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Banking in the Netherlands


Banking in the Netherlands is a topic that you have to address when living here. Some people like it, some people hate it, but do not panic, below I cover some of the basics. How to open a bank account, packages and cheapest options. Credit cards vs Maestro. PayPal vs iDeal . Those are some of the peculiarities that you should be aware of and I will explain.

Opening a bank account

To open a bank account you need to have a BSN (citizen number) and an official address in Netherlands. Some banks require a Dutch phone number, some banks you need to have an appointment to open your bank account. In some cases you can do some ‘magic’ to overcome limitations. I will talk about that later.

There are special ways of opening a bank account without a BSN. However, that requires to have a Dutch link, for instance by family members. If you are residing in Netherlands you need a BSN, therefore, you should not worry about that.

My personal experience

When I went to my local ABN-AMRO branch they told me that I had to wait two weeks to have a suitable appointment. On the other hand, when I visited ING, they opened a bank account for me immediately. However, they asked me to have a Dutch cellphone number, as they would not register a bank account with my foreign SIMcard, to prevent money laundering and fraud. That explanation is a bit absurd, provided that government’s DigiD allows registration with foreign phone numbers, but anyways. Once I got my phone number, the process was quite straightforward. I walked out of the bank with my account open, a debit card and money in my account. Basically, you get a temporary maestro debit card that you can use immediately, and you can use their in-office ATM to withdraw from your foreign bank account and then insert it as cash in your new account. One or two weeks later you will get your new debit card at home.

Tip! You can bypass easily the Dutch SIM requirement either getting a free Lyca’s SIMs or borrowing a phone.

Cards in Netherlands: Maestro, VPay or… nothing? The quirks of iDeal

While in almost any other country of Europe you can pay with Visa and Mastercard (specially debit), in Netherlands things are different. Often you are forced to use Maestro or VPay. Other debit cards are not supported and forget about credit cards. In 2020 it started changing slightly, and places like the train tickets you can pay with a normal Visa.

However, if you go to less mainstream places, like food cafés, bars, etc. be sure that you have a Maestro or someone next to you with one. It is very unpleasant to find too late that you cannot pay the food in the canteen or you are forced to use an ATM to withdraw money and pay in the supermarket.

Also, if you want to pay something online you will most likely have to use iDeal . It operates like a bank transfer, but it only works with Dutch banks. Fortunately, this has been changing, and several pages also allow payments with credit card or even PayPal.

Getting a credit card in the Netherlands

The same as it is not common to use credit cards in the Netherlands, it is also not common to get them in the bank. Typically you need to request them “extra” in your bank. Which somehow makes me wonder what is first, if the chicken or the egg.

Remember! Borrowing money costs money. It is not advisable to buy with credit, it is better to pay everything at the end of the month!

I checked multiple options. The “easier” option is always your bank, but precisely because of that, they are the options with less benefits.

If you have a car or rent a car often a very interesting option is <strong>ANWB visa silver card</strong> . For 26.50€/year (plus 15.50€ of ANWB membership) you get a VISA with a limit of 3750€, purchases are insured for 270 days and it includes an extra insurance of 750€ towards the franchise of rental cars.

Standard Dutch banking packages

Unlike other countries, in Netherlands most banks work with packages. You pay a monthly fee and you get a package including account, debit card, online banking, credit card… Depending on package price you get different services.

The minimum package in different banks (ING, ABN, Rabobank…) costs you around 1.90€ each month. It provides a bank account, a maestro card, online banking, iDeal payment and an app. To use the debit card you will likely not have to pay any fee, except if you use it in a different currency or in a foreign ATM. In that case you will have to pay some fees (1.2%-2%) plus 2€-4€ for ATM. That is still cheaper than standard Dutch currency conversion in physical window which has a spread over 10% (armed robbery compared with 0.5% of other countries).

If you prefer to use ‘ethical banks’, Netherlands provides good options, like Triodos or ASN . While they may be more pleasing due to their ethical nature, their conditions for clients are similar to other banks.

Nowadays with the fintech kicking strong, you can also check online banks like Knab or bunq , however, they may be more expensive than traditional banks.

Best FREE alternatives (Dec 2020):

Watch out! A new player, Openbank entered in the online banking business. A subsidiary from Banco Santander that offers you free bank account and free debit card.

Moneyou logo

WATCH OUT: As of end of 2020, MoneYou stops operations in anything except mortgages MoneYou is closing his online business except for loans. Let’s not forget that MoneYou is the online division of ABN AMRO, and probably they figured out that it was not so profitable as expected. After my last issues with their app and the feeling of their ‘sparen’ website I understand their decision, although I am sad to see them leaving the business. They had good intentions.

Revolut logo

One option that is kicking strong is Revolut. You can get a free card, free account and several interesting options absolutely for free. Their App is very good, they have an excellent support and the security options on the prepayed card are great: You can block the card depending on location, and depending on use (ATM, contactless, stripe and online). You can also freeze the card if you want to disable it for some time. On the other hand, the amount of ATM operations (and cash amounts) are somewhat limited in the free package, but you will have zero currency exchange fees.

They got their banking license by the end of 2018, but it is still not 100% in place, so for now still you will have a British IBAN. The downside is that some users complain of having their accounts blocked (+94 thousand entries in google). So far, I did not have any problem except a couple of card payment rejections. For me two key advantages for daily use are that you can ‘top up’ your account with a credit/debit card and you can do automatic transfers. And for travelling, you get no currency exchange fees. And do not worry, when you are in Netherlands it is also possible to request a Maestro card. Basically, it has a long list of benefits… and all of them for free. Update August 2019: Their VISA card was a bliss in India, and the possibility of freezing/unfreezing the card immediately through the app is great to use it in questionable places. They are always innovating and adding products, and honestly, it is one of my preferred options.

Bonus: every now and then they do some promotion. If you register from this link you should get a free debit card.

N26 logo

Another option that is becoming quite popular lately is N26, currently one of the best online banks. With them you will get a German IBAN and a debit VISA. Their app works perfectly, and although it is a bit more basic than Revolut’s app it is still million times better than the app from Moneyou. And if your address is in Netherlands, you can also ask for a free Maestro card. Their free package gives you 5 ATM operations each month within Europe. Unlike Revolut, if you do currency exchange or you do more than 5 operations, you have to pay a fee of 1.7%. Also the Maestro card has a cash surcharge of 2€ per operation. Like in Revolut, if you opt for their premium account, the conditions are better, but they don’t come for free.

Beware that even if they point that being resident in a European country is enough to open an account that is not 100% true. You will need to verify your account first, and that procedure depends both of your country of residence and nationality. Check the details here as it may be that you cannot open an account. For instance, if you are Iranian, you can only open an account if you are residing in Germany.

N26 has a deal with TransferWise, which makes sending money (currency) cheaper than traditional banking options. Usually, if you want to use TransferWise with lowest fees you should do a transfer to them first, send the reference number, etc. a bit of a hassle. The advantage of doing this with N26 is that you do it directly from N26 app and automatically get the lowest TransferWise fee. How to do it? You have the TransferWise help here , and you can open your N26 account from here .

Dutch banks options package detail at Jan-2021

ING logo

ING only provides the basic package, from March 2021 at 1.95€/month and includes a debit card. If you need a secondary debit card (joint account) you have to add 1.10€, if you want a credit card, extra 18.60€ per year (limit up to 5000€). If you want to withdraw money outside of EU, you will have to pay 2.80€+1.2% for exchange fee.

If you think that the 1.95€/month is too much in exchange for pretty much nothing, they also offer a “low cost” option, in which you can reduce the account cost to 1.55€/month, but then every ATM withdrawal costs 0.80€. (Cost information is only updated for the monthly fee)

WATCH OUT! In March 2021 also change the amounts that can be withdrawn/deposited, for instance, debit card limit in store or ATM is reduced notably

Interest in savings disappeared, so they provide a 0% interest. If you want to have more interest you have to go to their investment package. You can chose the ‘managed investment’ or ‘investing myself’. Personally, as I point in the [investing in the Netherlands page](https://www.expatinnl.com/investing-in-the-netherlands/), I don’t like managed investments, specially when they are ‘easy-fied’ in a way that you don’t know on what nor how your money is invested.

ABN-AMRO logo

ABN also removed all the different packages and only has the basic package. Like ING, it costs 1.55€/month, although they do not disclose an expected raise. Their savings account interest rate is also at 0.01%, and they were planning to drop it to 0.00% (not that it makes much difference actually).

If you want to invest with them, they have different packages. Of course you have available investing in the Netherlands , etc.

Rabobank logo

Rabobank still preserves their 3 packages :

So far they do not say anything about any raise of fees in March.

  • Direct package: 1.70€. Bank account and debit card. Extra debit card +1.40€, Credit card +2€
  • Basic package: 3.10€. Adds a credit card with 1000€ credit limit. Extra debit/credit card +0.75€
  • Total package: 5.00€. Adds an extra debit card and increases credit limit to 2500€.

In their case, withdrawing money in ATMs is free (in euro, from debit) although currency exchange fee is 1.2% for debit, 2% for credit.

SNS logo

SNS has two options:

  • SNS Basis at 2.25€/month, includes account and debit card.
  • SNS Compleet 3.10€/month, includes an extra debit card.

If you want a debit card you have to throw in another 15.75€ a year. Beware of the cost of withdrawing money outside of EU, with a 4€ cost.

While they are changing the conditions in February, the fees will not change.

ASN logo

ASN (the ethical division from SNS) also has a single option of 1.90€/month . It includes account and debit card. From February, having a second person will be 1.50€ instead of full 1.90€.

knab logo

While Knab is the online version of AEGON bank, their fees are not lower than previous physical counterparts. With a fee of 5€ a month it includes debit card, credit card, and “high interest savings”, with a 0.03%. (0.25% for 6 year deposit…)

Now they are running some extra promo where fees are 50% during the first year. Also there is a switch service with the possibility of receiving 50€ , but the condition is to be in the bank for at least 13 months.

They also give you the option of doing managed investments from 100€, with a fee of 1€+0.69%. They provide you a choice of 4 portfolios. However, as I pointed in the section investing in the Netherlands , I am not a big fan of general managed investments. I prefer to chose myself the regions, sectors, and managers. In the case of Knab , I have not even been able to find information about the performance nor composition of the 4 different portfolios. Reverse-engineering their information I found that they invest in passive funds. With Knab also you can chose to invest/request crowdfunding. Of course, Collin crowdfund, an external partner, is the company that does the crowdfunding. Knab offers you a discount in management costs.

bunq logo

bunq is another digital-only bank, with license to operate in the Netherlands. They shuffled completely their accounts, and they jumped on the wagon of offering a “free tier” product, the “easyTravel”, at only 10€ single payment, and advanced products for a monthly fee, similar to N26 and Revolut. They have a very nice comparator that you can use to compare their products with other banks.

In total, there are three packages:

  • easyTravel: with a single 10€ payment, you get a credit card that can be ‘topped up’ from another card, but it has its fees
  • easyMoney: at 8€/month which gives you 3 cards. This one will behave as a real account, it it has some interesting features like online cards
  • easyGreen, at 17€ a month, it comes with multiple perks.

While it is one of the most expensive options, they also have a lot of advanced options, although the simplified design of the web makes it difficult to see.

Hey! Support the page!

  • If you are interested in opening a bunq account, do it from this link
  • If you are interested in revolut instead, do it from this other link
  • And if you prefer N26, use this link instead
  • If you want to have a ANWB visa silver card, use this link. Now with 25€ gift! Remember that borrowing money costs money!
  • If you are interested in opening a Degiro account, do it from this link
  • If you are interested in NAGA do it from this link

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