Find out what means of payment people in Belgium use to shop and pay their bills, both in person and online.
If you’re moving to Brussels, you’ll find that residents use a wide range of payment options when it comes to shopping, paying bills and transferring money. Belgium has embraced the culture of online and mobile payments, and these co-exist alongside more traditional methods.
Several banks offer specialised services and advice for expats, including, the option to open an account from abroad – a tremendously helpful service for people looking to relocate. Expatica, gives an overview of the payment culture in Belgium along with details on popular payment methods.
Means of payment options in Belgium
Belgium’s payment culture, very much like the nation itself, is diverse. If you’re moving to the country from abroad, you’ll find a wealth of options when it comes to transactions both online and in stores. Credit and debit cards are still the most common payment method overall, with the national Bancontact card used for a sizeable percentage of purchases, but newer forms of electronic payment and mobile payment are growing year by year. Cash purchases are still common, especially for small transactions, although a 2017 study by the European Central bank found that the number of cash transactions in Belgium is below the euro area average.
The growth of e-commerce and m-commerce in Belgium
There has been a surge in online shopping in Belgium in recent years. The country has one of the highest percentages of regular internet users in Europe and this is evident in retail statistics. Online shopping in Belgium grew from €4.7 billion in 2012 to €9.6 billion in 2016 and was expected to exceed €10 billion in 2017. Currently around 17% of all spending in the country takes place online.
Belgium, especially in Brussels, has been one of the front-runners in terms of shifting to e-commerce, and retailers have tailored their services to target this market. It’s also meant that banks and payment providers have had to make sure that they keep pace with the changes and offer suitable solutions.
Foreign retailers such as Amazon and the Dutch company Coolblue are popular sites for Belgian consumers, as well as Belgian online shopping sites such as Vente-Exclusive and Bel & Bo. But it’s leisure services that currently do the most online business. Tickets, accommodation reservations and holidays are frequently purchased by Belgian consumers over the internet.
It’s not just internet shopping that has proved popular. M-commerce – shopping using a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet – is also on the rise, particularly among the younger generation.
Mobile shopping and mobile payments are likely to grow vastly over the next few years. Most banks and payment service providers now offer smartphone apps to make things easier for their customers.
Most common payment methods in Brussels
Traditionalists and those who haven’t quite got to grips with the concept of virtual money will be pleased to know that good old fashioned cash is still popular on the streets of Brussels and for smaller purchases. It still makes up the majority of point-of-sale retail transactions offline, although is declining in popularity and 80% of young Belgians scarcely use cash nowadays according to studies.
Credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are a favoured form of payment with Belgians. They are used for 35% of online purchases, the largest share for any method, and are commonly used in retail stores and restaurants. You can get a credit card through your local bank.
The most popular debit card in Belgium is the Bancontact card, a national debit card which is the preferred method of payment for 64% of Belgians. It’s accepted pretty much everywhere across the country and is now available as a mobile app, so its popularity will probably continue rising in the smartphone age.
Bank transfer/online banking
Internet banking is the most common payment method for regular bill payments and money transfers. Most Belgian banks offer online banking, where you can manage a range of payments and transfers.
One service you can use if you have online banking is Zoomit. This is a free service where you can manage all your bills in one place and pay them quickly and easily.
For international money transfers, there are alternative solutions to banks which could prove cheaper and more convenient, such as:
You can also use Monito’s online comparison tool to save on fees, obtain the best exchange rates and find the cheapest option for your international money transfers.
See our Guide to international money transfers for more information.
PayPal is one of the leading players when it comes to online payments in Belgium, with 12% of the market share making it the third most popular online payment method (after credit cards and Bancontact).
Smartphone apps accounted for around 11% of online payments in 2017. The popularity of apps will no doubt grow as more people get on board and as the concept of using apps to pay via contactless methods becomes more common in stores.
Several banks now provide mobile banking services, as do most credit card providers and PayPal. There are also specialist mobile payment providers such as PingPing and Mobiamo.
These are cards that can be purchased from retailers, usually PIN-protected, that enable those who either don’t have a bank account/bank card or don’t want to use their bank details on the internet to shop online. This is another payment option favoured by those doing online shopping in Belgium. Popular providers include Neosurf and MINT.