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A national ‘OV-chipcard’ (smartcard) for public transport was introduced in 2012. Since then, we use this OV-chipcard for public transport everywhere in the Netherlands. Regardless of whether you take the bus, tram, metro or train, you can use this card to pay for any trip you make. The OV chip card is gradually being replaced by OVpay, where you can pay contactless with payment cards or your telephone. If you are new to the Netherlands, and you want to travel in second class, without discounts or subscriptions, it is no longer necessary to apply for an OV-chipcard for public transport.

The OV-chipcard is an electronic card with a built-in chip. A rechargeable OV-chipcard can be topped up with credit. If you use a non-rechargeable card, you pay in advance for a certain travel period. There are three different OV-chipcards available:

1. A personal OV-chipcard  
This OV-chipcard has your name printed on it and displays a passport photo. You can buy this card online for € 7.50. The personalised OV-chipcard allows you to top-up the credit on your card. You can also load a travel product, like train fare discount subscriptions or reduced fares on the RET. If you forget to check out or if you lost your OV-chipcard, you can ask for a refund online or via phone (if your card is registered to your account). You can top-up the OV-chipcard online, at several train and metro stations and vending points or via automatic reload. The automatic reload will top up your card if you drop below a certain amount. Don’t forget to register your card online to use all services. It will also help in case you lose your card, since you will get your money back.

2. Anonymous OV-chipcard
An anonymous OV-chipcard can be bought at the vending points (not online) for € 7.50. You can travel with it straight away, and the card is not personally associated with the purchaser. This means that the card can also be used by other people, which is not possible using the personal OV-chipcard. This is also very useful if you regularly have visitors. Please note that if you travel together, everyone will need their own card, as you can’t use several different fares on the same card. An anonymous OV-chipcard also means that you will not be eligible for discounted fares. Refunds, online reloading and cancellation are also not possible.

3. Single-use card 
You can only buy a single-use card for one transport operator. For example, if you travel by train, you can’t use the single-use card from the tram, because these two modes of transport are run by different operators. In Rotterdam, you can buy a disposable card for short-term use for the RET operator. This disposable OV-chipcard is available from the machines in metro stations, and 1-hour travel cards are available from the conductor in the tram. A single-use train ticket can be bought at the vending machines at the train station. If you travel more than 3 times a year by public transport, it is recommended to purchase a personalised or anonymous OV-chipcard.

Always check in and out

The most important tip while traveling by public transport is to always check in and check out, by holding your card up to the reader until it beeps. For metros and trains, the reader is located at the stops. You can’t check in anymore when you have boarded the metro or train, so please do it before you get in. It is the other way around for trams and busses: you can only check in when you step into the vehicle, since the card readers are located inside next to the doors.

What happens when I check in and out? 

This reader will calculate the fare price. When checking out, you will see the price details of your trip and the current amount on your card. Make sure you check in and out every time you enter and leave the vehicle, even when transferring to another vehicle. If you don’t, you will be charged the full amount, which can range from 4 euros up to 20 euros. If you forget to check out and you have a personal chipcard, you can ask for a refund if you have registered your card.