NS Dutch Railways has a wide (and perhaps confusing) range of discount cards and season tickets available. These come as either discount (korting) or free travel (vrij reizen) card products. If you travel regularly by train in the Netherlands then these subscriptions could potentially save you a good deal of money.
International visitors should note that these NS discount cards are aimed at residents rather than tourists.
The NS rail subscription card products are added to a personal OV-chip card which includes your name, date of birth and photo. You add credit to the card and need to check-in and check-out of your train journey as normal – the discounted or free fare will be automatically applied. A minimum of €10 balance is required for travel with a discount card.
NS has recently introduced NS Flex which allows holders to receive a monthly invoice for travel rather than constantly topping-up the OV-chip card balance. NS Flex also allows flexibility when it comes to season tickets and subscriptions – although not all features are yet available.
The NS discount cards are valid on the entire Dutch railway network, including on other train operators. They are also valid for travel within the Netherlands on Intercity Direct (supplement payable for Rotterdam-Schiphol), Intercity Berlin (no supplement needed) and ICE International (supplement payable). They are not valid on the Thalys or Eurostar trains.
Most of the travel products make the distinction between ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’ travel periods. NS designates peak hours (spitsuren) to be Monday to Friday 0630-0900 and 1600-1830. Off-peak times (daluren) are 0900-1600 and 1830-0630 on weekdays plus all of the weekend and public holidays. It is actually the check-in time that counts, not the travel time.
One of the main benefits of the NS discount and free travel cards listed below is 40% discounted travel for up to 3 guests during off-peak hours.
Each person travelling with the main card holder needs to load the “Combined Travel Discount” (samenreiskorting) product from the NS ticket machines (before travel) onto their own OV-chipcard – this can be done as a 1x (single trip) or 2x (2 trips) basis. The discounted fare is automatically applied on check-out.
NS Discount Cards (Standard)
There are basically 2 main discount travel card options, plus a free travel days add-on for resident seniors aged 60+.
Dal Voordeel (off-peak discount card) – This is the most popular discount card option. It costs €50 per year and offers 40% discount for travel during off-peak hours. NS occasionally offers the Dal Voordeel card for €29 for the first year. You get a personal OV-chip card for free if you don’t have one already.
[The Dal Voordeel replaced the old discount card known as the Voordeeluren card, which is still held by a good number of people but is no longer for sale. It costs around €64 per year and has no evening discount restriction.]
Altijd Voordeel (anytime discount) – This gives a 20% discount for travel during peak hours and a 40% discount during off-peak hours. The Altijd Voordeel can be bought either on a monthly (€27) or annual basis (€22 per month which is €264 for the whole year).
It is possible to add-on an OV Voordeel (public transport discount) product to the Altijd Voordeel for an extra €11 per month. This gives 20% discount on bus, metro and tram travel at any time of the day.
As mentioned above, it’s the check-in time that counts with the discount cards. So if you check-in during the off-peak hours, commence travel and then check-out during peak hours the discount fare will still apply.
There is also a 5 minute allowance for checking-in just before the official off-peak hours start at 0900 and 1830. So if you check-in after 0855 or 1825, the discount will be applied. This is because check-in must be done at the card readers at the station (not on the train) so you need a bit of extra time for that.
Keuzedagen (optional free travel days) – Seniors 60+ who hold a Dal Voordeel or Altijd Voordeel subscription can pay an annual supplement of €24.50 (2nd class) or €49.50 (1st class) to get 7 unrestricted free travel days known as keuzedagen. A keuzedag is valid for travel check-in before 0630 or after 0900 on weekdays or anytime at weekends and on public holidays.
Those with a 2nd class keuzedag option can travel in 1st class by purchasing a 2-1 upgrade supplement for €5.
Note that one keuzedag can be taken at any date of the year; each of the other 6 are only valid in separate 2 month periods. You lose any keuzedag you do not use.
NS Free Travel Subscriptions (Standard)
There are a number of free travel (100% discount) card options available from NS. These may offer value to those who need to do a lot of travel by train.
Dal Vrij (Off-peak free travel) – This costs €102 per month (2nd class) or €129 per month (1st class) on an annual basis. It allows free travel during the off-peak hours on weekdays and anytime at weekends. The total for 12 months is €1,224 (2nd class) and €1,548 (1st class). After the first year you can cancel with 1 month’s notice.
Weekend Vrij (Weekend free travel) – This offers the cardholder unlimited rail travel during the weekends, valid from 1830 Friday to 0400 Monday. It costs €33 per month (2nd class) or €39 per month (1st class). It also offers the holder a 40% discount for off-peak travel on weekdays. The total for 12 months is €396 (2nd class) and €468 (1st class). After the first year you can cancel with 1 month’s notice.
Altijd Vrij (Unlimited travel) – This allows totally unrestricted free travel for the holder at any time on the Dutch rail network. You can either buy a stand alone 1 month subscription or at a lower monthly rate for the entire year. The 1 month subscription price is €410 (2nd class) or €700 (1st class).
An annual subscription contract costs €333 per month (2nd class) or €560 per month (1st class). The total for 12 months is €3,996 (2nd class) and €6,720 (1st class). After the first year you can cancel with 1 month’s notice.
You can upgrade the unlimited annual train card to OV Vrij Annual (Unlimited public transport) subscription which also includes unrestricted free travel on buses, metro and trams for an extra €55.50 per month. This option is only available to Altijd Vrij holders.
Traject Vrij (Season ticket for a fixed route) – If you are commuting over a fixed route you can purchase a specific season ticket on a monthly or annual basis. This also gives a 40% discount to the holder when travelling on other routes during off-peak hours. Traject Vrij holders do not need a credit balance for the OV-chip card. They can travel on account and be invoiced monthly. The subscription fee depends on the route.
Grensabonnement (Season ticket up to Dutch border) – For those crossing the border regularly into to Belgium or Germany, there is also the possibility of a season ticket fare valid from a selected station to the Dutch border. You would need a valid ticket for travel outside the Netherlands. This subscription also gives a 40% discount to the holder when travelling on other domestic routes during off-peak hours. The subscription fee depends on the route.
Kids Vrij (Kids free) – This subscription allows children aged 4-11 to travel free with an accompanying adult at any time. The Kids Vrij card is currently free (payment details are required) as a separate product. Up to 3 Kids Vrij subscriptions can be added to most of the above discount and free travel cards. Children require their own OV-chip card for travel.
Bijabonnementen (additional season ticket subscriptions) – Some of the above cards allow the holder to purchase a second subscription (for a family member) at a reduced rate or add up to 3 Kids Vrij products. This can only be done logging into ‘Mijn NS’ account on the NS website and adding a ‘Bijabonnementen’.
How to Purchase NS Discount and Free Travel Cards
NS discount cards and free travel subscriptions can be purchased online at ns.nl, however you must pay by iDeal (Dutch internet banking payment). Subscriptions with recurring payments are made by direct debit.
NS does not accept credit card payments for online subscription payments. If you do not have iDeal, it is possible to purchase over the telephone at the NS consumer helpline on 030-7515155 – it will take up to 10 days to process the order.
NS Flex Season Tickets
NS Flex is a new product under development which allows travel without using OV-chip card credit. You still check-in and -out but get billed monthly and you can monitor your travel costs online at ‘Mijn NS’. It is also possible to add and change season ticket subscriptions on a monthly basis.
NS Flex costs a one time fee of €10 to set up but is free without any subscriptions added. NS Flex offers the following subscriptions:
Weekend Voordeel – This is a special NS Flex discount subscription costing €2 per month and offers 40% discount during the weekend.
Dal Voordeel – The standard off-peak 40% discount subscription is available for €5 per month.
Altijd Voordeel – The anytime discount subscription is available for €23 per month and offers 40% discount at off-peak and 20% discount at peak hours.
The free travel options with NS Flex are Weekend Vrij (€31 per month), Dal Vrij (€103 per month) and Altijd Vrij (€334 per month) which cover free travel at weekends, off-peak and anytime, respectively.
At the moment some discount card features are not available with NS Flex, such as travel together discount, kids free and fixed route subscriptions. These will be introduced in due course.
Note, if you have NS Flex and board a train without checking-in you will be invoiced the €50 fine directly!
International Discount Cards
RailPlus – Holders of the Dal Voordeel, Altijd Voordeel, Dal Vrij, Altijd Vrij or Weekend Vrij subscriptions are also allowed to purchase a RailPlus card. Costing €15 per year (free for 60+) this card offers 15% discount on any standard cross border (international) rail service.
It is actually valid in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland. It is also valid in Norway, Spain and Sweden for holders under 26 or over 60.
The discount is only available to the cardholder, no companion discounts are permitted. Discounts are not valid on Thalys/Eurostar type services where special reservations are mandatory.
RailPlus can be bought online at NS International site or over-the-counter at an NS service desk.
DB BahnCard – If you travel regularly in Germany then DB German Railways offers its DB BahnCard 25, 50 and 100. These give a 25%, 50% or 100% discount respectively on German domestic rail travel.