‘Pay with iDEAL’. You sit, staring at your computer screen. Your virtual shopping cart is stacked with goodies ready to be delivered to your door, with one problem: where is the trusty credit card field? What is iDEAL? And how will you get your silicone tongue to groom your cat with now?!

It’s a question that has plagued many expats in the Netherlands. It’s bad enough that many brick-and-mortar stores don’t accept their foreign bank cards, but now the pinnacle of credit card transactions, the internet, is refusing those shiny plastic cards too? The Dutch are known to be notoriously thrifty with money, but this is taking it too far.

First, a clarification: before the Dutch jump down our throats, we don’t mean specifically ‘credit cards’. While it’s still up-and-coming in the Netherlands, many overseas countries in the UK, Australia, and the US have debit cards that can be utilised as credit cards, almost specifically so you can shop online with having an actual line of credit. So no, this article isn’t about getting yourself into a mountain of debt by online shopping (but ya know, you do you, baby).

You may see iDEAL pop up all over the place, sometimes as one option among many, other times as the only option. But what is it, how do you get it, and how do you use it? Let’s jump right into everything you need to know about iDEAL.

What is iDEAL?

iDEAL is an online payment system that circumvents the need for the Dutch to have credit cards. Instead of inputting your card information, paying with iDEAL takes you directly to your personal online banking website where you transfer the money directly to the business owner.

Think of it as a super-fast way to transfer money without needing to gather all the necessary information. The iDEAL platform already knows who you want to transfer money to, so as soon as you are logged in it presents you with a confirmation screen – no need to input transaction details. Press confirm, and voila! Your fashionable minion attire is on the way to your door and you couldn’t be happier.

In 2014, a staggering 54 per cent of all Dutch online payments were processed through iDEAL, but not just for goods: you can pay your telephone bill, utilities, car registration, subscriptions, fines, almost anything you would like with the service.

Why don’t the Dutch just use credit cards?

Let’s start by taking a look at the Dutch word for debt: schuld. Schuld is a word that has a second meaning: guilt. That’s right. Because the Dutch still hold over some characteristics from their time as a primarily Calvinist society they believe in only taking what they need. If you need to go into debt for it, you probably don’t need it (with the exception of homes of course). Lines of credit have just never been a big thing in the Netherlands, so credit cards also never found much of a place.

Enter iDEAL. In 2005, ten years after the launch of Amazon and eBay, and just a year after some college kid started up a weird website tracking his fellow students, iDEAL entered the Dutch scene. It’s been fulfilling the dreams of people who hate dealing with customer service representatives ever since!

How do I sign up iDEAL?

First, you gotta get with a bank that offers the service. Currently, 12 Dutch banks have iDEAL functionality, so hop on board with one of these ones.

ABN AMROASN BankbunqINGKnabMoneyouRabobankRegioBankSNSSvenska Handelsbanken Triodos Bank Van Lanschot

Currently bankless? Find out all you need to know about setting up a bank account in the Netherlands!

What should I expect when making an iDEAL transaction?

Spending money is scary enough without having to add in a whole other payment system! Luckily, the steps for iDEAL are easy, just a little different to what you’re used to.

1Select iDEAL

Look for the iDEAL method as a payment option – you’ll recognise the logo!

2Select your bank

You’ll be presented with a list of banks that participate in iDEAL, just choose yours! The webpage will redirect you to your bank’s login screen (or if you’re on mobile, to the app if you have it installed).

3Confirm the transaction information

The next thing you’ll see if a confirmation screen. It should have the name of the merchant listed, along with the transaction amount. Select the account you would like the money to be taken from.

4Complete the security process

Before you get to this step you’ve already passed the first-stage of authentication: it may have been your password, a pin code on your app, or even face recognition on your phone. Now, confirm the transaction by completing the second-stage of authentication. What this is will depend on your bank, but it could be your password or pin again, a text message code, or something else.

5Finalise the transaction

The bank authorizes the transaction in real-time and deducts the money directly from your bank account.

6Merchant receives funds

The merchant will get immediate confirmation that the funds are flying through cyberspace toward their own bank account. This is enough to finalise the transaction.

7Redirect back to merchant page

You’ll be redirected back to the merchant page with a confirmation that the payment has been successful and your transaction is complete.

8[OPTIONAL] Wait impatiently for goodies to arrive at your door

Immediately enter the tracking numbers on the shipping website. Why hasn’t it shipped yet? You completed the order two whole minutes ago!

How-does-iDeal-work-infographic
Just like a credit card – but with a few extra steps. Image: DutchReview

Is iDEAL secure?

The main security advantage of iDEAL is that you’re not sending your credit card or banking information to random websites. Because it opens through the iDEAL platform, businesses only know if you’ve paid or not: they don’t receive any of your sensitive information. iDEAL also uses two-factor authentication, as well as any of your own bank’s security features.

Is there any disadvantage to using iDEAL?

As far as we know, just one – but it’s something to definitely keep in mind. When using iDEAL you don’t have the right to initiate a chargeback if something goes wrong with the transaction.

What is a chargeback, and should it be a dealbreaker?

A chargeback is when a transaction is forcibly reversed by your bank. For example, say you purchased an item online with your credit card. The seller sends you the item, but it’s counterfeit, broken, or never arrives. The merchant refuses to refund you, so you call your bank and initiate a chargeback.

If the bank deems that you, as the consumer, were wronged they will forcibly take the money from the merchant’s bank account and return it to your own. It’s a way of getting a refund via the bank, instead of directly via the merchant, and acts as a way of keeping merchants honest and protecting the consumer.

However, when paying with iDEAL you no longer have this option. You don’t have a way to initiate a chargeback through iDEAL, so if something goes wrong you could be the one paying for it.

But let’s be honest: most of us haven’t ever had to initiate a chargeback on our credit cards before. As long as you’re purchasing from trusted websites or businesses there isn’t too much need for concern.

What the hell is a Tikkie?

Whew, that’s a whole other bag of worms! Tikkie is an app, and a way of requesting or sending money online. It’s mostly used by friends splitting the costs of bills, but also by businesses. However, Tikkie is only used for requesting or sending money – the actual transaction is processed via iDEAL. What a friendship!

Have you used iDEAL? Is it a success, or do you miss your plastic? Let us know in the comments below! Have any questions about using iDEAL? Leave them there too!

Feature Image: Designecologist/Pexels & iDEAL/Wikimedia Commons

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