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Using credit cards in Amsterdam

This is just a word of warning - I'm in Amsterdam right now and although most places accept Visa and MC (and less so, AMEX), there are places that only accept Maestro or cash. I got stuck today at a restaurant that did not accept Visa or MC - luckily I had enough cash left over from paying for my B&B that I was able to pay for the meal. After that, I went to an ATM and withdrew add'l Euros just in case, and sure enough - that evening, I went to a nearby Albert Heijn to buy some groceries and my Visa was rejected - Maestro or cash only. Most places don't post that information so it pays to either keep extra cash on hand, or ask first before you buy.

And of course, there are some places that only accept credit cards - no cash.

Posted by
3936 posts

Very interesting - this is why I don't like to rely on plastic and always like to have some paper currency with me. I can't say we've run into this issue, but it's good to know and reinforces me wanting to have some cash on hand.

Posted by
3493 posts

Interesting.

Maestro used to be an independent debit card network in Europe. It was absorbed by MasterCard several years ago and the Maestro logo appears on the back of MasterCard DEBIT cards (for those still adding logos to the back of their cards). MasterCard debit should still work at any Maestro merchant. They can be difficult when you want to use credit. Mainly because the Debit cards cost the merchant less per transaction and they don't want to pay the higher price for credit.

Posted by
1292 posts

Mark, I tried it with a MasterCard and it did not work. And the merchants in both places were adamant that they do not take Visa or MasterCard. They only take Maestro or cash. So I don’t think it’s an argument that a tourist will win in most cases.

Posted by
3493 posts

I did not run into this issue any of the times I have been in Amsterdam. But things change! The EU recently set up new rules on how much credit or debit card networks can charge the merchant on a credit/debit transaction. I don't know the exact numbers, but debit is definitely less costly to the merchants. I guess that is their way of saving a few Euro.

Appreciate your posting this, I will make sure to have enough cash with me next visit.

Posted by
1292 posts

I was surprised as well, Mark - I had heard so much about how Europe is going cashless. I will say (not that it's really relevant here) but in Iceland, I never found anyplace that required cash. I didn't use the ATM at all to get ICK. But of course, that's a different country and one that does not use Euros. :)

Posted by
3184 posts

Mardee we too had this issue with our cc at AH grocery stores and train ticket machines in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden last month. We were fortunate that our ATM card with PIN worked at the ticket machines and we too paid cash at AH grocery stores. We had a Dirks grocery store in our town also and our chip and signature cc worked fine there, with signature. Frustrating isn't it, that it's so hit or miss?

Posted by
16883 posts

Acceptance of US credit cards and other payment forms in the Netherlands does not tend to match most of Europe. It does, indeed, pay to keep extra cash on hand, including coins.

  • Albert Heijn grocery is a good example - they do not accept US credit cards in any of their stores, but do take cash. If you have Rick's Amsterdam & Netherlands guidebook, then see the store info on pages 217 and 296, for instance.
  • Netherlands train stations also have more limited payment options, so be prepared with cash, and sometimes coins, if you don't have a true Chip & PIN (not Chip & Signature) card, see pages 31, 478, for instance.
  • Also check the Money section from page 450 and details on some individual sightseeing listings.
Posted by
1292 posts

Laura, I agree that the chip and pin can be an issue, but in my case, all my credit cards I brought are chip and Pin. I confirmed them with my bank le before I left and I’ve not had a problem with any of them. Again, I think it’s just that there are a few places that will only accept Maestro and cash, and that threw me off a bit.

Also, for what it’s worth, I have found it surprising that even when the chip and pin cards have a very low balance, I’ve still had to provide a signature. In the US, most places will not require a signature unless the amount is over $50, but I’ve had to sign on several transactions that were under $10.

Posted by
8997 posts

On the flip side I have also come across some merchants in Amsterdam that don't accept cash; only credit/debit cards.
They include a couple stores I came across in the Nine Streets shopping district, most merchants at Foodhallen, the EYE film center, and couple of counter-service restaurants at the airport.
Also trams in city have recently stopped accepting cash for single trips tickets.

Posted by
16883 posts

Yes, Michael, in confirming the page number for that Albert Heijn listing, I saw that it was described right after the Marqt Cash-Free Supermarket chain. It seems like quite an odd assortment of payment and business models there in the Netherlands.

Posted by
2487 posts

an odd assortment of payment and business models
In fact it is straightforward: nearly all shops, restaurants and such accept both cash and card. One or two smaller shops only do cash, a few others only card. Card payments are done with debit banking cards, a system which is linked to Maestro. (The Netherlands has never been much of a credit card country.) Other payment methods are an addtional service, which doesn't always pay for the average shop or restaurant.
Public transport is a somewhat different story. They don't want to have cash on board. Make sure you have a working debit card for buying separate tickets or, the easiest way, have an OV Chipkaart.

Posted by
5 posts

At a cafe in Delft, we were charged a surcharge for using a credit card. That fact was made clear to us before we sat down. Being low on cash at the time, we paid it.

Posted by
11292 posts

Ton: it may seem straightforward to you, but to those of us from the US, it isn't.

One issue seems to be that in the US, places that accept "cards" almost always accept both debit and credit cards equally. In the Netherlands, this does not seem to be the case; debit and credit cards are treated quite differently. So when you say places accept "cash and cards," you mean "cash and debit cards but often not credit cards." It can even mean "cash and Dutch debit cards but not foreign debit cards and not credit cards." Again, for us visitors used to different systems, it is confusing.

I had heard so much about how Europe is going cashless.

Remember "Europe" is not one country. It really varies from country to country - as your very different experiences in Iceland and the Netherlands demonstrates.

Posted by
2487 posts

My post was a reaction on the qualification it being »an odd assortment«. Cash gets you almost everywhere as does a Maestro/MasterCard debit card, and an OV Chipkaart for public transport. It is different from the USA, but not difficult.

Posted by
1292 posts

I think my main problem is that I wasn’t aware of this, which was really one of the reasons I posted it in the first place. If the merchants had a sign saying that they only accept Maestro and cash, it would make it easier, but when they don’t and you’ve already bought your merchandise or eaten your meal and then you find out that you don’t have the correct sort of payment, it makes it at best, awkward, and at worst, a real problem.

From now on, I will make a point of making sure that the place of business accepts Visa or MasterCard if I don’t have much cash. Especially if it’s a restaurant! After all, you can always just put the merchandise you wanted to buy back on the shelf. But it’s pretty hard to return food that you have already eaten. 😊

Posted by
3184 posts

This was part of the uncertainty. At the AH grocery stores we couldn't use our cc or ATM card with PIN number because the clerks kept pointing to the back side with the MasterCard logo and saying "no MasterCard" even though we told them it was our bank ATM card. We just gave up and used cash for the 3 weeks we used the AH grocery stores.

That made us concerned about how we were going to reload our 2 OV-Chipkaarts because our ATM, credit cards and cash where all we had. The credit cards didn't work but fortunately our ATM card, with the dreaded MasterCard logo on the back, worked just fine. Why it worked there but not at the AH grocery stores was one of the "mysteries" to us. It was also an annoyance that the clerks wouldn't even try it but we didn't want to push it. We were staying in a town that didn't have a ticket office at the train station, just platform machines.