To fight against inflation and boost its purchasing power, there are no small savings. As for banks, online establishments remain a safe bet. They systematically present the most competitive rates, regardless of the customer profile, as evidenced by our annual ranking. If, on the other hand, you prefer to have an agency and a dedicated adviser, you must turn to other establishments. And, good news, the historical banks now have something to interest you.
This is how Crédit Mutuel launched its new Facil'Accès offer on August 1st. Recalling its new status as a “mission-based” company, the mutual institution specifies that this product is in fact only a variation of the specific offer that banks are obliged to offer to individuals said to be in a situation of financial fragility. However, the new product is not content with the regulatory minimum and offers services that rival other offers on the market, with a price that is twice as low: 1 euro per month.
No incident fees at Crédit Mutuel
“The rise in consumer prices and energy prices is undermining the purchasing power of the poorest (…). With Facil'Accès, Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale offers the best solidarity banking offer for people in financial difficulty”, boasts Nicolas Théry, Chairman of Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale. To benefit from it, a declaration is sufficient and no proof is required. The offer is therefore open to anyone considering being in financial difficulty or subject to regular end-of-month problems.
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Where the Crédit Mutuel offer stands out on the market is that it exempts the individual from banking incident fees. Only 12 euros (1 euro every month) are billed to households each year. “It allows a theoretical saving of 224 euros per year compared to other specific offers”, specifies the bank at Capital. A specific minimum offer can indeed charge incident costs of up to 200 euros per year, and the contributions reach in the vast majority of cases 36 euros. That is 236 euros in total to be paid each year for a “fragile” customer, and nearly 20 euros per month.
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Offers on the test bench
For customers looking for a bank account at a lower cost, Crédit Mutuel is obviously not the only solution. Crédit Agricole had hit hard by successively launching “Eko” in 2017 and “Globe Trotter” in 2020, two formulas at 2 euros per month. To date, 560,000 customers have subscribed to this type of offer (including the specific one for vulnerable customers) within the bank. Its subsidiary, LCL, had followed suit by marketing “Essentiel”, whose results are more mixed: 46,000 customers have opted for this formula. Another mutual institution, Caisse d'Épargne began marketing “Enjoy” in 2018. The Postal Bank has also advanced its pawns via its subsidiary “Ma French Bank”, an online bank initially billed at 2 euros, then now 2, 90 euros per month. It now has 500,000 subscribers. Note also the “Kapsule” account of Société Générale.
As you can see in the table above, behind the attractive price of these call products, it is worth looking in detail at the services associated with this type of account. “These offers appeared less than 5 years ago to compete with online banks and their free offers”, analyzes Basile Duval, spokesperson for the comparator Panorabanques.
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First good news: most of the time you benefit from a dedicated adviser who can guide you on certain savings or loan products. In the specific case of the Caisse d'Epargne, you will not be able to call on an adviser but simply use a terminal for your day-to-day transactions.
Another surprise: in-branch transactions carried out by advisors are mostly free. “These offers have very good value for money”, summarizes Panorabanques. Be careful, however, for customers of Société Générale and LCL, who, conversely, could make a face, the two banks charging a transfer respectively 7 and 6.09 euros, amounts that have risen sharply over the past two years.
Beware of additional costs
However, two weaknesses should be highlighted. The bank card is in the majority of cases with systematic authorization. However, some payment terminals are not compatible with these cards. For example, we can think of tolls or car rentals involving a bank guarantee. Finally, the overdraft is, in most cases, not accepted. Only Crédit Mutuel (up to 225 euros after study of the file) and certain Crédit Agricole funds authorize it.
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Moreover, to really pay less than 3 euros per month for your current account, a few gestures are to be prohibited. Beware of inappropriate withdrawals. If you want to withdraw money from an ATM other than your bank, you will probably be charged. Ma French Bank and Société Générale opt for flat-rate pricing: respectively 90 cents and 1 euro per transaction. LCL and its parent company, Crédit Agricole, as well as Caisse d'Epargne have chosen to introduce a quota of free withdrawals before charging the customer.
Finally, travel outside the euro zone can be expensive. Because customers opting for this kind of low-cost accounts must pay high fees for their stays abroad. Apart from Crédit Agricole and Ma French Bank, which have written off this financial windfall, the other establishments charge for transactions made abroad. A withdrawal of 100 euros implies, for example, nearly 6 euros billed to LCL, Crédit Mutuel or Société Générale. The same payment of 100 euros, certainly less expensive, still causes costs ranging between 2.5 and 4 euros.