Universal Banking Service
The digitisation of society is advancing at a rapid pace and not everyone is managing to keep up. So it is essential to pay extra attention to the group of people who are less or not digitally skilled. After all, it is important to ensure that everyone can participate fully in society as a whole. For this, the banking sector and the government have signed a special charter outlining the principles and terms for a Universal Banking Service.
What is the Universal Banking Service?
In essence, the purpose of the Universal Banking Service (UBS) is to provide a solution which allows everyone to make payments and manage their money easily. The intention is to cater to the group of customers who have little or no recourse to digital channels for arranging their money matters.
Minimum service offer
Specifically, the UBS allows paper-based manual bank transfers for a reasonable fee. This package consists at least of the following services:
- At least 60 manual transactions per year (for example: paper-based transfers to be deposited at the bank branch and, if the branch infrastructure allows this, over-the counter cash withdrawals)
- A debit card
- At least 24 cash withdrawals at the ATM of the bank where the account is held
- Printing of account statements at the self-service kiosks in the bank branch, monthly over-the counter cash withdrawals (if this service is offered by the bank) or monthly dispatch at the customer’s request.
Individual banks may choose to add additional services to this list.
Who offers the Universal Banking Service?
As of 1 January 2022, 13 banks offer the Universal Banking Service:
- BNP Paribas Fortis
- bpost bank
- CBC Banque
- KBC Brussels
Not more than EUR 60 per year
The UBS fee varies from bank to bank, depending on the number and nature of services included in the package. You can find an overview of the fees per bank and any additional fees here.
Till 30 June 2024, the UBS fee will be a maximum flat-rate amount of EUR 60 per year, possibly supplemented by a variable fee for the sending of account statements. During this period, this UBS fee may increase by a maximum of EUR 6 per year. Any increase in fees shall not exceed a total of EUR 60 per year.
The Charter is in place from 1 January 2022 to 30 June 2024.
If the number of manual transactions exceeds a predetermined number (minimum 60), the fee per additional transaction shall not exceed EUR 1.
If the bank provides self-service kiosks at its own branches for printing account statements, the customer may use these free of charge.
If the bank does not have such kiosks for printing paper statements, the customer may choose to have these sent to him or her by post. Banks may charge a reasonable fee, in addition topostage, for the monthly mailing of statements.
These are the rates for sending the account statements.
This reasonable fee is fixed at:
- A monthly fee of maximum EUR 2.50 (including postage)
- A maximum fee of EUR 1 per envelope + postage
- A limited flat-rate fee per year of maximum EUR 5 + postage
Occasional fees related to, for example, a second direct debit request in case of insufficient funds being available in the current account or an application for a new debit card, are not included within the UBS fee.
Any customer who, for whatever reason, is unable to access the online applications offered by banks may avail of the UBS.
This means that this service is available to all. It is a minimum service offer that some banks may choose to supplement with additional services, for which the banks are free to compete with one another. The customer is free to maintain other current accounts with other banks.
Herein lies the main difference with the basic banking service, which is regulated by law and helps implement the ‘right to a payment account’. Moreover, one of the conditions for using this basic banking service is that the customer is not allowed to hold any other accounts in other banks.
In addition to the terms and conditions of the Universal Banking Service, the charter also includes a commitment to provide consumers with even better information about the range of services offered by banks and the corresponding fees. This kind of transparency has been provided for to help consumers make better choices. To that end, the government also intends to expand the existing comparison tools and provide online simulation tools for calculating bank fees, based on inputs provided by the banks.