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I am an American and I plan on traveling to the Netherlands periodically over the next few years.

I was recently there and had to use a hodgepodge of credit card, debit cards, cash and worst of all having a colleague pay and then I reimbursed them with cash.

For instance, some company cafeterias only accept credit/debit card. Also, train stations have unmanned kiosks for buying tickets. Also, some vending machines are Maestro card only (no cash).

I tried using my American credit cards that have a chip, but they were not recognized by the cafeteria nor vending machine.

I would like to get a Maestro card so that I have a reliable way to pay.

How can I, as an American, get a Maestro card?

The Maestro card has a logo that looks very similar to a MasterCard, but it is not a MasterCard.

I would also consider another credit/debit card if it had the same acceptance as the Maestro card, but it seems Maestro is the most popular.

I would also consider a prepaid Maestro card if I can get my money back off of it easily and I can get a charge history for submitting an expense report.

[edit] removed references to Maestro as a credit card. Added my experiences using my existing cards.

  • 1
    are you sure the issue is the brand of your card and not the chip-and-pin aspect of it? – Kate Gregory May 29 '15 at 19:13
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    @JoErNanO Yes Maestro is only a debit card. – Calchas May 29 '15 at 19:29
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    Masetro is a debit card which generally have lower per transaction fee (payable by the company running the vending machine) than credit cards. This is probably why it refuses to accept mastercard - it wipes out any profit they can make from the sale. – Phil May 29 '15 at 19:33
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    Most US banks are not using Chip and PIN, but only Chip and Signature. You can find Chip and PIN cards in the US, but it will take some shopping. Note that Maestro is generally not accepted for payments in the US and usually only works for ATM withdrawals, so it probably will be far less useful than you think. – Michael Hampton May 29 '15 at 19:52
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    To everyone: It's an issue specific to the Netherlands (and to some extent Germany and perhaps a few other countries but definitely not the whole of Europe). A chip-and-pin Visa/Mastercard will be accepted virtually everywhere a local card is accepted in France but not in the Netherlands. Even European or Dutch MasterCard or Visa-branded cards have this problem so it goes beyond the usual chip-and-pin conundrum. – Relaxed May 29 '15 at 20:30
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You can open a bank account in the Netherlands as a non-resident. I do not know the numbers but I doubt it is particularly cheap; I would be surprised if any free offering exists. However it can be done and I am sure an NL bank could get you a proper Maestro card.

Option 2 and I think a more sensible idea is to buy a Maestro/Mastercard pre-paid card. https://prepaid.yourmastercard.nl/ There are competing choices and sometimes you can pick them up in the supermarkets. I don't know about NL specifically I must admit.

Aside from this I would in your shoes talk to your US bank about obtaining a Visa or Mastercard with 0% forex fees and with a chip and pin facility. Such cards do exist. Visa and Mastercard is accepted in most places; actually "Maestro" is a brand of Mastercard. For other situations you can withdraw a few Euros.

I admit that vending machines are always a bit of an issue; even with a UK Mastercard I would guess only 70% of the time it works in Europe. I really don't know why mainland Europe makes it so hard. In Lisbon even the airport metro station doesn't accept foreign cards which, in my view, is utterly bizarre.

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    American Express cards are all issued as Chip and PIN... except for US cardholders who only get Chip and Signature. This is utterly senseless, but it's the current state of things. – Michael Hampton May 29 '15 at 19:54
  • @MichaelHampton I slipped in the AmEx reference because they are very good when they are accepted. I don't think a merchant is allowed to distinguish between chip and signature and chip and pin. – Calchas May 29 '15 at 19:57
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    @calchas The link points to MasterCard prepaid card, not a Maestro card. – Michael Potter May 29 '15 at 20:19
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    Answers applicable to Europe in general do NOT always apply to the Netherlands in this matter. .nl adopted chip/pin debit cards long before the rest of the world, and historically have not been very interoperable with the rest of the world. This has started to change in the last few years, and international cards are increasingly accepted, but it can still be very hard to buy things there! – Flyto May 31 '15 at 4:19
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    @Calchas i wasn't aware of the 0000 pin trick. from reading on the web it looks like you're right, but that only works at certain types of terminals. personally, i still wouldn't travel to europe without my pentagon federal chip and pin card. – ell Jun 2 '15 at 15:17
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This is no easy feat! I have a similar challenge with travel to the Netherlands, and have never figured out a way to get a Maestro.

Best I have been able to do is get an account at Service Credit Union, who offer a V PAY card. So far, I haven't found any places in NL that take Maestro and DON'T take V PAY. But, Service CU will only maintain an account in US Dollars, and the exchange rate they offer on purchases (the US DoD exchange rate) is lousy. Still, better than being embarrassed in front of a colleague in the cafeteria and unable to pay!

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As a non-EU resident this indeed can be very difficult overall. However, there are Dutch banks who service international clients/expats but also US residents. Maybe take a look here: https://www.abnamro.nl/en/personal/contact/index.html See the non/resident/US section with contact details. You will get a real Dutch Maestro card. Hope that helps!

Source: I'm Dutch.

  • As a former Dutch resident and American, I still have a bank account with ABN AMRO. I highly doubt they would let a foreigner open a new account. They already sent me a letter saying they will continue my current banking products but will not my permit me to open any new products. – Eric May 20 '18 at 23:38
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[Note: This answer is outdated, but it is valuable as it adds the history of the Chipknip cards which could be confused for debit cards. Chipknips cards were eliminated 2015-01-01]

You are confusing the multiple topics.

In banking cafeterias, there are special Dutch payment (or electronic cash) card systems in place. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipknip Because the banks introduced this new payment system, and the industry never adopted it, parking meters and banking cafeterias are the only ones who use it (and they disallow cash sales to try to keep their pet system relevant). The cards are the size format of credit cards and they have chips, but they are not banking/debit cards.

You will probably not get one of these cafeteria cards if you are not Dutch nor have a Dutch bank account. If you don't have a Dutch work permit and pay Dutch taxes, please just forget about this idea. Instead, continue to reimburse your coworkers with cash.

As for the Maestro card... Again I believe this is a red herring, but at least Maestro is a normal bank card provider. Try to open a Dutch bank account and see what they say.

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    Chipknip has been phased out and completely disabled on January 1st 2015 so that's not the issue. Parking meters now support “PIN” debit cards and (smart) phones. One cafeteria I know switched to contactless payments a couple of years ago. – Relaxed May 31 '15 at 8:29
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    I saw the Chipknip kiosk at the cafeteria and when I asked about it my colleagues told me it does not work anymore. I would vote your answer down, but it is relevant information that Chipknip is no longer supported. – Michael Potter May 31 '15 at 12:03
  • Vote my answer down please. My personal experience is from 2010 and this is clearly invalid. – Doug May 31 '15 at 12:34
  • @Doug: you can delete your own answer, no need for down votes – jmoreno Feb 25 '18 at 11:41

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