The OV-chipkaart has been the sole payment method for the Amsterdam metro from 27 August 2009 and will be the sole method of payment for bus and tram travel in Amsterdam from the end of 2009. Amsterdam’s public transport company GVB estimates that by the end of 2010 most of the Netherlands will have turned over to the new system and by 2011 the whole country.
Buying and crediting a card
The cards are issued anonymously or for a named individual.
Currently, you buy an anonymous card ‘for free’ at EUR 5; this money is counted toward your credit. You ‘load’ the anonymous smart-card at a vending machine. You can buy an anonymous card at tabacs or public transport stations in major Dutch cities and regions which have gone over to the smart-card system. This card cannot be a reduction card. Anyone entitled to a reduction, apart from university students who order one via a different route, needs to apply for an individual card from the GVB.
You can apply for the individual card by post or online. You must supply a passport-sized photo and in the case of an online application, you scan your photo and upload it to the system. Go the OV-chipkaart site (click on the UK version for English) and follow the steps or pick up the form at a station. You can purchase the OV-chipkaart for EUR 7.50. That is a one-time fee for the card only. Once you purchase the card you can load any amount you wish. If you ride the NS train, you must have a minimum of EUR 20 loaded onto the card every time you ride. For transport in the Amsterdam region, there is no minimum balance required on your kaart and you can use it in many other systems outside of the city.
Upon asking at the GVB booth, she was told that the Dutch national train company NS, which issues the monthly pass, “has yet to offer an OV monthly chip card for people like me. Instead on 27 August, they will hand out a temporary OV chip card that will entitle me to travel for free.”
The officer at the GVB booth informed that the NS is likely to come up with a solution at the end of the year and provide monthly OV cards.
Update 15 April 2010: Using the OV-chipkaart on NS transport
Another thing to note is for riders who use both city and NS transport. You will need to have a one-time activation made for your card. You can have the card activated for the NS trains at Central Station. There is no charge for that one-time service.
There are many options for buying and loading the OV-chipkaart. Some include tobacco shops, Albert Heijn, metro stations, Central Station, as well as self-service machines. If you use the machines to load your cards, make sure you have coins. If you use some credit cards to load your OV-chipkaart there is an additional fee of EUR 1.
Finally, for those who ride short distances using the OV-chipkaart system, the new pricing structure will save you money. And, if you just need to ride occasionally, then one-hour cards are sold on the buses, metro and tram for EUR 2.60.
How the new system has fared so far
Dutch protestant newspaper Trouw reports that there are more problems with the public transport swipe card; people find the touch screen machines used to purchase and upload credits to the swipe card difficult to operate as, "the screens have to be hit really hard before they respond and others simply do not work."
Radio Netherlands reports that Amsterdam's public transport company GVB filed a formal complaint with Thales, the company that produces the touch screen machines. A similar problem occurred in January of this year when Rotterdam introduced the swipe card and Thales was fined several times.
According to Rover, the Public Transport-users Association, it's ridiculous to blame the problems on the number of people using the machines. A Rover spokesperson tells the paper, "An evaluation of the swipe card's introduction in Rotterdam revealed a huge number of problems. It appears that the GVB failed to learn anything at all from Rotterdam's experiences."
Whether you like it or not, if you use public transport in the Netherlands you’ll soon have an opinion on the practicality of the new system.
See www.ov-chipkaart.nl for more information (in English, as well as Dutch).
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