Banking in the Netherlands
An important factor in relocating to the Netherlands is how the local Dutch financial, banking system works. For many internationals the lack of credit card acceptance surprises for instance. Or, the fact that so much banking is in fact done online or via automatic debit. The answers to these, and many other bank, payment related issues can be found in the questions below.
How can I open a bank account?
To manage your day-to-day finances, you will need a current or payment account called a betaalrekening in Dutch.
Before you can open a bank account, you need to be a legal resident of the Netherlands. You should therefore register yourself with the municipality where you reside to make your stay legal (please refer to the ACCESS faq ‘First three months in the Netherlands‘ for more information). As soon as you have completed your registration and have been given your burgerservicenummer – BSN (citizen service number), you can go to any bank of your choice to open a bank account.
The major retail banks in the Netherlands that have their website available in English are ABN AMRO and ING Bank (limited information in English). Others in Dutch are Rabobank and SNS.
What are the requirements to open up a bank account?
Banks are always reviewing their requirements for opening an account. Therefore, you are advised to check with the local branch of your chosen bank for their specific requirements. See below the usual requirements:
- proof of identity (passport or identity card)
- official proof of address, such as a tenancy agreement
- your burgerservicenummer – BSN (citizen service number). With ABN AMRO Bank it is also possible to open the account at the International Clients Desk before the BSN has been issued
- for-non EU residents you will need to show your residence permit or registration with the Foreign Police service (vreemdelingenpolitie)
- proof of your income, unless you are only opening a spaarrekening (savings account). Your contract of employment or three consecutive pay slips will be accepted by most banks as proof
A valid phone number (preferably a Dutch number) for communication purposes if you are staying for more than four months. As a new client, the bank may wish to check your credit history. Hence, the bank may instigate a credit check and register you with the Bureau Krediet Registratie – BKR (Central Credit Registration Agency).
What are the accounts and services offered by banks?
The types of accounts offered are:
- Betaalrekening (current account)
- Spaarrekening (savings account)
- Vreemde valuta rekening (foreign currency account)
Other services that banks may offer include:
- debit and credit cards
- internet banking (internetbankieren)
- mobile banking (mobiel bankieren)
- telephone banking (telefonisch bankieren)
- investments (beleggingen)
- private banking (requirements can differ per bank)
- insurance (verzekering)
- loans (leningen)
- mortgages (hypotheken)
- fixed-term deposits (spaardeposito’s)
- life insurance (levensverzekering)
How does a current account operate?
The betaalrekening (current account) is typically used for day-to-day banking activities, such as depositing or withdrawing money. Your salary is normally paid by your employer via electronic transfer into your current account. You can also use this account for paying for goods and services by direct debit or bank transfer. You normally do not earn any interest on a current account; however, most banks will charge a fee for the its administration.
The current account operates from the day it is opened. After opening a current account, the bank will normally provide you with a debit card (PIN card) and an electronic identifier for use with secure internetbankieren (internet banking).
Depending on the bank will send it to you by post or notify you when your debit card is ready for collection. For the latter you will have to go to the banking personnel, carrying your passport or other acceptable identification document. Your PIN (Personal Identification Number) code will be sent to you separately by post. This is a personal four-digit number that you will require to access your bank account using the electronic identifier for internet banking, to check your balance and withdraw cash from a pinautomaat (bank cash machine or ATM) or to pay with your card for goods and services in shops and restaurants. The bank will expect you to memorise your PIN number, which must not be divulged to any other person. If you find it hard to remember your PIN number, you can change it at your bank’s cash machine. The card can be coupled with a credit card and an overdraft facility.
How do I use my bank PIN card?
When you open an account with the bank, they will give you options regarding types of bank cards. The basic debit card (bankpas, betaalpas or pinpas) is used for withdrawing cash and for paying for goods and services in shops and restaurants. At the kassa (check-out points) in most shops in the Netherlands you will see a small numeric keypad. To pay with your debit card, insert the card and enter your PIN (Personal Identification Number). The amount that you have spent will be debited from your account immediately.
You can also use the debit card at a bank cash machine. The withdrawal limit may be lower if the cash machine is not from your own bank and you may incur a service charge. Your bank card and PIN code are also needed to operate your internetbankieren (internet banking) login device.
What if I want to use my PIN card abroad?
Most banks allow you to use your debit (PIN) card whilst travelling in Europe. However, they will by default put a block on you using your card anywhere outside of Europe. This action is intended to prevent fraudulent activity. If you wish to use your debit (PIN) card to access cash or make payments whilst travelling to a country outside of Europe, you can ask your bank to temporarily remove the restriction on use.
Alternatively, you can use your credit card to pay for goods or services whilst abroad. Normally there is no restriction on where you can use your credit card (as long as the seller accepts credit cards as a method of payment). Please note that you may be charged a fee for withdrawing money from a cash machine abroad using your credit card.
What if I have lost my bank card or had it stolen?
If you believe that you have lost your bank card or had it stolen, then you should visit your local branch of your bank or ring the bank at the earliest opportunity. To find the telephone number to report a lost or stolen card, type on the search function of your bank’s website ‘verloren’ or ‘gestolen’. These contact numbers are usually available 24/7.
What is a contactless payment?
Contactless is a payment feature that has been introduced by banks in the Netherlands (as in other countries) on their payment cards. The aim is to make small value purchases quicker and more convenient for both retailers and consumers. The idea is that by using the contactless facility on the debit card, the customer’s payment transaction will be quicker, as no cash needs to change hands and entering a PIN (Personal Identification Number) is not required.
When making payments of €25 or less, you can simply hold the card against the reader to pay – rather than inserting a card into the chip and PIN machine and entering a PIN. In just a few seconds, the payment will be completed and the lights on the reader will illuminate, confirming that the transaction has been approved. For higher amounts you can also use the contactless payment feature, but you will have to enter your pin code.
To use this feature, you should look out for retailers who display this payment reader sign.
Are contactless payments secure?
Contactless cards are secured by the same advanced technology that underpins chip and PIN. Although a contactless transaction does not require a PIN to be entered, from time to time the terminal may ask that the cardholder undertake a full contact chip and PIN transaction. This is designed to deter fraudulent use should the card be lost or stolen; each time a PIN is used it re-affirms that the cardholder is in possession of their card.
Are credit cards given by banks to all customers?
A credit card is a separate bank card used to effectively pay for goods and services or to access cash using credit from the bank. A bank credit card usually provides customers with the benefits of protection against fraud and can be used worldwide, including for internet purchases. The credit card will have a monthly spending limit and all costs incurred must be repaid within a given time period, if interest charges are to be avoided. There is normally an annual fee charged by the bank for owning a credit card. In the Netherlands, most commercial banks have an arrangement with either MasterCard or VISA. The bank may choose to give you a credit card straight away, or after a certain period of time whilst they establish your spending patterns and that you have a regular source of income.
How easy is it to pay using my credit card in the Netherlands?
Unlike in some other countries such as the US or UK, the facility to pay by credit card in shops, supermarkets and restaurants is less widely available in the Netherlands. This is because the retailer or restaurant is charged by the credit card company for a percentage of each transaction made. Hence, the Dutch tend to use their credit cards only for internet purchases, high value purchases and whilst travelling abroad to pay for items or to withdraw cash from cash machines.
What is internetbankieren (internet banking) and how to use it?
Due to the closure of the smaller neighbourhood branches of banks throughout the Netherlands and in a drive to reduce bank overheads, there has been a huge growth in the use of internetbankieren (internet banking). More than 70% of bank customers use internet banking and all Dutch banks offer this facility. Internet banking provides the benefit of being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (although some banks may operate with time restrictions). Not only is internet banking easy for paying your regular monthly bills, but it offers you the possibility to monitor and manage your own bank accounts. Transfers into and out of your personal or savings accounts, international transfers, and managing your investments are just a few of the many things you can do online. In some cases, an incentive to trade online, more attractive rates of interest and/or reduced charges may be secured when transacting online or opening specific online accounts.
In order to access your bank account details online, you will need to log in to your bank’s website using your electronic identifier provided by the bank and your debit (PIN) card. Follow the instructions which appear on the computer screen to log in.
How can I access my bank details using mobile devices?
Most banks now provide an app which can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet. The banking app allows you to access your bank services via the Internet, such as to check your account balance and view your transaction history, as well as conveniently make payments and look up your receipts and payments. You can also find out the status of your investments, inform yourself of the latest financial news and stock market.
What is the currency in the Netherlands?
Since January 2002, the monetary currency of the Netherlands has been the ‘euro’. Countries which have joined the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and have chosen to participate in the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) use the euro (€) as their common currency and sole legal tender. The Eurozone countries share the same euro bank notes and coins.
There are seven bank note denominations (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros) and eight coins denominations (1 and 2 euros and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro-cents).
In the Netherlands, very few establishments will accept the 500 euro note and most small shops including supermarkets will not accept 100 and 200 euro notes either.
Whilst the 1 and 2 euro-cent coins were originally introduced in order to ensure that the introduction of the euro was not used as an excuse by retailers to round up prices, these coins are no longer in circulation in the Netherlands. This is due to the cost of producing the low value coins. Here in the Netherlands, if you are paying by cash the price will be rounded off to the nearest five cents. However, these coins are still legal tender (as they are still used in other Eurozone countries), and thus you are entitled to use them.
Can you explain the numbering conventions used in the Netherlands?
The Dutch method of punctuating numbers and decimals is exactly opposite to the English system. Therefore, as an example, 25 euros and 50 euro-cents would be written as €25,50 and five thousand two hundred euros would be shown as €5.200. Round figures are written with a comma and a dash after the number: e.g.15 euros is €15,-.
How to exchange foreign money in the Netherlands?
The wisselkoers (exchange rate) is fixed every day and will be posted wherever you exchange money. The rate does not vary from one company to the next, although the charge for exchanging money may differ. The most common place to exchange money is at GWK Travelex offices which can be found in all the major cities throughout the Netherlands (as well as Schiphol Airport). It is not possible to exchange foreign money at banks any more, as most branches do not handle cash other than to replenish their cash machines.
What is an acceptgiro?
Acceptgiro’s (bank giros) are a widely-accepted method of payment in the Netherlands and has been used by businesses and domestic users for decades. Because the giro is still a popular means of payment, it has been updated to enable the IBAN code to be used. The IBAN code, which stands for ‘International Bank Account Number’, has been introduced to standardise the identification of bank accounts internationally. In the Netherlands, the IBAN reference number consists of your current bank account number preceded by the country code NL, a 2-digit control number and the (abbreviated) name of your bank. For example: NL89-BANK-0123-4567-89.
Giro bills are generally paid by bank transfer, also known as the giro system. This is commonly used to pay regular bills (e.g. for water and power). You receive an invoice and an acceptgiro form from the company concerned, sometimes with the payment details already filled in. You add your signature and fill in the number of your bank or ‘giro’ account and mail the form back to your bank. You can also drop your giro directly in the dedicated letterbox at the bank. Many banks are now encouraging their customers to pay the bank giro via electronic transfer through their internet banking facility.
Can I directly invest money in the stock exchange?
If you wish to make an investment, you will have to open a separate investment account. Your bank will normally offer you three different approaches. If you are experienced in making investments, you can simply instruct the bank to buy stocks and shares for you. Alternatively, you can ask the bank for advice before making any investment or you can let the bank make decisions regarding what investments to make on your behalf. This third option is called vermogensbeheer (managed portfolio fund). You will usually be given a choice of various types of managed fund, depending upon how much risk you are willing to take on your initial investment. Needless to say, the higher risk funds may yield larger returns, but normally require a commitment for some considerable time (more than 10 years). Depending on the bank, you can directly purchase shares on the Nederlandse effectenbeurzen (Dutch stock exchange) as well as from some overseas markets. Managed funds will typically be managed by the bank’s own fund managers (and include investments in liquid assets, bonds, real estate and shares). The bank will charge a fee for administering your investment portfolio.
What types of loans (leningen) are available?
A wide range of loan facilities is offered by the Dutch banks. Personal loans (usually for a fixed term and a fixed interest rate during the term of the loan), overdraft facilities and credit loans (the ability to withdraw as much as you need and repay in full whenever you can afford to do so) are typical. They offer varying degrees of flexibility, but it is better to discuss your requirements in detail with your bank before deciding which type of loan will suit you best. Insurance to protect your repayments is available should you become unable to pay due to disability, unemployment, etc. Generally, anyone between the ages of 18 and 69 years who is a resident in the Netherlands and in possession of a residence permit (where applicable) and has proof of a regular income is eligible for a loan. All loan applications are also checked and registered with the Bureau Krediet Registratie – BKR (Central Credit Registration Agency). The loans must be fully repaid before leaving the Netherlands.