What is a French bank RIB number? Why you NEED it in France

hand holding a French bank rib in her hand against a metal beckdrop

If you live in France and need to pay bills, make a payment or even transfer money to friends, at some point, you’ll be asked for your French RIB. But what is it, how do you get one and how does it differ from an IBAN or bank routing number??

Why do you need a French RIB number in France?

woman looking surprise as she holds a French bank rib in her hand

When I moved to France with my husband and three children in 2011, I knew one of the things I absolutely needed to do first was to set up our home utilities, mobile phone service and internet for our apartment.

Within days of landing in France, I headed straight to the electric company, of course, which in our area was EDF (Électricité de France.) Our landlord had electricity set up but told us we needed to switch the account over to our own name. 

To my surprise, I was asked for my RIB. (Pronounced as a single word.) 

“RIB? What’s a RIB?” I asked.

The woman stood there and said, “why, it’s your “bank RIB madame.” Still not understanding what this “RIB” thing was and why she needed it, I asked her if I could use my credit card or get billed later.

“NO!”

I absolutely needed this elusive bank RIB thingy. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

We left feeling a little defeated because we didn’t have a French bank account yet but not for a lack of trying. 

You first need a French bank account! Good luck with that!

Front of French Banque Populaire in Montpellier at place de la Comédie

A few days before heading to the electric company to set up our utilities, I “TRIED” to open a French bank account.

I say try because we were missing one of the crucial documents needed to open a French bank account which was “proof of address” in the form of a water bill, gas bill or electric bill. 

In other words, we were caught in a chicken-egg scenario.

We needed to open a bank account to get a RIb to open our utility account

We needed a utility bill with our home address on it to open a French bank account.

How do we proceed?

Issues like this happen often enough when you first move to a foreign country but in France, it’s especially omnipresent. 

We eventually opened our French bank in France by providing them with a “quittance de loyer” (rent receipt) as proof of address which oddly enough was just a handwritten letter from our landlord, with our address, date and amount we paid for rent.

It wasn’t the bank rep who told us we could use a rental receipt, it was our landlord.

Why the person at the bank didn’t tell me I could use a quittance in the first place baffled me.  

Once we opened our Frech bank account, I explained to our bank rep what had happened at the Electric company and asked her where to find my bank RIB.

She opened our bank folder, pulled out a piece of paper, and said, “Voila! This is your bank RIB.”  

WHAT IS A French RIB, And What Information Does It Contain?

So what is a French bank rib?

Is it a number, a document or something else? It turns out it’s a bit of both. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Bank RIB in France.

EXAMPLE FRENCH BANK RIB WITH FAKE ACCOUNT NUMBER

RIB is a French acronym which stands for Relevé d’Identité Bancaire (in English: Bank Details Statment). 

Think of a FRENCH BANK RIB as a banks identity card: a small document containing all of your bank branch details and personal account details. 

French RIB, IBAN, Swift, BIC, Routing numbers! What’s the difference? 

In the world of banking, there are a lot of confusing acronyms and terms that do basically the same thing.

IBAN, SWIFT, BIC and Routing numbers are four of the most common ones banks use to determine where your money needs to go when being transferred but in France, it’s the almighty RIB. 

Forget routing numbers:

You’ll never be asked for a bank routing number in France. 

As far as I can tell, the USA and Canada are the only two countries that use ABA Routing Numbers to identify individual bank branches and transit information to process cheques, payments, and transfers. The majority of countries around the world rely on IBANs to send and receive currencies. 

What information is included in a French RIB document?

To understand what a French RIB number is, you first have to understand what IBAN, SWIFT codes and BICs are because they are a part of the French RIB document. 

Bank RIB layouts and designs look slightly different depending on the bank, but all French bank RIBs consist of the following details which I’ve explained below.

Diagram of a French bank RIB and all the elements included on it

Details on a French Rib with a French name

I’ve broken down each of the RIB components below and included the French word with English translation for you. 

1) Bank name: (Banque)

  • Ribs will always have the bank name and usually a logo also.

2) Bank address: (Domiciliation)

  • Self-explanatory. 

3) NAME: (Titulaire de Compte )

  • The first and last names or company name of the account holder. Joint accounts will have all account holder names.

4) Bank code: (Code Banque ) 

  • -5 digits long: A bank code refers to the bank chain you’re with. For example, Société Générale bank code is “30003” and Banque Populaire’s bank code is “14607”.

5) Branch code (Code guichet)

  • -5 digits long: Each branch within the same bank has a different branch code. For example, BNP Paribas in Paris will have a different branch code than BNP Paribas in Montpellier.

6) Account number: (Numéro de compte: )

  • -11 digits long

7) RIB key: (Clé RIB:)

  • -2 digits: In France, the RIB key is a two-digit number between 01 and 97

8) IBAN number: (Numéro IBAN)

  • -27 digits and letters 

IBAN, an acronym for “International Bank Account Number,” is an internationally agreed-upon format of letters and numbers that contain all of the country and bank account details necessary to send and receive money internationally. International IBAN account numbers are used mainly throughout Europe and some areas in the Middle East, the Caribbean, and North Africa. 

IBAN account numbers can contain as many as 34 characters; however, French IBAN codes have 27 characters and are formatted a specific way into (6 groups of 4 characters and 1 group of 3), like this- FR76   XXXX   XXXX   XXXX   XXXX   XXX.

The 27 letters and numbers that make up the French IBAN code are a combination of the following information:

    1. Country identifier: (FR for France)
      • All IBAN codes start with a 2 letter country code.
    2. Control key: (usually 76 in France)
      • The bank control key is a two-character check code. For France, it’s usually 76.
    3. Combination bank + account info (21 characters)
      • bank code -5 digits
      • branch code -5 digits
      • account number -11 digits
    4. RIB KEY: last 2 digits of an IBAN code. 

9) SWIFT Code Or BIC code (Business Identifier Code)

  • 8 to 11 characters:

While the IBAN is your international account number, the SWIFT code (also known as BIC) is the “Bank identifier code”.  

What does SWIFT stand for? (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the international organization in charge of registering BIC codes.

The IBAN number and BIC SWIFT code are often used together and have become the new standardized RIB banking format for the Eurozone to facilitate international transactions. 

Eventually, this format should permanently replace all other bank credentials. 

How do I get my French bank RIB?

Example of a printable French bank rib with 4 copies which you can cut out.

There are several ways to get your hands on your French bank RIB document, either in digital format or paper version, which you can download and print.

The image above is an example of what a sheet of 4 RIBs would look like on a printable pdf document which you can obtain in several ways. I’ve listed the diferent methods below. 

On your bank’s website in your account dashboard

example showing where to find and download your French bank rib in a French bank account website dashboard

You can log on to your bank’s dashboard and download a PDF version of your French RIB which will contain a grid of 4 RIBs. Cut them out and put them in your wallet so that they are handy. 

On your Frech banks phone app :

example of what sending French Bank RIB details via sms from your smart phone

In your bank’s phone app, there should be a menu item Labeled RIB, or it could be located in the Documents folder within the bank phone app.

From within the app, you can download your bank RIB onto your phone as a PDF. You can then attach it to emails or print it at home. 

You can also send the RIB details in an SMS message, WhatsApp message or email. (see screenshot above of what that might look like.)

In the back of your chequebook register.

example showing where to find your French RIB number in the back of your check book

If you order a chequebook with your checking account, you’ll find a few pages at the back with your bank RIB. This is my actual chequebook but I’ve blurred out my banking account details. 

Other places you can obtain your French RIB document

You can also get your RIB by going directly to your bank and asking for it at the counter. 

You should also be able to get a copy of your RIB banking document at your French Banks ATM machine. 

Examples of when you might be asked for a RIB in France

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some examples of when you might be asked to provide a RIB to receive and send payments. 

Your employer in France: They will need your bank RIB details so that they can automatically deposit your salary into your French bank account. 

Opening up utility accounts in France:

To pay for your child’s monthly school tuition. public school in France is free of course however if you enrol your children in private schools in France, the school may ask for your bank RIB so they can automatically deduct the monthly tuition. 

To get reimbursed for medical expenses: If you become part of the French health care system, you will have to pay for your health costs upfront when you see a doctor. The French health care system will then reimburse your account up to 70 percent of what you paid to the hospital or doctor. But to be reimbursed, you must provide your RIB in the dashboard of your online Amelie account. 

To transfer money to someone’s account: Need to send money to a friend? Ask them for their RIB number and input them into your bank as a beneficiary so you can initiate a transfer of funds to them. 

Wrapping up the French Bank RIB

Without a French bank RIB, it’s next to impossible to live in France. 

Remember, open a French bank account first. Once you have a bank account in France, you will have a French bank RIB and can use it to send and receive money.

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.

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