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The OV Chipkaart is used within Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands, it is valid on most trains, trams and bus lines. Residents and visitors buy a blank card and add money to it. During rides the fares are deducted by the different transport companies.
If you have used the cards such as the Oyster in London or the Octopus in Hong Kong this system is similar. You check in and check out on each vehicle and pay for the kilometers. It is a great system... for locals.
The cost of the empty card (€7,50) doesn't make sense for visitors since you may not use it enough to recoup the upfront cost. But once you have an OV card, you generally pay half for an Amsterdam tram trip. For regional bus journeys the advantage is considerable, half or greater discount. Actually journeys on regional buses or a multitude of train trips are the main reasons why tourists would go for (anonymous) OV card; possibly in combination with trips inside large towns if you do not travel enough to benefit from the (multi-) day cards. But do note that most regional bus companies also have some type of paper day ticket, also cheaper than paper single rides and maybe cheaper maybe more expensive than using (anonymous) OV card depending on your exact travel times and group setup. E.g. Waterlanddagkaart for EBS (northeast of Amsterdam, e.g. Volendam); Buzzer for Connexxion (northwest and west of Amsterdam); Familiedagkaart for Arriva (e.g. near Leiden) and Dalurendagkaartje for Veolia (e.g. Brabant and Dordrecht area). And the 'Amsterdam and Region' day ticket of GVB, EBS, Connexxion and small Arriva coverage. Conditions vary widely, many are for a group of 2+ family members and only valid off-peak. The 9292 site has for some bus companies a way to find out both single ride prices (non-PAYG) and special tickets; this next to the PAYG single ride price which is always shown. At the bottom of the results screen, click "Show discounts and details" and then "All possible prices? Click here (Dutch)". Note that the info might not be as precise as the PAYG pricing; e.g. for EBS (Amsterdam Waterland) it only mentions the price per 'zone' and not the specific price/zones for the ride you selected.
Another reason for using the anonymous card is frequent transport in some cities. Notably in The Hague the 24-hour card is the only one available as disposable product. The 48- and 72-hour cards, considerably cheaper per day than 24 hour, are only available as products to be loaded on the anonymous OV-chipcard.
Visitors to Amsterdam have to pay €2,89 on the tram (egads!) and the 24 hour card (€7,50 - available on the tram) is a good value only by comparison. 48/72/96 hour cards are available at GVB Tickets and Info in front of Centraal Station and are more reasonably priced.
To Chip or not to chip - the maths question
It's almost impossible to give a complete set of formulas or 'flowchart' determining whether the Anonymous card makes sense to a certain tourist for a certain visit. But below the main costs and savings are shown, and then a few extreme cases to aid making decisions.
Main costs are:
The investment in the empty card, 7.50 euro
The compulsory minimum balance which also applies to the start of your last ride. It's 4 euro for local travel and 20 euro for NS. For this reason many tourists 'draw the card empty' at an Amsterdam GVB office and then still have to buy a paper ticket, with one euro surcharge, for their last trip to airport. But if you don't have time for this, and don't plan to return within five years, you loose this balance together with the empty card investment.
Possibly the service charge for refunding a balance; GVB is allowed to charge 2.50 euro for it but uptilnow has waived the fee.
Sadly enough for interrupting a train journey, e.g. Amsterdam - The Hague with stop in Leiden, the chipcard is 1-2 euro more expensive than a paper disposable chipcard (but excluding the 1 euro surcharge for the paper). If, as is officially needed but not enforced everywhere yet, you checkout and checkin again at the intermediate stop. Reason is that NS (if the stop is longer than 30 minutes) sees it as 2 separate single rides, Amsterdam-Leiden and Leiden-The Hague, and hence twice adds the base fee for any ride. Advice is to take this into account for the comparison OR not checking in and out as these intermediate stops - after all checks of the conductor on both segments show you have a valid checked-in card (in Amsterdam towards The Hague). But Leiden now has closed turnstiles so there is no escaping this extra cost in case of using OV-Chipcard.
Then the advantages, financially (of course there is also some added convenience):
Discounted prices on local transport, in case you make a few rides a day but insufficient to justify a local (multi-)day card
Discounted prices on NS rail: the 1 euro surcharge on paper tickets does not apply here. But see the Article on train travel, there is also the 'Belgian e-ticket route' to avoid this surcharge.
Discounted prices on regional bus rides, in case your travel behaviour does not justify the paper day ticket of a specific bus company
Extreme cases showing the outcome are e.g.
Tourist John travels for a week to Amsterdam. He makes 3 train trips: in and out of Amsterdam Central Station, and a return ticket to Delft (also visiting The Hague, Leiden and Haarlem on the way). For the rest his travel is in and around Amsterdam. Let's assume the GVB multi-day cards and EBS Waterland day tickets suffice for his around-town behaviour, then the only advantage of the Anonymous PAYG card for him would be 3 x 1 euro saves on the train. Offset to an investment of 7.50 euro plus maybe 'loosing' some card balance the return-on-investment is clearly negative and John will gladly pay the 3 x 1 euro extra for the train.
Tourist Jane travels to Netherlands for 2 weeks, and next to Amsterdam also bases herself in The Hague and Nijmegen. She makes at least 14 train trips but some of them on day return tickets, making it 10 tickets. Also she has a few regional bus rides around Nijmegen. For her the savings of 10 x 1 euro on the train and some on the buses (assuming a Nijmegen bus day card won't save her money on paper tickets) justify buying the Anonymous card.
If you are moving here or have decided the Anonymous card is worth it:
There are three types of OV cards:
1 - The anonymous card: This you can pick up at GVB offices and GVB and NS ticket machines and NS counters, and anywhere with an add value machine which basically means most of the places you previously could buy strippenkaarts like tobacconist shops (Tabacs), newsagents, etc. Note that the latter is at the discretion of the shops: their yellow Chipcard machine does not dispense new cards, but some have a stock of anonymous cards for sale as has the Service Counter at the airport. Topping up, with banknotes, can also be done at the NS counters at a bigger station (not the NS sales points in e.g. station kiosks) but they might ask you 0.50 euro extra for this 'service' per person / topped-up card. The card costs € 7.50 to buy (seems a lot for a small bit of plastic). Please be aware though that the machines in the small shops will ONLY take Dutch bank cards and Maestro debit cards so not useful to many of the tourists. The GVB site says that one can also pay the shopkeeper to load up the card, but this will again be at the discretion of the shop as it's quite timeconsuming for them. This card can be loaded with most travel products such as the 24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ticket and of course you can load it up with PAYG money. Unfortunately you cannot use this card for weekly or monthly tickets. Also you cannot share these cards (or any others for that matter) like you could with the strippenkaart. You must get a card for each person.
The GVB machines do accept notes (bigger stations only) and some also coins, and also sell anonymous cards including a top-up balance - saving you an extra step. The NS machines do accept Maestro foreign debit cards - and nowadays also VISA an MasterCard creditcards (with PIN), at a surcharge. GVB machines (the large gray-blue ones with screen _and_ the yellow ones which are a sibling of those at the tobacconitsts/supermarkets) do accept Visa/Mastercard again with PIN.
2 - The paper disposable card: This card replaces the single trip ticket which you used to buy from the driver. However previously you could buy one and two zone tickets which were €1.60 & €2.40 respectively. They have now introduced a one hour ticket which is valid for the whole of Amsterdam which costs €2.80. With this ticket you can travel for up to an hour anywhere in the Amsterdam GVB area. However if you are only travelling one zone it’s clear that this is much more expensive than before. If you are going to use public transport quite a lot then it might be better to get day tickets (also on disposable cards) or get an anonymous card and load it up with PAYG. Disposable cards are available at the normal outlets as mentioned above. The single trip tickets and the 24 hour tickets are also available from the driver but as before the 48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ones are not. Speculation is that this is to avoid the drivers having to handle lots of cash. Note that the 24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour tickets are available in two forms: as paper disposable card or as a product to load on the anonymous card. For tourists generally the disposable option is better (and saves you €7.50).
3 - The Personalised OV card: This card is not really designed for visitors as you have to fill in an application form (in Dutch) and send it off or apply on the internet (also in Dutch). With this card you can load up nearly any travel product including season tickets. It's also the only way to get age-based discounts (the former 'red strippenkaart') in Amsterdam - so byebye to that for most tourists, sorry. Other towns might fare better - e.g. Rotterdam (RET) has a half-price day card for people aged 65+ or 4-11 years, the same discount they get on a personalised OV-card. Amsterdam now has corrected this limitation solely for kids 4-11: there is a day card for them costing € 2.50, if accompanied by an adult.
What will it cost? Well, for PAYG it will cost a base fee as soon as you get on the tram plus a rate per kilometer thereafter so the minimum cost of each journey will be around 1.30-1.50 €. Bus companies like Arriva or Connexxion can have different prices per kilometer, and the Connexxion Interliner express buses have an extra surcharge on the kilometer price to account for the higher 'express' service level.
If you need to change trams etc., to complete your journey the base fee will not be charged again as long as you check in again within 35 minutes. After 35 minutes you will again be charged the base fee again.
In Amsterdam, a GVB 24-hour ticket costs €7.50, a 48-hour ticket €12 and a 72-hour ticket costs €16.50 (these are available as disposable tickets). The 35 minute check in rule does not apply to this daycards as they are valid within the whole GVB area (including the night bus) and the rules for using them apply as before apart from having to check in and out of the tram/bus/metro. However, for all OV cards you have to remember to check in and check out at the electronic check points at the entrance to trams and buses and at the barriers for the Metro. Actually it’s not possible to forget in the Metro as the barrier will not open otherwise. Take care with 'open' metro places like Amstel station and all Amstelveen halts; and in The Hague-Rotterdam region the Randstadrail E stations. For the metro one has to check in before entering in the yellow electronic check points on the platform, for trams (like Amstelveen tram 5 and Randstadrail 3 and 4) one has to check in inside the vehicle!
Failing to check in will mean that you do not have a valid ticket for the tram or bus and this can result in a €35 fine! Failing to check out will result in €4 being deducted from the amount on a card (esp PAYG). Failing to check out more than 12 times in a two week period will result in the card being blocked by the system. Take care with those metro stations that double as railway stations on the same platforms or areas, being Amstel and Duivendrecht. They have two sets of barriers to enter the area; the GVB ones which are by default closed and the NS ones which for the near future are open. Use the GVB ones if you plan to use the metro because they do the check-in automatically in order to open.
You can now pay for train journeys with the OV Chipkaart but before your first journey you must go to the NS ticket counter or any NS vending machine (just hold it at the area bottomright to see the Chipkaart menu) to have the card validated; the main goal of validating is telling NS whether you want to travel 2nd class or first class. Also the 'deposit' (minimum balance needed before allowing to travel) for a train journey is €20, not the €4 for a GVB ride; just something to be aware of, the deposit is returned at the end of the journey. Note that the system of 'base fee will not be charged again as long as you check in again within 35 minutes' does not apply for transfers between train and GVB. You always pay the base fee separately for the train ride and the GVB ride; a clear setback compared to the Strippenkaart validity in Amsterdam city trains.
Just to summarise. For tourists wanting to use anonymous PAYG OV-Chipkaart all the way from the airport, so not the daycards, it's three steps; have creditcard with PIN, Maestro debit card or coins ready or banknotes if you choose to use the NS counter.
a) At a Schiphol vending machine or the NS counter, select to purchase an anonymous OV-Chipkaart. Cost 7.50. Complete the transaction.
b) At the same vending machine, hold card in the bottomright corner and from menu select 'top-up'. Put an amount of at least 20 euro on it. Same can be done from counter.
c) Again in the same machine, activate the card for railway usage. This is a simple menu selection without any cost involved, where you store on the card that you want to travel 2nd (or if you want 1st) class. Again same can be done at the counter.
Now you're ready to go downstairs to the train platform, and check in with the card with the machine there which is located close to escalators and elevators. At Amsterdam Centraal, the check out is in the (opened) barriers close to the exits.
Once you have fininished your stay in Amsterdam, you ask for the rest of the money in the OV Chipkaart to be reimbursed. It's easy if you have under 30€ of credit, formally they are entitled to charge (withhold) 2,50 administration fee. Just do that in GVB office (some are closed on Saturday). If you have more than 30€ in credit, it's complicated, involving filling a form in Dutch.
Some web pages for more information on the OV Chipkaart:-.
When you choose not to buy a ov-chipcard, you can always use disposable tickets for public transport, summarized:
For train travel (NS), you can purchase single-use chipcards (incl. singles and day returns) at the yellow ticket machines at the station. There is no need to pre-book tickets; all domestic trains have fixed prices. Disposable train tickets come with a surcharge of €1. Creditcard payment is now possible at all stations (VISA or MasterCard), but a pincode or safety code is required and an extra surcharge of €0.50 is added. For children aged 4-11, a NS dayticket called Railrunner is available for € 2.50.
For travel in Amsterdam (GVB), you can buy a single ride (actually 1 hour) ticket for €2.80. But it is more economical to buy a 24-hour (€7.50), 48-hour (€12) or 72-hour (€16.50) card, valid on all trams, metros and GVB (night)busses. Buy tickets at the grey machines at metro stops or at GVB Tickets&Info, e.g. opposite central station. The 1-hour and 24-hour tickets can also be bought on board of trams and busses. For children aged 4-11, a GVB dayticket is available for € 2.50.
The so-called Amsterdam Travel Ticket is a combination ticket that includes a train return ticket to and from Schiphol to any of Amsterdam's stations, plus unlimited travel on all GVB trams, metros and (night)busses for 1, 2 or 3 days.
In every situation, remember to always check in and check out or your ticket will not be valid. A door-to-door journey planner, including price information, is available at 9292.nl/en.
Feel free to edit this article if you think that any of the information is incorrect or misleading in any way.
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