The OV-chipkaart is the new public transport smartcard, the ticket for all public transport in the Netherlands. This is a kind of credit card used to pay for bus, tram, train and metro. You use this card to check in for each mode of transport as you depart and to check out again when you arrive. You can buy it at stations, kiosks and many supermarkets.
There are two different types of OV chipcard you can acquire as a tourist:
Single-use chipcard (“Disposable” OV chipcard): This is a single use ticket that you can buy at any Dutch train station. It carries a €1 surcharge in addition to the standard fare. It is made from card, is printed with the date and route and can only be purchased on-the-day of travel. To validate the ticket passengers must check-in and check-out of their journey using the card readers near the platforms or at the gate barriers. The card is disposed after use - it cannot be used again.
“Anonymous” OV chipcard: If you stay in the Netherlands for longer it makes sense to purchase this card. An “empty” card costs €7.50 and is valid for a maximum of five years. Before your first journey the card must be loaded with at least €20 credit. This can be done at either the Tickets & Service counters or using the yellow ticket machines with the blue strip on top showing the NS symbol. Credit cards (Mastercard or Visa) are accepted at the following stations only: Amsterdam Centraal, Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena, Amsterdam Sloterdijk, Amsterdam Zuid, Arnhem, Den Haag HS/CS, Duivendrecht, Eindhoven, Groningen, Hengelo, Maastricht, Roosendaal, Rotterdam, Schiphol and Utrecht.
Please note: Cards purchased at NS stations are automatically activated for train travel. Cards bought elsewhere (e.g. other transport providers, newsagents, supermarkets) need to be activated for 'pre-paid travel with NS' (reizen op saldo) at a train station machine or desk.
Charging credit to your OV chip card
An anonymous OV chip card costs €7.50 but does not contain any initial travel credit. You can add credit at one of the service desks or machines at many stations. Please note that the payment options vary but you can never pay by credit card. Once you have added credit, you can use the OV chip card to travel by bus, tram and metro. It is not yet suitable for use on the train however!
Using an OV chip card for railway travel
If you want to use your OV chip card to pay for railway travel (with NS), you must first activate it at an ‘NS ticket machine’. In addition there must be at least €20 worth of travel credit on your card before you can travel by train (this does not apply for bus, tram or metro). If you did not activate your OV chip card for railway travel, you can also buy a ticket at one of the 'NS ticket machines' or the ‘NS Tickets & Service Desks’ at the bigger stations. Please note that tickets cost €0.50 more at the 'NS Tickets & Service Desk'!
Credit card payment not always possible
If you want to buy a train ticket at one of the NS ticket machines, the payment methods are usually restricted to cash or PIN (debit card). You cannot use your credit card. The only two places where you can buy a railway ticket from the ticket machine with your credit card are Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Central Station.
Checking in and out
You must always check in and out with an OV-chipkaart. When getting on a bus, tram or train, hold the OV chip card in front of the clearly marked window on the check-in machine. The machine will confirm that you are checked in with a green light and audio signal (beep). Checking out works the same way; the machine tells you the cost of the ride and how much credit you have left. Remember to check out or the meter will keep running