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Using a credit card in Belgium
Consider a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees and save money when travelling to Belgium.
As a member of the European Union, Belgium is a credit card-friendly country with acceptance of Visa, Mastercard and American Express branded cards. However, for places that only accept the local Belgian debit card, Bancontact or cash, you’ll likely have to make an ATM cash withdrawal using your debit card. Using a credit card for an ATM withdrawal will cost you big – and should be avoided at all costs.
Compare credit cards for use in Belgium
Which credit cards are accepted in Belgium?
Mastercard and Visa branded credit cards are widely accepted in Belgium. Some large hotels, restaurants and shops will likely accept American Express cards as well, but it’s best to travel with a Visa or Mastercard just in case.
If you’re looking to pay for small costs like transportation or a coffee, cash is your best bet. Several small businesses and shops may not accept credit cards at all.
Which credit card issuers are accepted in Belgium?
Do taxis in Belgium accept credit cards?
Some do, but not all of them. Make sure you ask the driver before you take the trip.
Alternatively, you could consider using a rideshare app such as Uber and pay with your credit card.
Common credit card fees to watch out for
When using your credit card overseas, watch out for the following fees:
- Foreign transaction fees. Typically costing 2.5% of the total transaction, this fee is charged when you use your credit card overseas. If you’re looking to avoid this fee, it is possible to find a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. If a merchant offers to charge your card in Canadian dollars, politely decline – always choose to pay in the local currency. If you end up paying for a purchase in Canadian dollars, the transaction will be subject to what is known as a dynamic currency conversion (DCC). You will face a currency conversion fee and a less competitive exchange rate.
Can I incur both fees?
Yes. Avoid this by getting a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees and decline paying in Canadian dollars if offered.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
Avoid using your credit card to get cash – unless it’s an absolute emergency. Withdrawing cash using your credit card will leave you on the hook for a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate. This interest rate is typically charged from the day you withdraw the cash – there is no grace period – and will increase daily until you pay back the withdrawn amount in full.
So, how do I get cash?
Use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM. Although you’ll likely incur an ATM fee of around $2.50 to $5, you can avoid the excruciatingly high interest rates that come with using a credit card to withdraw cash.
If you’re looking to avoid ATM fees altogether, look for a debit card that belongs to an international ATM alliance such as those offered by Scotiabank. You can use your debit card at specific brands of ATMs and withdraw cash free of charge.
ATMs in Belgium
ATMs are easy to find in Belgium, especially in big cities like Brussels and Antwerp. You can find ATMs in small towns, however they might be more difficult to come across. While most payments are made with debit and credit cards, its best to travel with at least some cash (euros) on you at all times. When paying for small purchases like a coffee or public transportation, it’s best to have cash handy.
Pickpockets in Europe are quite common, so look for well-lit ATMs and those located in public places. Carefully store your cash away and don’t carry too much on you at one time.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Belgium?
Using a credit card in Belgium is safe, however like anywhere, it comes with its fair share of risks. Here are some tips to help keep your money safe.
- Safeguard your PIN. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide the numbers from cameras and prying eyes.
- Safety first. Avoid using ATMs in isolated streets or dark areas. Even when you’re using a well-used ATM, try to limit withdrawals to the daytime only for safety. It’s best to stick to ATMs in banks and avoid using ones on the street altogether.
- Watch out for skimmers. Credit card skimming does occasionally happen in Belgium. If something appears amiss or suspicious, go with your gut. Cancel your transaction, and look for another ATM instead.
- Be aware of fraud. Credit card fraud can be common in Europe, so it’s important to remain vigilant even when using your card at popular stores and supermarkets.
How should I prepare for my trip to Belgium?
Before heading to Belgium, consider the following tips:
- Look for a card with no foreign transaction fees. Before you go, consider applying for a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees. This will save you a great deal of money, especially if you use your credit card often as most cards have a fee of 2.5%.
- Go with Visa or Mastercard. While a few merchants may accept American Express, you’ll likely have a much easier time using Visa and Mastercard products. It’s also a good idea to take at least two credit cards with you, so you have a backup as you never know when your card may get declined or stuck in an ATM.
- Inform your bank. Banks and credit card providers will temporarily block cards if they detect unusual activity, like an unexpected transaction from Belgium. Getting your card unblocked can be a hassle, so contact your bank or credit card company before you head to Belgium to inform them of your travels.
- Keep important phone numbers close. Always have your bank or credit card providers number on hand – you never know when you might need to report a lost or stolen card.
- Know where you’ll get cash. You can use your debit card to withdraw money from an ATM or convert Canadian dollars at a bank or foreign exchange kiosk.
Using a credit card in …
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