Living in Luxembourg: Banking

Luxembourg is famous for its banks, however not all of us are here because we have millions that require helpful tax management. Many of us simply require a normal day-to-day bank account. If you already have a Euro account, the chances are it will be more than sufficient for your needs in Luxembourg. However, if you require a to make a rental deposit bond/account, you may need a local bank. Alternatives for full banking services include Wise and Revolut, both offer EUR and sometimes other currency virtual accounts for free or a small fee. In this article, I will summarise some key features that you may need to consider and also provide information on which banks offer such services and some rough costs. This article will provide a brief summary of what each bank offers.

Most Luxembourg banks are still somewhat old school if you sign up for a paid account option. This is not a criticism, as it means you get someone real to speak to! I have found this to be extremely helpful and worth paying for.

Set-up And Operational Fees

Most banks in Luxembourg offer free online accounts, subject to you paying in a regular minimum amount. If you require a more advanced service or access to an account manager, you will need to pay a small monthly fee. The fee depends on the number of free payments, debit or credit cards. If you are from countries like the UK or USA by default here credit cards in Luxembourg are more like charge cards, e.g. you need to pay them off in full at the end of each month unless you request otherwise. The price per month per card also varies on the type of card with standard Visa and Mastercard accounts typically being free or a small, rising to €25 per month for prestige level cards. They often sell an account and the different different credit and debit cards as a package. The value of the packages on credit cards e.g. travel insurance is debatable. For example, some cards offer an advance of medical expenses, in reality this number may look good but is a loan not the payment of the said expenses. Therefore, please check the small print.

If you are new in Luxembourg, to the bank or under 30 there are often special discounts available. POST has no regular fees and Raiffeisen offers discounts on the fees depending on if you have other services or savings with them. Many employers also have discounts on bank fees.

I used to live in Germany, so if you have an account with DKB you may want to keep that account open as you will get free access to all ATMs and also free SEPA transfers, in exchange for paying money in a set amount of money per month.

Going Across Borders

Luxembourg is a small country, so so the chances are that you will need to send bank transfers and use your card outside of Luxembourg. Thanks to SEPA, banks cannot charge you more for sending money to banks outside of Luxembourg, than to banks in Luxembourg. However, they can still charge you for the transfers. Sometimes you get unlimited free transfers, others limits the number of free transfers to other banks.

The local banks offer very limited access for free to ATMs outside of their Luxembourg network unless you have an expensive premium package. Free out of network withdrawals can be limited to as little as 1 free withdrawal per month. Banks with a larger international presence such as BGL BNP Paribas often give you access to their network outside of Luxembourg and selected partner banks ATMs. Fees for using your card out of the banks own network can be has high as €3 per withdrawal. The SEPA “same fee” rules applies across the EU. Luxembourg banks generally issue VPAY cards, These can only be used physically at a point of sale or an ATM and not for online purchases. For additional fees you can often get other cards. VPAY only works in EU countries and certain non-EU countries.

Additional Services

If you are renting an apartment in Luxembourg, you will need to pay a deposit. This is often placed into an escrow account held at a Luxembourg bank until you leave the property and everything is settled. Also, never give the cash to anyone, this practice is almost always a fraud. Often if you are a new account holder, some banks will open such an account and guarantee the deposit with no need for you to deposit the funds. This is in return for a small percentage fee each year that the bond is in operation. Given the cost of rents in Luxembourg, this is a godsend!

Most banks in Luxembourg will grant relatively high credit card and overdraft limits from the day you open your account. The interest rate is fair, and much lower than in countries such as the UK. They also offer discounts on thing such as car loan, guarantees and mortgages but that varies per bank.

Digicash is a peer-to-peer payment service which lets you pay bills, pay in shops/cafes and send money to friends via your mobile phone. This also means that transfers are free between parties so do not count towards your free limit. All the banks mentioned in this article support Digicash.

All Banks

All banks charge fees for transactions between different currencies, or outside of the SEPA zone. The local deposit protection scheme covers you for up to €100k per bank in Luxembourg.

POST

POST accounts are available to everyone, regardless of financial status. You only need to have an economic interest in Luxembourg, so basically be living and/or working here. There is a standard POST account which is free, onto that you can add various other services e.g. payment cards for an annual fee. A basic account package is also available with these items but only if you do not already have a bank account in Luxembourg.

Advantages

  • No setup-up or monthly fees for the account
  • Free transfers within the EU when in EUR
  • Free standing orders and direct debits
  • Access a large ATMs via POST and Raiffeisen for free in Luxembourg
  • Basic banking services at all branches of POST and Raiffeisen
  • Access to additional services from Raiffeisen, e.g. car loans and savings
  • Banking app is easy to use and connects various banks together

Disadvantages

  • A debit card costs €10-€15 per year
  • 50c fee to set-up direct debits (paid once)
  • All ATM transactions outside of POST and Raiffeisen attract a fee (€1.50)
  • Basic banking services only, although some additional services available via Raiffeisen
  • Except for the basic account, there is no packaged account option but costs per option are low
  • Overdrafts only available with more expensive debit card option (€15 per year)

POST is good if you want a basic, low-cost service within Luxembourg. If you want to withdraw cash without attracting fees at other ATMs, it may be good to take out a prepaid Revolut or Wise card. There are POST and Raiffeisen branches everywhere so they are a good option. Don’t however expect a personalised service as you get with other banks.

BGl BNP Paribas

BGL is part of French Bank BNP Paribas, unlike POST it is a full-service bank which offers both online and branch based accounts. They offer two account types of branch based accounts, Essential and Liberties. Essential offers a basic package which is probably enough for most people. An online only account is also available.

Advantages

  • Access to partner ATMs in some other EU countries when using your VPAY card for free
  • Professional and helpful branch staff
  • Free current accounts in different currencies (excluding cards)
  • Discounts when additional options, e.g. two credit cards taken out in Liberties package
  • Ok number of free SEPA bank transfers (15 per month, 75c thereafter)
  • Rental deposit free in some circumstances (check with branch)
  • VPAY (debit card) included for free in essential package.
  • Basic charge (credit) cards e.g. VISA and Mastercard are available for a low cost

Disadvantages

  • Very limited number of free VPAY debit card withdrawals outside of their partner network
  • Monthly account fee of €3 no matter what
  • Arranged overdraft facility seems to only be available on the Liberties package
  • Upper-end credit cards, e.g. Mastercard Gold etc, can be expensive

There are a variety of discounts for new customers and young people. An online only account is also available, and SEPA transfers are free to the over 65s. I have been a customer of them for 11 years and so far have found the service to be old school (by UK standards) but very good. If you prefer to speak to people who are helpful rather than just do banking online or via a phone centre then BGL may be a good option for you. The major advantage of BGL BNP Paribas is there extensive network of ATMs outside of Luxembourg, the downside is the limit on transfers outside of BGL.

BCEE

BCEE is the state savings bank in Luxembourg, it is who the locals bank with and is among the safest banks in the world. They are known for civil service style customer service but they known to be competent. Its main account options fall under the Zebra packages. Discounts are available for young people. They offer old school banking, with all the benefits of today’s technology.

Advantages

  • Unlimited free transfers in the SEPA area and in Euro
  • Free set-up of standing orders
  • Basic account (Zebra) includes free VPAY debit and a credit card
  • Low fee for basic account €2.50 per month, €6.50 with premium package which includes more credit cards and free transfers
  • Range of package benefits, varies on whether you are on Zebra or Zebra premium

Disadvantages

  • Very limited number of ATM withdrawals outside of BCEE Network (Luxembourg)
  • Limited to six free automated transactions per month

BCEE offers a very good package for students, including no fees and 0% loans, etc. For other customers, their offering is as competitive as the other banks here. The major decision point is probably around whether you need free ATM withdrawals outside of Luxembourg.

BIL

BIL is a Luxembourg-based bank owned by foreign investors. Known for being more commercial in their outlook, they combine local high standards of service with perhaps less of a civil service mindset than BCEE. They offer a range of packaged account options, BIL direct is free if you pay in a minimum per month with others requiring a range of fees. The under 30s also get free and/or discounted rates.

Advantages

  • Free SEPA transfers, direct debits and standing orders
  • Free debit card (VPAY) included in all packages
  • No fees to set-up direct debits and standing orders

Disadvantages

  • Limited number of free debit card withdrawals outside of BIL network and in the EU
  • Credit cards only available for free on more expensive packages

BIL offers comparable value for money with BGL BNP Paribas, so there is little to tell them apart. Their major advantage is the number of free SEPA transfers, the downside is BIL ATMs are in Luxembourg only. If you have a higher number of electronic transfers per month, then BIL is perhaps for you.

Raifeisen

The local co-operative bank, with an emphasis on being green and ethical. Despite the Reiffeisen name existing across Europe, this does not mean that you can use all other ATMs for free. Their fees are reduced if you have other Reiffeisen products and/or make donations to charities via them.

Advantages

  • Discounts on services available, you need to check the details
  • Large number of ATMs available in Luxembourg via POST and Raiffeisen network
  • Access to POST for basic banking needs, besides Raiffeisen branches for more complex services
  • Ethical and environmentally friendly bank
  • Platinum visa card with benefits is competitively priced

Disadvantages

  • Very limited number of free SEPA transfers to non-POST and Raiffeisen accounts (5 per month)
  • Only 1 free ATM withdrawal per month outside if POST and Luxembourg

On the face of it Raiffeisen is not the cheapest option, however in terms of pricing they are comparable to both BIL and BGL BNP Paribas. They become far more competitive when the discounts for using other services or making donations to good causes apply. Their biggest drawbacks are limited number of free SEPA transfers and ATM withdrawals outside of Luxembourg. However, they have very good ATM coverage in Luxembourg.

ING

Dutch-based ING offers a range of paid for traditional accounts and a free online account, the latter requires a minimum payment per month to keep it active.

Advantages

  • No account maintenance charges for online accounts, low annual fee for branch based accounts
  • Free SEPA transfer payments,
  • The orange account includes a free Cyber Credit card
  • VPAY card included with both online and branch based accounts

Disadvantages

  • Free ATM withdrawals only apply to the small ING network in Luxembourg, does not seem to apply to ING ATMS outside of Luxembourg
  • Small ATM network in Luxembourg
  • All additional credit cards on the account attract a fee

ING offer simple, low-cost accounts, their basic account is comparable to the POST offering. They are a full-service bank so having an account with them means you get access to many other services. Feedback from people who have dealt with them is generally positive.

Conclusions

If your requirements are mainly to live, work and transact in Luxembourg then POST, and ING offer perhaps the best options for those who are cost conscious and do not require advanced services. For those requiring more, and again where the requirements are mainly local, Raiffeisen, BCEE and BIL offer good packaged options. If you require access to ATMs outside of Luxembourg, and are perhaps a cross-border commuter then BGL BNP Paribas offer the best deal as you get free access to their network of partner ATMs. Price wise there is little to tell between Raiffeisen, BCEE, BGL BNP Paribas and BIL. If your needs are basic then POST offer a good deal.

If you occasionally need to withdraw funds outside of Luxembourg, then you could complement your account with a free prepaid card from Revolut and Wise. They both offer a limit of up to €200 per month of free ATM withdrawals across the world. Wise also offers the ability to hold funds in multiple currencies many with a virtual account number.