How to get finances set up in the Netherlands as an expat

The Expat life is one of excitement and unknowns. Legally moving to the Netherlands is really only a small part of the experience. You then need to find housing that doesn’t charge expat prices, get your BSN, health insurance, a cell phone plan, set up utilities in your name and set up finances in the Netherlands.

This post is all about how to set up your bank in the Netherlands. 

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Opening a bank account in the Netherlands

Typically, opening up a bank account in the Netherlands can be a big catch 22. With some major banks, you need a work contract, a BSN (social security number equivalent), an address, and your left arm (ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration). On top of all of that, you even need to take the time to make an appointment and go to a branch that will see you. Many times the information you need is in Dutch although most do have an English version of the app.

I first heard about bunq about two years ago. I didn’t give it much thought because who can really compete with the big banks? I did really like their idea and how their debit card looks. That’s so important, right? 🙂 I went along my merry way and yet, kept hearing about them.

Get finances set up in the Netherlands with bunq and their international mastercard

When re-discovering bunq, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as an online-only bank. There are online-only banks in the United States, but it’s not a thing in the Netherlands. I am fortunate enough to try it out for myself so I can see how it would be a great benefit for you, as an expat. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I’m not sure what you expect from a bank because I don’t consciously think about it, do you? Probably not. It’s when things go really well when it’s noticeable.

After lots of research, going through the signup process, and transferring money, requesting money, and requesting a debit card, I am very excited to share with you a new way to bank. They call it the Bank of the Free.

You may also want to read about how to file U.S. taxes from abroad

All about bunq

What makes it so interesting?

It’s online-only: no branches means no bank meetings to set up your account! YAY!!

My concern was that this would mean service would be lacking, but in reality, it’s been better! Chatting via app is kind of the norm now and super fast. Even getting the account open was super easy with quick responses to any questions I had. When I message my other bank, it takes days to get a reply *woomp woomp woomp*

bunq sign up steps

Easy to open the account: bunq is a real bank so there are certain requirements that you just can’t get around. You’ll need an address in the Netherlands (or in the EU), and submit your BSN within 90 days of opening the account. But really, a BSN should be the first thing you get anyway. Then you’ll need to prove your identity to open the account. A passport or residency card is perfect! Then a quick video call with bunq to verify you are you is all it takes to open the account. Please note: US citizens will also need to submit a proof of residency and a proof of their appointment with the municipality for the BSN to be able to open a bank account if they do not have a Dutch BSN already.

This is all done in the app…no visit to a bank branch necessary.

Side note: if you are already in the Netherlands with a Dutch bank account, you can also prove your identity by transferring a small sum (like .01 cent from your other account).

identity for bunq

Open it before you move: If you already have an address in the Netherlands (or in the EU) because you’re a super person and ahead of the game, then you can even open the account before you arrive. This is nice so that you can have one less thing to think about when you’re in a new place. Just remember to send in your BSN, ASAP.

It’s in English: Yes, you should be able to speak a bit of Dutch after a while, but bank speak is a whole different story. Everything with bunq can be in English–no translations necessary! It also comes in other languages in case you’re one of those multi-lingual people (German, Italian, Spanish). The language of the app depends on the setup of your phone…easy peasy.

Two versions are available: The free version and the premium version

Free version: This one is great to get started with direct deposit, direct debit and general transfers (between friends and works for too!). What’s the catch? There is no debit card. Otherwise, it’s a great deal and you can move money easily from the United States to the Netherlands. I always use Wise, formerly Transferwise to move money around.

Premium version: At 7.99 a month, it gives you up to 3 debit cards: one Maestro card which is what we use in the Netherlands and two Mastercard debit cards which are perfect for traveling and using online. Also, you can open up to 25 accounts (even shared ones!) if you like to separate your money to various purposes. I like the idea of having a house account and travel account. *Note: It is very normal to pay for banking in the Netherlands, though the fee does vary.

bunq bank card mastercard

My experience using bunq:

Now, for how it all worked for me…because I know you want to know how it really works!

To set up my account with bunq, I downloaded the app, put in my personal details, set up security for the account, entered my tax information (you will need to enter your United States Social Security Number), then verified my identity with my bank account of my other Dutch bank. Funny thing though, my account is first under Sean’s name. So, I just had to send a photo of my debit card. Super easy.

tax information for bunq

I was very confused as to why I had to give my Social Security Number, so I submitted a message with my question, and it was super easy and fast to get an answer back.

As soon as I answered the question about my account under my husband’s name, my account was live within an hour. So exciting!! Then I just used Wise to move money from the United States. The money was moved within the day. I don’t know how normal that is, but I love how easy it is to move money from the States.

I’ve been very thorough in testing this bank account! It’s all for you, my friends. I’ve even requested payment from a friend who was kind enough to send me 5 euro 🙂 All I had to do was enter her phone number from my contacts. Then she found it extremely easy to send the money. This totally beats my other bank when I had to download a second app to request money. Seriously?

I’m not saying one bank is the best thing ever since there are pros and cons to everything and different banks fit different people’s needs. But I must say, I really like bunq because of the ease of use, and what they stand for.

Now it’s up to you! What are the features you like in a bank? Would you use an online-only bank? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Wishing you love and travels!

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set up finances in the netherlands

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.