ATMs: Febelfin and Government reach agreement

31 March 2023 - 6 min Reading time

Digital payments have become commonplace in recent years and the number of cash withdrawals from ATMs has halved over the past 10 years. In recent years, this evolution has accelerated due to the corona crisis and the rise of contactless payments. The obligation, since 1 July 2022, for merchants to make an electronic means of payment available to consumers also contributes to this. Card payments have risen sharply, so that for the first time since last year there were more digital payments than cash payments (55% versus 45%). The declining use of cash will continue and requires a different approach in order to continue to guarantee its supply in the future.


Cash is and will remain an important means of payment. Therefore, various initiatives have been rolled out by the banking sector over the years to ensure continued access to cash. Febelfin has entered into a dialogue with the federal government and the National Bank to see where further optimization is possible with regard to access to ATMs. After all, the banking sector is always ready to listen to citizens' concerns and take them into account when rolling out the plans. We are therefore pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached between the banking sector and the federal government, guaranteeing widespread accessibility and availability of ATMs, today and tomorrow.

As a banking sector, we are very pleased that an agreement has been reached with the government. This shows that we want to play our part to the full and are prepared to adjust the plans in order to meet social concerns as much as possible.
Karel Baert, CEO Febelfin

Accessibility & availability of ATMs is guaranteed to the maximum


Sufficient access to cash is an important objective of the financial sector. It is to be able to continue to guarantee access to cash in a safe way in the future, despite the declining use of cash, that several banks have joined forces. There are currently two important initiatives with Batopin (initiative of Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis, ING and KBC/CBC) and Jofico (initiative of Argenta, AXA, Crelan, vdk bank and bpost) that should continue to ensure access to ATMs for everyone who wants to withdraw money. The location and geographical spread of the ATMs are particularly important in this regard.

But the banking sector also listens to the concerns of the population. That is why, together with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Employment Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Vincent Van Peteghem and State Secretary for Budget and Consumer Affairs Alexia Bertrand, we worked on an agreement to further optimize access to cash.

With this agreement and the commitment from the financial sector, broad accessibility and availability of ATMs in Belgium will continue to be guaranteed. The sector is committed to install 287 additional ATMs compared to the original plans for 2025 as calculated by the NBB. On the one hand, ATMs will be placed at new locations in the provinces to keep the distance to an ATM as short as possible. On the other hand (especially in cities) ATMs will be added to existing or new locations to increase capacity so that any queues at ATMs can be avoided as much as possible.



To guarantee maximum accessibility and availability of ATMs, the sector is committed to, among other things

  • Spreading the ATMs sufficiently to guarantee accessibility and to limit the distance to an ATM. To guarantee this, 207 additional locations will be provided.
  • Provide sufficient ATMs in cities to limit the risk of queues (this risk mainly exists in cities). 80 ATMs will be added to increase availability.
  • Ensuring that every municipality has at least 1 ATM.
  • Placing the ATMs at locations with an economic activity and that are publicly accessible (24/7).

The implementation of this agreement will of course take some time, as this entails a great deal operationally (eg obtaining urban planning permits). The agreement will be rolled out between now and the end of 2025.


More free cash withdrawals


In addition, the Gentleman's Agreement will also be further expanded and individuals will be able to make 24 free withdrawals from ATMs per year, regardless of which bank the withdrawal takes place at. The 24 free withdrawals are therefore no longer limited to the ATMs of your own bank.


Importance of digital inclusion


As a banking industry, we are sensitive to everyone's concerns and want to be as inclusive as possible. But in addition to the necessary attention today for sufficient access to cash, it remains necessary to make maximum efforts to strengthen everyone's digital skills. Payments by bank card are a viable and fully-fledged alternative to cash payments and can be a step towards more digital skills.

Access to the internet and the associated digital skills are crucial to function in a modern society. And learning those skills is everyone's responsibility: from education to civil society, from government to, in this case, the banking sector.

Digitization is an irreversible social trend, and as a financial sector we are ready to provide the necessary support and guidance to get everyone on the digital train. In addition to consultation and cooperation with the government, we also like to keep our finger on the pulse in the future and develop further initiatives in consultation with local authorities, consumers; senior; and welfare organizations.