How to open a bank account in Belgium

Whether online or old school, here’s what you need to know.

5 min read

It doesn’t take much effort to get your hands on your first Belgian waffle, but opening your Belgian bank account is a little trickier. If you’re settling down in Belgium, you’ll need to open a local bank account. Read on for our step-by-step guide to the process.

What should I know about Belgian bank accounts?

In Belgium, what  checking or current account is called varies, depending where you are. It’s called Zichtrekening in Dutch-speaking Belgium, compte bancaire in French-speaking Belgium, or girokonto in German-speaking Belgium. The good news is, most banks are happy to speak English.

A standard Belgian bank account is set up for deposits, withdrawals, and online banking. It has an International Bank Account Number (IBAN) and allows you to move money between other Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) accounts free of charge. Unfortunately, not everything is free. Most Belgian banks charge between €3 and €6 a month just to “manage” your account.

Belgium’s increasingly cashless society means that plastic comes with plenty of power. A debit card is standard fare, and most banks also offer a credit card. Choose a debit card that supports Apple Pay and Google Pay and consider the benefits of a credit card for spending and picking up cash abroad. Or, look for a bank that issues debit cards issued by widely accepted providers like Mastercard or Visa.

Pro tip—open a bank account in Belgium even if you already have one in another SEPA country. 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.

Am I eligible to open a bank account in Belgium?

If you’re 18 or older and can verify your identity and address, you can open a bank account in Belgium. Foreign nationals are eligible to open a Belgian bank account as long as they have an economic link or live in the country. Many Belgian banks also accept a non-Belgian address. For some, just an email address is enough, plus valid ID. Most banks offer low-barrier accounts for expats.

What do I need to open a bank account in Belgium?

Unlike in other SEPA countries, you won’t need a pile of paperwork to open a bank account in Belgium. A passport or other ID and proof of address will be sufficient. Of course, it never hurts to provide supporting documents like an income statement. Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • National ID or passport

  • Proof of address (utility bill or rental contract)

Everything in order? Bring your documents to a branch, upload them online, or show them via video chat depending on the identity verification method of your chosen bank. 

What’s the typical process? Can I open a bank account online?

Lenient eligibility requirements mean the barrier to open a bank account in Belgium is lower than in many other SEPA countries. That said, each bank has its own process—some more difficult than others. Most let you open an account online, which means you won’t have to set foot in a branch. But be aware—despite Belgium’s modern banking infrastructure, many traditional banks that offer online services don’t make all their services available online. If a 100% online experience is important to you, you’re better off opting for a mobile bank.  

Opening an account with a traditional bank

In person:

  1. Identify and print the documents required by your bank

  2. Make an appointment and bring your documents to a local bank branch

  3. Answer some questions and verify your identity with the clerk

  4. Wait for your confirmation, card, PIN, and other necessary documents to arrive by post

  5. Activate your account and online banking

Online:

  1. Confirm that your bank allows you to open an account online

  2. Choose the type of account you want to open

  3. Complete application form

  4. Upload copies of your documents and ID; alternatively, the bank will initiate video verification

  5. Wait for your confirmation, card, PIN, and other necessary documents to arrive by post

  6. Activate your account and online banking

Opening an account with an online bank

  1. Confirm your phone number or email

  2. Download your bank’s mobile app and select the type of account you want

  3. Finish the registration process

  4. Complete in-app ID verification 

  5. Create a PIN and confirm receipt of your virtual card; alternatively, wait for your card to arrive by post

Only real banks have a banking license

You’re probably familiar with the term fintech. Today, countless fintech companies offer banking services. Some even set you up with an IBAN and a debit card. But are they banks? There’s an easy way to tell—a bank can only call itself a bank if it has a banking license.

Belgium’s banks have to undergo a rigorous license application process. First, an applicant company must satisfy conditions determined and overseen by the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) and Financial Services and Markets Authority. Then, the application must be approved by the European Central Bank (ECB). Only then is it licensed to operate as a bank in Belgium.

Why is this important? A license means a company can offer more robust banking services on top of basics like deposits and withdrawals. Features like overdraft and lending, for example. Most importantly, a banking license means your data and money (up to €100,000) are protected under the Belgian deposit guarantee scheme. With more than seven million customers in 25 markets and growing fast, N26 is the first licensed bank in Europe built for the digital generation.

How to open an account with N26

How to open a Belgian bank account online with N26

  1. Confirm your email, personal details, and shipping address

  2. Select the type of account you want—Standard (free) or a premium option like Smart, You, or Metal with benefits including Spaces, Travel insurance, and special rewards

  3. Verify your identity and connect your smartphone to your new account

  4. Receive your virtual N26 Mastercard immediately and start using your account right away

Signing up takes less than 8 minutes, no matter which account you choose.


Your money at N26 

N26 makes opening a Belgian bank account simple. Start out with N26 Standard, our 100% free current account. Or upgrade to one of our premium plans like N26 Smart, N26 You, or N26 Metal for even more benefits. Unlock savings and budgeting tools, extensive insurance options, hand-picked special deals, and more. And if you ever have a question about your account, our Customer Support specialists are happy to assist you—in five different languages.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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