9 August 2023 - 4 min Reading time
The digitization of services in our society is increasing every year. The financial sector is not immune to this trend either. For example, over the past 10 years, the number of withdrawals from ATMs has halved. However, cash remains a legal and important means of tender.
The financial sector, in cooperation with the government, has signed an important agreement to ensure sufficient access to cash for all consumers. The deal, which will be rolled out between now and the end of 2025, is a major step forward in ensuring that cash remains readily available to everyone. The consumer is at the center of this initiative.
Despite the sharp decline in the use of cash, it is guaranteed that by the end of 2025 there will be 2369 locations in Belgium with a total of 4061 ATMs.
The number of locations and ATMs will therefore still decrease between now and the end of 2025 (at the end of 2022 there were 3,224 locations and 5,199 ATMs, often not far from each other), but the agreement ensures a better and more rational distribution than before. At the moment, several ATMs of the major banks are sometimes located a short distance from each other in the same street.
The four major banks, namely Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis, ING and KBC/CBC, have decided to work together under the name Bancontact. This network of cash points will replace their existing network of ATMs. In addition, Argenta, AXA, Crelan, vdk bank, Beobank, Europabank and Attijariwafabank are also part of the agreement with the government and will continue to operate under their own brand name.
With this agreement, we will, on the one hand, place new ATMs at strategic locations in the provinces to keep the distance to an ATM as short as possible. On the other hand, we will provide enough ATMs in urban areas to avoid possible queues.
In this way we want to guarantee wide accessibility and availability of ATMs in Belgium.
With the agreement, we guarantee that each of the 581 main municipalities in Belgium will have at least one ATM. There are currently a few municipalities without an ATM, but that will change by 2025 thanks to this agreement. The banking sector will provide an ATM in the main municipalities where the last ATM has been removed after 31/12/2021; this obligation previously rested on bpost.
This commitment applies to every main municipality, it does not apply to sub-municipalities.
As part of the agreement, consumers can now make 24 free withdrawals per year at ATMs, regardless of which bank the withdrawal takes place at. This means that the 24 free withdrawals are no longer limited to ATMs of your own bank.
As a financial sector, we are determined to fully fulfill our role and continue to invest in good access to cash, today and in the future. Despite the irreversible evolution of declining cash use, we recognize the importance of cash as a means of payment for many consumers.
The agreement between the financial sector and the government is a milestone in ensuring sufficient access to cash for all consumers in Belgium. We are convinced that this initiative will have a positive impact on the daily lives of many citizens and support their financial needs. The implementation of this agreement will be monitored by the National Bank.