Why open a bank account in Belgium?
Belgian banking landscape considerably changed since 2008, with Fortis bank’s problems et the dismantling of the Dexia bank, or the entry into force of the Savings Directive. In 2018 the banking business environment is stable.
Opening a bank account in Belgium have the following advantages:
• Country located closed to UK and France, Belgium has a clear advantage proximity to the inhabitants of both countries.
• Belgians usually speak English.
• The non-resident bank accounts are offered by most banks and some of them communicate directly to these services via their website.
• The management of the bank account is not linked to the agency with which the account was opened. The customer has the flexibility to go to any agency to carry out any operation whatsoever.
• Going bankrupt has no effect and does not prevent to open an account in Belgium.
What types of bank accounts offer banks in Belgium?
Accounts are essentially the same in Europe. To simplify, there are:
• current accounts (sight), called “zichtrekening” in Dutch
• savings accounts (“spaarrekening”).
Authorised overdraft is possible when opening the account, but a proof of income (employment contract or recent paystubs) will be asked in return. Otherwise, a good credit history, that is to say, getting monthly transfers from an employer or a company will allow to obtain overdraft facilities. These are about an amount between €600 and €2500 and are granted for a period of 3 months, which means that it is necessary to find a positive balance account after 90 days, and for minimum duration of 24 hours. Note that overdraft fees are at least 10%.
A peculiarity of Belgian banks is that they do not offer checks.
Which credit cards are available?
Credit cards offered by Belgium banks are debit cards, that is to say, with a systematic consultation of the account balance before validation: If the account is not sufficient funds, the transaction cannot take place.
The various types of cards are: Maestro, Bancontact, Mister Cash and Cirrus. It is possible to get 2 cards right from the account beginning, which has its usefulness in case of loss.
It is possible to obtain credit cards, subject to certain conditions. The types of cards offered are RED, Gold or Platinum.
There is an integrated electronic wallet bank card which allows for the settlement of small purchases in Belgium. It’s called Proton system and it will work until 2014.
How to open a bank account in Belgium?
Opening a bank account in Belgium is a relatively simple procedure. It is necessary to bring the following documents:
• Passport or a valid identity card,
• Application form for opening the bank account, duly completed and signed,
• Proof of address such as a household bill.
The procedure varies depending on the bank. Some allow their customers to open bank account online; others allow non-residents to pre-open the account online before you go there and then some: others ask clients to perform all representations in a branch.
Once the account is open, you can count up to two weeks to receive credit cards, PINs and other passwords to manage the account on the Internet.
How much deposit to open the account?
In principle, you are not required to deposit a minimum the opening day.
How much are the management fees?
Costs vary from one bank to another and depend on services that have been subscribed. They may be inexistent in some cases on condition of leaving a permanent reserve on the account. For example, the financial services of the Belgian Post, Bpost Bank, offers a no fee bank account if the account’s monthly average balance amounts to € 500. ING practice a similar pricing policy with their account ING Lion Account.
Generally, yearly fees are between 40 and 70 € for most Belgian banks especially if you do not manage your account online.
It is recommended not to opt for sending account statements at home, they may assume additional charge. “Home Banking” is highly recommended.
And what about taxation?
Any account opened abroad must be declared to the relevant tax authorities. All income from savings accounts or foreign investments must be registered on the annual tax return.
If until 1 January 2010, Belgium levied a withholding tax on certain interest payments to European customers and non-residents, it now practices an exchange of information with the tax authorities in the country of residence of the customer. The decision was endorsed by two royal decrees in the Official Journal of 1 October 2009. The objective of the Savings Directive is to make the tax in accordance with the tax laws of the State of residence and the necessary exchange of information between Member States. However, for a transitional period which we do not know the duration, Belgium (as well as Austria and Luxembourg), is authorized to retain the system of withholding tax.
From which Belgian banks open my account?
The Belgium banks that can help you open a bank account for non-residents are as follows:
– Belfius, formerly Dexia offers several types of bank accounts that can adapt to different needs: Accounts White, Blue, Red, Gold and Platinum. More information on the site www.belfius.be
– ING has a trade policy that aims to recruit non-resident clients in Belgium. ING’s Non-residents Department in Brussels offers a multilingual service and multi-currency accounts. You can contact them by email in order to prepare in advance the opening for more comfort. More on www.ing.be
– Finally, the Belgian Post Office can be a good option to open his account. The fees charged are much lower than those of other banks and opening hours of post offices are wider than those of banks. More info on www.bpost.be