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COVID-19 - are people changing their behavior?

March 23, 2020
Illustrated guy with groceries and bunq card

Here’s a couple of cool stats gathered by our data team regarding what people in the Netherlands are doing with their finances in the current environment. Sit down, grab a drink, enjoy the read (and maybe a laugh, we need it!) and share these fun facts with your friends!

For a bit of context...

The rate at which the virus currently spreads through the Netherlands follows a pattern observed in many other countries.

On the 12th of March 2020, the Dutch government warned that all events and gatherings of more than 100 people will be shut down towards the end of the month. Fast forward to three days later, restrictions were increased: all schools, bars, coffee shops, gyms, theaters and cinemas are to completely close, at least until the 6th of April.

As we already know, any measures taken today would only impact the curve 14 days later. Therefore, we expect the number of cases to continue to rise exponentially for at least for another few days.

Naturally, this sparked curiosity among our data science team, who wanted to know how this is affecting our users.

Behavioral changes in The Netherlands linked to COVID-19

You do not need much data to notice the drastic changes happening around us. Suddenly, your favorite chocolate milk is out of stock, pasta is scarce, and the event you were looking forward to for months is now canceled. But how significant are these changes, really?

To see how the virus is affecting society from a bunq perspective, we must first analyze how money is being spent. To figure this out, we would have to look into millions of daily transactions made by our users, and then classify them all. If we were to do this manually for just an hour of transactions, it would take us...well, 132 years to complete!

‍Since we haven’t had any of our employees live to 132 years of age (yet), and to save ourselves sifting through all those transactions, we created bunq Insights to do the job for us! This is an amazing feature that uses machine learning and user input to classify every transaction instantly from your bunq app (check out bunq 12). The cool part? It’s available to everyone with a bunq account!

Alright, let’s start with some data 🏁


The graph above compares the average daily spend from the start of 2020, to the average daily amount spent during the days following the COVID-19 press conference (12th of March 2020). We’ve accounted for weekend fluctuation when people tend to spend more anyway, but it turns out this didn’t make much of a difference.

The biggest change can be seen in the finance category. With a little bit of digging, we found out that our users were beginning to invest more money into trading websites such as Plus500, or exchanging cryptocurrency.

The second biggest change we observe is with groceries, which was to be expected despite the government’s advice against “hamstering” 🐹 (the rest of the world calls this squirreling). No wonder there was no chocolate milk left!

The other categories seem to have been impacted less, but after zooming in on some even smaller details, we noticed a slightly different narrative.


While the overall spend on entertainment has gone down by 28%, the amount spent on video games has gone up by 24%! Working from home, you say?!

Similarly, the food and drinks category experienced an overall decline, but our typical spending on takeout food has not changed much at all 🍕. Restaurants that cannot provide takeaway options have suffered the most since the closure announcement.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Licensed marijuana shops 🌿, or coffee shops in the Netherlands, have seen the biggest proportional increase!

Cool bunq stats since the press conference 🙌

  • 9949 Green Card trees planted since the announcement 🌴
  • 0% decrease in customer support productivity 💪and 0% decrease to ever be expected
  • 2.3% increase in contactless payments 🧼

Since the 17th of March 2020, behaviors have begun to normalize, and the amount of transactions is showing a decline in all categories. We expect this to be the case for the following days, while people continue to self-isolate.

A note from us at bunq 🌈

bunq values progress, transparency, and freedom of choice for all our users. That’s why we celebrate automation and technology: to give everyone the best banking experience in the world.

No matter what the circumstances are, we’ll always operate to the fullest capacity, without ever compromising on quality. That’s a promise.

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