A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Banking in Leiden


fact: most male bank managers wear this.

Ahh Holland, the land of managers. Statistics show that Dutch managers are the best in the world, and I have absolutely no reason to doubt it. They are friendly, precise, clinical, adjective, and final adjective. Just think how easy it was to get to Leiden university from your international climes, and think of all the managers that had to manage that process? From the upper echelons of the University management, to the middle managers of the admissions centre, to the managers of paper files and stamping machines. The financial managers making sure you paid your fees were no doubt particularly manageable on that day that they managed your euros. One could be forgiven for thinking that indeed, there is no job in Holland that doesn’t oversee the management of something. I guess I’m managing this blog… it seems contagious.

But there is surely no place better to see this management in action than at your local Dutch bank. The banks here are literally crawling with managers. I saw as many managers come and go through the swinging doors of my beloved RaboBank in the brief period I was there (being managed) as there is debt on my credit card. Men, women, possibly children too, all wonderfully arrayed in the cheapest business suits and cleanest teeth paint showered me with management questions on all sides. I was in veritable management heaven, with compound management interest.

There's no Business Like Cannabizniz

Dutch manager is Dutch, and managing

The first thing International students should know about their banking situation in Leiden is that RaboBank is the closest and most convenient bank to a) the welcome centre (this is where you go to arrive) and b) the station (this is where you go to leave). It is also the premier bank of, you guessed it, Leiden University, which changed banks this time last year from ABN AMRO bank, another bank which is green and yellow and which I just can’t get excited about. Your best bet is to go to Rabo or ING… no, just trust me and go to Rabo and save yourself the hassle, everyone else is doing it, it’s blue and orange and basically Leiden’s cheapest business-hours party drug.

The nearest manager will hook you up with is something called a ‘students’ packet’. I stifled my applause at this name, for various reasons, but mainly the fact that it is just so Dutch to be literal. I thought ‘student account’, or maybe ‘an account for students’ may have been a better way of putting it, and yet then I thought ‘what if it’s a whole lot more than just an account?’ Only time would tell… So the manager then takes your address detail and tells you they’ll manage the posting of your bank card to your room (fancy, but a lie) and once the managers at the post office have sent their vehicle sub-managers to do this job, you’ll be ready and set to go! But most importantly and impressively, when you receive your ‘packet’ (think of a situation akin to a line-up-for-lunch-at-a-penitentiary) you’ll get the famous branded rabobank card-reader, truly a sight for sore eyes.

ABN AMRO Credit Card Online Payment Inloggen

Literal banking: ABN AMRO markets credit cards, online…

The rabobank card reader is much like any card reader you may have used. I had never used one before this, which may explain my credit card debt (I didn’t buy those diamonds in Nigeria OK?!), but in any case, any ridiculous chrome plastic electronic gadget that has buttons on it, adorned with blue and orange, is already my idea of Nirvana. Once your nerves have settled enough to take a proper look at it, you’ll think you’re holding a toy mobile phone for a 2 year old child. This is a point only emphasized by the fact that it is completely unusable for a rational-thinking, intuitively-minded adult citizen of Earth.

Unfortunately in this era of technology, however, it is the most infuriating things that are generally the things we need. You need your card reader to transfer money (to the university, to the housing office, to your friends for the vodka, all in reverse order) and you also need it to check the balance of your internet banking, which is unremittingly called ‘internet banking’. To log in to your internet banking, find the log-in page on the rabo website, fill in your card details. To get the log-in code, press ‘I’ for ‘inane’ and it will ask you for your PIN. Sift through the insane level of what you thought was useless documentation to find this (it also was managerially delivered in the mail) and once you’ve received the log-in code, you put that in on the website too! Well done, you’re in! …but the fun isn’t over yet! Although there is an IKEA style manual in your mountain of documentation, the hard truth is this: even though you’ve logged-in to a secure internet banking system with a card reader, the secure internet banking system doesn’t work unless you use your card reader to make transactions… Seems like the managers have been managing the shit out of this one…


rabobank readers, they’re multiplying…

To make a transfer then, go through all the steps under ‘nieuwe opdracht’ (senders, receivers etc.) on the website. You will have to send your transfer to an ‘outbox’, where it will sit forever until you ‘action’ it. When you go to ‘action’ it, a screen comes up with your beloved card-reader and once again you have to push your card into the top of the reader. This time press ‘S’ for ‘serzly?’, and then enter the dragon for the last herculean challenge. Step 1: Enter your PIN again, Step 2: Enter the number on your screen, Step 3: Enter the three digits of your transfer AMOUNT before the decimal point. The reader will not explain this, and the website is in Dutch. This is not intuitive at all, but you’ll understand me when you do it.

OK, so that’s it, I hope that was helpful and entertaining. I hope you are now fully funded and managed and that there should be no more stress or anxiety about using your toy-phone. Unfortunately, unlike most toy mobile phones, it does not come with candy, but I am in the process of writing to RaboBank to get this for the fall-semester intake. Happy financing my fellow managers all, and should you have any questions, queries, qualms, problems or nouns, do not hesitate to have them on my desk 9am Monday sharp.


The Manager.

11 comments on “Banking in Leiden

  1. Dmitry Perets
    February 10, 2013

    I just wanted to mention that ABN Amro – the one that the author can’t get excited about – has an English version of their website, including online banking system and step-by-step instructions in English regarding what and when to click on your card reader =) Also, for my opinion, the best bank is the one that you don’t have to visit physically. So clear and secure online banking in one of the languages that I understand – for me it’s the best option. But of course, I can’t really compare, because I never was Rabobank’s customer. They may have other advantages.

    • theleidener
      February 10, 2013

      Thanks Dmitry! Safe to say it wasn’t personal or an anti-competitive move of any sort. It is just the process that International Students are most likely to go through. I too have never been a customer of ABN AMRO, so we’re in the same boat. Thanks again for your input! 🙂 Cheers, Eric.

  2. Phuong
    January 10, 2015

    Hi! Thanks for the post. May I ask how long it generally takes to open a Rabobank account and get your ‘packet’? XD

  3. Maria Fernanda
    September 12, 2016

    Hi, I am a spanish student just arrived in Leiden, and I have a question. Do I need a dutch account? Everybody tells me that it is important to have a dutch bank account, for a telephone contract etc etc etc. but I read this in the universitiy site.

    “If you have a bank account in a country that is not a member of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)*, you are advised to open a Dutch bank account. This is particularly important if you have been awarded a scholarship by Leiden University, in order that we can transfer the funds to you.
    If you have a bank account in a country that is a member of Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)* it is not possible to open a Dutch bank account.  You are advised to contact your own bank for more information”

    I have in my country a bank account and a credit and debit card. My country belongs to the area SEPA. It means I can use my spanish account for every payment and for buying a smartphne with a local number and 2 years contract?


    • Dmitry Perets
      September 13, 2016

      Hi Maria,

      You will lose some conveniency. For example, when you buy stuff online on Dutch sites, the most popular way to pay is iDEAL – sort of Paypal-like system but Dutch, where you are redirected to your bank site to make a payment. This won’t work without a local bank account. You can sometimes use other payment methods, but not always. And also I am not sure if every company will accept foreign IBAN. You could try, you can always open a Dutch account later. If I have to bet, I say that you are likely to find it more convenient 😉 and just fyi – for an account with just a debit card you pay less than 2 euro per month nowadays in ABN AMRO…

      • Maria Fernanda
        September 13, 2016

        Thank you very much for your answer, but the problem is that I can pay cash, or with any debit or credit card, or paypal… but I can not have a 2 year contract for mobile line without a dutch bank account. That is what they told me at the smartphones store

      • Dmitry Perets
        September 13, 2016

        Yes, so that’s why opening a local bank account is probably more convenient (and relatively cheap).

      • Maria Fernanda
        September 13, 2016

        I wonder if it will be possible becouse if you have a bank account in a country that is a member of Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA)* it is not possible to open a Dutch bank account. And I have!

      • Dmitry Perets
        September 13, 2016

        Oh sorry, I didn’t read your original question correctly… It sounds really weird, I don’t think there is such a rule that forbids multiple accounts in SEPA area. I would say, just go to any branch of any bank of your choice and ask them directly.

      • Maria Fernanda
        September 13, 2016

        really weird… you are right, I’ll do that.

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