How do I open a bank account in Belgium?


What is the first step?

To open a current or checking account ( zichtrekening ), you will need proof of identity such as a passport.  Once the account is opened the bank will send you a debit card, probably with the Bancontact/Mister Cash logo.  A PIN number may be sent to you separately.

With a current account you are able to carry out all standard bank transactions in Belgium. 
You can also request a bank card, cheque book and credit card, but some banks may wait a while to check whether you have sufficient deposits coming into your account before issuing you with a cheque book or credit card, to ensure you have sufficient deposits coming into your account.)

If you want to open a savings account ( spaarrekening ), the bank can give you advice on the different accounts that they have on offer.  There are a large number of options available, offering varying returns, usually depending on the period of the savings deposit.

Finally, a very useful way to protect yourself against exchange rate risks is to open an account in a foreign currency — US dollars, for example.  Remember, though, that it is not a current account and therefore you will not be able to withdraw funds from such foreign-currency accounts.


How do I convert a cheque made out in foreign currency into euros?

You need to visit your branch and pay the cheque into your euro account.  This transaction could take several weeks, depending on the type of cheque and the arrangements between the issuing and receiving banks.  It is also fairly expensive because, in addition to the payment and exchange costs, forwarding and collection costs are also charged (the receiving bank sends the cheque to the issuing bank for credit), amounting on average to 6.  We would advise you  to use this process only at the beginning of your stay in Belgium, before setting up international transfers directly into your account.

It is also important to note that travellers cheques cannot be cashed immediately in all banks, and there is a charge involved.

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