Oct.16 - There may be signs of recovery in Europe but debt problems in France are on the increase. In a bid to help those in need, a new ''Bank for the Poor'' has opened in Paris. Ciara Sutton reports.
The French will soon be able buy their cigarettes and do their banking at the same time. The country's huge network of tobacconists have opened up a cut-price bank account due to be expanded nationwide next year. It offers customers a debit card and a current account for 20 euros compared with 28 to 30 euros for the cheapest from BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and Credit Agricole. President of Electronic Finance and Payment, Ryad Boulanouar. (SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENT OF ELECTRONIC FINANCE AND PAYMENT RYAD BOULANOUAR, SAYING: "The first difference is that you can open an account in five minutes. The second is that you can find the machines outside the circuit of traditional banks, in tobacco shops. And the final difference is that it's a completely real-time account, that is to say you are informed as soon as you receive a wire and the money is immediately available." Nickel wants to lure people who may be unable to open a traditional bank account and reduce debt problems by not offering loans. (SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENT OF ELECTRONIC FINANCE AND PAYMENT RYAD BOULANOUAR, SAYING: "There are are no conditions based on your revenue, no conditions regarding your nationality-- it is here for everyone. However, a priority is to address the 2.5 million people who do not have bank accounts, the 6 million people according to the UNG who are poor or unhappy with their bank." While Nickel clients will be charged fees for depositing and withdrawing money, the tabac association says the cost of having an account will be less than 50 euros a year. The product is being launched at a time when French retail banking, traditionally a cash cow, is taking a hit from the stagnant economy and competition from cheaper online competitors.