A pay-at-the-bank package costs less in the Netherlands than in neighboring Belgium, but there are also fewer options. Belgians usually receive a free credit card with their plan. The Germans pay most of our neighboring countries with 3 to 6 euros per month, according to an inventory by NU.nl.
The cheapest payment package at a major Dutch bank currently costs 1.95 euro per month at ABN AMRO, but an additional euro will be added from July. From then on, Rabobank will be the cheapest at 2.25 euros per month. You have a current account and a debit card for this. At ING, the same package costs 2.35 euros. If you want a credit card, you have to pay 1.50 to 2 euros per month.
This is not the case in Belgium. There, payment packages with 3-4 euros per month are slightly more expensive, but a credit card is included everywhere. “It sounds like a better deal, but if you don’t need a credit card at all, you’re actually paying too much,” says Harald Benink, a banking professor at Tilburg University. “In the Netherlands, in principle, you can withdraw and transfer money to all countries in the euro zone for 2.25 euros. If that’s all you want to do, you better go to a Dutch bank.”
Dutch banks can keep costs low through concentration
An important difference between the Netherlands and Belgium is that we transfer immediately. Belgians have to wait a day to see the money in their account. “Because there are fewer small banks in the Netherlands than in a number of other countries, they can spread their investments better across a larger number of account holders,” says Benink. “It gives them more money to optimize payment systems while keeping costs low.”
In addition, the Consumers Association and television programs such as Box strongly insisting on what a bank should be allowed to charge, forcing banks to keep prices low.
Sweden has the cheapest payment plans
If we go a little further, towards the Scandinavian countries, we notice that Sweden is Valhalla in terms of low bank charges. A payment plan costs on average around 25 euros per year, which amounts to just over 2 euros per month, and usually includes a credit card. “In Sweden, cash is highly discouraged, which allows banks to keep costs low,” says Benink.
In other Scandinavian countries, payment accounts are usually free, but transaction fees apply or you have to pay by cash withdrawal, so the fees are about the same as with us.
Germans pay the most of all neighboring countries. Anyone who wants to open an account in Germany pays 3 to 6 euros per month and only has a current account and a debit card. If you want a credit card, you have to pay an extra 2 euros or more per month.
The Germans are very attached to their privacy
Benink sees two explanations for this. “First of all, the German banking landscape is very fragmented. There are a lot more small regional banks, which means there is less cooperation and that drives up prices. But the Germans are also very focused on cash. Due to their war history, they are very privacy conscious and therefore prefer not to be tracked with their payments. As a result, Germans pay much less in the pub or shop and therefore banks offer less cash. options.
To complete the comparison, we also looked at Italy, a country in southern Europe. There, customers pay 30 to 40 euros per year for an account with a debit card and between 1.50 and 3 euros per month for a credit card. This is comparable to what the Dutch pay.