Choosing a broker is a crucial step on your investment journey. The broker is the intermediary between you and the stock market. We’re lucky that in Belgium there’s a good selection of broker options. The goal of this article is to determine which brokers come out on top when we wish to invest in ETFs. We’ll compare the brokers based on:

  • their fees
  • how they handle taxes
  • the requirement to declare as a foreign bank account
  • the ease of setting up an account
  • outgoing transfer costs
  • their background

As an example, we are going to assume that we are buying €500 of the VWCE ETF (ISIN IE00BK5BQT80).

Note that the broker landscape in Belgium is regularly changing. This article was last updated in November 2022 to reflect the latest situation.

The overview

All brokers offer more or less the same service. So for most investors, the broker fees and the handling of taxes have become the most important criteria to make a choice. The infographic below highlights these two criteria for the brokers we will discuss. Read on to get the full details!

Comparison of brokers in Belgium to buy €500 of VWCE
Comparing brokers in Belgium to buy €500 of the VWCE ETF

DEGIRO

Background 🇳🇱🇩🇪

The DEGIRO founders were all former employees of BinckBank and launched their online trading platform in 2013. DEGIRO is now part of the Flatex bank and they continue to operate as a Dutch branch of a regulated German bank.

Broker fee

It's “free” to buy the VWCE fund through DEGIRO provided you do the following:

  1. make only one transaction per month (buy or sell)
  2. buy VWCE on the German XETRA stock exchange

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

DEGIRO handles the Belgian transaction tax for you.

Dividend tax: no

It does not handle the dividend taxes. You’ll have to declare these yourself in your yearly tax return.

Required to declare as a foreign bank account: yes

As DEGIRO is a foreign broker, you’ll have to declare your foreign account to the Belgian authorities.

Setting up an account

Oddly enough, degiro.be does not exist. To open an account, you must either go to degiro.nl (if you prefer a Dutch interface) or degiro.fr (if you prefer French). You then have an option to choose Belgium when opening an account:

Choose Belgium as a country on Degiro
Select your country on DEGIRO

You'll see that there are quite some steps involved in opening an account. You have to tell them who you are, verify your identity through your passport or identity card, answer questions on your knowledge about investing… A bit of patience is needed!

During the process, DEGIRO will ask you whether you wish to open a Basic or Custody account. If you're opening an account with the plan to seriously invest your savings, we highly recommend you open a Custody account. The reason is that DEGIRO is free to lend out your assets for Basic accounts. This introduces additional risk that we personally prefer to avoid when investing our life savings. Be careful, you won't be able to switch to another type once you've opened the account! So make sure you select the correct one.

Outgoing transfer cost

It will cost you €100 to transfer each position to another broker. So if your portfolio has 3 funds, it'll cost €300. Considering DEGIRO has some of the lowest fees, it’s not surprising that it’s one of the more expensive players when it comes to transferring your assets.

Mexem

Background 🇨🇾

Mexem has a branch in Belgium but their EU headquarters is based in Cyprus. They have been active in Israel and South Africa for over 30 years and are now focusing more on growing in Europe. They are powered by Interactive Brokers (like Lynx) and offer competitive pricing for Belgian investors.

Broker fee

To buy our €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €2.30.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Mexem handles the Belgian stock transaction tax for you with the VWCE rate set to 0.12%.

Dividend tax: yes

If you are to receive dividends, Mexem provides support for this too and withholds it for you.

Setting up an account

It’s a little more difficult to set up an account with Mexem than other brokers. The minimum deposit is low though at €100.

Outgoing transfer cost

We did not find any information related to the outgoing transfer costs for your securities from Mexem to another account.

ING Self Invest

Background 🇳🇱🇧🇪

To keep up with the growing competition, ING launched their own brokerage service called ING Self Invest. It’s fully online.

Broker fee

Unfortunately, VWCE is not available on ING Self Invest.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

You’ll pay a fixed 0.12%.

Dividend tax: yes

ING Self Invest handles the dividend tax for you so you don't have to worry.

Setting up an account

You need to have an existing bank account with ING in order to open an ING Self Invest account. This can be difficult if you do not have an existing relationship with ING.

If you’re already a customer then simply head to the ING Banking app and go to “Products”. You’ll have the option for “Investments”. You can then choose to open a Self Invest account from there.

Outgoing transfer cost

To transfer your assets away from ING Self Invest, the price is €60.50 per security.

Lynx

Background 🇳🇱

Founded in 2006, Lynx is one of the oldest and more established online brokers. In the backend, they're powered by Interactive Brokers, which is one of the largest brokers worldwide. They offer direct access to the main stock exchanges.

It positions itself as a “pro” trading platform for serious investors, which is why Lynx asks that new clients transfer at least €10,000 within the first year.

Broker fee

To buy our €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €6.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Lynx handles the TOB for their customers. However, for VWCE, the applied transaction tax is 0.35% instead of the more common 0.12%. We're unsure why they apply a higher transaction tax than the other brokers.

Dividend tax: yes

Lynx handles the dividend tax for you so you don't have to worry.

Setting up an account

Setting up an account through the app is possible, although it’s not very user friendly. You need to run through a series of questions concerning security, profile, education, experience, product knowledge, etc…  which are easier to answer from a computer rather than on your mobile phone due to the complexity. Once done, you receive an email (in Dutch only) asking you to take a picture of your ID for verification. Lynx indicates it can take up to 10 days to open an account. Once the account is verified, you can start using the platform.

Outgoing transfer cost

Outgoing securities transfers are free.

Saxo Bank (formerly BinckBank)

Background 🇳🇱

BinckBank is a Dutch brokerage firm and the result of the merger between Binck Brokers and Amsterdam Option Traders back in 2000. In 2005, BinckBank Belgium was established in Antwerp. In 2018, it was bought by Saxo Bank and is currently in the process of being incorporated 100% under Saxo, meaning the name BinckBank has now stopped being used.

Broker fee

To buy €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €9.75.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Dividend tax: yes

Saxo Bank, as a registered entity in Belgium, is allowed to tax at source. This means they will handle the payment of the Belgian transaction tax (TOB) and all other taxes on behalf of their clients.

Setting up an account

When on the website, you can choose between opening a single, joint or even a company account. The process to open an account needs patience. Once the account is verified and opened, access is secure with an extra layer on top of the traditional username and password. To connect to the platform you need to ask for a code, which is sent by text message. If you’re a new customer,  Saxo Bank will reimburse you for the costs for incoming securities.

Outgoing transfer cost

The fees to move your positions are €25 per transaction.

Bolero

Background 🇧🇪

Bolero is the online broker of the KBC Group, aimed at the private investor. It was created in 1999 and is one of the most popular Belgian brokers available.

Broker fee

To buy our €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €15.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Bolero will pay and declare the transaction tax for you.

However, it's important to note that Bolero has been charging a 1.32% tax since July 1st 2021. This is much higher than the 0.12% rate that the other brokers are charging.

Dividend tax: yes

Setting up an account

Bolero uses itsme for the opening account process. Once you receive the email that your account is open, you need to register your mobile device and agree to the general conditions on the app. You enter your user number received on the email and you need to choose a password. You can then connect via itsme, or Bolero/KBC digipass. As an execution-only platform, once connected, you need to sign the contracts with your password for North American stocks (it’s mandatory). They then walk you through a knowledge and experience test for trading complex investments.

If you wish to switch your assets over to Bolero, they will reimburse the costs, up to a maximum of €400 in the form of free brokerage fees valid for three months. Bolero reimburses €20 in free brokerage fees for each position transferred with a minimum equivalent of €500 (for a maximum of 20 positions).

Outgoing transfer cost

It’s expensive to transfer your securities to another broker. It costs €50 per position to a non-KBC account.

MeDirect

Background 🇧🇪

MeDirect was created in 2013 and began to offer savings accounts. Over the years it added features to manage your money such as readily available model portfolios and discretionary mandates.

Broker fee

To buy our €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €15.

Handles taxes for you?

MeDirect, as a registered entity in Belgium, is allowed to tax at source. This means it will handle the payment of the Belgian transaction tax (TOB) and all other taxes on behalf of its clients.

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Dividend tax: yes

Setting up an account

Although you’re able to open an account through the MeDirect app, the process includes many steps that need to be done via the website. The app automatically redirects you there, meaning it’s easier if you go through all the steps directly from the website.  You have the choice of selecting Belgium or Malta when setting up your account for the first time, and you can do so using itsme. Unfortunately,  the process includes many steps that require some patience (ID verification, investment account opening, etc…).

Once your account is set up, you’ll always need your mobile phone and your computer to connect. This is because you can’t trade directly through the app and to connect you must go through a two-step verification, which includes your user number (don’t forget it, it was sent via SMS) and a password found in the “Mecode” section on the app. It’s really quite confusing.  

Outgoing transfer cost

Transfer of assets from MeDirect to other external institutions stocks & bonds is €35 per share for stocks and bonds. And for funds it comes to €150 per share (which is enormous!).

Keytrade

Background 🇧🇪🇫🇷

Born in 1998 as Belgium's first online investment site, KeyTrade, as a first mover, was immediately successful and saw dazzling growth. In 2002, the company became Keytrade Bank and acquired its banking status by taking over RealBank. In 2005, Keytrade Bank was acquired by Groupe Crelan (formerly Crédit Agricole) and became a 100% subsidiary. Since June 2016, Keytrade Bank has been part of the Crédit Mutuel Arkéa Group.

Broker fee

To buy €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €24.95.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

Dividend tax: yes

Keytrade Bank, as a registered entity in Belgium, is allowed to tax at source. This means it will handle the payment of the Belgian transaction tax (TOB) and all other taxes on behalf of its clients.

Setting up an account

You can’t set up an account through the app. You need to go through the website instead. Make sure you have your ID card and an eID card reader. Should you not have an eID card reader, Keytrade states that it can take up to several weeks to open an account. The eID card reader setup can be painful and time consuming, especially if you need to add a connective plugin to make your card reader work (yes, it happened to us and we got blocked in the process because we couldn’t get the card reader to work on any of our internet browsers!).

One positive with Keytrade is that it will reimburse incoming securities transfer costs up to €2,500 in cash.

Outgoing transfer cost

The fees to move your positions are €42.35 per transaction.

BUX Zero

Background 🇳🇱

BUX is a fast growing “neo” broker and has been around since 2014. BUX Zero, their trading app, is making commission-free investing easy and lets users invest in the companies they believe in. Learn more about the differences between BUX Zero and using an app like Curvo.

Broker fee

To buy our €500 of VWCE, the transaction cost is €0.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): no

If you decide to go with BUX Zero, you have to declare and pay all taxes yourself. They explain how to declare the TOB on their website.

Dividend tax: no

It does not handle the dividend taxes. You’ll have to declare these yourself in your yearly tax return. Bux explains this further on their website.

Required to declare as a foreign bank account: yes

As BUX is a foreign broker, you’ll have to declare your foreign account to the Belgian authorities. We've put together a guide that can be found on our help desk.

Setting up an account

It's easy to open an account through the BUX Zero app. Once you register your email and answer a couple of questions, you will be asked to take a picture of your ID for account verification purposes. You then receive a notification saying that your account is being verified. In the meantime, you have access to market data live and you can play around the limited features of the app until you are verified.

Usually within a day, you’ll receive a notification that your ID has been verified. BUX will ask you a set of easy questions (also known as the “know your customer” questions). You’ll then have to take a selfie to verify your ID card, and receive a code via SMS and you are able to sign the contracts. Finally, you'll be able to top up your account or start a recurring deposit plan.

Outgoing transfer cost

At the time we wrote this article, BUX Zero didn’t offer any incoming or outgoing securities transfers.  

Re=Bel

Background 🇧🇪

Similar to ING Self Invest, Belfius launched an easy way to buy your favourite stocks directly through their banking app with a service called Re=Bel. They claim to have welcomed 60,000 customers since launching a year ago.

Broker fee

Unfortunately VWCE as any Vanguard ETFs are not available on Re=Bel by Belfius.

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): yes

As it’s a Belgian bank, the transaction tax is taken care of.

Dividend tax: yes

It handles this tax too.

Setting up an account

You have to be an existing Belfius customer in order to use the Re=Bel app. The app is 100% integrated directly into your existing Belfius and Belfius Direct app. 

Outgoing transfer cost

They offer free transfers for your incoming Belfius securities. Otherwise there’s no information about the costs of transferring them to another broker.

Trade Republic

Background 🇩🇪

Launched in 2015, the German neo-broker Trade Republic continues to grow in popularity and launched in Belgium in October 022.

Broker fee

In order to buy VWCE, you'll have to pay a €1 fee.

Searching for an ETF on the Trade Republic app
Searching for an ETF on Trade Republic's app

Handles taxes for you?

Transaction tax (TOB): no

You’ll pay a fixed 0.12% but the issue is that you'll have to declare and pay it yourself.

Dividend tax: no

You have to do everything yourself.

Required to declare as a foreign bank account: yes

As it's a foreign account and registered in Germany, you will have to declare the account with the Belgian National Bank.

Setting up an account

It's very easy to set up an account with Trade Republic. It has one of the smoothest apps on the market.

Do note also that Trade Republic has a “frowned upon” business model. They make money from selling your market orders. As written in their terms: “In connection with the execution of transactions in financial instruments, Trade Republic may receive payments from the operators of the execution venues or counterparties of the execution transactions” (see section 4.2. of their customer agreement). This system is called "payment for order flow", and the largest downside of the business model is that you may get a worse price for your trade than with other brokers. So although the commission is lower, you may end up paying more through a higher price when buying, or selling at a lower price.

Tool to compare brokers for other ETFs

This article compares brokers for the VWCE ETF. But we also built a free tool to compare broker fees for other ETFs, such as IWDA, EMIM, or VUSA. It will help you determine the cheapest broker in Belgium to buy your ETF.

Access the tool

Easier investing than through a broker

A broker is the perfect service for the investor who knows what their ideal portfolio should look like. If you are confident about your investment strategy, all you need is a bit of time every month to log into your broker and make your purchases. But not everyone is in that situation.

We understand that most people don't want to spend hours learning about the consequences of taxes on their investments, or how to rebalance their portfolio, or figuring out what their ideal allocation between stocks and bonds should be. Yet those details are important to guarantee long-term success on your investment journey. Managing your own portfolio of ETFs through a broker can be challenging:

  • You need to do your own learning. Figuring out how to start and understanding the intricacies of investing with ETFs requires some research.
  • The allocation of your portfolio is in your hands. Everyone has a portfolio that is right for them, depending on their financial goals, their financial situation, their tolerance to risk, their capacity for taking risks… And when you manage your own investments through a broker, you are responsible for finding that right portfolio for you and sticking with it.
  • Learn how to rebalance. Do you wish to do so quarterly, yearly, never? How to decide?
  • Choose a broker. As we've seen here, there are tons of options for Belgian investors to choose from. How do you pick the one that you feel safe with?
  • Figure out taxes. Taxes are complicated. Also, they change all the time!
  • Discipline. It requires discipline to stay the course.

If you are one of these people, we built Curvo for you. We think passive investing is such a powerful tool to improve our financial future. But when we started investing, we realised the difficulties of investing well through a broker. We built Curvo to solve these complexities and become the easiest way for any Belgian to invest passively. Learn how it works.

How Curvo works
Curvo is the easiest way to invest in Belgium

Conclusion

As you can tell, there are a lot of different options on the Belgian market to help you passively invest in ETFs. If you go through a broker as described above, it requires you to put in the most effort and take extra precautions in the decision-making. Double-check the taxes and the fees before choosing a broker and buying your assets. We hope our comparison will help you make a decision.

But if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to explore Curvo’s app. After all, our goal is to take care of all the complexities of good investing for you!