Expatica’s guide explains who can open a Dutch bank account and what you need to present when opening a bank account in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is home to some of the world’s banking giants, but most banks will accommodate expats with a new bank account. This guide provided by online bank bunq will walk you through the process and give you some valuable information about Dutch payment methods and money transfers.
With bunq, you can open your full bank accounts in just five minutes using nothing more than your mobile phone. You get real-time access to your account, instant payments and dedicated customer support available in English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish.
Before you open an account
Before you open a Dutch bank account, you should have no problem obtaining cash from an overseas account using an ATM or geldautomaat. They dispense money (in several languages) and accept a wide range of debit and credit cards.
The amount you can withdraw and any extra service charges will depend on what kind of account you have and where it is. There should be no charge if you are using a card from one of the 18 Eurozone countries (Britain is not one of them). If you want to exchange cash, services can be found at the Post Office (postkantoor) or a GWK exchange office. If you shop around, you may find good rates in banks and exchange bureaus but check if they have higher commissions.
All major credit cards are accepted but not everywhere. Hotels, restaurants, large department stores and tourist attractions present no problem, but you can’t use a credit card in some supermarkets. Cash is still widely used, but the most common method of payment is pinnen, using a debit card with a PIN code. In some cases, a magnetic swipe card might not work, for example, some train ticket booths only accept chip-and-pin cards or cash.
The Netherlands has had the euro since 2002 and paper denominations are €5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500, though you may encounter problems using anything bigger than a €50 note. The coins, with an image of Queen Beatrix on the back, come in denominations of €1, €2, and 5, 10, 20 and 50 eurocents. Coins for 1 and 2 eurocents have been discontinued but prices will be quoted exactly – for instance, as €7.21 – but will be rounded up to the nearest 5 eurocents for giving change. On bank statements, the exact figure will appear.
Opening a Dutch bank account
The main Dutch banks are:
With online bank Bunq you can open all your Dutch bank accounts in just five minutes using nothing more than your mobile phone. You get real-time access to your account, instant payments, and dedicated customer support available in English, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish.
SNS Reaal was also nationalised in early 2013. You will also find financial providers aimed specifically at expat clients, with extensive English-language services.
Documents generally required:
- Valid ID, plus residence permit if applicable;
- BSN burgerservicenummer, which you’ll get when you register with the BRP or direct from the tax office;
- Proof of address (bevolkingsregister extract, utility bill, rental contract etc.).
If you want to open anything other than a savings-only account you may also need evidence of income, such as an employment contract or payslip.
The credit rating of new clients may be checked with the Central Credit Registration Office (BKR). An account can be opened in your name and your partner’s (they will also need identity documents).
A private bank account is a privérekening. Various cards are on offer but the bankpas is standard. You can pick up the card personally with ID. A four-digit PIN code (pincode) will either be posted separately or given to you on pick up, but it can be changed at a bank. When you pay by pin, you swipe your card through the machine and punch in your four-digit number. It’s the most common method of payment used in shops, supermarkets, bars and restaurants.
Any debt higher than €250 will be added to the Dutch credit registration agency’s (BKR) list of debts. This includes any debts held longer than one month, including shop and credit cards and bank overdrafts. Banks also check the BKR register when determining if clients can realistically manage payments, such as a Dutch mortgage.
Quick payment methods
The pinpas is increasingly being accepted for small transactions. To speed up this payment process, new debit cards are equipped for contactless payments, which can be done at an increasing number of payment terminals both in the Netherlands and abroad. For purchases up to €25, keying in your PIN is not needed; for payments over that amount, you will always be required to enter it.
Moreover, a mobile banking initiative is being set up by a collaboration between the main Dutch banks, known as the Payconiq system. The system is being slowly being implemented and will allow payment by scanning a QR code with a mobile phone, which directly debits the amount from your bank account.
Commercial banks usually have an arrangement with Mastercard or VISA but you will generally need to be a customer for a while before getting one. A credit card will be more expensive than other bank cards and you will be encouraged to pay off the card swiftly and consistently.
Internet banking and payment apps
Online banking and payment apps are common in the Netherlands. You will usually be issued with a calculator-sized device into which you slot your bankpas and enter your PIN, then exchange numbers with the online or app login system to gain authorised access to your account. You can pay bills directly or set up direct debits (automatische overschrijving) for regular payments. There is usually information in English but you can also get step-by-step tuition from the bank.
For incidental payments between individuals, apps such as Tikkie are gaining in popularity. These apps enable individuals to send each other a payment request via WhatsApp for a specific amount.
A common method for paying bills, this is a yellow payment slip attached to the bottom of an invoice into which you enter your bank details and sign. You can pay online into the account on the slip or ‘post’ it at the bank, where there’s a box for them. These are only acceptable with IBANs (International Bank Account Numbers).
Transferring money abroad
International bank transfers may result in a fee from both the issuing and receiving bank. As this is a fixed rate, it is typically cheaper than a money union for large sums and more expensive than online payment systems for small amounts. In addition, some banks may not be willing to send funds to certain countries, such as Somalia.
For international money transfers, there are alternative solutions to banks which could prove cheaper and more convenient, such as:
See our Guide to international money transfers for more information.
The term ’offshore banking‘ originates from the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey etc.) but is generally used today to refer to any tax haven (such as the Netherlands Antilles). Essentially it is any account held in a bank located outside your country of residence, usually in a low tax jurisdiction, and offers certain financial benefits for those who wish to reduce their tax liability.
Accounts can be held in a variety of currencies and there’s a diverse range of savings and investment products. Previously renowned for a high degree of confidentiality, offshore banking is changing with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which requires foreign banks to share account information of US citizens with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
For expats based in the Netherlands, the tax situation can be complex. Dutch residents pay tax on their worldwide income and there are wealth, inheritance and gift taxes. Non-residents, however, generally pay tax on Dutch-sourced income, but if you are a US citizen or green card holder and have the 30% ruling, you can be considered as a non-resident or partial non-resident taxpayer. In such a case only offshore banking might offer extra advantages.
Pensions, investments and savings can all be arranged through a licenced independent financial adviser (IFA) or a bank. Interest rates for savings can be fixed or variable; some banks’ websites provide tools to predict investment returns. The type of fund and level of appropriate risk will obviously depend on individual circumstances, and it is advisable to consult an adviser to ascertain your ‘Risk Profile’. In the current economic climate, there are additional risks to depositing money offshore: recent bank mergers, differing protection schemes and deposits held in a different country to the bank’s service centre can mean investors are unclear about how safe their deposits are.
Before settling on a bank, expats would be wise to ask themselves the following basic questions: Which bank is my money in, who owns it, what is its credit worthiness, and which jurisdiction does it fall under? Read more about offshore banking.