In the Netherlands, cash isn’t king – Maestro is. But, while cash is also widely accepted, you may be surprised when arriving in this popular country that Mastercard, Visa, and American Express are sometimes not.
So, what do the Dutch use, and why are you being left red-faced and unable to pay at the local supermarket?
As someone who has also endured this embarrassing moment, let me tell you why.
- 💳 Why isn’t my card accepted in the Netherlands?
- 🤷 But my card is still a debit card?!
- 👀 Maestro is no longer the favourite in 2024
- 🤨 Okay, so what’s the deal with iDEAL and Tikkie, then?
- 💶 So how can I spend all my hard-earned euros?
- ❓ Why don’t my bank cards work in the Netherlands? Frequently Asked Questions
Why isn’t my card accepted in the Netherlands?
So, why don’t your bank cards work in the Netherlands? The majority of the Dutch use Maestro, a payment platform owned by Mastercard. Maestro is a debit card system that is similar to Visa or Mastercard, which most comparable countries use.
Whether a shop will accept or decline your foreign card is completely up to the owner. Credit card transactions cost the owner a lot more than debit card sales, and the Dutch love to save money.
The way different cards talk to credit card machines and the corresponding banks is also a point of trouble.
Maestro cards work on a single-message debit system, where when you swipe your card, the money moves from your bank account to the merchant.
However, most other payment platforms now rely on dual-message debit and credit cards, where when you swipe your card, your bank makes a “promise” to the merchant that the money will be there.
A few days later, the merchant will present these “promises” to the bank and collect their dues. This is why credit transactions typically show as “pending” and offer an “available” and “current” balance.
What does that mean for you? Well, it doesn’t bode well if you don’t have a Maestro card in the Netherlands.
But my card is still a debit card?!
Why don’t your bank cards work in the Netherlands when they’re debit cards? Trust me, I know the pain, but it’s tough luck.
Even if you have a Visa Debit card or a Debit Mastercard, it doesn’t matter — Dutch stores will treat it as though it’s a credit card and may decline it.
Dutch people typically don’t like credit cards in general because the Dutch are very debt-adverse people. In fact, in Dutch, the word for debt — schuld — also has another meaning: guilt.
As a rule of thumb, if the store services a large portion of international customers (for example, at tourist locations or similar), they will accept Visa, Mastercard, and sometimes American Express.
But, bizarrely, some major chains will refuse these and only take Maestro (Albert Heijn, I’m looking at you. 👀 )
Maestro is no longer the favourite in 2024
Don’t ditch that Visa Debit card just yet though, as it’s slowly but surely becoming more fashionable in the Netherlands.
Since July 1 2023, Maestro-branded debit cards are no longer available, reports Betaalvereniging Nederland (the Dutch payments association).
Maestro cardholders are often left high and dry when attempting to pay for things abroad — such as when trying to book flights, in my experience — as their cards don’t allow them to pay in regular shops or webshops based outside of Europe.
As a result, newer Visa Debit and Debit Mastercards are being rolled out in order to fix these issues. (Better late than never, I guess!) 🙌
When exactly you’ll receive your new Visa Debit card or Debit Mastercard depends on when your specific bank decides to roll them out — but if it hasn’t already, the change is coming!
Okay, so what’s the deal with iDEAL and Tikkie, then?
You’re online, creeping around and doing a bit of splurge shopping. Stoked with your purchases, you click on the magical checkout button to send the items fluttering to your door. Suddenly, “huh? iDEAL only?”
With online shopping basically made for credit cards, and the Dutch not liking credit cards, these totteringly-tall people needed to find an alternate solution that would still let them fulfil their online shopping desires. That’s where iDEAL came in, way back in 2005.
iDeal utilises online banking to make a direct transfer to internet vendors via a Dutch bank account. Sound eerily familiar? Well, it certainly shares similarities with Maestro’s immediate transfer from one bank account to the other.
However, some websites only accept iDEAL, which means you need to have an online bank account, which means — you need a Dutch bank account. Yeesh!
But hang on. What if you want to use your Dutch Maestro card to do some online shopping on a foreign website? Well, it looks like that Maestro card isn’t accepted! You kept your old Visa Debit card, right?
This increasingly frustrating dilemma is another reason why the Dutch chose to roll out debit cards in 2023.
So how can I spend all my hard-earned euros?
Thanks to the gradual rollout of more Visa Debit cards and Debit Mastercards it is now easier to get by in the Netherlands without a Maestro card or iDEAL.
However, I still find myself needing my Maestro card in order to pay for certain things. So I would still recommend trying to get one if you plan on staying here long-term.
If you can’t get a Maestro-only card from your home bank, then you’re left trying to get a Maestro card in the Netherlands. The easiest solution, then, is to open a Dutch bank account.
Finally, if you can go without online shopping at some retailers, you may just find that cash is still king — but, if you’re averse to paying stodgy ATM fees and against carrying large amounts of cash, this probably isn’t for you.
What’s your experience with banking cards in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Why don’t my bank cards work in the Netherlands? Frequently Asked Questions
Why isn’t my Visa Debit card recognised as a debit card in the Netherlands?
In the Netherlands, Visa Debit cards are recognised as being credit cards, and many Dutch stores do not accept credit cards. This is because Visa Debit cards work on a dual-message debit system, which is the same system used for credit cards.
What is iDeal?
iDEAL is an online payment system that circumvents the need for the Dutch to have credit cards.
Instead of filling out your card information when paying for something online, iDEAL takes you directly to your personal online banking website, where you transfer the money directly to the business owner.
How do I replace my Maestro card with a Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard?
Once your bank makes the switch, you will automatically receive a new Visa Debit or Debit Mastercard in the post. There is no need to apply for one.