Paying your bills in Belgium
Cash dispensers are anywhere where there
is a bank, and take Bancontact cards issued by your local bank. But beware,
you might have to wander around to find one that takes your Visa or MasterCard
or other major credit and debit cards.
This is done by means of a direct
transfer or more quickly, by directly using the cash dispenser keypad of the
ATM, at your branch. All you need are the bank details of the payee (you can find all these details on the transfer form usually attached to your bills).
You can also make the transfer by telephone an ideal formula for those bills,
which do not come up regularly.
Using the transfer form:
The most common means of payment is via
a bank transfer ( overschrijving ). This is the orange and white payment
slip to be found at the bottom of almost all Belgian bills. This has to be
filled in, signed and handed in at your bank.
Cheques, while still available when you
open an account, are fading fast.
By automatic direct debit:
This practice, known as ‘domiciliëring’,
is the most efficient way to pay bills to known entities, for it precludes the
problem of forgetting to pay them. Since late payment incurs a small penalty
charge added to the next bill, this form of payment is common for utility
companies. With this very convenient method of payment you authorise a regular
supplier (for example the utility companies) to send their “bills” by computer
to the bank which then debits your account. A duplicate of the bill is sent to
you, prior to the actual payment. All you need to do is fill out a debit order
form at your bank and provide them with the details of your supplier. These
automatic debits can be cancelled at any time, upon your request.
By standing order:
This is called ‘bestendige opdracht’ and
can be set up for regular payments of a fixed amount. You can also use it as a
way of saving a fixed amount regularly, by automatic transfer from your current
account to savings accounts. This is done by providing a one-time instruction
to the bank to set up a standing order, authorising the bank to pay a certain
sum to the same beneficiary on a regular basis (e.g. monthly, quarterly).
Standing orders can be cancelled at any time by informing the bank in advance.
This is the most common and useful process for rental payments.
With your cards:
There are two types of cards used in
Belgium: direct debit cards (cash cards) and credit cards (Visa, MasterCard
Direct debit cards:
With the Bancontact/Mister Cash card
(known as Switch in the UK) purchases can be paid for instantly by keying in a
PIN code on the keypad of terminals, which are installed at supermarkets, petrol
stations and also in most shops in Belgium. The amount is automatically debited
from your account.
The card can also be used as an electronic purse, by using
the Proton feature. Proton is a rechargeable electronic purse invented by Banksys and marketed by the Belgian banks. This service, which needs to be activated at any Bancontact/Mister Cash ATM, allows you to load the card up to an amount of €125 and is
ideal to pay for any small purchases. The card can be recharged at ATMs and public
(Belgacom), displaying the Proton logo, in Belgium.
(Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club, Eurocard)
Payments made with
these cards are shown on a monthly statement sent to the customer, having been
automatically converted into euro. The period which elapses before the account
is debited is free of debit interest. Visa cards and Mastercards can also be
used to withdraw cash at ATMs in Belgium and abroad, but a fee is then charged.