Say you were travelling from Brussels to Amsterdam by train, spending 2-4 days in Amsterdam using public transport then travelling from Amsterdam to Antwerp by train.

  1. Given 3-5 tram/metro/bus journeys per day mainly in the city centre, what's the most economical way to use public transport in Amsterdam in 2022?

  2. What is the best way to refund the balance from an OV-chipkaart before leaving Amsterdam for Antwerp?

2 Answers 2


I left my original answer below but for many people there is now a much better solution: GVB announced they now support contactless debit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. This gives you access to the cheaper pay-as-you-go rate without the €7.5 costs for the reusable card or any hassle with refunds.

Other solutions now only make sense if you use public transportation really intensively or if you don't have a contactless debit card (or maybe a card from outside Europe and concerns about fees and currency exchange).

As you would be traveling from and back to Belgium on some international ticket you buy there, you don't need to consider using the OV-chipkaart with NS (which is a pain) and comparison is easier:

  • Pay-as-you-go prices in the GVB network in Amsterdam will depend on the distance but in and around the center, you can expect to pay less than €2 per trip, I will use €1.5 for comparisons. At 3 trips per day, I would therefore reckon with €25.5 total (including the €7.5 cost of the card). For 5 trips per day, it works out to €37.5 in total.
  • A 1-hour GVB ticket is €3.20. It has always been very unattractive and a bit of a tourist trap. For 3 trips per day over 4 days, it would cost you €38.4. For 5 trips a day, you would end up paying €64.
  • A day ticket with the GVB is €8.50, it can save you money compared to 5 trips on the same day but would be debatable for 3 trips (that would work out to €2.8 per trip, almost double the pay-as-you-go rate but with zero hassle for credit and refunds).
  • There are also multi-day tickets with per-day price going down and becoming really competitive. For 4 days, you have to pay €25.5 so €6.38 per day or between €1.28 (5 trips per day) and €2.13 (3 trips per day) per trip.

There are other tourist-oriented products, bundling the day ticket with a return trip to Schiphol, discounts on sights in the city or trips outside Amsterdam but if you have no interest in any of that, I would simply recommend buying a 2-4 day ticket.

For the scenarios you're considering, a multi-day ticket is competitive with pay-as-you-go fares, gives you the freedom to take public transportation as much as you want, avoids all the hassle of topping up your OV-chipkaart, and makes your question about refunds moot. The only way pay-as-you-go saves you money is if you end up doing 3 or fewer trips on most days or you already have an OV-chipkaart. If you're actually closer to 5 trips a day, the multi-day tickets (which you can load on a platic OV-chipkaart if you have one) win every time.

I will add however that I rarely find myself taking public transportation that frequently in Amsterdam, the city center is not that large so I will often walk and stop at different places before taking the metro on the way back rather than do multiple return trips.

  • 1
    2023 update, at this time the use of contactless bank and credit cards (and phone payments) are rolled out in public transport in the Netherlands.
    – Willeke
    Mar 5, 2023 at 19:35
  • @Willeke That's what the paragraph I added in November is about. I noticed it got rolled out gradually to other operators since then but this question was only about the GVB network anyway. Maybe we need a Q&A specifically about this new feature?
    – Relaxed
    Mar 5, 2023 at 23:14
  • Yeah, since a month ago you can now also use the new OVpay (contactless) system with NS, so in an around Amsterdam, contactless is now exactly on par with the anonymous OV-chipkaart.
    – TooTea
    Mar 6, 2023 at 13:49
  • @TooTea Is OVpay available everywhere? I'm trying to determine whether we risk not being able to use it during part of my upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Expect to take NS from Airport, GVB possibly within the city, and Arriva 852. That last one I'm a little less sure of...
    – Ezekiel
    Apr 8, 2023 at 16:29
  • 1
    @Ezekiel It will certainly work on NS and GVB (network-wide in both cases). For the Keukenhof bus I really don't know but I wouldn't count on it supporting OVpay since I don't see it in the official list for either Amsterdam or Lisse. That info could theoretically be a little outdated, so probably the only way to be sure is to ask Arriva directly.
    – TooTea
    Apr 8, 2023 at 18:56

It is pretty hard to calculate since the prices are relatively small, and the number of trips and destinations can make a noticeable difference.

Generally, travelling with an OV card is cheaper than an hour or day ticket. However, you lose 7.5 euros for the plastic card.

You can request credits from your OV card online. Or you can do it at any transport office at the big stations.

More information about the OV for tourists is here.

If you know your route for a day exactly - you can use 9292.nl, which will show you a price for the trip. And you can compare it to the price of the hourly or daily ticket.

  • Everything I have read says that you need a Dutch bank account to receive OV refunds. Is this correct or not? Sep 13, 2022 at 12:49
  • Pay-as-you-go easily wins over single trips and it gets even worse the more you travel (as the fare difference compensate the €7.5 upfront costs for the card). Day tickets is another matter as they can actually be loaded on an OV chipkaart (it's not an either / or situation) and become really competitive the more you ride.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 13, 2022 at 13:44
  • 2
    @Turkeyphant I got an anonymous OV chipkaart refund (the card fee is non-refundable) in cash over the counter at Schiphol in 2019, but I can't promise that's still offered today as the rules may have changed in the meantime. I believe that was only available if your balance was less than €30. The website seems to say this is still offered at an NS Service Desk. Sep 14, 2022 at 3:43
  • ov-chipkaart.nl/terminate-or-replace/… website changed, refunds can be requested from this new page. By refunds greater than 50 Euro you need to mail in the card, otherwise you can do it through the website.
    – jwenting
    Dec 1, 2022 at 9:25

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