Do you take VISA?

Posted at: 12 Jun 2018

Is it true that you must open a Dutch bank account to pay with card in Amsterdam?!

Ultimate finance gear, that got me through my semester in Amsterdam.

As an abroad student, one of things you will have to think about is how you are going to manage your finances in the foreign country you are studying in. Because the world is becoming a “small village” you may think this is something you don’t have to worry about. However, you still need to be aware that different countries have different payment policies and, most importantly, different paying habits than the country you originate from.

If you are keen on paying with cash, then the Netherlands is a place for you, with almost half of the all payments being done with cash. In this case, I propose you take out a little bit of cash to get to your host country and then withdraw a larger amount only after you arrive in the Netherlands, since traveling with a lot of cash is not always the best idea. (Tip: Be sure to ask personnel at your home bank which fees they take when you withdraw money in another country, so you are not surprised with a withdrawal fee.)

The other half of the payments made in the Netherlands are done with cards. First, let us have a small lesson about the basic difference between debit and credit cards. Debit cards (such as MasterCard debit, VISA debit, MasterCard, VISA electron, etc.) draw money directly from your checking account when you make the purchase, while credit cards allow you to borrow money against a line of credit (not actually your money). You can usually distinguish whether your card is debit or credit by checking if a word debit (or credit) is anywhere on it.

Credit cards are not widely used between the Dutch, mainly because of the popularity of the online debit card payment system called iDeal. iDeal payment works through a banking app on your phone and is very easy to use. When not using iDeal, the Dutch mainly use their debit cards to make payments. So, if you already own a debit card, then paying in Amsterdam (and Netherlands in general) won’t be a problem. However, paying with a credit card in a bar or even at a supermarket is often impossible, even though it might be quite normal back home. (Another tip: Be sure to ask personnel at your home bank which fees they take when you pay with card in another country.)

To sum up, if you were worried that you would have to open an account at a Dutch bank, your worries were in vain. At least, if you prefer paying with cash and/or you already have a debit card. This does not mean that your credit card will be completely dysfunctional, you will just have less opportunities to use it. If you need a new debit card, you can also always open a Dutch bank account. At most banks you can make an appointment for free and the whole process is done in less than 10 minutes. It may also be beneficial to sign up for a Dutch bank account if you live outside of the EU since many outside cards are not accepted.

Fun fact: On university premises you can make payments with your student card! On special machines you upload money to your student card and voila, you can leave your money and/or credit/debit card in your apartment. The student card can be used to pay for food and beverages from the cafeteria, coffee from coffee machines, anything in the copy shop, etc.

Watch the student ambassadors video