Serving as the main seat of the European Parliament, Belgium has more to offer than just delicious waffles, which is perhaps why so many expats choose to call the country home. If you’re looking to join them, there’s lots to consider, including with regard to your finances. This article will take you through everything you need to know about opening a bank account in Belgium.
Do you have to be in Belgium to open a bank account?
Belgium’s financial framework is one of the most modern and efficient in the world. Therefore, once you have opened a bank account in Belgium, you should find that you have numerous ways to manage it. For example, telephone assistance and online banking are usually included in account packages as standard. However, to actually open an account, you may need to visit a branch in-person.
The application process for opening a bank account in Belgium varies depending upon the bank. Some banks will allow you to open an account online, and to do so you must simply submit a request. They will then send you all of the relevant forms to complete, along with information on what documents you need to submit. However, most banks will require you to visit a branch in-person to open an account.
What documents are needed to open an account?
Which documents you will need in order to open a bank account in Belgium will vary, as each bank has its own processes and therefore requirements. Typically, you will be asked for:
• Proof of identity – this can be in the form of a passport or a Belgian ID card
• Proof of residence – a utility bill is used most often for this (e.g. gas, water, electric, or cable)
You may also be asked to provide bank statements from your existing bank to show that your finances are in good standing, but this will depend upon which type of account you’re looking to open.
What banks in Belgium are suitable for expats?
There is a large expat presence in Belgium, and as a result, most local banks will have a product offering that is suitable. However, unless you speak Dutch, German or French, you’ll need to find a bank with English-speaking services. This is why many expats gravitate towards the larger international banks, such as:
Outside of this, there are also local banks, such as KBC and Belfius. Alternatively, if you currently bank with an international bank, it’s worth checking to see if they have a Belgian branch, as they may be able to open an account for you. Banks in Belgium are typically open between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm.
It’s worth comparing the products of multiple banks, before you decide where to open an account, as some may be more suitable than others. You should look at monthly account charges and transaction fees, whether there are fees for withdrawals, and what the interest rates are for investing or borrowing.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, check out third-party reviews to see what people are saying about each bank’s customer service teams and product offerings.
Are there any fees involved when opening a bank account in Belgium?
Depending upon what type of banking you’re looking to do in Belgium, you may incur some fees. The fee amount and how often it’s charged will depend on your account type. For example, if you’re looking to set up a current account, you may face a monthly service charge, whereas if you’re looking to set up a high-interest savings account, you may face fees for any withdrawals made before a certain date. However, many account types offer a fee-free service for transactions, withdrawals and payments. If you’re unsure what the account type you’re looking at offers, it is worth getting clarity from an advisor at the bank.
For international transfers, you will always face a cost. The amount the fee will be is hard to pinpoint, as there are so many variables when it comes to transfers, such as where you’re transferring money to, currency exchange rates or service charges on the recipient’s side, etc. As a rule, transfers within the EU tend to cost less than other international transfers.
International transfers will use the SWIFT network, but it’s not always as swift as the name might suggest, and it can take a while for the transfer to go through. It’s also not cheap, but most banks typically charge a flat fee for this, so you’ll know what to expect in advance. If you’re looking to make regular international transfers during your time in Belgium, it’s worth asking the bank upfront what they charge for this, as you may find another bank that has a more attractive offering for your specific needs.
Once your paperwork has been checked over by an advisor, your account will be opened, and you’ll officially have a bank account in Belgium. It’s important to note that some banks may require that you make an immediate deposit in order to open the account, so make sure you have finances readily available if this is the case.
Once all of the paperwork has been signed and taken care of, you’ll receive your debit or credit card in the post. A few days later, you’ll receive your pin code. If you require your card more quickly, you may be able to pick one up at your local branch.