Enhanced security for your bank card
Ensuring the security of all your payments and the bank cards and other tools you use to make them is our absolute priority. We have therefore decided – together with most other Belgian banks – to restrict use of Maestro debit cards as standard to Europe. In most cases it is not possible to use your bank card outside Europe to withdraw money from ATMs or to pay for purchases.
Why this rule?
The rule is intended to combat the fraudulent use of these cards outside Europe. The impact is, however, limited: the vast majority of Maestro transactions are after all carried out within Europe, where nothing will change.
Why countries outside Europe?
The payments and cash withdrawals you make using your card in Belgium are protected by a combination of your PIN code and a microchip, resulting in an extremely high level of security. Elsewhere in Europe, the same standard is either applied already or will be introduced in the near future. Broadly speaking, this is the case throughout geographical Europe, Turkey, Israel and most states belonging to the former Soviet Union. Here is a map of countries where you can continue to use the Maestro function as normal.
It's a very different story, however, outside Europe. Card security in many countries relies on reading the magnetic strip rather than the microchip. Fraudsters therefore concentrate on exploiting the magnetic strip. One common technique is known as ‘skimming', whereby a fake card-reader is inserted before the real one in an ATM and the PIN code is filmed by a small hidden camera. This type of fraud has increased by no less than 300% in the past two years.
Restricting use of Maestro will naturally rein in such practices. However, you can still use the card as before to pay for online purchases from internet merchants located outside Europe – in the United States, for instance.
Planning a trip outside Europe?
As you prepare to travel, you should take a look at our country files, in which we recommend the best means of payment for your particular destination, such as:
- a credit card;
- foreign currency;
- free, temporary activation of the Maestro function for use outside Europe.
You can request the temporary activation of the Maestro function online. To do so, you need to have a PC banking contract, and your bank card must be valid for at least another three months.
You can also talk to your usual contact at BNP Paribas Fortis or phone 02 261 11 11 (Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Submit your request in good time: at least three bank working days before you leave.
You can submit an online request to temporarily activate the Maestro function on your bank card for use outside Europe. To do this, you need to be a PC banking user and the bank card must be valid for at least another three months. Apply on line (NL) - Apply on line (FR).
What about payments and cash withdrawals using credit cards?
The restriction does not affect Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit cards. In other words, you can use these cards outside Europe too. You are obviously advised to do so very carefully and to observe the security instructions strictly.
Read our Frequently Asked Questions.