French Vocabulary Lesson: Banking and Money

Learn How to Speak About Money in French

When traveling (or doing anything else, for that matter), you need access to money, which means you need to know how to talk about it in the local language. Expand your French vocabulary by learning these words and phrases related to money and banking.

After studying and practicing these French words, you will be able to change money, talk about your payment method, manage bank accounts, and more.

Note: Many of the words below are linked to .wav files. Simply click on the link to listen to the pronunciation.

Forms of Money (Les formes de l'argent

Learning how to say the French words for different types of currency is a good place to begin. These are very simple words that will form the basis for many of the other banking and accounting phrases to come.

Cash 

In your travels, you may choose to pay with cash for many purchases. The following words refer to basic paper money, no matter the currency of the country.

  • A Bill, Note, or Paper Money - un billet
  • Cash - des espèces (f), du liquide (also refers to liquid)
  • Change - la monnaie
  • Coin - une pièce (de monnaie)

Types of Checks

Un chèque (check) is the base word used for all types of checks. As you can see, it is easy to add a modifier when discussing a particular check.

  • Checkbook - un carnet de chèques
  • Certified check - un chèque certifié
  • Traveler's check - un chèque de voyage

Types of Cards

Bank and credit cards are also useful when paying for items and services.

Notice that each type builds off of the word  une carte (card) to further define the type of card you will be using.

Paying for Things (Payer pour des Choses)

Now that you have the forms of money down, it's time to buy something with it.

 

To pay...payer...
... cash.... en espèces.
... with a credit card.... avec une carte de crédit.
... with traveler's checks.... avec des chèques de voyage.

To write a check - faire un chèque

To buy (acheter) or to spend (dépenser) will be useful verbs when making purchases as well.

And, of course, no matter which country you're in, there is likely to be a tax (un impôt) added to your purchase.

Putting a Value on Purchases

When you're in the store or talking about a shopping trip with friends, use one of these phrases to talk about the deal you scored or the extravagant price of an item.

  • Cheap - bon marché
  • Expensive - cher
  • Thrifty - économe
  • Good value - un bon rapport qualité-prix
  • It's worth it - Ça vaut le coup
  • It's expensive! - C'est pas donné !

If you hear this phrase, you just received the best deal:

At the Bank (À la Banque)

The French word for bank is une banque and if you're in one, then you're probably doing some banking (bancaire).

If you need to use the ATM machine (cash dispenser), you can say un guichet automatique de banque (literally, 'an automatic bank window') or simplify it and say un GAB.

Types of Bank Accounts 

Checking and savings accounts build off the word for an account (un compte) and add the modifier to define which type of account.

Checking account - un compte-chèques

Savings account - un compte d'épargne

  • Savings - épargne (f)
  • To save money - faire des économies

If you need to take out a loan (un prêt or un emprunt), these words will be very useful.

Bank Transactions

While you are at the bank, you will no doubt be making some sort of transaction and these three words are essential to ensuring that no money gets lost in translation.

In order to form complete sentences using deposit, transfer, and withdrawal, you will need to use the verb form.

  • To deposit (into an account) - déposer (sur un compte)
  • To transfer - virer
  • To withdraw - retirer
  • To cash a check - toucher un chèque

It is also important to be able to read and speak about receipts, statements, and other paper documents you might receive from the bank.

Changing Currency

If you are traveling, then learning how to speak about changing your money from one country's currency to another is essential. 

Money Management (Gestion de l'argent)

Managing your money in French is actually quite easy because we can relate many of these words to the English translation.

  • Expense - une dépense
  • Debt - une dette
  • Bond - une obligation
  • Yield - le rendement
  • Share of stock - une action

You may also be interested in understanding your cost of living (le coût de la vieand how that relates to your standard of living (le niveau de vie).

More Money-Related Verbs

As you work with money in French, these verbs are sure to be helpful.

Money and Your Job (L'argent et votre emploi)

How do we make money? We work for it, of course, and some money-related words are naturally tied into your job (un emploi or the informal un boulot).

  • Wages - le salaire
  • Salary - le traitement
  • Raise - une augmentation de salaire
  • Minimum wage - le SMIC
  • Unemployment - le chômage
  • Unemployed - au chômage

French Expressions About Money

Money is tied to many proverbs, words of wisdom, and catchy phrases. Learning a few of these common expressions will certainly help out your French vocabulary, help you learn sentence structure, and give you a leg up on other non-native French speakers.

To have one's cake and eat it, too.Avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.
That costs an arm and a leg.Ça coûte les yeux de la tête.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul.Il ne sert à rien de déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul.
I got it for a song.Je l'ai eu pour une bouchée de pain.
Only the rich get richer.On ne prête qu'aux riches.
The rich man is the one who pays his debts. Qui paie ses dettes s'enrichit.
Every penny counts.Un sou est un sou.
Time is money. Le temps, c'est de l'argent
All that glitters isn't gold.Tout ce qui brille n'est pas or. (proverb)