How to Open a Bank Account in Belgium [Complete Process]
Planning to move to Belgium, then you will need some financial backup which can be found in a Belgian bank account or Credit card. It is very easy to open a bank account in Belgium online. You do not need to be a Belgian citizen before opening a bank account. Some banks in Belgium will not even require you to have a Belgian address which is a great way for non residents of Belgium to open a Belgian bank account before even reaching the country.
However, some banks will require you to provide proof of identity, whether a Belgian ID card or the official identification of your home country. As you arrive the country, most banks will require you to visit a local branch to complete with some paper works before your account creation will be complete. The paper work and requirements may be different for each bank.
It doesn’t take much effort to get a firm grip on your first Belgian waffle, but opening your Belgian bank account is not very obvious and can be a little tricky. If you plan on settling down in Belgium, then, you'll definitely need to open a local bank account.
That said, in this article, I will show you how to open a bank account in Belgium online walking through what you should consider before opening a bank account in Belgium as many banks allow you to open a bank account online for free and some at little cost.
Advancements in Banking Systems of Belgium
Belgium has a modern, sophisticated and digitized banking system, so opening a bank account on the go is a relatively straightforward process. Belgium was one of the early pioneers of the idea of a cashless society and, over the past decades, has been innovative in implementing automated payment processes.
Today, many banks in Belgium carry out transactions electronically and automatically, making it easier for you to manage money, send cash and pay bills easily. Additionally, banking on smartphones using online banking apps are at the norm, which means that the vast majority of customers can access and manage their accounts anytime and anywhere from their phones.
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Do I need to Open a Bank Account in Belgium?
Plenty of reasons might push you to open a bank account in Belgium. The main reason is probably because you plan on moving and settling in Belgium, then, you will need a safe place to secure your funds, where else can you secure fund other than banks?
Another reason why you may need to open a bank account in Belgium is if you manage a business that has international customers. Even if you don't have Belgian customers for the mean time, you will probably get them sooner or later as the quality of your goods and/or services may be recommended by many all through the globe.
A Belgian bank account may also keep you away from fees and poor exchange rates for daily transactions and cashless withdrawals made with a foreign account. You may also easily get paid (salary) in your Belgian bank account and you can set direct debits for important stuffs that need to be renewed monthly such as electricity, water and many other home utilities. Again, you can easily apply for Mortgages in Belgium with a Belgian bank account.
Many banks allow you to open an account online, and some of these are free or very low-cost. It is recommended to compare costs and services before deciding on a bank. Larger banks with departments dedicated to expats include ING, KBC and BNP Paribas Fortis.
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Types of Bank Accounts in Belgium
There are many types of bank accounts available in Belgium. A current account has many categories based on what you need an account for. Below are some of the different types of bank accounts in Belgium.
A current account is the most demanded and used bank account online that is available in all countries. With such an account, you can make international payments in the SEPA zone and many more areas.
Checking accounts in Belgium are of different types and they are mentioned below:
- Basic Current Account: - Basic accounts are the most common checking bank accounts in Belgium and may come with some monthly maintenance fees. With a basic account, you can easily do online banking and in-branch banking. However, some fees may be charged for cash withdrawals, payments, and extra cards.
- Premium Current Account: - This is one of the most preferred checking accounts in Belgium as you do cash withdrawals and card replacements for free without any fees. However, you will have to pay a monthly maintenance fee. Some of these accounts will let you perform transactions to other countries, add a credit card and extra card holder for free.
- Bundled/Package Account: - Most banks offer a wide range of banking accounts known as packaged account in most countries. These accounts have extended features over the other bank accounts such as insurance. However, the maintenance fees for such an account can be higher.
Savings account come linked to checking accounts and generally for local or traditional banks, one can't exist without the other and they are known for their coexistence to help their holder better manage funds, save money and generate more interest. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. For instance, fixed accounts will require you to lock up your savings for some couple of years, get instant access you your account, where you can withdraw cash within 24 hours.
An Offshore account is an account with great features and are generally the best accounts for Expats willing to better manage their finances. If you are not focused in a particular country, if you travel most often and have the habit of doing international transactions, then an Offshore account is the best account for you. If you are a holder of an Offshore account, your account will be located outside your country and this type of account have many legal and financial advantages over other bank accounts.
An Offshore account is a multicurrency account which makes it easier for you to receive and send payments in real-time exchange rates. Additionally, some complete foreign exchange features are assigned to this account such as the ability to fix current prices for over a year and this can help remove the uncertainty of finances managed internationally. Aside of that, we have some more advantages such as lower taxes implied on funds and a wider range of cross-border services.
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What Should I Know About Belgian Bank Accounts?
Just as it is the case in Austria, Bank accounts have a different calling in Belgium. Checking Account is called Varies in Belgium. However, the name may differ depending on the region you are located in. For example, a checking account in Dutch-speaking Belgium is called Zichtrekening, in French-speaking Belgium is called compte bancaire, in German-speaking Belgium is called Girokonto. If you are English speaking, there are many banks in Belgium that are ready to welcome English-speaking customers.
A standard Belgian bank account is lets you perform basic banking activities such as; deposits, withdrawals, and online banking using your smartphone. With its International Bank Account Number (IBAN) you can send and receive money to other Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) accounts without paying any transfer fee. Sadly, not everything is free. Most Belgian banks charge between €3 and €6 as a monthly maintenance fee for your account.
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Plastic comes with more advantages in Belgium's cashless society. A debit card is standard fare, and many banks in Belgium offer a credit card. Mobile payments are one of the most used payments in the digital world. For that reason, you should choose a debit card that supports mobile payments such as Google Pay and Apple Pay: - Considering the benefits of a credit card for spending and picking up cash abroad. Better still, choose a debit card that is accepted by Mastercard or Visa.
Pro tip—it is a good thing to open a bank account in Belgium even if you already have one in the SEPA zone. A Belgian bank account guarantees that you can set up direct debit transactions for your income, utilities, and rent. It might also make it easier to apply for a mortgage if you decide to do so in the future.
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I'm I Eligible to Open a Bank Account in Belgium?
Each bank has its eligibility requirements to hold a bank account with them no matter your country. The most demanded of all eligibility requirement to hold a bank account is age requirements. If you are 18 years of age or more, you may be eligible to open a bank account in Belgium. Some banks may require a credit score but not all. However, you may be ineligible to open a bank account in Belgium if you have complications with the law.
Foreigners (some non residents) are allowed to open a bank account in Belgium if they have an economic link to the country such as owning a business registered in the country or if you live Belgium.
Most Belgian banks will not require you to provide a Belgian address, you may use your non-Belgian address in this case. Some banks require you to provide just a valid email address with a valid ID. Expats can get low-barrier bank accounts in Belgium.
What Do I Need to Open a Bank Account in Belgium?
Opening a bank account in Belgium is very easy because unlike it is the case with other SEPA countries, Belgian banks will not require you plenty of paperwork.
Generally, a passport or other valid government-issued ID will be enough plus proof of address. Some banks will require you to provide some income statements but this should be a problem. However, below are some requirements to have in order to open a bank account in Belgium online or traditionally.
- Government-issued ID or passport.
- Proof of address (utility bill or rental contract)
Once you got all the required documents you can verify yourself by visiting a bank branch, uploading the documents to the bank's online banking platform or even show them through video chat with a bank agent (doesn't applies for all banks).
Best Banks to Open a Bank Account in Belgium
Depending on the services you expect to do with a bank account, the Belgian bank may differ for you and its important to checkout all of them, what they offer before going in for the best bank.
Some of the major physical banks in Belgium include:
BNP Paribas Fortis
- Has Over 700 branches and 3,700 ATMs across Belgium,
- Its website is available in English, French, Dutch, and German,
- 'Comfort Pack' offers up to three current accounts for a family for €3 a month. 'Premium Pack' allows borrowers to claim back the monthly €7 charge if they meet a set of terms (such as minimum deposits),
- A 'Welcome Pack' is offered to bank account for under 18s, including a 'rechargeable' bank card from the age of 15.
- Has about 700 branches in Belgium. However, this figure dropped over the past years,
- Website available in English, French, and Dutch,
- A 'Lion Account' with easy access is available without any fee,
- A 'Green Account’ costs €40 a year;
- Offers various savings options, including special accounts for saving for a home and saving for your child's future.
- With 66 of its branches made employee-free during the year 2018, customers can easily make transfers and withdraw cash at self-service terminals,
- Website is available in English, French, Dutch, and German,
- KBC bank offers two types of current accounts – 'basic' and 'plus'. A Basic account is offered free of charge, while a Plus account costs €2 a month,
- A Young person's account is made available for free free those of 24 years of age or younger.
Best International Banks in Belgium (Ideal for Expats and Foreigners)
In 10 banks available in Belgium, over 8 of them may be owned by foreigners. These banks are expat-friendly and offer similar services as other country banks in Belgium. These international banks are the best banks for foreigners and some non residents to open a bank account in Germany online or at a local branch.
Some of these international banks in Belgium are:
- Bank of America
- Citibank Europe
- Deutsche Bank
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How to Open a Bank Account in Belgium
Before engaging with any bank, make sure the bank offers services you will be happy to use from them. Consult any fee charged on each account type and if it suits your expectations, you can engage with them and open your bank account.
Below are some basic steps to open a Belgian bank account as a resident of the country:
- Identify and print the files required by your financial institution
- Make an appointment and convey your files to a nearby bank branch
- Answer a few questions and confirm your identification with the clerk
- Wait for a confirmation, card, PIN, and different essential files to reach by post
- Activate your account and online banking
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Open a Bank Account in Belgium Online as a Non Resident or Foreigner
To open a Belgian bank account, you need to consult the bank you picked for the paperwork required to hold a bank account. Also, checkout the fees charged for each account type and make sure it suits you before engaging yourself with them.
Below are some steps to open a Belgian bank account online as a Non resident:
- Confirm that your bank allows you to open an account online
- Choose the type of account you want to open
- Complete application form
- Upload copies of your documents and ID; alternatively, the bank will initiate video verification
- Wait for your confirmation, card, PIN, and other necessary documents to arrive by post
- Activate your account and online banking
Best Online Banks to Open a Bank Account in Belgium as a Non Resident
We have seen the best banks in Belgium for residents of the country and some foreigners that got the paperwork (economic activities within the country). However, if you are a non resident and just plan in moving to Belgium but do not have any information within the country that can help you open your bank account in Belgium, then you will need some best online banks that offer Belgian banking solutions to those facing the same issue like you because you are not the alone one in this situation.
That said, below are some of the best banks that allow you to Open a bank account Online in Belgium as a Non resident:
N26 is a well-known online bank in Europe that has been offering banking solutions to residents and non residents of the European territory. Their bank accounts can exert activities within the SEPA Zone and thus giving more banking advantages to each account with them. In addition, they are also one of the best banks that offer online bank account with instant virtual debit card and also a physical card that will let you do withdrawals at ATM points for free. The debit Mastercard offered by N26 supports mobile wallets such as Google Pay and Apple Pay thereby, facilitating international transactions.
Since Belgium is a SEPA country, the bank account you get with N26 in this country will have SEPA features and an IBAN that will be used for international transactions without any fees to be payed.
Bunq is one of the best online banks in Europe as it is well known for providing banking solutions for those that found it difficult to open a traditional bank account at a local bank branch.
Bunq is a bank that exerts its activities in the Belgian territory and so, non residents of Belgium can use Bunq to open a Belgian bank account and enjoy all the features it has to offer.
You must have certainly heard of this name when searching for best online banks or bank cards (credit and debit cards). Revolut lets you open a Bank account completely online in Belgium and get started managing finances in the European continent.
Banks in Belgium have teamed up to allow customers to use Zoomit, a free internet and mobile banking service that sends all important documents such as invoices, credit notes and pay slips to your bank account where you can manage everything in one place, removing the need for paperwork and enabling fast online payment and reminders for overdue invoices.
How to Open a Belgian Bank Account as an Expat
With internet becoming very well modern with banks operating fully online, it is very easy to open a bank account as an Expat in Belgium. Choose a bank and simply submit an online request and the bank will send you the required forms and information. You can also walk into any branch and open a Belgian bank account physically.
Opening a Bank Account in Belgium from Abroad
Many Belgian banks accept non-resident bank accounts, which makes it pretty easy to set up a bank account before moving to Belgium. As an option, you can open a bank account with an international bank (for instance Bank of America - For American Citizens, Citibank Europe - For European citizens etc...) that has branches in both your home country and in the Belgian territory.
To open a bank account before arriving Belgium, you can apply online with any bank of choice. Then when you arrive, you will need to visit a branch with proof of identity (for example a passport or ID card) and proof of legal address (in your home country or Belgium). Most banks may require you to provide a residential proof (address) once you get a resident permit.
How to Change or Close your Bank Account in Belgium
Engaging with a bank shouldn't mean it is a lifetime engagement. A bank must be able to let a customer close his/her account if the customer is not pleased with the services they offer. That said, it is well easy to close or switch your bank account in Belgium.
The below steps show you how to switch a Belgian bank account to another:
- Open a new current account with the your preferred new bank, either online or at the bank local branch.
- Inform the new bank that you plan to use the switching service. You will then be given a request form.
- Fill in, sign, and return the form to the new bank.
On the switching form, you will need to specify what you need exactly from them, such as transferring all of your payments and direct debits to your new account or just moving your balance across and nothing else. This bank account switching service may take up to 10 working days to be done.
Final Thoughts on How to Open a Bank Account in Belgium Online and Locally (For Residents, Non Residents and Foreigners)
A Belgian bank account can be really important if you have plans of moving to Belgium. Most Belgian banks are foreign-owned which makes it pretty easy for foreigners and expats to open bank accounts in Belgium.
As a non resident of Belgium, you can check some international banks in the country and try visiting their online platform to open a bank account with them. Additionally, international online banks such as N26, Bunq, Revolut offer bank accounts in Belgium for non residents. A Bank such as N26 has extended banking features and do not require a lot of paperwork from you to get started with them.
Before going in for any banks, consider checking what they have to offer, each of their features and the fees they charge for maintenance and if there is any transaction fee to be paid. Also, checkout the paperwork required to open a bank account in Belgium be it online or at a local branch and if they meet what you can provide, then you are good to engage with them.
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