Why your foreign bank card isn't accepted in the Netherlands

Why your foreign bank card isn't accepted in the Netherlands

If you've ever been to the Netherlands, you may have noticed that many stores have a "PIN-only" sign. This sign indicates that only payments from a PIN debit card, usually from a Dutch bank, are accepted. From grocery stores and gas stations to public restrooms, you will likely be expected to pay using this method. If you do try to pay for something using a credit card from your own country, there is a high chance that it won't be accepted.

But why is this the case? Why are so many places in the Netherlands averse to credit cards when most other countries accept them without a problem?

To better understand this phenomenon, you first need to know about how the Dutch view money.


The first thing you should know about Dutch culture is that they are known for being frugal. For instance, if you are going out to dinner with your Dutch friends or coworkers, expect to split the bill right then and there or to be sent a Tikkie (a digital platform that allows you to divvy up payments) as soon as you get home. This idea of everyone paying for themselves is also the origin of the phrase "going Dutch".

This Dutch attitude towards money likely comes from their Calvinist roots, which encouraged people to work hard, be tolerant, be fair and be frugal. Although most Dutch people today are atheist, some of those Calvinist principles have certainly persevered and still show up within modern culture.

That being said: the Dutch are averse to debt and try their best to avoid it - so much so that the word for "debt" in Dutch is schuld (guilt). Which is why the concept of a credit card would be something that the Dutch try to stay away from. They prefer to save up their money and wait until they can afford something, instead of spending money that they don't have.

A love of debit cards

Now that you understand a bit more about the Dutch mentality, it makes sense then that the preferred method of payment in the Netherlands is the debit card, a Maestro one to be exact.

This card is issued by Mastercard but is unique in that it is only available in the form of a debit card, as opposed to most normal Mastercards which can be issued as debit, credit or prepaid cards.

You can apply for a Maestro debit card at any Dutch bank. With this card, you can withdraw cash from ATMs and make contactless payments throughout the Netherlands.

Costly credit card fees

For merchants, accepting credit card transactions comes at a small extra cost to them, with their profit being reduced at a slight margin due to processing fees (usually 1,8% of the purchase). Since the Dutch like to avoid unnecessary spending, it should come as no surprise that many businesses in the Netherlands prefer to avoid those transaction fees and ask you to pay with a Dutch debit card or cash instead.

For consumers who do own credit cards (around 55% of Dutch people), they mostly use them for online purchases or when they are travelling abroad, as the Maestro debit card is not accepted in many other countries.

However even with credit cards, the Dutch have various ways of ensuring that they do not end up having credit card debt. Credit cards usually have an automatic incasso (direct debit) which makes sure that the amount you owe is automatically paid off every month. This helps to avoid late payments and costly interest fees. Furthermore, getting a credit card in the Netherlands is not an easy task. To qualify for one, the majority of Dutch banks will conduct a background check (BKR) on you and require that you have a steady flow of sufficient income.


Not only are the Dutch known for their money-saving habits, but they are also known for being efficient. Paying with a PIN-card, especially contactless payment, is fast and easy. All of you have to do is tap your card or mobile phone against the payment terminal and you can get on with your day!

But it's not just limited to in-person payments; using a Dutch debit card for online purchases is also a quick and straightforward process thanks to iDeal, a digital payment system which allows you to make purchases through your own bank. By logging into your bank account and confirming the payment via a QR code, iDeal transfers your money directly to the business.

On top of that, most major Dutch supermarkets have self-checkout terminals that you can only use if you have a Dutch debit card. The queues for these terminals tend to be shorter, saving you more time. The checkout lines with a real cashier are usually a bit longer, but the upside is that you can pay in cash.

Cash is still king

Many places in the Netherlands still accept cash payments, especially market stalls and pop-up stands. If you have moved to the Netherlands and don't have a Dutch bank account yet, paying with cash is the best method. However, some places don't accept cash at all, so it's best to ask ahead of time whether it is possible.

You should keep in mind that cash payments of €10.000 or more, including bank transfers, are not allowed in the Netherlands.

Applying for a Dutch bank account

If you plan on staying in the Netherlands for more than just a short visit, then it is wise to apply for a debit card with a Dutch bank. With this card in hand, you can make seamless payments while shopping, taking public transport and basically everything else you can think of.

Nicole Ogden


Nicole Ogden

Nicole is from Thailand and the US. She graduated from Leiden University with a bachelor's in Linguistics. She has previously worked as an editorial intern for DutchReview. She enjoys movies,...

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