As an expat, do I need a Belgian bank account?




If you are planning on living in Belgium or working there for a period of time, you will need to open a bank account.


Keep in mind that if you have a non-EU bank account, the chances are that having a bank account in Belgium is a must for you in order to pay rent and utilities, your phone contract, your membership, receive your salary, and essentially pay any transactional and money activities.


Belgium is a country that has implemented cashless or contactless transactions in recent years. Your life would be much easier when you have a bank account setup and please note that Mastercard or Visa are the most predominant type of accepted providers, which are supported by Apple Pay and Google Pay.


Systematically, the standard Belgium bank account permits you to withdraw and deposit funds with your debit bank card which you could also manage through online banking. Furthermore, to have a credit card, keep in mind that this can only be achieved if you have a certain amount of income that meets the bank standards.


With a Belgium bank account, you would be able to transfer money within the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) seamlessly and hustle-free (because the type of your bank account would be an International Bank Account Number (IBAN).


A Belgian IBAN has 16 digits and consists of a country code, account number and a numeric verification key. It looks like this:


  • BE12345678901112 which consists of [BE] + [2 check digits] + [12 digits of your bank account number]


You’ll also come across the BIC (Bank Identifier Code) and SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) acronyms that are used interchangeably. They refer to the bank managing your account and are usually necessary for SEPA transfers. For example, ING Belgium's BIC is BBRUBEBB and KBC’s BIC is KREDBEBB.


When it comes to opening a bank account in Belgium, there are two options: a checking account and an investment account.


  • A checking account (with a debit card) is used for day-to-day transactions and can be set up easily with most banks. However, opening such an account involves some paperwork and proof of address. You will also need to present your passport or other ID documents when opening the account.

  • An investment account is more complicated to open than a checking account because it involves larger amounts of money being deposited in the bank's hands. You will have to provide detailed information about yourself and your financial situation before the bank will accept you as a customer.


In addition, if you want to open an investment account in Belgium, then you must prove that you have been living in Belgium for at least three months before applying for this kind of service.


One of the reasons why need to open a bank account in Belgium as expat is because the income tax system in Belgium is based on the VAT system, which means that all payments made by your employer are automatically deducted from your salary and transferred to the Belgian tax authorities.


The VAT system in Belgium has been implemented since 1972 and it's still used today. The main aim of this system is to make sure that every person pays their taxes correctly and on time. To ensure this happens, each person must have an IBAN (International Bank Account Number) and BIC (Bank Identifier Code).



What do I need to open a Belgium bank account?


In order to open a bank account in Belgium, you will need to be able to show proof of residence. The easiest way is to bring your passport and the address on the form of identification you used when opening the account. If it is not possible for you to do this in person, then the bank may accept other forms of identification such as your driving license or national identity card.


Typical documents you need to provide with your application are:

  • single permit,

  • passport with a valid visa,

  • proof of address (rental contract or utility bill)

And depending on the bank, usually, it is also required for your to submit:

  • proof of your income employment contract or payslip for working professionals

  • proof of enrolment in a local school or university for students

  • consent from your representative (only for underaged)



Steps to open a Belgian bank account:


In person:

  1. Prepare the documents required by your bank.

  2. Make an appointment and attend it with the printed copies of your documents.

  3. Wait for your confirmation, card, PIN, and other necessary documents to arrive by post within 3 – 5 working days.

  4. Activate your account and online banking.

Online:

  1. Choose the type of account you want to open.

  2. Complete the online application form.

  3. Verify your identity immediately through itsme app or identity card reader (eID). Alternatively, fill in your details manually and send/upload a copy of your identity card. That way your bank account will be opened within 5 working days.

  4. Wait for your confirmation, card, PIN, and other necessary documents to arrive by post within 3 - 5 working days.

  5. Activate your account and online banking.


The cost to open a Belgian bank account


The cost to open a Belgian bank account varies by bank but is typically between €150 and €200. This includes the account fee and the cost of opening an investment portfolio.


Moreover, the cost to open a Belgian bank account depends on the type of account you want and how much money you want to deposit.


The most common bank accounts in Belgium are:


Current account: This is the most basic type of account and is often free for individuals. The current account allows you to make cash withdrawals, pay bills, and write checks. You can also use this type of bank account as your main checking account in Belgium.


Savings account: This type of bank account usually comes with higher interest rates than a current account or checking account. It's sometimes referred to as an interest-bearing account because it pays interest on your deposits. Savings accounts are a good option if you have extra money that you want to save but still access regularly.


Online savings accounts: These types of savings accounts allow you to make deposits online using your computer or mobile device. They're basically identical to traditional savings accounts except that they don't require any paperwork or trips to the branch office — just log in online and make a transfer when needed!



If you are planning to move to Belgium and open a bank account, there are a few things to consider.


1. Choose the right bank for you


When it comes to choosing a bank, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with the service and staff. You will probably have to visit the branch in person, so make sure you choose one that is close to where you live or work and one where there is plenty of parking, if possible.


2. Get some advice on banking services


You should also ask about other banking services such as mortgages, loans and insurance policies so that when it comes time to make decisions about these things you'll know what's available and what options suit your needs best.