One of the things that will surprise you the most when visiting the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam, is how much Dutch people use their debit cards for absolutely everything they do and everywhere they go.
Yes, you can use your debit card in Amsterdam and everywhere else in the Netherlands. Normally, debit cards have no problem being accepted, however, there are some places were VISA Electron is not accepted. The most commonly accepted cards are Maestro, VISA and MasterCard.
Actually, if you are planning on traveling to the Netherlands, you definitely need a debit card and a credit card if possible. Not only you can pay with a debit card, but sometimes it is the only method of payment that you will be allowed to use, for such common things as public transportation, parking spaces on the street and so on.
Paying by Card: Amsterdam
One of the most shocking experiences I have lived in the Netherlands was not being able to pay anything by cash anywhere. Coming from a country like Argentina, where everything is cash-based and everybody wants you to avoid using your card (as it also used to happen in Spain or Italy), not being able to get a ticket or pay a drink if it wasn’t with a card was definitely surprising.
If you are planning on visiting the Netherlands, one of the first Dutch expressions you will have to learn is PINNEN (or PIN Betalen, Hier PINNEN). This means that they will take debit cards. The most common type of debit card that you can get in a Dutch bank and therefore also use anywhere in the Netherlands is MAESTRO. This is a typical Pincode activated card, which is the reason why they call PINNEN to the card-method payment.
Some other commonly used and accepted credit cards are:
- Plus system
I have personally been using MAESTRO, which is a great way of getting around in the Netherlands but not the most useful method to travel anywhere else, to be honest. In general, the MAESTRO system is great for online payments as well. For instance, if you order food online or decide to buy something online in the Netherlands, they will accept MAESTRO everywhere and it will work in a similar way as paying with Paypal.
Mastercard is also a broadly accepted debit card which won’t get you into many troubles as far as my experience goes. However, you will have to be careful with VISA: as far as my experience working as a receptionist works, the only card that was automatically rejected for any payment, no matter where the card was from, was VISA Electron, which I would NOT recommend taking with you to the Netherlands. The rest of the VISA card may or may not work depending on where you are buying, which means that it is better if you bring another card along with you if possible. Cards like AMEX and Diners are less commonly accepted.
When it comes to Credit Cards, it is a whole different thing. Sometimes they are accepted and sometimes not, it depends on the store. Most hotels and restaurants will definitely accept them. Dutch people are not big fans of credits and credit cards, which explains that they will mostly go around with debit cards and will expect the same from you. However, Amsterdam is a city prepared for tourism, which implies the use of most common cards, so you are good to go as long as ask beforehand just in case.
Paying by Card in Amsterdam: Important to Know
Based on my experience living in this country for years and having to adapt to their system, plus having worked with tourists also for years, there are some of the most common mistakes, doubts and peculiarities about the payment methods in the Netherlands.
In Amsterdam, Public Transportation only accepts Card. This is both a credit and a debit card, but NO CASH. This is a common mistake among tourists and a big problem if you don’t have any card with them. Normally one buys the tickets inside the bus or tram, which means buying it to the driver. This created a lot of delays and unnecessary work for the driver, which simplified by using only cards to get the ticket.
If you only have cash or prefer buying the tickets with cash, you may be able to do it in Central Station in the machines to get GVB tickets. Another commonplace are some machines by the stops (which depends on where you are, there are some in Rembrandtplein, some in Museumplein, etc) so you will have to ask.
All supermarkets accept cash and debit card. They don’t tend to accept credit cards and it is indicated in what line you can pay with cash, in what line you can only pay with MAESTRO and so on. It is likely that you won’t be allowed to pay with anything else but MAESTRO and you will have to pay a lot of attention on where you are queueing to pay because cashiers don’t always have cash with them. It seems like a very complicated business but it is mostly about paying attention where you are and read all the signs.
In the case of other shops, it really depends on where you are. Bigger stores and most retailers and souvenir or ticket stores accept almost any type of card, either debit or credit.
It is important to know that if you are coming from the airport or you are planning on travelling around when you are in the Netherlands, there are two ways of getting a ticket: machines only accept debit card or sometimes coins. If you wish to pay with a credit card or you only have cash, either at Schiphol, Amsterdam CS or any station, you will have to look for a NS Counter and get it personally since no machine will accept notes or credit cards.
However, if you are taking a taxi to get around, you will be able to pay both with card or cash but it is always better to ask the driver just in case! If you decide to use Uber, it has the advantage of any transaction going through your phone so no cards or cash needed.
Yes, you are allowed to pay with cash, mostly at hotels, taxis, restaurants and bigger retailers. As I was saying, at trams, at certain supermarkets and stores you need to be alert and pay attention to the signs where they say NO CASH, PINNEN. If you pay cash it can only be EUROS. If you need to change currency, you can do so at the airport, Amsterdam Central Station or almost any train station, Centrum of Amsterdam and many places.
Sometimes, either for the convenience of not having to worry about money or for the safety reasons for not having money, some stores, bars and restaurants don’t accept and don’t have any cash. They will always inform you of that!
I wrote a Complete Guide about Tipping in Amsterdam, in case you are interested to check it out. In a nutshell, if you want to tip when you are done eating or drinking, you can easily tip with your card. Dutch people commonly pay with card, which means the card payment already allows tipping like that, just adding a little bit more to the amount you are supposed to pay by card: if, for instance, you are paying 33 euros with your card, you can pay 35 euros with card and they will get those 2 euros tip. Don’t worry!
There are many ATMs all over Amsterdam, so if you need to get some cash or it is more convenient for you to get euros instead of exchanging currency, you can do it there. You can either Google ATM and get the closest one to you or you can easily look for a supermarket. These, and mostly AH supermarkets, always have an ATM inside them.
Inside train stations and Metro stations you will also be able to find ATMs, but, once again, it is easy to find them or ask for them, they are all over!
To Sum Up
- Credit Card: You can pay almost everywhere with a credit card but be careful with VISA Electro. The most common ones are Maestro and MasterCard.
- Cash is not always accepted but it is in bigger establishments and most restaurants. In the Netherlands, you can only pay with euros.
- Public Transportation: If you are planning on travelling by tram, metro or bus, you need to pay by a card or get a ticket beforehand online, at the station, museum shops or specific machines located in some stops.
- Credit Cards are not always accepted: Dutch people are not big fans of them. Ask beforehand!
- Souvenirs: if you are unsure about using your card in certain stores, you can always way to get your goods at Schiphol airport on your departure. They accept most payment methods.