When do you need a Belgian account?
If you are planning on working for a Belgian company, you may be required to have a Belgian bank account to receive your salary. In many cases, you will definitely need one for getting a phone/internet contract and paying utility bills. All sounds more boring than the prospect of enjoying a delicious Belgian beer, but are nonetheless necessary things to bear in mind when making the move.
Another reason to get an account is to start building up a local credit history, so you can later get a credit if you need to. Or in case you fall in love with a Belgian and want to get a mortgage with good conditions for your dream house later on.
Why getting a Belgian account is probably cheaper
If you have a non-EU account, you will face charges (exchange rates and a transaction charge) when making a cash withdrawal or transaction.
With a bank account from another EU country, you now only have to pay the same transaction charges as at home, but you can still get charged when withdrawing Euros from a Belgian ATM.
Can I open an account from abroad?
Most banks in Belgium do not allow you to open an account unless you are already there. Fortunately, there are a few expat friendly banks; BNP Paribas Fortis allows you to start the application process from home with a valid passport and proof of address; then pick up your card and finalise the process on arrival.
Which bank to choose?
Considering your options, you should make sure of the bank’s trustworthiness and check there is a branch near where you plan on living. If you don’t speak French or Dutch, check if your chosen bank offers all services in English.
Check the costs associated with a new account and also that they provide all the services you will need. One thing to bear in mind is that in Belgium, many landlords require a deposit to be made and this can be held in a special savings account if the bank offers it.
This article has been published in cooperation with BNP Paribas Fortis; the bank for expats.