Home to the European Union (EU) headquarters and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Kingdom of Belgium is an epicentre of political power in the Western hemisphere. It's also home to a financial heavy hitter: the World Bank.
This concentration of economic and political institutions (along with other famous exports, including chocolate, waffles, and football hero Kevin de Bruyne) have continued to ensure Belgium maintains its role on the global stage.
But if you want to establish a presence in this market, how best to manage the payments you need to send and receive?
In this guide, we'll consider Belgium's economic landscape, consumer payment behaviours and how your business can manage payments to and from Belgium. Let's get to it.
Belgium’s economy: a quick overview
Belgium comprises three distinct regions, and its economy needs to be considered in this context.
Flanders, the northernmost and primarily Dutch-speaking region, is home to the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, both hubs for transporting goods into and out of Europe from the rest of the world. Antwerp is Europe's second busiest port after Rotterdam.
The Wallonia region is traditionally French-speaking and far more industrial in its economic heritage. Steel production and arms manufacturing has given way to aerospace engineering and biotech.
The Brussels region's economy is built upon services. This is supported by Belgium's multilingual workforce, making it a popular place for international business.
Overall, Belgium's GDP per capita is the second highest in Europe. However, its growth has slowed considerably in recent years. A recent move enabling employees to work a four-day week aims to make the Belgian economy more dynamic.
Belgium uses the Euro. It was among the first countries to adopt the common currency (ISO currency code EUR), with bank notes circulating in January 2002. Before this, the Belgian Franc had been used since Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands in 1830.
Consumer payment behaviours in Belgium
Like many European nations, digital forms of payment have become increasingly commonplace in Belgium over recent years, where smartphone use has grown to 84%. However, card payments still account for 45% of all retail payments.
Bancontact is by far the most popular payment method in Belgium. Bancontact cards can be used for both in-person and online purchases. There's even a companion app called Payconiq which enables merchants to receive payments via QR codes.
Swedish Fintech giant Klarna launched its buy now, pay later technology in Belgium in 2020 and now has upwards of one million users, with younger consumers particularly drawn to its offering.
Belgian consumers are generally positive towards cross-border purchases, shared languages with neighbouring countries and close European integration support burgeoning international ecommerce.
Global transfers in Belgium
Being part of the Eurozone means that Belgium is closely integrated within European financial networks and well-connected for efficient business and personal banking. For example:
- Belgium belongs to the EU's Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). This means that transfers to other SEPA countries are the same as to domestic accounts within Belgium.
- The SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) network is readily accessible by many institutions in Belgium, enabling straightforward international transfers between 190+ countries.
Transferring money to and from Belgium is relatively straightforward – institutions can use the mechanisms above to make financial transactions. However, if your business needs to make and receive regular payments, it can be expensive in the long term. How can you avoid these costs?
For some businesses, the right solution will be to establish financial infrastructure locally, for example, opening a headquarters and a local business bank account in Brussels. However, that can be challenging and involve considerable short-term costs and long delays to operationalise your business.
Fortunately, some solutions give you access to global markets – including Belgium – more efficiently. Next, we'll look at the alternative options available to transfer money to and from Belgium so you can decide which is most suitable for you.
What are the different ways to send money to and from Belgium?
Several solutions are available if you're looking to transfer money to and from Belgium. They include:
- International money transfer specialists
- Bank-to-bank international transfers
- Online multi-currency accounts
- Cash pick-up
- Digital or mobile wallets
Which one works best for you will depend on your business needs and operations, so we'll look at the pros and cons of each.
International money transfer specialists
You're spoilt for choice regarding companies that specialise in international money transfers. Moneycorp and Western Union are well-known examples.
With this method of transfer, you'll be able to choose how the money is received: bank transfer, mobile wallet, or cash pick-up from a physical location, for example. This flexibility and range of options can make it a helpful tool.
However, fees for this type of transfer can be significant. You'll pay a premium if you want your payment to get to its recipient faster. Plus, these services often add a markup on the currency exchange rate. That means the sender must pay significantly more, or the recipient receives less. Either way, the provider pockets a healthy profit.
With so many international transfer providers, ensuring that the service you choose is regulated by a European body such as the CSSF or similar is essential. (3S Money is CSSF licensed)
Bank-to-bank international transfers
Another option is to use your bank to transfer the funds. This service is a popular choice for many businesses and individuals as it's often the most accessible and convenient. But it can also be expensive:
- Banks usually charge a fee to arrange and process money transfers.
- Some banks may also charge a percentage of the total amount you're transferring (as much as 3-4%).
- Banks may use their own foreign exchange (FX) rates which could cost you 5-7% more.
- International transfers often involve chains of different banks (called "correspondent banks"), all of which will charge a fee, increasing the total cost.
All banks are different, so check your business account's terms to understand your provider's international transfer charges. If they're expensive, consider an alternative, especially if you plan to make regular international transfers to and from Belgium.
Online multi-currency accounts
An alternative to a traditional bank transfer is an online multi-currency account. These digital platforms allow you to send and receive payments in multiple currencies, usually with far more competitive FX rates and lower fees.
Multi-currency accounts, like the 3S Money International Business Account, are popular with businesses that operate in multiple markets across the world as they offer a streamlined global payments system: easy cross-border payments, a single view of all transactions, and FX rates of up to five times cheaper than traditional banks.
Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) tend to offer online multi-currency accounts. EMIs provide many of the same financial products and services as traditional banks, but they operate differently. For one thing, they don't have branches you can walk into. 3S Money, for instance, is an EMI.
Here are a few reasons why EMIs are so attractive to growing international businesses:
- Savings: EMIs offer lower fees and more competitive FX rates than traditional brick-and-mortar banks.
- Simplicity: All your business transactions are visible in one easy-to-use platform accessible anywhere in the world.
- Scale: Your business can grow quicker with greater access to multiple markets and currencies.
The alternative banking solutions EMIs offer enable businesses to make payments in different countries without holding local bank accounts. Learn more about EMIs and why they are becoming the future of business banking.
Some transfer providers offer the option to pick up physical cash at one of their locations near your recipient.
This service is often an option provided by international transfer specialists, so the same pros and cons apply. It's straightforward, and the cash can often be available in minutes, depending on the opening hours of the physical location.
However, there's usually a price to pay for convenience and the same risk of losing out to significant markups on currency conversion. This solution is reasonable for occasional transfers but problematic and costly for regular payments.
Digital or mobile wallets
A digital or mobile wallet is another option for sending and receiving cross-border payments from Belgium.
PayPal was one of the first digital wallets and is still the world's most widely used. While a popular personal (peer-to-peer) transfer tool, business transactions can be expensive. There are no set-up fees, but the standard charge is 5.4% + $0.30 per transaction. There are also hefty currency conversion charges.
There are many other digital and mobile wallets (Payconiq, for example). Which works best for your business will depend on location and specific needs.
What’s the best way to send money to and from Belgium?
Suppose you're a business sending and receiving regular international payments to and from Belgium. In that case, one-off transfer services (such as those offered by traditional banks and international transfer specialists) will be an expensive option for you.
Most international businesses will complete multiple transactions daily, whether paying suppliers, employees, freelancers, or taxes in different countries or collecting consumer payments.
If you use transfer specialists or traditional banks for these regular transactions, their high fees, commission-based charges, and FX markups will add up and eat away at your bottom line.
An online multi-currency account is a better solution for businesses that want hassle-free access to global markets, including Belgium.
How do I send money to Belgium? Step-by-step.
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Once approved, your business can send hassle-free payments to Belgium using your online account.
2. Enter the transfer details
Add the recipient's name and account details, then choose the currency and country.
3. Send your money
Make the transfer from your online account and receive an alert when it's complete.
How do I receive money from Belgium Step-by-step.
A 3S Money International Business Account makes it easy to receive international payments in 65+ currencies from 190+ countries, including Belgium. Here's how
1. Open a 3S Money International Business Account
Benefit from one easy-to-use platform for all your international payments.
2. Give customers your account details
Collect EUR payments with ease and view all transactions in your streamlined account.
3. Receive your money
See the payment arrive in your online account and either hold or exchange it for another currency.
How long do transfers to and from Belgium take?
It depends on where the transfer is being sent from, where it's going, the systems used, and when you send it.
- Most traditional bank transfers take up to five working days.
- SWIFT transfers take one to five working days.
- Transfers between 3S Money accounts are instant.
- It could take longer if you send your transfer on the weekend or public holiday.
- Some receiving banks take longer to process incoming payments, and delays can occur for this reason.
How much money can I send or receive from Belgium?
In principle, there's no limit to how much you can transfer. However, some providers will cap the amount you can send in a single transaction. So, you may have to do multiple transfers if you want to transfer a large amount.
With 3S Money, there are no transaction limits. Once you've been approved for an International Business Account, you can transfer high-value payments with ease to 190+ countries around the world. We even offer expert support for clients transferring large amounts for extra peace of mind.
Transferring large amounts
If your provider does impose a cap, watch out for multiple transfer fees. If you send payments regularly in this way, to pay supplier invoices or employee wages, for example, the costs could mount up.
When transferring large amounts, consider the following:
- Some providers cap the amount you can send in a single transfer, so you may have to do several.
- There may be a limit on the number of transfers you can make in any 30-day period.
- Larger amounts can take longer to process.
- Your provider may enquire about large transfers. This is considered best practice and an essential part of how institutions regulated institutions like 3S Money meet their obligations.
How much does it cost to transfer money to Belgium?
We mentioned earlier how international transfers via traditional banks could be a costly way to send money. Let's look in more detail at the fees you might pay:
- Outgoing transfer fee: You'll most likely be charged a flat fee for sending an international transfer. A bank in Belgium , for example, will typically charge between €20-€40.
3S Money charges just $1 (or your local equivalent) per transfer, regardless of how much you send. More about 3S Money pricing.
- Incoming transfer fee: Most Belgian banks charge around €7.50 for receiving payments from international bank accounts.
3S Money charges £0.00.
- Initiation fee: Some banks might charge you a fee if you request the transfer over the phone or in person rather than online. For a Belgian bank, you can expect this to be around €20.
3S Money doesn't charge initiation fees.
- Commission: Banks might also charge a fee based on a percentage of your transfer amount. For banks in Belgium, this is currently around 3-4%.
3S Money charges just $1 per transfer (or your local equivalent) regardless of how much you send.
- Exchange rate markup: The exchange rate you can find on Google or see on the news is called the "mid-market" rate. Transfer providers apply their own exchange rates to international transfers, which means you'll pay more – and they keep the difference.
3S Money offers FX rates up to 5x lower than traditional banks.
We've covered a lot in this article, so here are some tips and main takeaways to consider:
- Belgium is a well-integrated economic and political centre of Europe.
- Its multilingual workforce makes it ideal for international business recruitment.
- With 3S Money, you can get a multi-currency business account in your company name, which brings you the benefits of local bank accounts worldwide without the hassle or admin of setting them up.
- An online multi-currency account can be an effective solution for businesses looking to scale and easily access new markets.
- With a 3S Money International Business Account, you can send, receive, hold and exchange EUR with low transaction costs and lower FX rates.
- Watch out for currency exchange markups, which can eat into the money you're sending.
- When choosing a provider for global payments, ensure an independent body regulates them. 3S Money is CSSF regulated and uses safeguarding to protect 100% of your funds.
Manage your money to help your business grow
Ready to start making and receiving payments quickly from Belgium and access this integrated and well-connected European market?
3S Money’s International Business Account offers global payment solutions for businesses looking to operate in multiple countries – all from one easy-to-use account.