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Belgium’s cash machines disappearing at lightning speed

09:09 08/08/2023

Belgium is continuing to lose its cash machines at a frightening rate, according to figures gathered by L’Echo and De Tijd newspapers.

More than 350 cashpoints have disappeared in a year - some 10% of the country's total - with Le Soir predicting that, by 2025, there will be 1,140 fewer ATMs than there are today.

The news follows the March 2023 decision by Alexander de Croo’s federal government and the financial sector to maintain the number of machines to take out money in the country. The two parties agreed that, by 2025, there should be at least one cash distributor in every Belgian municipality.

The new cashpoints installed by the four big banks (BNP Paribas Fortis, ING, KBC and Belfius) under the Batopin alliance were supposed to help achieve this goal and slow the decline of classic bank-branded ATMs.

But 200 fewer of these "neutral" distributors have been installed compared to last year, while in the same period the banks continue to remove their own dispensers at a far quicker rate.

The result is that Belgium has some 350 fewer cashpoints this July than in July 2022 - 3,049 compared to 3,400.

The big four are the chief culprits, getting rid of 500 of their own-brand ATMs – representing a 30% drop in just a year. At ING, the reduction is even greater, with the bank halving its network of cash machines compared to last year.

The increasing difficulty to take out money has not gone unnoticed by consumer groups such as Test-Achats which are, if rather ambitiously, calling for at least 5,900 ATMs to be available in the country, so that nearly all Belgian residents can access a cash machine within 2.5km of their home.

For now, consumers going to former key ATM centres, such as the BNP Paribas Fortis on Place de Brouckère in central Brussels, are faced with signs directing to other cash machines in the area. But these are often neither very near, nor open 24/7. Notably, Batopin machines are often shut between midnight and 6.00.

Batopin spokesman Vincent Bayer said that there should be a balance between the installation of cashpoints in enclosed spaces and those accessible outside and open all hours.

"Putting machines inside is important to provide a space for people who want to deposit cash. For security reasons, these interior places must stay closed at night," he said.

Bayer said that Batopin was in contact with the 19 Brussels communes to find the most suitable places for cashpoints, but that this was not an easy task. “Many security measures are determined by the law and not all ATMs can be arranged according to these strict rules,” he explains.

The aim is that the four main banks do not shut down their cashpoints before a replacement Batopin site is opened. This was the case for the ING cashpoint in Brussels City 2 shopping centre but not for BNP’s on Boulevard Anspach.

Countrywide, some 24 communes have no cashpoints at all, according to De Tijd, with bank-branded cashpoints missing from 122 municipalities.

Written by Liz Newmark


Andrew van Veen

It seems that Belgium is deliberately trying to eliminate the cash economy, literally forcing Belgians to use cards. I understand the attempt to restrict so-called "black" transactions but this strikes me as overreach. I wonder what the real agenda is.

Aug 8, 2023 13:41