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Checks Please? No Thank You.

Photo (cc) Betsssssy via Flickr

Photo (cc) Betsssssy via Flickr

In America we may consider checks to be an old-fashioned way to buy something or pay for a meal, but we are still accustomed to seeing them. They are used to pay bills and given as gifts. We can deposit them electronically and conveniently via ATMs. It’s just what we’re use to.

Not so here in the Netherlands. The crestfallen look on the bank employee’s face when I showed her my check to deposit proved that. Checks are not really used anymore in the Netherlands. The bank employee told me that they are considered to be too insecure. Instead people use cash, direct bank transfers, or PIN cards to make purchases and give gifts. Bills are paid using “Acceptgiros”; a payment coupon you fill out and give to your bank to approve deductions. You can also pay Acceptgiros online if you’ve requested to have online banking set up.

Fortunately, it is possible to deposit a check, even if it isn’t recommended. At Rabobank (the service we use), it costs about 12,50 euros to deposit a check and I was told it can take about 2 weeks for an international check to clear. To make a deposit, you’ll need to bring your check to your local bank branch along with your account number (usually your PIN card) and an ID. Then the bank employee will fill out a form and stamp the check in your presence. You will sign both items when directed. It was about a 15 minute process for me. Then the check has to be sent to a central location by the bank before the money can be deposited in your account.

Of course the best alternative to check is to ask people who would otherwise write you a check to send you cash or arrange for a wire transfer. If that’s not possible, and you’ve maintained an American bank in the US, you can try to mail them to your bank for deposit. I’ve done this with Bank of America and the cost of mailing the check was be less than the 12,50 processing fee.

For more information about banking in the Netherlands, check out this quick overview from Just Landed.

One Response to “Checks Please? No Thank You.”

  1. Alyssa says:

    The Swedish student we are “hosting” had to be taught by me how to write a check. I thought it was so cute to teach him since we normally learn this in elementary school! But I knew from the Swedish system that all you need is a person’s personalnummer and you can send them money through the post office and a variety of other places. I apologized for our antiquated system and said that hopefully in another 20 years or so, we will do the same as Sweden. It appears the Dutch do the same thing–probably most places in Europe do.