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Location The Netherlands
Launched 2005
Operator Trans Link Systems
Validity All public transport on the Dutch mainland [1]
Website OV-chipkaart.nl
OV-chipkaart reader at Utrecht Centraal railway station.

The OV-chipkaart is a contactless smart card system for all public transport in the Netherlands. It fully replaced the previous strippenkaart system for public transport in buses, trams and metro, on 3 November 2011. Only on trains is it possible to buy single or return paper tickets. The full name in Dutch is Openbaarvervoerchipkaart (literally "public transport chip card") though this full name is almost never used: the shorter OV-chipkaart is used, as is the abbreviation OV to refer to public transport.

The OV-chipkaart is a collaborative initiative of five large public transport operators in the Netherlands: the main rail operator NS, the bus operator Connexxion and the municipal transport operators of the three largest cities: GVB (Amsterdam), HTM (The Hague) and RET (Rotterdam). These five companies established the joint venture Trans Link Systems (abbreviated TLS) to develop and implement the OV-chipkaart, though all public transport companies in the Netherlands use and are able to use the system as well.

History and coverage[edit]

The OV-chipkaart has been valid with all Dutch public transport operators since 2011.[2][3] The OV-chipkaart was first introduced to the Rotterdam Metro in April 2005. The Amsterdam Metro followed suit in 2006 by accepting the card as an alternative method of payment. All trams and buses in Rotterdam accepted the OV-chipkaart from June 2007 onwards, and coverage in Amsterdam was extended to all trams and buses in November 2008.

Both 'paper' tickets and the OV-chipkaart were able to be bought and used on public transport in Amsterdam and Rotterdam until mid-2010, after which only the OV-chipkaart could be used to pay for one's journey. Support for 'paper' single-use tickets and the strippenkaart system was then withdrawn area-by-area, for example in the province of South Holland on 19 May 2011. The strippenkaart ceased to be valid anywhere in the country on 3 November 2011, making the OV-chipkaart the only valid form of ticket for buses, trams and metro systems in the Netherlands.

The OV-chipkaart has been valid when travelling with the rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways, NS) since October 2009, and in combination with discount subscriptions since December 2009. Traditional paper tickets are still valid on NS services and some season tickets are sold as loose tickets rather than as an OV-chipkaart subscription.[4] For rail-journeys using trains from different operators (e.g. part of the route via the NS and part via Connexxion or Syntus, etc., pay the "start fare" twice, whereas paper tickets would only charge you for the total distance traveled. This made using the chipcard more expensive than using paper tickets. On 30 June 2011 the law on public transport of 2000 was changed to address these problems[5] You still have to tag-off and tag-on when changing operator.

The cards[edit]

Two types of OV-chipkaart: anonymous (blue motif) and personal (yellow).
NS Day Pass on a disposable chipcard. Regardless the fact that no balance will be deducted for the travelled route, checking in and out is still compulsory.

The OV-chipkaart uses the MIFARE technology of NXP Semiconductors and three versions of OV-chipkaart are available: the disposable OV-chipkaart, the anonymous OV-chipkaart, and the personal OV-chipkaart.

The latter two types are valid for between five and six years, have the ability to store credit (cf. electronic purse) and one must pay a one-off fee in order to obtain one.

Disposable tickets[edit]

The disposable version of the OV-chipkaart is made of stiff paper and is thrown away after use. It can only be used for simple travel products (such as having unlimited travel on a particular network for a certain period of time), and cannot be topped up with credit since it does not feature an electronic purse. These 'tickets' are intended for people who don't use public transport in the Netherlands often, mainly tourists. For bus and tram rides they can be purchased from machines or on board. For the train such cards are not yet available, but they will replace the old single and return tickets.[when?]

Anonymous OV-chipkaart[edit]

The anonymous OV-chipkaart (Dutch: anonieme OV-chipkaart) is a reusable card for people who travel more frequently. Unlike the disposable version, it does have an electronic purse feature and one pays per kilometre travelled when using it. The balance (saldo) of the card is "topped up" at vending machines or at manned kiosks, and the appropriate balance is deducted after each journey. The card is transferable between persons (though only one person can use an anonymous OV-chipkaart at any one time) and, therefore, cannot be used to hold season tickets longer than a few days in duration. Anonymous cards are obtainable from vending machines, kiosks and a special website[6] for a fee but can be used immediately, unlike a personal OV-chipkaart.

These yellow machines, to be found at supermarkets or tobacco shops, can be used to top up the OV-Chipkaart purse.

Personal OV-chipkaart[edit]

The personal OV-chipkaart (Dutch: persoonlijke OV-chipkaart) is similar to the anonymous version of the OV-chipkaart, though it is possible to store season tickets and other travel products of a period longer than a single month. The personal version of the card is non-transferable and features a photograph of its holder and his/her date of birth on the obverse. Other advantages of the personal card are that it can be blocked if it is lost or stolen, and it can be set to automatically "top up" when the electronic purse credit drops below a certain level. A personal OV-chipkaart can store discount products based on the age of its holder, e.g. children aged between 4 and 11, and senior citizens over the age of 55.

As of 2012, one must fill in a form online or at a kiosk in order to apply for a card which later arrives by post. The personal OV-chipkaart is intended for use by residents of the Netherlands; anybody with a Dutch address and bank account is eligible to apply for one. Residents of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg can also apply for a personal OV-chipkaart. They can pay via a Dutch bank account (should they have one), by PayPal or credit card. If their payment is processed with PayPal or a credit card, however, it will not possible to use the automatic top-up feature.


The 2012 OV-chipkaarts are based on NXP Semiconductors Mifare technology. The anonymous and personal versions of the card are Mifare Classic 4K cards, protected from unlawful access by security keys known only to the vendor. The disposable 'tickets' are the cheaper Mifare Ultralight cards that do not employ any encryption, and can be read by anyone.

The Mifare Crypto-1 encryption algorithm was believed to have been cracked in 2007[7][8] but, despite this, transport companies continued with the introduction of the OV-chipkaart. TLS claimed that they would be able to detect fraudulent activity (e.g. cloned cards, unlawful electronic purse "topping up") and blacklist suspect cards.[9] More recent developments include first Linux- and later Microsoft Windows-based software[10] designed to add electronic purse credit to an OV-chipkaart in ways undetectable by Trans Link Systems. Also, the current card-checking technology fails to reveal fraudulent "check-ins" made on board.[11][12][13] In lieu of these developments, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is continuing to introduce the OV-Chipkaart, but since 2011 Trans Link System has been producing cards based on the more fraud-resistant Infineon SLE 66 microcontroller.[14]

The technology is not faultless. Upon checking out, the card readers display the amount deducted and the remaining balance. It is not uncommon for the wrong amount to be deducted: a sample of journeys in 2011 which bear a €1.09 fare has resulted in changes of €0.77, €1.53 and €2.37. Passengers who notice this "theft" can claim a refund via the relevant operator's website, quoting a Dutch bank account number. However experience shows that operators do not necessarily refund overcharges.[citation needed]

Travelling with the OV-chipkaart[edit]

OV-chipkaart reader in a bus.

The OV-chipkaart works in two ways: either as an electronic purse which one tops up, and discharges by travelling on public transport in the Netherlands; or as a means of storing a travel product such as a season ticket. One "checks in" at the beginning of one's journey and "checks out" and in again when changing operator or mode of transport (e.g. from a bus to a tram), and "checks out" when one's journey is complete - upon checking out, the OV-chipkaart recognises which travel products (if any) have been used and takes action accordingly.

If no appropriate travel product has been loaded onto the OV-chipkaart when checking in, the electronic purse balance will be used to pay for the journey. A deposit is paid using this balance upon checking in - the amount paid depends on the mode of transport (e.g. bus, tram, metro, train) and the transport company, and is higher than the fare of most journeys. If a user fails to check out, they would pay more than the quoted fare for their journey, deterring misuse of the system. This deposit - minus the cost of the actual journey - is refunded a passenger's OV-chipkaart upon checking out. In the event of a machine failure (e.g. if all card validators are out of service), the excess fee paid can be claimed back from the transport company being used.

For a passenger travelling by train or metro, he or she is likely to have to pass through a ticket barrier. The barriers are designed to make access to the platforms (and therefore any vehicle) impossible without checking in beforehand. When checking in at a ticket barrier, the barriers are opened after an electronic purse deposit has been collected from the passenger's OV-chipkaart or when an appropriate travel product has been acknowledged. If no deposit can be collected, the ticket barriers will refuse to open and access to the station is refused to the customer. Some railway and metro stations aren't protected by ticket barriers; instead free-standing validator units are used to check in and out. 90 out of approximately 300[citation needed] railway stations in the country will eventually have ticket barriers installed[citation needed]; currently all are kept permanently open - because the OV-chipkaart is not the only form of payment accepted. As the old strippenkaart is abandoned, on metro stations the barriers are in function as intended.

During a trip, travel staff can check cards using a mobile reader. You must be travelling away from the point where you checked in. The validators on trams and buses are located next to or near the doors within the vehicle itself (except on trams in Utrecht, where card readers are placed on the tramstops). Most buses are designed so that passengers board by walking past the driver when entering the vehicle; the driver of the bus can therefore monitor and enforce (if necessary) the checking in of passengers. The driver cannot normally monitor passengers checking out and leaving the vehicle, though, and some evade part of their fare by checking out before a bus has arrived at the stop or station where they intend to alight. It is for this reason that ticket inspections continue to take place. Forgetting to check out when disembarking a vehicle will cause a passenger to lose their check in deposit.

The screens on card validators and ticket barriers will display the amount deducted from the electronic purse and remaining balance when a passenger checks out. If a season ticket has been used, only the message "tot ziens" (Dutch: "goodbye") is displayed.


The introduction of the system came with many complaints. Worries were expressed about the technology as the built-in security and encryption method wouldn't be safe,[7] worries around the lack of privacy and also many problems with the card for students. Additionally, as with many other services in The Netherlands the system is difficult for non-residents without access to a Dutch bank account to use, as there are limited locations where cash can be used to top-up the card, and international credit cards are not accepted at vending machines. The purchase price for an "empty" card is €7.50 (as of 2013) and is non-refundable, compared to the £5.00 refundable deposit for Oyster Cards and the $1.00 MetroCard offered by the New York City Metro-Transit Authority. The remaining balance on an OV Chipkaart cannot be recovered without paying an administrative surcharge.

There are several web-sites in the Netherlands set-up about problems with the card. The political party Groen Links is running the site OV-Chipklacht where people can report problems they encounter with the cards.[15] According to the operators of this site they received over 15,000 complaints from users about problems on "check-out", problems with the special student-cards, poor handling of complaints, lack of security and privacy and that the system is used to introduce hidden price increases. The political party behind this site uses the information gathered via this site for asking questions to the responsible minister in the "Tweede kamer", which is House of Representatives of the Netherlands and to propose changes. On 6 July 2012, Groen Links, together with other parties having a large majority in the 2e kamer, forced the responsible minister to keep the current "paper trainticket" to remain available until all problems are resolved.[16]


In April 2007, the OV-chipkaart received a Computerworld Honors Program Laureate award.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The OV-Chipcard cannot be used on the Frisian Wadden islands (see Arriva.nl) and the BES-islands.
  2. ^ "Waar kunt u met de OV-chipkaart reizen?". ov-chipkaart.nl (in Dutch). 
  3. ^ "Arriva OV-chipkaart reisgebied". ov-chipkaart.nl (in Dutch). 2010-08-23. 
  4. ^ Maandtrajectabonnementen (month-long season tickets valid between two specified stations) are sold as a loose ticket and cannot be "uploaded" onto an OV-chipkaart, whereas the longer jaartrajectabonnement (year-long) is sold only as an OV-chipkaart product.
  5. ^ Official government publications Changes of the law on public transport of 2000, 30 June 2011. Visited: 7 July 2012
  6. ^ http://OV-chipkaartkopen.nl
  7. ^ a b "Mifare — Little Security, Despite Obscurity". 24th Chaos Communication Congress. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  8. ^ Cloning the OV-chip Card
  9. ^ "Invoering OV-chipkaart gaat verder". NOS Teletekst (in Dutch). NOS. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  10. ^ "OV Chipkraak nu voor elke Windows gebruiker" (in Dutch). 
  11. ^ "Hacktools ov chipkaart gelekt op internet" (in Dutch). 
  12. ^ "Een Paar Kliks En Je Reist Vogelvrij" (in Dutch). 
  13. ^ "Minister onthult nieuwe hack maar OV chipkaart blijft" (in Dutch). 
  14. ^ "Nieuwe OV-chip gaat fraude tegen" (in Dutch). 
  15. ^ Homepage www.ov-chipklackt.nl, visited 7 July 2012
  16. ^ Groenlinks website Overview OV-chipcard discussions in 2e kamer, visited 7 July 2012
  17. ^ "The Computerworld Honors Program: Trans Link Systems smart card (OV-chipkaart)". 

External links[edit]