Retail banking in Belgium combines elements of private banking and asset management, with banks offering different investment instruments and services for household deposits. Belgian households held over 1,300 billion euros worth of financial assets at the end of 2018, with most of these assets being in currency and deposits. Loans from banks to households amounted to roughly 230 billion euros in 2019. That same year, most private banking assets in Belgium could be found at the four biggest consumer banks: BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, ING Belgium and Belfius. This is probably due to the relatively low bar set for clients, as investable assets of 250,000 euros or more were enough to participate.
Belgian banking plays an important part in the country's economy and the financing of companies. Criteria for corporate banking eased in recent years, as banks made it easier for companies to take a loan. These criteria were tightened again in 2018, as credit demand from companies grew, reaching their highest level in 2017. Companies wanted to make use of the favourable interest rates for non-financial companies, a consequence of the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB). In addition, most bank loans are granted to SMEs and are relatively small in their size. In 2019, for example, more than half of all Belgian respondents to a Europe-scale company financing survey answered that their last bank loan was less than 250,000 euros.
When it comes to payment services, Belgian banks provide the skeleton of the country's payment system. In 2018, there were roughly 7,700 cash dispensers (or ATMs with a cash withdrawal function) in the country, the lowest number since 2007. On the other hand, the use of bank cards as a payment method increased, reaching approximately 2.1 billion transactions in 2018. This development is likely caused by a domestic payment scheme called Bancontact (until 2016 known as Mister Cash). Bancontact uses debit cards from all the country's banks (including the big banks) to let consumers pay for their goods in a brick-and-mortar store or online. Because of this structure, the payment card scheme (and therefore Belgium's bank cards) was a more popular payment method than cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or V-Pay.