Credit cards in Belgium work the same way as in other countries; you can spend up to a set limit every month and pay off your bill at the end of the month. If you don’t repay the full amount, you will be charged interest (commonly at a very high rate) on the full amount, not just the amount you haven’t repaid.
Most cards have an annual maintenance fee ranging from roughly 5€ to 200€ depending on the bank, services (gold, premium, platinum) and features. The benefits and rewards offered also vary from card to card.
Visa is the most commonly accepted credit card provider in the country, closely followed by Mastercard/Maestro. American Express and Discover are less common but still accepted in some shops and restaurants.
Choosing your credit card
When choosing your credit card, do not stress over the provider (Visa and Mastercard/Maestro are both widely accepted); it is the bank that matters most. The bank issuing the card chooses the card’s features (interest rate, annual maintenance fees, benefits/freebies/rewards, monthly limit) and it is these features you should base your choice on.
Most Belgian banks offer credit cards so there is a lot to choose from. A credit card comparison site like moneySaver is an efficient way to compare all available cards and their features.
Using your credit card; the dos and don’ts
- Set up a monthly direct debit from your Belgian bank account to pay your credit card bill: this will ensure you don’t miss any repayments.
- Check when any introductory interest rate expires: banks can offer new customers a 0% introductory interest rate for a set period.
- Track your spending: keep an eye on everything you buy with your credit card to avoid spending more than you can repay.
- Turn on Two-factor authentication (if available): this is a form of identification that involves two forms of ID, usually a PIN/security code and a ‘unique characteristic’, such as a one-time code.
- Just pay off the minimum amount allowed: always try to pay off the full amount every month to avoid being charged interest.
- Use your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM: you are usually charged a withdrawal fee and have to pay interest on the amount you take out.
- Use your card abroad without checking the foreign transaction fees: these fees can make using your card abroad very expensive (if you want to frequently use you card abroad, choose one that is designed for travellers).