The OV chipkaart is the new method of paying for public transport in the Netherlands. It looks like a bank card, and contains a radio chip that stores your credit and lets you quickly pay for the precise length of your journey when you enter and leave the transport. The OV chipkaart is cheaper than buying paper tickets, and the cost is worked out by the distance travelled between scanning in and out, so that you only pay for the distance that you have travelled.
There are two kinds of OV chipkaart: personal and anonymous. The personal chipkaart ties the card to you as an individual, but provides a number of helpful services such as automatic credit top up, whereas the anonymous chipkaart holds no personal information about you.
To be able to use your chipkaart, you have to first load it with credit at an OV vending machine or ticket office using your bank card (or cash on some machines). You can find the nearest location where you can top up your OV chipkaart using the OV website’s useful tool. For now the page is still in Dutch, but you just have to enter your address and you will be presented with a map of your area.
When you reach one of these machines, you will be faced with a touchscreen that guides you through topping up your card. There is sometimes an English function which translates the options for you. You hit ‘Load’ and you will be asked to place your OV chipkaart in the slot (there should be a red light towards your right above the OV chipkaart slot. Then select the amount and how you’re going to pay (PIN, Chipknip, Credit Card, etc.) You will then be asked to put your money in or insert your card. If paying with the card, you will shortly be asked to remove it, and then continue the instructions on the screen. Do not remove your card until the screen tells you to! Otherwise you might be charged without getting your card loaded and getting a refund can be quite a hassle. Once you’ve paid and your OV chipkaart has been loaded, you may remove it and proceed to use it. You can check your balance on any of the blue ‘saldo’ machines.
When you start your journey, you will see an OV scanner. This is typically right next to the doors on the trams and buses, or are on the gates you walk through on the metro and railway. All you have to do is hold your card up to the spot underneath the screen, and if you have enough credit to pay for the journey the machine with flash a green light and make a confirmation noise.
If you do not have enough credit, instead it will flash red and make a double beep, negative tone. You will then have to buy a paper ticket from the driver or ticket inspector on the vehicle.
At the end of your journey, you again have to hold your card up to the scanner when you are leaving the vehicle. The scanner will flash green and the screen will display how much the journey has cost in total, as well as displaying how much balance you have left on your OV. When you check in, a fee known as a boarding rate is temporarily deducted from your OV. Currently, the boarding rate is €4. When you check out, your are refunded the difference between this boarding rate and the cost of your journey. If you forget to check out when you leave, then you will receive no partial refund and you will have paid the entire boarding rate.
For both a personal and an anonymous OV chipkaart, the price is currently €7.50.
For urban and regional journeys, the cost of your journey is worked out by kilometre, in addition to a fixed rate which is charged no matter how short your journey is. For 2011 the fixed rate is €0.79. If you transfer onto other transport within 35 minutes, then you do not have to pay this fixed rate again.
The cost per kilometre depends on your local transport company, of which there are many throughout the Netherlands. You can find a list of them on this webpage
In order to buy a personalised OV chipkaart, you have to apply for it online. To be able to do this, you need to have both a digital photograph of yourself and be able to pay using the iDEAL payment system, and have a Dutch postal address. If for some reason you cannot do this, then you can request a paper form from your local transport company. You can find a list of them and their contact details at this link. The card should take around a week to arrive.
If you would prefer to have an anonymous OV chipkaart, then the process is somewhat more straightforward. You can buy them from a large number of places, from the counters of the transport companies themselves or at vending machines or in supermarkets. You can quickly find the nearest location for you to buy an OV using this handy tool on the OV website.
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