The first time you have to write a cheque in France can feel intimidating and it’s easy to make a mistake if you don’t know what you’re doing. Our handy step-by-step guide is here to help!
Unlike in many other countries, where cash and card payments prevail, the cheque is still a commonly used form of payment in France. A cheque payment is often required for large purchases or deposits, and many small business transactions take place using cheques.
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It is not even unusual to see French people writing a cheque to pay for groceries at the supermarket, although this practice is changing and is far less likely among younger generations. These days many smaller shops and services no longer accept cheques, so it’s important to clarify which payment methods are offered before agreeing to a purchase.
Receiving Payments By Cheque: Is it Secure?
In France, a cheque payment is generally seen as a reliable and secure method of payment. The legal consequences for the payer of having a cheque bounce can be severe (more about that in a minute) and therefore it’s far less likely that they would risk writing a bad check.
However, if you’re receiving larger payments for your business or a private sale, you can also ask for ‘un chèque de banque’, a banker’s or cashier’s cheque. This kind of cheque is guaranteed by the bank, so you can be certain that the payment will go through without a hitch.
Writing a French Cheque Without the Necessary Funds
It’s worth noting that it is illegal in France to write a cheque if you do not have enough money in your account to cover the payment. For the same reason, it is also illegal to write a post-dated or open-dated cheque.
The consequences of writing a cheque without sufficient funds depend upon your bank and your personal situation, but they can be severe. You may be fined and also lose the right to write cheques for up to five years, which could cause considerable difficulties, especially for businesses.
In the event of a genuine accident or mistiming (say, your wages being paid a day later than usual and a cheque you’d written being cashed that same day), your bank may be more lenient, especially if you are a longstanding client, have other accounts in credit with the same bank, and this has never happened before. However, you should expect a call from your bank and a request to immediately transfer the necessary funds to the account.
Our advice? Don’t take the risk of writing a cheque if there is any doubt at all about having the necessary funds!
Cancelling a Cheque in France
French cheques are valid for one year (12 months) and 8 days. The only way to cancel a cheque is if it has been lost, stolen, or there is suspicion of fraud. You will need to contact your bank directly in order to do this.
Filling in a French cheque may be slightly different to what you are used to in your country of origin. Here’s a guide to what goes where.
Tips for Writing a Cheque in FranceIf you’re paying for goods at a larger establishment, many have auto-print cheque machines which will fill in the date, amount, and payee. It’s worth asking before you start filling it out by hand.While it’s illegal to fill out a cheque without adding the date, a common practice is to leave the recipient’s name blank. If you are unsure who to make the payment to, you can leave this section out and let them fill this in. When receiving a cheque as payment, be sure to check whether or not this section has been filled in too. If not, make sure you add your name before cashing it!
How to Fill in Your French Cheque
On the left-hand side of the cheque you will need to fill in:
Amount: The first two lines (just after the words ‘Payez contre ce chèque non endossable’) are for the cheque amount. This should be written out in words (use our handy list below to help!)
à (payee): Just underneath this, after the ‘à’, you write the payee’s name, i.e. the name of a person, company or public administration office that the cheque is payable to.
On the right-hand side of the cheque you will need to fill in:
€ Amount: The cheque amount in numbers. NOTE: in French, the decimal is written as a comma and the period is used to separate thousands, so to express two euros and fifty cents you would write 2,50 and to express two thousand five hundred you would write 2.500. It’s an easy mistake to make, so take care!
à (location): Underneath, on the line after ‘á’, where you need to fill in the place where the cheque is being written. A city, town, or village is fine, e.g. ‘Paris’ or ‘Eymet’. You don’t need to put a full address.
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Signature: You know what to do!
One of the trickiest parts of writing a French cheque for anglophones is that you need to be able to spell out all the numbers! In fact, it’s often only when you come to write a cheque that you realise you have no idea how to write €1.345.205,00 in words (although, if you’re writing a cheque for that amount, you probably don’t need our help!). To make life easy, here’s a quick guide.
1 un 2 deux 3 trois 4 quatre 5 cinq 6 six 7 sept 8 huit 9 neuf 10 dix 11 Onze 12 douze 13 treize 14 quatorze 15 quinze 16 seize 17 dix-sept 18 dix-huit 19 dix-neuf 20 vingt 30 trente 40 quarante 41 quarante et un 50 cinquante 60 soixante 70, 71, 72… soixante-dix, soixante et onze, soixante et douze… 80, 81, 82… quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt-un, quatre-vingt-deux… 90, 91, 92 … quatre-vingt-dix , quatre-vingt-onze, quatre-vingt-douze… 100, 200, 300, … Cent, deux-cents, trois-cents… 1,000 , 10,000, 100,000 … mille , dix mille, cent mille…