Opening a bank account in Belgium as a foreigner

  • Lifestyle

5 min read

Opening a bank account in Belgium as a foreigner

Belgium features a cutting-edge, highly advanced, and digitally driven banking system, simplifying the process of opening a bank account when relocating. It has been at the forefront of advocating for a cashless society and has consistently pioneered automated payment methods in recent decades.

Presently, numerous banks in Belgium conduct transactions electronically and seamlessly, facilitating efficient money management, cash transfers, and bill payments. Furthermore, the prevalence of online banking and smartphone applications means that most customers have instant access to their accounts.

Is a bank account necessary in Belgium?

There are compelling reasons to consider opening a bank account upon moving to Belgium. Having a local account can spare you from the fees and unfavourable exchange rates typically associated with using a foreign account for daily transactions and withdrawals. Additionally, having your Belgian income deposited into a local account simplifies setting up direct debits for essential expenses like utilities. Moreover, possessing a Belgian bank account may streamline the process of applying for mortgages within the country.

Thus, opening a bank account in Belgium as a foreigner is entirely feasible, although the specific process may vary based on your nationality, residency status, and the individual requirements of the chosen bank.

Here is a general overview of the steps involved:

1. Choose a Bank: Research different banks in Belgium to find one that suits your needs. Some of the major banks in Belgium include BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, ING, and Belfius.

2. Required Documents: Typically, you will need the following documents:

  • Valid identification document (passport or national ID card)
  • Proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill, or official correspondence)
  • Proof of income or employment (such as a work contract or proof of funds)
  • Residency Status: Your residency status might affect the ease of opening an account. Non-residents may face more stringent requirements or additional documentation.

3. Heading to the Bank: Schedule an appointment with your selected bank and attend the branch in person, ensuring you bring along all necessary documentation. In Belgium, there is a wide array of banks available for your selection. Several Belgian banks cater to expatriates by providing services in English, although finding the most accommodating service for foreigners may require some exploration. Typically, Belgian banks operate from 9am to 5:30pm, similar to the UK's banking hours however, it is worth noting that some branches may close for an hour during the lunch period.

4. Fill Out Forms: The bank will provide you with application forms to fill out. These forms will include personal information and details about the type of account you wish to open.

5. Identification and Verification: The bank will verify your identity and may conduct a background check before opening the account.

6. Initial Deposit: Some banks may require an initial deposit to activate the account. This amount varies depending on the bank and the type of account you are opening.

7. Wait for Approval: Once you have submitted all necessary documents and completed the process, the bank will review your application. Approval times may vary.

8. Receive Account Details: Upon approval, you will receive your account details, including the account number and any associated cards or checks.

Remember, the specific requirements and procedures may differ between banks, so it is advisable to contact the bank directly or visit their website to get detailed information about opening an account as a foreigner.

Varieties of Bank Accounts in Belgium

For expatriates relocating to Belgium, a diverse array of current accounts is available, encompassing the following options:

  • Basic Current Account

Certain banks provide basic accounts that may be accessible without a monthly fee. These accounts typically grant access to online and in-branch banking but might impose minor charges for cash withdrawals, payments, and extra cards. Generally, they do not include linked credit cards.

  • Premium Current Account

Premium accounts usually offer cost-free cash withdrawals and card replacements, albeit with a monthly fee. Some may allow the addition of an extra cardholder at no cost, permit transfers in other currencies, and provide the option to add a credit card (sometimes for an additional fee).

  • Bundled / Packaged Account

Several banks present more comprehensive accounts—referred to as packaged accounts in certain regions—that encompass additional benefits like credit cards and insurance. These products may necessitate a minimum monthly payment, accompanied by higher fees.

  • Savings Accounts

Savings accounts vary widely, ranging from fixed accounts that mandate locking up savings for a specified period to instant-access accounts facilitating cash withdrawals within 24 hours. Certain banks offer tailored products for individuals saving towards specific goals, such as purchasing a home or funding their child's university education.

  • Offshore Accounts

Expats residing in Belgium may discover that establishing offshore bank accounts is an optimal strategy for managing their finances. Offshore accounts, situated outside the account holder's country of residence, often provide financial and legal advantages over domestic banking arrangements.

These accounts frequently support multiple currencies, which proves advantageous for individuals engaged in transactions involving various currencies. Additionally, they may offer more sophisticated foreign exchange features, such as the ability to fix currency prices for up to a year in advance, reducing the uncertainty associated with international finances. Moreover, offshore accounts often boast an expanded array of cross-border services and potentially lower taxation on funds.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Banking in Belgium

Can I open a bank account in Belgium without residency?

Opening a bank account in Belgium without residency can be challenging but possible. Generally, Belgian banks require proof of local residence or address for opening a bank account. They often request documents such as a utility bill or rental agreement in your name to verify your address and identity however, some international banks or specialised services may offer options for non-residents to open accounts, but these may have specific requirements or additional steps.

If you are a non-resident and aiming to open a bank account in Belgium, it is advisable to contact different banks directly or check their websites to inquire about their specific policies for non-residents. Some institutions may have specific accounts or provisions for expatriates or non-residents, albeit with varying terms and conditions.

Can I open a bank account in Belgium with just a passport?

Opening a Belgian bank account typically requires more than just a passport. You will usually need to provide a local residential address and, in many cases, proof of address such as a utility bill or rental agreement in your name. This verification process is a legal requirement aimed at ensuring customer authenticity and account security.

Can I open a bank account in Belgium online?

Belgium's modern banking system and relaxed eligibility criteria allow for online bank account opening, offering a potentially more convenient alternative to in-person appointments. If the bank you choose supports online account opening, follow these steps:

  • Select the account type you wish to open.
  • Complete the online application form, furnishing your personal details.
  • Upload copies of your ID and necessary documents; some banks might employ video verification.
  • Upon completion, your application will be processed, and you will receive your debit card, PIN, and related documents by mail.

Does Belgium use IBAN?

Yes, Belgian bank accounts utilise the International Bank Account Number (IBAN), facilitating easy and free money transfers within the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA). A Belgian IBAN comprises 16 digits, including a country code, account number, and a numeric verification key (e.g., BE61310126985517).

How can a student open a bank account in Belgium?

Major Belgian banks like ING, KBC, and BNP Paribas Fortis offer specialised accounts for students and young individuals. These accounts are often free of charge and commonly come with mobile banking app integration. Examples include:

  • ING Lion Account for 18–25-year-olds
  • Hello4You with BNP Paribas Fortis, offering a bank card, one year of free credit card, and a complimentary current account up to age 28.
  • KBC Brussels Plus Account for young people aged 10 to 24.

Is it possible to open an online bank account in Belgium remotely?

Whilst numerous Belgian banks allow online account opening, this usually necessitates an initial meeting at the bank; however, choosing an international bank operating in Belgium that offers a fully remote 100% online service may facilitate remote account opening.

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