Maestro cards

A lot of international students arrive in Maastricht unaware of the strange (and in many places practically archaic) Maestro card. I won’t keep you here for too long because I’m sure you have more important things to do, but you should know that these cards exist, that many shops in the Netherlands accept them (and only them!), and that not having one has cornered many new students (writer included) into an awkward situation.

What are Maestro cards?

In a nutshell, a brand of debit card issued by Mastercard that has been phased out practically everywhere except in the Netherlands, Germany and a few others. It’s basically a debit card.

Why do we dedicate an entire page to them?

Because Maestro cards are completely unknown in many countries, but super common in the Netherlands. Some establishments – notoriously the big supermarket chain Albert Heijn – only accept Maestro or cash; I guarantee you, you do not want your first grocery shop experience in NL to involve scrambling about for an ATM while the cashier gives you a murderous stare, because you have no cash and no Maestro card. Speaking from experience.

Please note that Maestro cards are being phased out during the years of 2023-2024. It is getting easier and easier to use a Visa or Mastercard and some banks no longer issue Maestro cards. However, you may still run into problems every now and then so keep this in mind (and maybe a bit of cash in hand).

So, if you don’t have a Dutch bank card, we highly recommend you source one – either by opening a Dutch bank account, or through an online bank that provides them (for example, Revolut or n26). 

Card or cash?

Lastly, those who are new to the Netherlands should know that the Dutch love paying by card and very rarely use cash. The situation has only been amplified by the pandemic. Sorry, Germans!

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