With so much to see and explore in Belgium, it’s no wonder it’s one of Europe’s top tourist spots. During your trip to Belgium, though, you may find it’s useful to have some cash on hand, as not all shops and restaurants are set up to accept debit and credit cards. Luckily, getting cash is as easy as finding an ATM. Here’s how to do that in Belgium.
ATMs are widespread and common in Belgium’s cities and towns. They can even be found in some of the country’s small villages. Cirrus and PLUS networks are most common, though others can also be found — check the logos on an ATM to see what networks it’s connected to. Almost all banks have ATMs located inside their lobbies, so finding an ATM is as easy as finding one of these local banks:
- BNP Paribas Fortis ATM locator
- Belfius ATM locator
- ING Bank ATM locator
Most US, UK and Australian bank cards will work in Belgium. Visa is most commonly accepted, with Mastercard/Maestro close behind. American Express and Discover are less common. To find an ATM that accepts your card’s network, try these tools:
- Maestro ATM locator
- Mastercard and Cirrus ATM locator
- Visa, Plus, and Plus Alliance ATM locator
- Discover ATM locator
- American Express ATM locator
Belgium almost exclusively uses chip and PIN cards, so if you’re from a country that still widely uses magnetic strips instead, like the US, you may want to ask your bank for a new card before heading to Belgium. Four-digit PIN codes are most common, and five and six digit PINs may not be accepted at all ATMs. You can request a four-digit PIN from your bank if you don’t already have one.
Maximum withdrawals vary by bank and location and it’s difficult to find out ahead of time how much cash you can withdraw from a specific ATM. Unfortunately, making multiple withdrawals means spending more on fees, so if you find an ATM that has a low maximum withdrawal, you may want to cancel your transaction and try somewhere else.
If your bank doesn’t know you’re travelling, it may think international activity on your card is suspicious and shut it down, leaving you unable to access money while abroad. Always let your bank know where you’re travelling, when and for how long. You can also ask your bank if you have a maximum daily spending or cash withdrawal limit, and temporarily raise that limit if it’s not high enough for your trip.
ATMs and fees go together like peanut butter and jelly. Luckily, there are some ways you can minimize fees while you’re travelling.
When you use your debit or credit card at a Belgian ATM, it may offer to “helpfully” display the transaction in your home currency, rather than in euros. In reality, this “helpful” service is called dynamic currency conversion, which allows the ATM to set its own exchange rate, often marked up above the mid-market rate (or the real exchange rate you see when you Google it), so you get charged a hidden fee for your withdrawal. Always choose to view transactions in the local currency -- you’ll have to do the math of the conversion yourself, but you’ll save on fees.
The ATM might charge a flat fee per withdrawal (this is more common with commercial ATMs than bank ATMs in Belgium). Your home bank might charge a flat fee or a percentage as a withdrawal fee, or it might charge you foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank ahead of time so you know what kinds of fees to expect, and pay close attention during your withdrawal so you don’t get caught off guard by ATM withdrawal fees.
Some banks in Belgium, like Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, are part of the Global ATM Alliance, which means certain customers can avoid international access fees. Other ways to avoid ATM fees are to get a bank card without foreign transaction fees that reimburse the user for ATM fees or to try to make large, infrequent withdrawals since more withdrawals equal more fees.
If you have access to a bank account in Belgium, transfer money ahead of time with TransferWise, which allows users to move money internationally at the mid-market rate with no markups or hidden fees. TransferWise also offers borderless multi-currency accounts, which come with consumer debit cards for EU customers, making it easy to access your money in Belgium and elsewhere.
Feeling more prepared for your trip to Belgium? Good luck, and safe travels!
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