend all the property exhibitions which take place all round the UK these days.

    Their particular advantage is that their staff are all British or English-speaking, which can make the transfer of money, creation of direct debits, etc., etc., much less of a nerve-wracking task for the Brit with the usual schoolboy/girl French. Even with some quite advanced French, it is unlikely that you will be familiar with all the technical terms used.

    I believe that it is against the law in France for a current account to offer interest. So in choosing a current account, you are looking for other things like charges and services. That is where Britline scores, offering English-language dialogue.

    I have used them since before moving here, as you can apply for and use their account before your purchase. (They will also be pleased to set up your mortgage and insurances, etc, but they're generally expensive on those).

    Bank cards (in the UK, generally known as cheque guarantee cards) are a little different. Such cards here are not used to support a cheque. If you write a cheque which cannot be honoured, you may find yourself in very embarrassing circumstances, with the Banque de France blacklisting you. That said, I have been overdrawn twice with Crédit Agricole (CA), and emailed them each time as I was aware of the situation, and they were quite happy. I guess they know I have a regular monthly income paid into the account.

    However, the cards issued are really debit cards. They cannot be used as a credit card, even though they may be issued by Mastercard or Visa.

    They also cost!! CA charge us something like 32 euro for the first card, and 16 euro for a second card on the same account. The card allows us to pay by card in shops and to obtain cash from the ATMs. It can also be used to order via mail or internet, quoting your card number as in the UK.

    When using the card in shops, you tap in your PIN, as all cards here are Chip and Pin.

    CA do not charge for direct debits with public utilities, but they do for DDs to other organisations. So I don't pay for my DDs to France Télécom, EdF or the tax authorities, but I do pay one euro for each DD to people like my ISP and my insurance company. If you have a number of policies with one insurance company, they will generally aggregate the monthly premiums (if that's how you want to pay) into one monthly DD, thus reducing the expense.

    If you lose your PIN, you will be charged for a re-issue. When Mrs droopsnout lost hers (grrr), we were charged 7 euro.

    You can check your account online. Paper statements are issued monthly.

    One drawback is that if you want to pay in a cheque, you have to send it by post, as other banks (even other branches of CA) won't accept them. You can, however, pay in cash at other CA branches. We pay in about four euro cheques a year, so this is not a problem.

    We maintain current accounts in the UK with Halifax, smile, Nationwide and First Direct without difficulty.

    Other Brits I know have accounts with other banks, but on hearing their tales of charges and so on, I have not felt urged to move my account.

    So the droopsnout vote for best Current Account goes to Crédit Agricole's Britline account.

    By the way, the euro sign can be typed on most UK computer set-ups by holding down CONTROL and ALT, then pressing the "4" key: €. However, it doesn't always work, and seems not come out properly on some receiving PCs. (These comments don't apply to Macs, of which I have no experience).
    Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. - Thomas Sowell, "Is Reality Optional?", 1993
  • droopsnout
    droopsnout Posts: 3,620 Forumite
    The concept of a credit card does not really exist here, as cards which allow you to rack up a host of monthly charges on one single bill all have to be repaid in full at the end of the month - like the traditional American Express card. (I know that Amex now do others ...)

    Egg did set up over here and started a Visa card with cashback. They couldn't make it pay, however, and closed their operation.

    I am not aware of any other cashback chargecard system, but will look into it.

    There are numerous opportunities to have a rolling credit account, but we have no intention of acquiring any debt.

    Some stores have their own payment card, and these may give you reductions in some limited way (e.g. 5% discount for shopping on certain days), or allow you to use a checkout reserved for cardholders (and checkout queues can get horrendously long in our part of France - six deep last week, with all tills open!)

    I might just add that checkout operators here in the gentle South West are not in a hurry to get people through, so if you're shopping for frozen goods, pick a quiet day! It is MUCH more important here to show good manners and have a nice long chat with the customer (especially if they are neighbours ...) than to take part in some undignified bar-code race. (This does not apply in Lidl, where the person behind you is having their items scanned before you've got your till receipt!)
    Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. - Thomas Sowell, "Is Reality Optional?", 1993
  • droopsnout
    droopsnout Posts: 3,620 Forumite
    Privatisation in France hasn't got as far as it has in the UK.

    Electricity and gas are provided by Electricité de France and Gaz de France - effectively two arms of one giant nationalised company. However, this is to change in the relatively near future. You may be aware that EdF now owns some of the power generators in the UK.

    At present, therefore, you have no choice of supplier for domestic purposes.

    France Télécom no longer has a monopoly, and it is possible to sign up with other providers for line rental and calls.

    We have maintained our line rental with FT, but make all calls through another firm called Les Minutes, part of Budget Télécom. (Not sure if that link carries a referral code ... Hmm, here's the English-language site, with definitely no referral code).

    They have two prefix numbers which you use to obtain cheap rate calls. I have not found cheaper, and, believe me, I have tried!

    The site gives the following rates for calling the UK:


    And here is further info:


    You have a prepaid account with these people, topping up your account most conveniently online with your bank card.

    They also offer the facility to use your account with them from UK numbers.

    As far as I am aware, you will have no choice of water supplier.
    Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. - Thomas Sowell, "Is Reality Optional?", 1993
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