How to open a bank account in the Netherlands

29.05.17
7 minute read
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An expat moving to the Netherlands will want to open a local bank account before venturing out to enjoy stroopwafels and windmills. After all, in a nearly cashless society, you’ll need to get your finances in order. And fast.

So read this guide to find out everything you’ll need to know to open a local bank account and get on your bike.

What documents do I need?

To open a bank account in the Netherlands, whether you go in person or set it up online, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Proof of Identity: A passport or national identity card are recommended. Note: Depending on the country it was issued in, a driver’s license isn’t always considered a valid form of ID.
  • Proof of address: A signed rental contract or recent utility bill are generally acceptable. But more on other options in a minute.
  • BSN (Burgerservicenummer): Each resident of the Netherlands, whether native or expat, is issued their own unique, personal citizen service number. You’ll find it on your residence permit or registration with the Foreign Police. If you’re an EU national, though, you can skip this part.

Individual banks may differ in what they accept as an address proof. As a general guide, as long as they include your name and address, the following documents are considered valid:

  • A tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
  • A gas, electric, or water bill from the past three months
  • A bank or credit card statement from the past three months. (You’re often required to submit a statement printed by the financial institution, not one you print from a website.)
  • If you’re a student, you can usually bring your certificate or registration from your university.

Can I open a bank account before I arrive in the Netherlands?

Possibly. If you have an active bank account in your home country, they may be able to help you open account with a Dutch bank if your bank has a correspondent bank there. Some banks in the Netherlands offer “International” accounts designed for non-native residents. With these, you can open your account before you arrive in the Netherlands and have a local address. Banks such as ING and Bunq offer variations on international accounts. However, many Dutch banks require a Dutch address before opening an account.

Which bank is best for my needs?

Choosing the right bank for your needs depends on several factors, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But banks in The Netherlands are competitive, and offer many special products to serve different types of customers. Whether you’re a student or professional, applying internationally or while in country, you’ll be able to find the right bank to serve your needs.

What should I consider when choosing a bank?

As a new arrival to the Netherlands, you won’t have an extensive financial history nor much documentation to your name. Sadly, this will likely prevent you from opening an account in a bank with stricter application requirements.

Most expat forums recommend applying for one of the larger banks like ABN AMRO, ING, Rabobank or SNS-Bank. These banks have often been noted as having the history, financial stability and experience with international clients that allows them to be a bit more flexible when you apply.

You may also find it easier to open an account in the Netherlands if you’re already an EU national. There are a few extra steps for others, say if you’re an American or Australian.

It can be a bit daunting to consider all of your options. So when in doubt, don’t hesitate to call the customer support from several banks to get a feeling for which one suits you best.

Which bank is best for my needs?

Among the numerous banks in the Netherlands, the four largest and most prominent are ING, Rabobank, ABN AMRO and SNS-Bank. To a foreigner, each bank has its own strengths and weaknesses. This section should help you get a better grasp of the basics each bank offers so you know where to start your hunt.

ING

ING is a major global financial institution founded in the Netherlands over two centuries ago. With branches all over the country, it’s among the easiest banks to open an account with if you’re a new arrival or planning a move soon. ING has branches in Europe, North America, Australia and even in some Asian cities. At a local branch, it normally takes about 20 minutes to open your first account.

To open an account, you’ll need to provide an official proof of address (driver’s licence, utility bill, or a letter from a solicitor) as well as your passport or photo ID. If you’re an international student opening an account, you may also need to present the certificate of registration from your university. Note: International students must be over 18 and reside in the Netherlands.

One of the perks they offer is that an in-branch advisor will not only assist you in opening your account, but they’ll also download the mobile banking app on your smartphone if you want. They’ll also show you how to check your balance, make payments and review all of the transactions you’ve made.

Rabobank

Rabobank is a Netherlands-based financial institution that operates in 40 countries and has branches in Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. They don’t offer international accounts, so you’ll need to make an appointment with a Dutch branch to apply for an account.

Rabobank charges a minimum of €1.30 a month for a bank account and offer a free debit card, online banking and access to their banking app.

They also offer a student package that’s free to open, automatically pays tuition and rent, and costs €1.25 a month. Additionally, they’ll let you set an overdraft limit of €500 or €1,000 if you’re concerned about accidentally spending too much.

ABN AMRO

ABN AMRO was founded in 1991 and has grown to become the third-largest bank in the Netherlands. They only have branches there, so you must have a Dutch address to apply. If you do decide to bank with them, make sure to bring your passport and either an employment contract or certificate of registration from your school. It’s required.

There’s some especially good offerings if you’re attending university. International students can take advantage of their free-to-open student package for a €1.40 monthly fee, adjustable debit card limit, no minimum deposit and no overdraft fees. The student package also offers a discount on a credit card and 10 free account alerts a month, which can notify you when your balance drops below a certain amount or if your account has received a direct deposit..

SNS-Bank

SNS-Bank is a nationalized bank that dates back to the early 19th century. If you were thinking about applying from abroad, that won’t work with SNS. You’ll need to go in person and must have a Dutch address to apply. An account costs €2.50 per month to maintain and is free to open. If credit limits are a concern for you, they have no automatic credit limit.

The SNS-Bank student account offers a credit card for a reduced fee (€11.25 per year instead of their normal €15.75), as well as a free bank card with your photo on it. Students pay no monthly costs and their SMS alerts are free. One perk SNS-Bank offers that many Dutch banks don’t is they pay interest on any positive balance in a student account.

Bunq

If you happen to be from the EU and you’re looking for a flexible banking option, you might consider Bunq. It’s a new Dutch banking app that lets you open an account with an International Bank Account Number (IBAN). Bunq is a mobile bank, meaning they have no physical branches and use video on-boarding through a smartphone to verify your identity.

If you already live in Europe and have an IBAN, you can open a Bunq account at any time through your phone. Accounts are free to open and debit cards, if you want one, only cost €1 a month to maintain. Your entire account information, balance, and transactional history is maintained on the app.

ATM Fees

A pretty great plus to the Dutch system is their ATM fees. If you withdraw money from one of the above bank’s ATMs that you have an account with, there are no ATM fees. If you use a different bank’s ATM, you’ll probably have to pay a fee of anywhere from €1.50 - €3 per transaction.

Wire Transfers

Most major banks in The Netherlands offer an international wire transfer service, though they use a variety of different methods to make transfers, with varying fees and exchange rates. The most common wire transfer methods are listed below.

  • ING uses SWIFT transfers, and charges a minimum of €5 plus 0.1% of the transaction if the sender pays the entire cost of the transfer.
  • Rabobank uses SWIFT and charges a minimum of €7 plus 0.1% of the transaction if the sender pays the entire cost of the transfer.
  • ABN AMRO uses SWIFT transfers, which are free in the Eurozone and from €5.50-€55 in non-EU countries.
  • SNS uses SWIFT transfers, which are free within the Eurozone. Transfers outside the Eurozone cost 1% of the transaction, with a minimum charge of €5.

Before you sign up, take notice that when a bank makes a SWIFT transfer, an additional 2-4 banks will also charge you fees. So be prepared.

While many banks may appear to offer competitive fees for transfers, they generally give you poor exchange rates to take more money out of your pocket. For a different transfer option, consider TransferWise. TransferWise uses the real exchange rate for international transfers - the same one you see on Google - and simply charges a low, upfront fee. Transfers through TransferWise can be up to eight times cheaper than bank transfer services, leaving you plenty of extra cash to spend on bicycle tours.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more