This post answers questions such as “How do I open a bank account?” “What bank should I choose?” and “Where are the ATMs in the centre of Ghent?”. We’ve focused on current accounts for individuals.
Which bank do I choose?
In this day and age we are spoiled for choice when it comes to banking matters. Most banks offers free accounts, online service, apps and credit cards. What should influence your choice is whether you need a joint bank account with your partner, if you need a credit card or not, what the limits are, the bank branch location (especially if you do many over the counter transactions); think proximity to your home/work, parking opportunities etc. Consider also other services like insurance, mortgages, business banking, an extra account for your rental guarantee, car loans, savings and investments which might affect your choice.
Banks in Ghent
Here is a list of the major banks with branches in Ghent (in no particular order). We like good service and as a newcomer from a foreign country, we appreciate websites in English. A green tick next to the brand logo means the bank has information in English available on their webpage. Any other information valuable for expats especially is added too.
Free bank card and credit card. Sometimes extended opening hours until 18:30.
AXA Bank has a free online only current account if you don’t need to make any transactions over the counter.
BBVA Belgium doesn’t have branches in Ghent, but has online service. The bank is specialized in cross country accounts and you can open an account using a currency of your choice. It started out in Belgium to cater for the Spanish speaking community.
BNP Paribas Fortis has a dedicated page for expat customers and offers a free Premium Pack account (with up to three cards) and credit cards connected with them, for a year. Afterwards you can earn the monthly fees back by using your account, or switch to the online only Hello bank! -account. The expat dedicated branch of BNP Paribas Fortis in Ghent is the one by the Kouter, on Zonnestraat 2.
Hellobank! is a European digital direct bank owned by BNP Paribas Fortis, active in France, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Apply online to open an account. Sending documents digitally is possible.
Get a free credit card via Europabank, even if you don’t have a bank account with them. Europabank also provides one of the most central ATMs in Ghent, by the Groentenmarkt near Korenmarkt.
The national post office also has banking services. Perhaps if you send a lot of mail it is handy for you to have your bank in the same premises.
Banca Monte Paschi Belgio only has branches in Brussels, but this bank can be handy for you whose main language is Italian, as they offer services in Italian.
Beobank Belgium offers a free current account with a contactless bank card.
Belfius offers a free online account and a credit card connected to the account for €1 a month.
KBC Bank promises a simple online application for their free current account. They post the card reader and card directly home.
ING promises a simple online application for their free current account. They post the card reader and card directly home. ING has a very affordable travel insurance.
How to open a bank account in Belgium as a foreigner
In general you can apply online or in person. You provide an ID and proof of residence. Sometimes it is enough to have started the registration process, meaning you do not need the Belgian residence number before you open the account. Then you pick up your card and card reader for online banking from your closest branch, or the bank sends it home to you.
Some banks allow you to apply for an account even if you haven’t moved to Belgium yet. If you do so you will need to provide a significant amount of documents.
- You need to prove your identity. The best is to have an international identification document, preferably an international passport in English.
- You also need a proof of residency; a document not older than 1 year, preferably 6 months, where your address is mentioned. This should be a document sent by official administrative services where you currently live, or a driver’s license with your address on it, or a medical health organisation stickers as long as your address is mentioned on it. Tax reports are also allowed if no older than 1 year.
New legislation enabling jurisdictions to obtain information from their financial institutions and automatically exchange that information with other jurisdictions means you will need to fill in CRS and/or FACTA (if you are from the U.S) documents. See more in ING’s guide FAQ-sheet here.
The procedures of opening an account are bank- and country dependent, so you should check the application procedure with each individual bank in the list above.
Cash machines in Ghent
As you might have noticed, there are many things you can’t do in Ghent without paying cash e.g pay your taxi, pay your bill in some restaurants, buying stuff at most market stalls, hence you will need to use an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) eventually to lift out some cash from your bank account.
Note that you often you get your cash before your card using a Belgian ATM, so pay attention to remember to also take your card after the transaction!
The very centre of Ghent doesn’t have many ATM’s available. That is why you should be prepared to stand in line for a while if you need to take out cash, especially in the evenings and weekends.
Most machines accept all Belgian bank cards and international credit cards.
MasterCard offers a good app and website (in Dutch) called MasterCard Nearby where you can look for the nearest ATM.
If you are interested in getting a credit card, check this comparison site: https://moneysaver.be.
No cash? No card?
Want to go shopping and leave your wallet at home? There is a Belgian startup providing the app Payconiq, enabling you to pay with your smartphone.
Are you new in Ghent? Check out our Getting Started section for more articles useful when you are moving here.
Note: the information on this page is based on the information found on local websites, and on the experience of the authors. We have done our best to make sure it is up to date, however information change over time. Please check the latest information from the bank in question.
About the author:
Jenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2019. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.