How To Manage Your Money in The Netherlands as a Ukrainian Refugee

If you’ve decided to stay in The Netherlands as a refugee from the Ukraine, it is good to know how to deal with your finances: How to get free money from the Dutch government, how to get a job and housing. It’s also good to know if you can use your banking app from the Ukraine, or how to open and use a new bank account here.

Staying in the EU

Ukrainians already were allowed to travel in the EU for 90 days without visa. But now the EU has decided that Ukrainians are allowed to get a permit to stay for a year, and possibly even three years in total if the war continues and Ukraine is not a safe place. The Dutch government is still debating on the details and how to best help refugees from Ukraine. Read more about staying longer in the Netherlands.

EU Temporary Protection Directive

This allows you to go to any EU country. You are eligible to get information on temporary protection and access to employment, accommodation or housing, social welfare or means of subsistence, medical treatment, education for minors. You can also get opportunities for families to reunite in certain circumstances, and guarantees for access to the normal asylum procedure.

Registration as a refugee

You will be registered at a Special Emergency Reception Centers in the cities of Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Maastricht. You can also ask for assistance at all other municipalities. The Red Cross also helps people who need a place to stay. Ask them a question in Ukrainian, Russian, or English via Whatsapp: +31 6 48 15 80 53.

Train ticket

With your Ukrainian ID card and an Austrian, Belgian, French, or German train ticket no older than 24 hours, you can pick up a one-day travel pass at an NS (Dutch Railways) ticket desk.

Exchange cash into Euro

It’s not possible to exchange money at a bank. But if you brought Hryvnia or other non-Euro currency, you can exchange it at a GWK Travelex office. Every major city has at least one.

Living allowance and work

At the municipal reception center, you will at least receive a place to sleep, food and medical care for free. Ukrainian refugees can also with immediate effect use health care, education and can seek employment here.

Refugees also get a living allowance from the Dutch government (60 Euro per person per week, if living in a reception location, or living with a host family, 135 euros per week). The political debate on the details on your right to allowance, welfare, and work has just ended (18 March 2022) and in the coming days it will come into effect. Ask at the municipality where you’re staying.

State benefits

If you’re staying longer, there are several kinds of assistance benefits, like social assistance, rent and health benefits, child and childcare benefits. More information on benefits.

Opening a Bank Account

A bank account with a European IBAN to send and receive money (internationally) and to make payments is useful and saves fees. A lot of EU countries have all kinds of different measures in place to help make it easier for Ukrainian refugees.

According to the Dutch Payments Associations, it is now possible to open a bank account with a Dutch IBAN which Dutch municipalities will try to provide refugees with a Ukrainian passport with a Dutch BSN (social security number). With that, you can apply for any Dutch bank account.

To apply you must be able to show your Dutch BSN, your Ukrainian passport and be an adult who were lawfully residing in Ukraine at the outbreak of the war. Others may be eligible in the future.

For those not yet eligible for a BSN, the Dutch municipality where you register, can provide you with a temporary prepaid debit card to be used for daily purchases.

Free Bank Accounts

Some bank accounts are even free. Note that you can use any bank app in the EU to transfer or receive money to any other EU-based bank. And there are several that don’t even require a local social security number (BSN).

What’s more, there is no need to enter a bank building to open an account. You can open an account with your mobile phone. A few examples of accounts that you can open instantly with your mobile phone:

The thing to keep in mind is that most shops don’t accept Visa or Mastercard. The card system used here is called Maestro or V-Pay. So when you order a card, make sure you order a Maestro card or V-Pay.

Free Money Transfer service by PayPal, Ukraine

PayPal offers a free service to Ukrainians that will enable them to send money to PayPal wallets back in Ukraine. This money then can be sent to local bank accounts in Ukraine. It’s free, although the exchange fees might not be. More information.

Free bank account at Bunq

Let’s talk out the free bunq account, since it’s Dutch. Ukrainian refugees can open a free bank account at Bunq bank. It is indeed free (for three months), legit and useful. You can open a free bank account at bunq bank. bunq bank is Dutch but you’ll receive a German IBAN. It is indeed free (for Ukrainian refugees, for three months), legit and useful.

It’s not completely clear what will happen to your account after these three months. According to bunq upon questioning, the account will probably change into a paid account (from 2,99 Euro per month) – but they’re not sure yet (dd. 22 March 2022).

Download the bunq app from the App Store or Play Store, open an account and choose ‘Easy Bank’. After bunq has verified your identity from your passport, you will have an operable bank account for three months, without any charge.

Smartphone and Wifi

For online bank accounts, you’ll need a smartphone to use the banking app and a data subscription or a wifi connection. Calling internationally by phone from the Netherlands is expensive, but you can communicate through the internet. Free wifi is easy to find in nearly all pubs and restaurants and many shops. Just ask for the password (or find it on the menu). A prepaid subscription is often necessary to receive passwords and codes.

Useful links

Mira (MA) is our financial warrior from Ukraine. She is fluent in English, French, and Ukrainian. She manages the French and Ukrainian sections of FiFi Finance. She makes financial information accessible for refugees from Ukraine and with that, she helps them to build up a sound financial future. Read more about us.