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    The promised instant bank transfer is now ready for rollout

    Thanks to the new instant payment system that Belgian banks will roll out today, clients can transfer money from one bank account to another in seconds, via PC banking or banking app. With a traditional bank transfer it can take one to several days for the payment to be processed. With instant payments the transaction is completed in seconds. Under the system it doesn’t matter if the beneficiary is a customer of the same bank or not; the money is almost immediately in his account. This also applies to weekends and public holidays. The system will allow for instant payments 24/24 and 7/7.

    Belgian banks have been working on the system for about three years, but it took longer than expected to implement it. Initially, the plan was for instant payments to be made as early as November of last year, but this deadline was not met for technical reasons. The deadline for rollout was then set for just after New Year, but this deadline was not met either because tests were still in progress. Finally the promise of Belgian banking federation, Febelfin, to launch in the “spring of 2019” has been fulfilled.

    The participating banks are Argenta, Bank de Kremer, Bank J. Van Breda &Co, Bank Nagelmackers, Belfius Bank, BNP Paribas Fortis, CBC Banque, CPH Banque, Crelan, Europabank, Fintro, Hello bank!, ING Belgium, KBC Bank, KBC Brussels and vdk bank. Other banks, including AXA Bank, will offer the service in the future. The classic bank transfer will not disappear. The instant transfer is a new, additional service.  

    Despite Febelfin’s message, however, bank clients should not expect to immediately start making instant transfers. The banks will gradually roll out the system and are still in a testing phase.

    The banks themselves will decide whether to charge their customers for this new service. Below is a list of banks and their policies concerning instant payments:

    At ING, instant transfers will be free and automatic for private individuals who make transfers via Home Bank or Smart Banking. Instant transfers by companies via the Business Bank and Telelink Online platform will be charged 5 euro + VAT. 

    KBC also offers the service free of charge and automatically to private individuals and self-employed persons with a Plus account, which is the largest group. If you have a free current account, you cannot use it. Companies will still have to wait a bit for the roll-out of instant transfers.

    For the time being, BNP Paribas Fortis only offers the service to business customers and the service is free. But from 1 April, businesses will be charged 0.50 euro per transfer. Private individuals will only be able to use the fast transfer later this year. It is not yet clear whether the service for them will be free of charge.

    Belfius said that it will shortly offer instant payments electronically to its retail customers at 1.25 euro per transaction. Anyone who wants to make an instant transfer currently will have to go to a branch of the bank, where the transaction fee is 6.05 euro per transfer.

    Arthur Rubinstein
    The Brussels Times