Every now and then, we come across a particularly challenging banking topic, and understanding how to open a bank account in the Netherlands falls into that category.
In fact, if you don’t speak Dutch, don’t have a BSN (a local tax ID), and you’re a non-resident… get ready to join the thousands of people that struggle to open accounts each year.
Fortunately, you’ve landed on this article, and with a bit of guidance, you’re going to be just fine.
Here’s the truth about banking in the Netherlands…
Clients from all backgrounds can open a bank account in the Netherlands. This includes non-residents, expats, international students, as well as certain foreign companies. But banking regulations in the Netherlands have changed. Account opening is more difficult, and compliance is more intense.
Today, just finding a Dutch banker who is willing to entertain your application as a non-resident (or a foreign company) can be a struggle. But there are banks, branches, and bankers you can contact, that actually want you as a client.
So, in this article, we’ll explore how to open a bank account in the Netherlands and the common mistakes foreigners and non-residents make. Along the way, we’ll splash in a bit of context to help you understand why it’s become so difficult to open a bank account in the Netherlands as a non-resident.
Before diving in, don’t forget to download your free copy of our Non-Resident Banking Starter Guide. This free guide will give you a head start when opening accounts abroad in countries like the Netherlands.
Okay, so the topic of how to open a bank account in the Netherlands is laced with nuances. The reason for this, quite simply, is that the Dutch banking sector has been on a rocky footing for over a decade.
In fact, it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Dutch people hate bankers. Seriously. The majority of the local population has massive trust issues with the Dutch banking sector.
Bloomberg even wrote an article in 2019 about it, appropriately titled “Why the Dutch Hate Bankers.”
And, if you lived in the Netherlands from 2008-2015, it’s easy to understand why…
Three out of the four biggest banks in the country failed after the 2008 financial crisis. Then, in 2013, the fourth was nationalized– because it couldn’t stay afloat on its own due to speculative real estate bets that it was taking on foreign real estate.
Then, to top that off, there were a series of highly publicized scandals, out-of-control banker bonuses, banks selling derivatives to welfare-esque organizations, Libor rate manipulation. The list goes on.
So, if you were Dutch (and not working in the banking sector), you were outraged.
Imagine, all this is all happening in a small country where the population has a high affinity for equality and cultural disdain for anyone in disproportionately well-paid positions.
Dutch banks were slapped with strict rules, new heavy regulations, and higher capitalization requirements. As a result, banker salaries were slashed and banker bonuses not only shrunk– they became regulated. Literally, no banker in the country is allowed to earn a bonus worth more than 20% of their annual salary. This is an actual law.
Well, the Netherlands is now home to a lot of underpaid, unmotivated bankers, who are terrified to do anything that could get them in trouble.
On top of that, every banker in the country has to take the “banker’s oath” and abide by a specific code of ethics. So, now, if a banker (or bank) steps out of line or does something against a client’s best interests, a customer can take them to court.
As a banker, would you be motivated to onboard new clients in this environment? Especially if those clients are non-residents, foreigners, foreign companies, or otherwise fall outside the “normal” risk parameters? Probably not.
Unless you have a real reason to bank in the Netherlands, such as being paid by a Dutch company, owning real estate in the Netherlands, or you’re actually moving there, you can almost always find better banking elsewhere.
Don’t worry, we’re still going to tell you how to open a bank account in the Netherlands. All we’re saying is that there are usually better banking options elsewhere if you don’t have a legitimate need to bank here.
With this in mind, let’s shift gears and take a quick look at the benefits that people can access from banking in the Netherlands…
Now, given everything that we’ve shared so far, you might be wondering why anyone would even bother opening a bank account in the Netherlands. Well, there are actually a number of benefits worth capturing, if you fall into one of the groups that we outline in the next section.
Here are a few of the benefits that you might be able to capture if you open a bank account in the Netherlands:
Some banks in the Netherlands are offering negative interest rates on mortgages. That means, Dutch banks actually pay you to take out a mortgage. So, if you’re an investor with a keen eye for Dutch real estate, a Dutch mortgage might be interesting.
The Netherlands has several tax incentives that have attracted multinationals, skilled foreign workers, and investors here since the late 1950s. And while the Dutch tax code overhaul of 2019 has made some of these benefits slightly less appealing, they can still be interesting.
So, despite the challenges of opening accounts in the Netherlands, Dutch banks and bankers do actually know how to work with foreigners. Of course, some branches and bankers are more “foreigner-friendly” and accommodating than others.
People that actually live in the Netherlands will need to open a Dutch bank account to pay for daily expenses, cover their utilities, and more. To do this, they’ll need to iDEAL access. This is an online payment system that is widely used across the Netherlands. So, one of the main benefits of opening a Dutch bank account is accessing the iDEAL system and supporting your day to day life.
So, now that you know the most immediate benefits on offer, let’s look at who should actually bank here…
If you’re off to the Netherlands to study, opening a bank account here makes sense. In fact, it can be a relatively painless process as long as you have your proof of enrollment or a letter from your University. This will allow you to pay your tuition and cover daily living expenses without incurring additional transfer fees.
While solutions like Revolut and N26 can offer a lot of value to European clients in other countries, you’re going to need a local bank account in the Netherlands. The reason for this is that many of the basic services and payments that you will need to cover as someone living or working in the Netherlands will only accept a Dutch bank card or a Dutch IBAN.
Dutch lawmakers have been architects of international tax efficiency since the early days. Like the British, the Dutch created their own tax havens in the Caribbean (e.g., Curacao & Aruba), and effectively passed profits back and forth to reduce (or eliminate) taxes. In more recent years, they have created such profit shifting mechanisms as the Dutch Sandwich to enable international companies to avoid EU withholding tax and more.
For the most part, such mechanisms have been toned down. And following an overhaul of the Dutch tax code in 2019, it seems like the Netherlands is trying to rebrand itself as a more onshore-esque place to do business. With this in mind, businesses looking to operate from Europe may still find that the Netherlands offers interesting opportunities. And if you plan to do business here, you will need to open bank accounts.
As mentioned, there are some groups that may find banking outside the Netherlands more beneficial. These include…
If you’re a non-resident looking to bank in the EU, there are plenty of options to choose from. In fact, we’ve recently shared a number of EU banking opportunities with GlobalBanks Insiders. In many instances, the minimum deposits are only a few hundred dollars and the accounts can be open 100% remotely. With this in mind, there’s no need to jump through the extra hoops that are required to open accounts in the Netherlands.
While we often discuss the benefits of opening accounts in countries that you frequent on holiday, the Netherlands is a rare case where we don’t think this makes sense. Given the account opening difficulties, you’re better off opening accounts in another country that provides the same currency benefits but allows for easier account opening.
In most cases, having service providers, suppliers, or customers in a country is a great reason to open local bank accounts. But given that your business genuinely requires a local presence in order to open with most Dutch banks, your chances of opening here are limited.
If you’re interested in learning more, just click the chat box below and let us know what you’re looking for, we’d be happy to help.
If you’re still committed to opening a bank account in the Netherlands, here’s what you need to know to get started…
If you’re a resident of the Netherlands, your first step is to make sure you have your BSN and a work contract (or housing contract). Most banks will require these two items. In most cases, you will need to make an appointment before going in. But if you have all of these documents in order, have an appointment, and you’re a bonafide resident of the Netherlands, you shouldn’t have a problem opening an account.
If you’re a non-resident, you should only bank in the Netherlands if you have a real need to bank here. Otherwise, you can find other options outside of the Netherlands that will likely better meet your needs.
If you’re still determined to open an account in the Netherland as a non-resident, focus on banks that have more robust international divisions and offer English support. Of course, non-residents also face the big question of how to open a Dutch bank account without a BSN…
If you don’t have a BSN, opening a bank account in the Netherlands is going to be nearly impossible. The BSN, which is short for BurgerServiceNummer, is the registration number that anyone living in the Netherlands receives from the government. While this is an incredibly important number for residents, it’s a nuisance that makes banking here impossible for non-residents.
With this in mind, the short answer to “How to open a Dutch bank account without a BSN” is this…
Some banks will allow you to apply for an account without a BSN. But eventually, you will need to provide your bank with your BSN or your account will be closed.
So instead of trying to open a Dutch bank account without a BSN, consider this:
The Netherlands has a non-resident registration process to receive an RNI, which is your Registratie Niet Ingezetenen. Your RNI gets tied to your address in your home country instead of an address in the Netherlands. Once you receive this number, you will also receive your BSN on the spot. This is only available to people who do not spend more than four months in the Netherlands, but it’s one way that you can acquire a BSN (in person) as a non-resident in the Netherlands.
If you need help sorting out your banking options, are struggling with account opening, or just aren’t sure where to turn, we can help.
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