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Travel money guide: Belgium

How to pick a winning combination of travel money products to take to Belgium

Belgium is considered the heart of the European Union, with captivating medieval architecture, unique statues and three languages to navigate. The country is a world leader in financial services and has the highest rate of card payments in the world.

While you’ll see locals using a Bancontact debit card, your Visa or Mastercard should be widely accepted in most stores and restaurants. Slip a travel credit card into your wallet to avoid the foreign transaction fees that many cards charge. And just in case, take a few euros with you to shop in smaller villages and markets.

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Should you take a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?

If you had to pick one country where you could get around just using your card, it would be Belgium. More than 90% of all transactions in Belgium are handled with plastic. In the past, the Belgians have placed an emphasis on automating payment systems. Today, Visa and Mastercard can be used to pay for almost everything, while American Express and Diners Club are accepted in fewer places.

A combination of travel money products is going to give you peace of mind, preparing you for any financial surprises. Credit cards will give you money in an emergency or if you blow your budget. But beware — it’s easy to rack up a big balance while traveling in Europe, so use it sparingly.

A travel debit card or prepaid travel money card helps you manage your money while traveling in Belgium. Save some money on fees by finding a card that waives foreign transaction fees. It’s up to you which mix of products you take — the important thing is you have more than one way to access your travel funds.

Belgium offers travelers a chance to experience the charm of old-world continental Europe in a highly modern setting. It’s important that you have more than one way to access your money anytime you travel.

These are your options for spending money in Belgium

Using a credit card

Find yourself a travel credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (Terms apply, see rates & fees). Carrying a credit card gives you the added benefit of travel insurance and discounts, depending on your provider. For added savings, take advantage of the interest-free period by paying your balance in full each month.

Cards that offer travel perks and waive fees often charge an annual fee, so make sure the fee is worth it before you bring it along on your travels. If you’re ever in a jam, credit cards also offer cash advances, though we don’t recommend it. You’ll pay high fees, and interest rates apply the moment you get your money.

  • Waived currency conversion fees
  • Waived international ATM fees
  • Contactless payments
  • Interest-free period on purchases
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • Cash advance fees

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Belgium?

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Belgium, with American Express and Discover cards lagging behind.

If you own an American Express or a Discover card, look for BNP Paribas Fortis ATMs. Citibank ATMs also accept Discover cards but not American Express.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
check mark iconHigh
American Express
exclamation point iconMedium
exclamation point iconMedium
exclamation point iconMedium
cross mark iconLow

Using a debit card

A travel debit card provides the following features: no charge for currency conversion when you transact in euros and no international ATM withdrawal fee. An example card that you might carry with you is the Betterment Checking debit card, which reimburses those foreign and ATM transaction fees. For ATM withdrawals, you can find ATMs inside local banks that take Visa and Mastercard debit cards.

  • Tip: Make sure you tell your bank about your travel plans. As a security measure, your cards may be blocked after the first overseas transaction if you don’t.
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • Waived overseas ATM withdrawal fees
  • International transaction fees still apply

Using a prepaid travel card

Travel cards let you load American dollars, exchange American dollars to euros and lock in a rate so you can spend without paying an additional cost for currency conversion (3% on most credit cards and debit cards). Although you miss out on the currency conversion fee, you’ll pay when you first load the card with money, for each subsequent load thereafter or when you make a withdrawal from an ATM. Just so you know, some of these cards even charge you for ‘inactivity.’

There are a number of countries in Europe that have not yet adopted the euro — for example, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland. Compare other travel money products if you’re traveling to these countries as well as Belgium. The fee for currency conversion can be almost double what’s charged on a credit card when you spend using a currency not loaded on a prepaid travel card.

  • Hold different currencies
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • ATM fees
  • Initial load fees
  • Reload fees
  • Inactivity fees

Paying with cash in Belgium

While it’s true that the majority of payments in Belgium are made with cards, it’s always a good idea to have some euro cash. You will find some smaller vendors that only accept cash.

  • Tip: You can always send your money to Belgium ahead of time with a money transfer service and have it waiting to be picked up when you arrive.
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks used to be a popular way to take money overseas; however, ATMs have largely replaced them. It’s possible to get local currency at a good rate 24/7 by using one of the many ATM machines located throughout Belgium — it’s typically cheaper too! If you want to take traveler’s checks to Europe, you can purchase checks at banks — American Express and Thomas Cook are popular providers. Checks can be cashed at Belgian banks, but you’ll pay 1% to 4% commission when you do.

  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
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Exchanging cash

You’ll be able to cash foreign currency in banks, hotels, at airports and train stations and in a number of exchange bureaus located in Belgian cities. Rates and commission charges are reasonably priced in Belgium compared with other destinations. For the best rates, stick to banks and exchange offices in the center of town. Exchange offices at the airport will have poorer rates than those located in the city center. Banks are open from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

What exchange rate will you get?

Credit card and debit card transactions often use the lender’s (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) exchange rate. This rate is usually better than what you’ll get using a travel card and is pretty close to the market rate.

  • Tip: You may be charged an additional surcharge if you use your credit card to pay at restaurants and like businesses in Belgium.

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Common Euro banknotes:

5 Euro Banknote10 Euro Banknote20 Euro Banknote
50 Euro Banknote100 Euro Banknote

The main banks in Belgium are:

  • Argenta
  • BNP Paribas Fortis
  • Belfius Bank
  • Crelan
  • KBC Group
  • ING Belgium
  • AXA Bank
  • Beobank
  • Delen Private Bank
  • Nagelmackers

Keep your travel money safe while in Belgium

Using your credit card in Belgium is generally safe. However, you should still exercise caution and make sure you:

  • Select ATMs with care. Stick to ATMs in banks and avoid using ones on the street. This can help you avoid card skimmers and you can retrieve your card easily if it gets stuck.
  • Take two cards. It’s usually a good idea to have a backup as you never know when your card may get declined or stuck in an ATM.
  • Keep your card in sight. Wherever you pay, make sure you keep an eye on your card.

How much should I budget to travel in Belgium?

Belgium’s prices are indicative of the cost of travel throughout Western Europe. Like all places, you’ll find a range of prices to cater to the budget of all travelers. All prices are in US dollars.

BrusselsBudgetMid-rangeA royal experience
MealsSausage and onion baguette (street food)
Cream-filled chocolate kisses (street food)
$1 each
per dish
Gourmet restaurant
$350 per person
$20–$30 per night
2-star hotel
$100 per night
5-star hotel
$210–$500 per night
ActivitiesSee a movie at Cinematek
Beer tasting tour
$80 per person
Chocolate tour and workshop
$90 per person

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.

Exchange rate history

Following the European debt crisis and global financial crisis, $1 will buy you about 0.80 to 0.90 euros. It’s difficult to predict which way the currency pair will move; however, you can lock in an exchange rate using a prepaid travel card if you have reason to believe euros will become more expensive to purchase during the course of your trip.

Case study: Lincoln's experience

Lincoln profile photo

From Brussels to Bruges: Lincoln’s trip to Belgium

Belgium was on Lincoln’s must-visit list for a while. On his trip to Europe, he made sure a stop in Bruges and Ghent was on the itinerary. He visited the battlefields of Flanders in the city of Ypres first. And it wasn’t hard. Belgium is sandwiched between France and the Netherlands and only a couple of hours on a train from either Paris or Amsterdam.

What are your travel tips?

  • Get the metro pass. He says you can save quite a bit of money if you buy the metro pass(MOBIB Basic Card) rather than individual tickets. Ten trips on the MOBIB cards cost about €10, whereas buying 10 individual tickets can be double.
  • Tipping isn’t expected. Lincoln says tips are included in the bill when you pay and to only leave a tip if you believe the service went above and beyond.
  • Don’t drink too much beer. Belgium has more breweries per capita than anywhere else on Earth, so you can see how it would be easy to drink the days away. Lincoln says that too much beer will blow your budget quicker than you can say, ‘Une autre pinte, s’il vous plaît’ (another pint, please).
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