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.
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.
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 nomber, 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 Lebara’s SIMs or borrowing a phone.
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 is 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 bus, 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.
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 1.70€ 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 (1.1% ING, 1.2% ABN) plus 2.25€ 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.
I have mention MoneyYouGo as they give you a bank account and maestro card for free. They also give you 0.05% interest. It has a Dutch IBAN and iDeal payments, and possibility to create different “saving’s pots” so you can save money with different goals. However, it comes with some downsides. I tried it very happily in 2019, and I found their app quite too basic. However, what made me close the account was that I changed my phone, and trying to migrate the app between phones was hell. The upside: it is the digital version of ABN-AMRO, hence is also covered by NL law and Deposit Scheme Guarantee (more info here). I was also quite positive about MoneYou Sparen, their savings account. However, with their current interest rates at 0.05%, I think it does not worth the effort.
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 will get a free debit card.
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.
ING does not have any other option than the basic package anymore, cost is 1.55€/month and includes a debit card. From 1st March, the cost will be raised to 1.70€. If you need a secondary debit card (joint account) you have to add 1€, if you want a credit card, extra 1.45€. They also have a “low cost” option, in which you can reduce the account cost to 1.35€/month, but then every ATM withdrawal costs 0.80€.
All savings accounts have been slashed and currently there is only one kind of savings account, with a whooping interest of 0.01%… 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 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 still preserves their 3 packages:
SNS only has one option. It costs 2.75€/month, includes account, debit card and a secondary debit card if it is a joint account. Again, withdrawing money in foreign ATMs is 2.25€, and 0.15€ for non-euro payments. They give 0.04% interest currently, up to 5.000€ balance.
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, credit and “high interest savings”, with a 0.11%.
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 is another digital-only bank, with license to operate in the Netherlands. They offer 3 banking packages: personal, joint and business. Bunq has a lot of advanced options like different saving pots, different sub-accounts, budgeting… and everything controlled from a friendly app. For the personal account, you also get a mastercard credit and a maestro, and 10 free ATM withdrawals per month.
They offer a 0.27% interest on the account balance up to 10.000€ (max 27€/year). Currently the interest is one of the highest in Netherlands. As usual in these cases, to achieve the high interest, they do their own investments with your money. However, unlike other banks, they let you choose how they invest that money: You can choose Personal Lending, Personal Mortgages, Green Companies, All Companies and Other Bank Loans. Obviously, you always have enabled Government bonds and European Central Bank. The key is that whatever you chose does not change the 0.27% interest, freeing you from any moral dilemma.
The cost of the package is 8€ per month, or 10€ for a joint account. While it is one of the most expensive options, they also have a lot of advanced options.
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