Belgium Unlocked

What changes in Belgium on 1 December?

What changes in Belgium on 1 December?
Credit: Belga

As is always the case, the start of a new month also marks changes to laws and rules in Belgium – and for this month, it is mainly financial ones.

As we usher in the final month of this year on Thursday, here is the last list of changes taking place in 2022.

Health budgets

Financial support for people with disabilities

As was announced earlier this year, people with a disability who find themselves in the second priority group to receive a so-called "personal budget" intended to reimburse costs for care and support will be granted half of this sum from 1 December if they live in Flanders.

The regional government announced in July this year that it would be freeing up €20 million to ensure people in priority group 2 could get early access to their personal budget. This will first be allocated to those in the group that have been waiting longest to receive this financial assistance, some 1,100 people, or a quarter of the group.

The budget aims to offer people with disabilities perspective in their care support. "This decision to allocate part of the budget to people in priority group 2 can already make a world of difference for them," Flemish minister of Welfare and Health, Hilde Crevits, said.

Reimbursed neuropsychological care for Long Covid patients

As the number of people who contracted Covid-19 and then developed Long Covid is larger than originally expected — a Belgian survey this year found that at least one in seven patients still experience symptoms half a year after being ill with the virus — the government decided that these patients should also be reimbursed for neuropsychological care.

Since last summer, patients have been able to benefit from a personalised care system in which the GP and other care providers involved draw up a treatment plan. Within that pathway, physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychological care were already reimbursed, but it did not cover the costs of neuropsychological care.

From Thursday, this will change, meaning those suffering from Long Covid who find themselves affected by concentration and memory issues will receive more financial support, as this care will be included in the list of reimbursed health costs by the Belgian State.

Loans, savings and vouchers

Expired meal vouchers can be reactivated for three months

Employees who receive meal, eco and consumption vouchers issued by Edenred, Monizze and Sodexo will be able to ask for their expired ones to be reactivated for an additional three-month period after the expiry date. This will be possible for an extra period of three months.

The re-activation of these supplements to workers' salaries in Belgium, which are exempt from social security contributions and taxes, is in line with initiatives already taken by the issuers in consultation with the National Labour Council (CNT) and the FPS Social Security. Information on the reactivation procedure is available on the websites of the various issuers.

Higher maximum rates for consumer loans

As defined by a new law, maximum rates for consumer loans will be increased from 1 December, by 1 to 2 percentage points. This will mean that having an overdraft on a current account could also become more expensive, the Federal Public Service Economy reported on Tuesday.

The steepest increase of statutory maximum annual percentage rates of charge (APRs) was for credit cards that were sold by banks, department stores or mail order companies, which will rise by 2 percentage points. For credit cards, the new maximum APR is between 12.50% (over €5,000) and 15.50% (under €1,250).

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The maximum APRs for loans and instalment sales increase by 1.5 percentage points. These will increase by:

  • 11% for amounts over €5,000
  • 14% for amounts between €1,250 and €5,000
  • 19% for amounts below €1,250

For financing leases — allowing a person to rent an asset and buying the leased asset at the end of the lease term — the maximum APR for this ranges from 9% (over €5,000) to 13% (up to €1,250).

These new thresholds will only apply to new credit contracts and current contracts with a variable borrowing rate, and not to current contracts with a fixed interest rate.

Keytrade Bank increases interest rates on savings

While most banks are sticking to the minimum savings interest rate of 0.11%, Keytrade Bank, which only operates online, is raising the interest rate on the two savings accounts on 1 December.

Keytrade Bank is raising the base rate on the Azur savings option from 0.01% to 0.50% and to 0.30% on the High Fidelity account. It will also add a loyalty premium of 0.20% and 0.70% respectively.

Meanwhile, the bank will not charge any monthly banking fees. With the base rate and accrual together, this means customers at Keytrade Bank will go back to an interest rate of 0.70% or 1.00% on their savings account. It is the first of the larger banks in Belgium to raise interest rates sharply.

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