This is not something one does lightheartedly, I am discovering. It is not just the business of opening a new bank account, but there are all those routine payments in and out of the account to transfer across.
So why did I do it? Well for some time I have the feeling that my current bank is not flourishing: staff change all the time, charges are higher than elsewhere, and their internet site is dire (important if, like me, you do mainly online banking).
Two recent events finally tipped the balance, the first a bit more frivolous.
On my recent UK trip I paid for trains, buses, cafes, taxis and supermarket trips almost exclusively using Apple Pay. And because I have the ultimate in luxuries, an Apple watch, I was able to do this without even opening my handbag. A double click of a button on the watch and then flash it in front of the payment device – et voila, the payment is accepted. Not only am I less likely to lose my phone or wallet, when opening my handbag, but Apple Pay is more secure than using a card: the actual credit card number is never given to the merchant. (Don’t ask me to explain how this works.)
For a year now I have been asking my bank if and when it was going to offer Apple Pay facilities, and the answer is always ‘we are talking with Apple’.
The other recent irritation was when I wanted to do a virement – transfer money electronically – to pay the association for which my cleaner works (rather than write a cheque and then drive a km to post it in the nearest postbox – or carry it around in my coat pocket and forget it). I could not for the life of my work out how to do this on the bank’s site. I asked the girl at the desk in the bank how to do it, and she was equally nonplussed, as was the young man who swanned in to help us both. Eventually they took my problem to their boss!
These two problems are not problems with my new bank: it has offered Apple Pay for some time and it is easy to see how to make a virement – or to set up a prélèvement automatique – a direct debit or standing order. In fact its website is a model of user friendliness compared with the old one.
The actual process of opening my new account has taken more time, plus two visits, than I expected, but this is because of an incredible amount of paperwork needed to verify my identity and financial circumstances. All made more pleasant by knowing the young woman who is doing all this. She is the daughter of people in the village of Serres, so we are on “tu” terms.
Well I now have my debit card, I’m about to sign up for Apple Pay, have sent a form to get my university pensions paid into my new bank. And the bank will look after the transfer of all the prélèvements. So hopefully next month I should be set up and will flash my watch at the till in Intermarché, my local supermarket.