Netherlands By Bike


Getting Around using OV-Chipkaart

✔︎ Where can I use the ov-chipkaart?

  • NS Trains
  • Metros
  • Trams
  • Buses
  • Waterbus Ferry (Rotterdam)
  • Westerschedle Ferry (Vlissingen - Breskens)
    (part of the north sea bike route)

Where is the ov-chipkaart not accepted?

  • NS International
  • Privately operated ferries
    (except for those listed above)

An Introduction to the  OV-Chipkaart

It's just like cash!

The OV-Chipkaart is a pre-paid "smart card" which provides a single payment system for all domestic public transportation within the Netherlands. It's a simple and convenient system but it does require some fundamental card management  by the user. For example, you must always maintain a minimum balance and strictly observe the guidelines for checking in and out. This smart card is purchased from a ticket machine using a chip and pin compliant credit card. Any unused balance up to €30 can be refunded at a NS ticket counter before your departure. You may also elect to purchase a disposable single use card.

OV-Chipkaart card reader at NS train station

The OV-Chipkaart was designed for Dutch customers and features personal conveniences like adding money to your card online or having access to ticket machines located throughout the country. Unfortunately, many of the advertised features about this card will not be available to you as a visitor or just don’t work as promised unless you have a Dutch-issued credit card. Just be warned that not all ticket machines will accept foreign cards regardless of compliance. As a visitor, you are eligible to purchase the Anonymous OV-Chipkaart or a disposable paper card.

Read what has to say about the ov-chipkaart

Meet the OV-Chipkaart

Personal  (not available to tourists)

Must be a resident of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Luxembourg.

✔︎ Anonymous  (recommended)

✔︎ Disposable Paper Card  (not a smart card)

  • Robust plastic card which lasts 5 years.
  • Cost €7.50 for the card itself
  • Can load up to €150 (maximum balance)
  • Can reload unlimited times.
  • Unused credit refundable up to €30.
  • Track your OV-Chipkaart usage with smart phone App.
  • Add a bicycle day card directly to the chipkaart.
  • May be shared but used by only one person at a time.
  • Treat it like cash. No refunds for lost cards.
  • Cost €1 for the card itself.
  • Purchase a one time fixed amount
  • Suitable for the short stay tourist
  • Expires after a fixed time duration
  • Can not get a refund on unused credit. It just expires!
  • Unable to track your usage Online

If you're undecided on which card to get, consider the convenience and carefree opportunities the Anonymous card offers. You never know when your bicycling plans may change due to weather or scheduling. It's comforting to know that you can just jump on the nearest train to a new location or grab a Metro across town to a museum or restaurant.

The disposable card will just disappoint you!

Some thoughts and comments

Ticket barriers at Utrecht Centraal Station

✔︎  You should use the modern ticket machines located at major city NS Train stations and Schiphol airport. These all favor chip and pin compliant credit or atm cards. NS Customer service counters will manually process most signature based credit cards as long as you provide a valid passport.

✔︎ You can also use the ticket machines used for mass transit systems like Metros and Trams. These all favor chip and pin compliant credit or atm cards.

✔︎  You can sign up for an ov-chipkaart online account in order to monitor your card activity such as travel history and card usage.

✔︎ Your card is immediately activated for 2nd class travel on NS but can be "class swapped" to first class.

  You can not purchase anything online such as an e-ticket or add money to your ov-chipkaart unless you have a Dutch issued credit card. You must use a ticket machine.

  The ticket machines at local shops and grocery stores typically don’t work with foreign credit cards even if they are chip and pin compliant.

You should avoid performing credit card transactions at rural train stations because they are not attended and don't always accept foreign credit cards. Plan ahead by adding credit while in one of the larger cities.

If your card ever malfunctions, your only option is to visit a NS train station which has a customer service counter. They will fix or replace as needed.

✔︎ Always carry spare Euro coins to purchase a disposable paper card for you or your bike if needed. The NS ticket machines do not accept paper currency!

You can not rent an OV-Fiets bicycle nor can you use your anonymous card to pay for bicycle storage (fietsenstallings) at NS Stations.



Be sure to use the correct card scanner

when using Train or Metro.

Rules for Checking Out



NS Trains, Metro, Tram or Bus

If you are transferring from one NS train to another NS train then you do not have to check out until you reach your final destination.

If you are transferring from one Metro to another Metro then you do not have to check out until you reach your final destination.

You can't mix train types! You must check out if transferring between a NS train and a Metro or one of its regional carriers like Arriva. Be very careful to look for your carrier's logo or name on the card scanner before swiping. Scan responsibly!

You must always check out on trams and buses regardless of transfers.

Time Limits

If you forget to check out on the train, you can return and check out as long as it's within 6 hours of your check in.

There may be an occasion, where after checking in at a station, you decide not to travel. In that case, if you check out within 1 hour you will not be charged. If you leave it longer than the hour you will lose the €20 deposit

There are three types of card scanners

Entry and Exit gates found in most NS train and Metro stations and will automatically check you in and out.

Free standing scanners located near train platforms and require you to voluntarily check in and out. These are typically found in smaller NS trains stations or city metro stations.

Vehicle mounted scanners found on Trams and Buses and require you to voluntarily check in and out.

The Boarding Fee and the Minimum Balance


The OV-Chipkaart operates on a very simple principle of Check-In and Check-Out. When you Check IN, you agree to pay a boarding fee which is refunded when you Check OUT and your fare is calculated and the difference is credited back to your card. You only pay for the distance traveled. If you neglect to check out, they have no way of knowing where you got off so they keep the boarding fee! This is why you are required to maintain the minimum balance on your card!

• NS Train Boarding Fee:  €20

• Metro, Tram or Bus Boarding Fee:  €4

Using the Anonymous OV-Chipkaart

Getting comfortable with the whole process

Most of the larger train stations in the Netherlands have been upgraded with entry and exit gates which require you to check in and out using your OV-Chipkaart.  If you have a bicycle you will need to use one of the  oversized gates, which are designated for wheelchair and bicycle access. If you purchased a bicycle day card you only need to present this to the conductor on board the train. If your train platform is on a different level, be sure to take advantage of the elevators that are provided to accommodate you and your bike.

OV-Chipkaart entrance gates at NS train station

When swiping your card to check in, a Green light will confirm with "Inchecken" signifying you are now checked in. A Red light is a malfunction with your card or you have an insufficient balance. Make sure your card was activated properly for 2nd class NS travel.

When swiping your card to check out, a Green light will confirm with "Uitchecken" then displays your current balance signifying you are now checked out. A Red light is a malfunction with your card or you never checked in!

OV-Chipkaart card scanner on Amsterdam tram

How to obtain a refund

Anonymous OV-Chipkaart

Refund on unused credit

As a visitor, you can receive an immediate refund of up to €30 on unused credit by going to a NS customer service counter. You will be required to present a passport as ID and you can also keep your card as a souvenir. Any amount over €30 is forfeited regardless of what you may read online. The refund process using the mail-in form only works for Dutch bank accounts and addresses, so be sure to spend your card down below the refund limit. Any balance left on the card can be used on your next trip or give it away to someone else before you leave. You can not recover the initial €7.50 card fee.

Refund on forgetting to check out

As you know, if you forget to check out you lose your boarding fee. There is a process for Dutch card holders to claim a refund for accidental situations like this. Unfortunately, this process does not work for visitors. If you were traveling by train and are able to return to the train station within 6 hours of when you originally checked in, you can check out from there and be charged only for the train fare rather than the boarding fee, which is much more expensive.