*Thanks to Nomadic Matt for the photo. Check out the king of budget travel’s guide to Amsterdam here.
Are you an American heading to Amsterdam, the Hague, or another Dutch city? Or any European destination, for that matter? Don’t get tripped up by the ticket machines, among other things.
Holland (a province of the Netherlands, but often used to mean the entire country) is one of those wonderfully efficient, northern-European places. The country runs on bicycles and ultra-reliable public transportation. Unlike some of our great U.S. cities, (ahem, D.C.) the buses, subways, and trains here run on-time, virtually all the time.
While you’ll absolutely want a bicycle to explore the beaches, canals, and towns during your time in the land of herring, wooden clogs, and Gouda cheese, trains are your best way to get from city to city.
Holland’s public transport machines, personnel, trains, etc. are marked by vibrant blue and yellow. You’ll see the initials “OV” or “NS” very clearly. It’s easy to find the “(i)” info desk to ask for advice, but you’ll buy your ticket from one of the very visible, ATM-sized “OV” machines found in any station. In many, it will be difficult and time-consuming to buy tickets in-person at the NS desk, if not impossible after-hours. So you’ll rely on the machines.
The machines are easy to use. Select the British flag to read the instructions in English. However, almost all American credit and debit cards won’t be accepted. But don’t give up and use cash. We’ve shown very clearly that currency-exchange is a scam and an expensive one at that.
The reason you’ll struggle to pay is that Holland, along with much of Europe, depends on chip-and-PIN cards, while Americans overwhelmingly hold chip-and-signature versions. In America, we swipe/insert our chip-enabled cards, sign, and go on our merry way. The Dutch find this bizarre: unlike their American counterparts, Dutch waiters don’t take your card off to the register in the back while you finish your meal; they bring the machine to your table, where you enter your PIN.
So the wonderful Chase Saphire cards, your airline co-branded cards, and your Capital One Venture card won’t work. You need a chip-enabled, PIN-enabled credit card. Here’s what we use: the Barclaycard Arrival Plus. It’s a decent card with a great sign-up bonus and no annual fee for the first year. After that, it’s $89.
The current sign-up bonus is: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days. That’s worth $500 against travel purchases made on the card. Every time you redeem miles (you must redeem for travel costs of at least $100), you’ll get 5% back. Redeem 50,000 miles, get 2,5000 miles back. Easy. Every purchase in every category earns 2 miles for every dollar spent.
There ain’t a whole lot wrong with getting this card before your trip and canceling it before the fee kicks in. However, it comes with some good perks (i.e. travel insurance, no foreign transaction fee) and the sign-up bonus alone will get you through the first 6 years without paying anything extra to Barclays.
Once you have this card, make your money last longer on your trips to the Netherlands or dozens of other international destinations!
We originally intended to provide you with options in this article- maybe three credit cards that would work. However, it seems that this is an essential but seldom-discussed topic. And there just aren’t any real competitors to the Barclaycard. Wells Fargo has something, but you need to be a client of theirs to apply online- otherwise, visit a brick-and-mortar branch.
Rick Steves seems to be the only travel-writer talking about the chip-and-pin issue, here’s his article on the subject.
Want to travel farther and spend less money to do so?