Business "Free" accounts are getting more and more expensive

“Free” accounts are getting more and more expensive

Do you systematically read communications sent by your bank? If the answer is no and you are at Axa Bank, there is a change in the air in terms of pricing: from 1is September 2020, customers who have a free current account (start2bank), that is to say, without a monthly plan, will not be able keep only one debit card free. Indeed, use of a second debit card will now be billed 1.25 euro / month.

In other words, if until now a couple had this account in common (and without a credit card), they had at their disposal a free current account to perform a basic banking service and almost exclusively online. From now on, this account will cost him 15 euros on an annual basis.

In addition, if you really do not pay attention to communications, know that Axa has already made another change for its start2bank current account: since March 16, 2020, it is no longer possible to order – optional – a credit card Visa Classic type (which costs 2 euros / month).


The monthly cost of a second debit card

The use of a second debit card linked to Axa Banque’s start2bank current account will now be billed at € 1.25 / month from September 1, 2020.

Moreover, from January 21, 2021, start2bank customers who hold a credit card will now have to pay 3 euros / month to keep the use, or an annual supplement of 12 euros (or 24 euros in the case of a couple where each spouse has their own credit card).

That means than a couple with a joint account start2bank and two credit cards is currently paying 48 euros/an for this account. Soon this bill will increase by 39 euros on an annual basis (i.e. 15 euros more per year for the second debit card and 24 euros more for the two credit cards), i.e. a total amount of 87 euros / year (or 7.25 euros / month).

Justification d’Axa

In a communication addressed to its customers, this bank writes: “What are your possibilities?” And one of his answers is: “Easily convert, via the mobile app, your start2bank current account into a current account comfort2bank, the all-in account, for 4.5 euros / month. And take advantage of many advantages. ”

It is clear that the couple who do not wish to change banks (especially because they are linked by a mortgage loan) would have an interest in choosing this path which costs 2.75 euros less per month while it automatically includes two debit cards and two Visa Classic credit cards.


In addition, this current account includes additional services: over-the-counter service and transactions, as well as free cash withdrawals in euros from ATMs of other banks throughout the SEPA zone (namely the countries of the European Union as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Monaco).

In the case of a start2bank account, it takes 50 cents per withdrawal from the 1is January 2020 (which already made it less and less free).

But why is Axa making all these changes which tend to remove the 100% free label from its start2bank account? “After a period of continuity when our offer was little changed, we have made changes aimed at making our offer more consistent with a clearer distinction between payment packages», Answers Lisa Pieters, his spokesperson.

In general terms, the start2bank account, still qualified as “free” by the bank itself, is now a current account for customers with basic needs (whereas, when it was launched in 2015, it was positioned as the online alternative intended to introduce digital banking). And it is with this in mind that it is no longer possible to order an optional credit card: “The start2bank becomes our basic account and if our customers want to add options to their current account, then we will have to switch to comfort2bank, ”she added.

100% free?

If you should not stay tied to AXA, another solution is to change bank and opt for a real account 100% free. But honestly, it has become more and more complicated to find one that provides several basic services for free (for reasons of simplicity, this article is limited to the comparison of the free accounts intended for the over 30 years and for the customers who manage their banking operations mainly online, editor’s note).

Every year, when banks publish their updated prices, it often happens that a free service becomes chargeable.

In fact, each year, when banks publish their tariff updates, it often happens that a free service becomes chargeable., what sometimes goes wrong with the general public. This was notably the case with the ING Lion Account, the famous “seriously free” account (according to its extensive advertising campaign in April 2013).

“Withdrawals are free to all ATMs”, according to the message hammered by this bank at the time. However, since 1is January 2019, holders of the free ING current account must pay 50 cents if they withdraw money from an ATM other than those of the ING network in Belgium or from ATMs in the SEPA zone.

© Hollandse Hoogte / Peter Hilz

This is now also the case for the free accounts provided by Axa, Belfius, KBC (but not CBC) and bpost bank (from the second monthly withdrawal).

There are also notable differences when it comes to replacing a lost or stolen card. Depending on the banking institution and for free accounts, this rate is displayed at 6 euros (CBC / KBC), 8 euros (Beobank), 9 euros (bpost bank) or 10 euros (Belfius, ING and Hello Bank!) . It is expensive to pay whereas several banks do not ask for a single cent to carry out this replacement of card linked to a free account: this is the case of Axa, Argenta and Keytrade.


Replacement of a bank card

Depending on the banking institution, replacing a lost or stolen bank card can cost up to 10 euros. In some banks, this replacement is free.

Along the same lines, although holding a debit card is always free, this is not necessarily the case for the second debit card. On an annual basis, this is billed at 6 euros at KBC, 10 euros at ING, 12 euros at Crelan, 14 euros at CPH, 15 euros at bpost bank (and Axa) and 18 euros at Beobank. It is however free with Argenta, Belfius, CBC, Keytrade and Hello Bank.

Also beware of surprise costs! If you like the concept of direct debit to make your life easier, make sure that your account is always sufficiently funded. Otherwise, it may be punctured by an amount of at least 5 euros and which can go up to 8 euros depending on the rates provided by your banking institution. Again, some banks will not charge you any fees for a refused direct debit from a free current account. This is the case for Argenta, bpost bank, Hello Bank and Keytrade.

Some banks will not charge you any fees for a direct debit refused from a free current account, while others will charge you up to 8 euros.

With credit card?

Here too, history repeats itself. Some free accounts will also give you a free credit card, some won’t! Depending on the banking institutions, on an annual basis, it will be necessary to spend an amount from 5 euros to 27 euros. At Argenta, this card is free. At Keytrade too, but on condition of using it at least 12 times a year.

On an annual basis, holding a credit card linked to a free account can cost up to 27 euros.

In addition, like Axa, some banks do not allow you to order a credit card linked to the free current account altogether. This is the case of Belfius, CBC and KBC. “If a customer wants a higher level of comfort – such as the possibility of having a credit card – than that offered by a basic account, then he will be invited to go to a Plus account”, according to a justification provided by a spokesperson for the KBC group.


For those over 30 (and especially for those looking for a joint account and the possibility of having a free credit card), there are essentially two 100% free current accounts: the account Tour d’Argenta (which will launch three new paid accounts, next year, while maintaining this free account, Editor’s note) and the Keypack de Keytrade.

Most major banks (Belfius, CBC, KBC and ING) also have a “free” account, but this free of charge is essentially limited to the costs of holding the account and sometimes to holding a second debit card or withdrawing cash in the SEPA zone (see our non-exhaustive comparative table below), but certainly not with the possession of a credit card. However, their accounts have, like Keytrade, one or the other particularity to earn a little money (see in the table below also).

what about BNP Paribas Fortis (BNPPF)? This bank has – like all banks – an account that provides basic banking service. But this one is not free. Its monthly fee is 1 euro per month.

However, for those who opt for its Premium Pack (a 7 euros / month pack that includes up to three current accounts, two credit cards and a free card replacement), BNPPF offers the possibility of recovering 100% of the price. from this same pack. For this there is many conditions to fulfill. For example, making at least 12 payments with a credit card or logging in at least 12 times to the Easy Banking App.


Especially if you want to have a credit card (paying at Hello Bank) responds to a need to have a means of purchasing online, you can clearly do without it: many webshops allow payments via Payconiq by Bancontact or PayPal (with your current account as a direct source of funding).


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