How mobile banking is playing an increasingly role in the lives of Belgian consumers

13 May 2020 - 8 min Reading time

Banking in 2020: does the traditional way still have a place in the heart of Belgians?


Mobile banking continues to gain popularity among Belgian consumers. Over the past five years, about one million subscriptions have been added annually. Impressive numbers when you consider that mobile banking didn't even exist ten years ago.

  • Belgians are increasingly banking digitally. Mobile banking in particular is booming. In 10 years it grew from a virtually non-existent channel for banking to the most popular.
  • The trend of fewer cash withdrawals is continuing.
  • The corona crisis and quarantine measures have sharpened the digital evolution. Belgians have adjusted their payment behavior in recent months. For example, the share of contactless card payments doubled in a few weeks.
  • The less digital customer is not left out in the cold. A physical supply of branches and ATMs will remain an important part of the service in the coming years.
  • Initiatives to make Belgians more digitally and financially skilled are gaining in importance.
  • Anyone who likes to get started digitally, but still needs some help, can visit

Today's consumer likes to have his bank close by and always available. The need for good solutions that provide an answer to this continues to increase. This means that the use of the more traditional forms of banking is declining. For example, the number of cash withdrawals has steadily declined in recent years.

These evolutions are currently being tightened up by the corona crisis and the quarantine measures. Because a large number of physical stores had to close their doors in recent weeks, there were fewer card payments. But the decline in the number of card payments at a physical point of sale is less pronounced than the decline in cash withdrawals: this seems to indicate that people currently prefer to pay for their purchases digitally.

Contactless payments have also boomed in recent weeks. Since the limits were raised on April 14, more than 1 in 4 card payments (29%) have been handled contactless.

However, the digital trend does not mean that the less digital customer will be left out in the cold. The financial sector is aware that customers must have sufficient access to an ATM. Various initiatives are also being taken to make Belgians digitally and financially more skilled. The project “J’adopte la banque Digitale” (in collaboration with the Agence du Numérique and the various Espace Public Numérique in Wallonia) and the website are examples of this.

Digital banking is booming


Internet banking continues to increase every year. At the end of last year there were no fewer than 13.7 million subscriptions in circulation. Internet banking has been facing competition from mobile banking for the last ten years. And the growth figures for mobile banking are even faster than with its big brother. At the end of 2019, the counter stood at 8.1 million subscriptions. Things have moved quickly in the last five years.

The proximity and availability of a mobile app has a major advantage, as was shown last year by a study that Febelfin had carried out by iVOX (among 1000 Belgians, February 2019). 65% of users said they have a much better view of their financial situation than before.

Cash withdrawals are steadily declining


In 2019, the Belgian collected money 21 times for an average amount of 152.9 euros. For several years now, both the number of withdrawals and the amount withdrawn have been falling steadily.

Corona promotes digitization


This evolution towards more digitization is currently being reinforced by the corona crisis. To limit the spread of the corona virus, traders and banks ask to pay digitally as much as possible.

Paying by card and smartphone is therefore an extremely safe and hygienic way to pay for purchases, especially if it is contactless. Belgians have now adjusted their payment behavior accordingly.

The share of contactless card payments has increased enormously. Since the limits were raised on April 14, more than 1 in 4 card payments (29%) are handled contactless. This means a doubling compared to February this year (16%).

Because a large number of shops have so far been closed during the corona crisis, the total number of card payments made in a physical point of sale fell. However, the decline in the number of cash withdrawals continued even more strongly. This seems to indicate that Belgians are currently more likely to use their card than to pay in cash. Febelfin is already calling for continued payment digitally (via card and smartphone) as much as possible, especially now that all shops have reopened since 11 May.

ATMs will continue to exist alongside digital payments


The number of ATMs where the customer can withdraw money follows the evolution of fewer cash withdrawals. Their number has been slightly reduced in recent years. In 2019, Belgians could go to 7,469 ATMs.

Within Europe, the number of ATMs in Belgium is close to the average. But the situation in our country is specific. In the southern countries, the number of ATMs is much higher. In the northern countries and, for example, in the Netherlands, you already have to make more effort to find an ATM. There, digital banking is - so to speak - part of the DNA of the population. The Belgian banks offer the best of both worlds: the possibility to withdraw money from an ATM and a high-quality digital payment environment.

Today's bank branch is physical and virtual


Because the Belgian customer is increasingly banking digitally himself, he walks into a bank branch less than before. Things for which he used to go to the bank branch can now also be done online: adjust credit limit, order debit card, report a lost credit card, ...

The banks are closely monitoring this social trend and are adapting their office supply accordingly. This does not mean that Belgian consumers can no longer go to a physical branch: our country had 4,684 bank branches at the end of 2019.

This means that Belgium has one of the densest office networks in Europe: with 496 offices per million inhabitants, we are only ahead of Spain and France.

The Belgian banks are increasingly giving a different interpretation to the traditional bank branch. The bank of the future will be a point of contact for tailor-made advice, rather than a platform for practical assistance for everyday transactions. We are already seeing such offices popping up today with long opening hours and a very customer-friendly design. Moreover, more and more banks are setting up a virtual point of contact. Customers can go there with all their questions well outside the usual opening hours.

More digitization also requires more financial education


Although the numbers for digital banking are rising enormously, we cannot assume that everyone is equally digital and financially skilled. Febelfin wants to assist these people and ensure that they do not fall by the wayside. The low-threshold information sessions "J'adopte la banque Digitale" are a perfect example of this. During such a session, participants discover which basic package of digital services their bank offers and what the benefits are. In addition, they learn the right reflexes to perform digital transactions safely.

You can also find all kinds of information about digital banking on the website A few short, practical videos will get everyone started right away: “How do you open your bank's app?”, “How do you make a transfer?” or “How do you consult your account?”.

Those who prefer to call in the help of their bank can find all telephone numbers of the banks on the website.