A Trip to the Bank

Despite what google tells you, "to pull" in Dutch is "trekken". Trekken also means "draw", in both the "draw on" and "horse-drawn carriage" sense of the word draw. "To push" is "buwen".

Dutch fire code does not require doors to open outward like American fire code requires, meaning you shouldn't assume that a door opens outwards when outside a building. These sorts of assumptions will screw you when you're attempting to enter the bank. There will be a bunch of giggling teenage girls are behind you, and you'll never forget that "buwen" means push. And they said degrees from MIT would help open doors. Lies.

I wonder why the Dutch don't take fire code so seriously. Doors in America always open outwards so no one gets trapped behind the door. And there aren't embarrassing moments like these. Well, at least not outside of buildings.

Anyways, on to the main point of this post, a short discussion about differences in banking. In order to open a bank account at ABN-AMRO, a bank in the Netherlands, one must schedule an appointment several days to a week in advance. I don't know if it is ABN-AMRO specifically, but an email I received from HR implies that all banks are this way. I've opened three checking accounts in America with three different banks, and every time I just walked in and 15 minutes later I walked out with a checking account.

Two weeks after said embarrassing encounter and several days after my appointment, I received my debit card in the mail. Instead of a 16 digit credit card number, my account number is on the debit card! Putting a different, 16-digit number onto a debit card serves two purposes to my knowledge. The first reason is that a debit card can have the same interface as a credit card - sellers don't need two different mechanisms for payment. It would be a big hassle to parse two sets of information, go to a different interface based on the info, etc. The second reason is that your debit card doesn't contain your account number, so your account number is not suspect if you lose your debit card. Every American check contains one's account number, however, so I suppose it isn't so bad if the account number is compromised.

The debit card also has a formatted version of my name, an expiration date, and a "card number" which contains roughly the same amount of information as the CVV number of the back of my American credit cards (short aside: did you know that Canadians hate it when US citizens call themselves American? They're North American, and hence American, too). The card is called a "Wereldpas", meaning (you guessed it) "world pass". The card also contains a ChipKnip contact.

ChipKnip, from my limited understanding, is a standardized interface to vending machines and small payment devices. You have to go to a special ATM-like machine to take money from your main account and place this money onto/into the ChipKnip portion of your card. At my appointment the teller described ChipKnip as a coin-purse on your debit card, but quickly moved on, probably not wishing to stretch her English nor explain such a "basic" concept. I'm very interested in the security of the device. How do you prevent people from taking advantage of ChipKnip? Expect a post sometime in the future as I learn more about how the ChipKnip device works.

Roughly a day after the mailman delivered my debit card, I received an authentication device for internet banking, and a letter thanking me for asking not to receive paper statements. I'll be writing more about the security of this device in a later post.

For all the trouble I went through to setup a bank account, there won't be much money in it until next month. I need a SoFi number (social fiscal, Dutch equivalent of SSN) before the Universiteit can pay me. Until then I'll be eating pasta.

(This post was written on my laptop, before I had regular internet access. No animals were harmed, though some red tape did suffer damage.)

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