You might have your textbooks ready to start university, but do you have a student bank account?
At the ABN Amro bank, advisors see that one of the most important things for new international students is to have access to a local bank account – preferably before term begins.
In the past, this was always a challenge: in order to comply with their money laundering and other obligations, the main Dutch banks would always ask for a Dutch tax identification number (the BSN) before opening a bank account.
But thanks to a modernisation, ABN Amro is now offering the possibility to onboard using a foreign tax number, so that students can arrive in the Netherlands ready to pay their rent, shopping and phone bill…with a local account.
Matthé Kooi, a student himself, who works as a client adviser at the international student personal banking team, said that internationals in particular can struggle at the start of term.
“First of all, many universities ask for a cash deposit of €5,000 or €10,000,” he said. “You transfer that to the university, so that the university knows that the student has enough money to live here: then when they arrive here, the money is transferred back them, but they need a bank account to put it in.
“The second point is that this is a really digital country. Students might come from their own country where a lot of shops still accept cash, but here, everything is going digital. If you don’t have a bank account, you can’t pay your landlord. It’s also useful to pay for your groceries. It’s really necessary.”
For most international students, he says, accommodation is the main challenge. Last year, some universities asked students to make sure they didn’t turn up in the Netherlands unless they had secured accommodation, due to the housing shortage. It might not be strictly correct, he adds, but some informal house shares may choose Dutch students over internationals.
“International students don’t always know the rules,” said Kooi. “Some landlords ask huge amounts for 10 square metres, which actually is not allowed. You need to read up well about accommodation in advance.”
Fortunately, one of the things that won’t cost you anything is your student bank account: unlike other types of banking in the Netherlands, a student account at ABN Amro is free of charge.
You might have to pay a fee to transfer cash into the account from abroad, however – if the foreign bank demands a charge, this will be passed on to you. “It might make sense to pay one transaction fee for a larger amount, rather than foreign relatives sending money every month,” said Kooi. “Or investigate other ways of transferring money with internet transfer services. But the nice thing is that the student account itself is free so you don’t have to pay for a debit card.”
While you will not qualify for certain services such as banking loans or credit cards – which are based on salary – you may want to look into other banking services like contents insurance or liability insurance, in case you have an accident on the bike paths.
ABN Amro gives advice to student networks such as the Erasmus Student Network and has a regularly updated website in English with all kinds of recommendations for new arrivals and international students to help them find their feet and get the most out of their time in the Netherlands.
Getting your bank account sorted will just take a weight off your mind, especially if you can onboard using the banking app before you even get to the country, said Kooi. “And that leaves you free to focus on your study!”
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