NS Dutch Railways Discount Cards (Explained)

ns dutch railways discount cards guide

NS Dutch Railways has a wide (and perhaps confusing) range of subscriptions 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 cards could potentially save you a good deal of money. International visitors should note that these cards are mainly aimed at residents rather than tourists.

The NS rail subscription card products are added to a personal OV-chip card. The card holder checks-in and checks-out of their journey as normal and the discounted or free fare will be automatically applied. A minimum of €10 balance is required for travel with a discount card.

These cards are valid on the entire Dutch railway network, including on other train operators. They are also valid for travel within 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 train.

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 “travelling together” (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 Travel Cards

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. (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).

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 (€25) or annual basis (€20 per month which is €240 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 on the platform (not on the train) so you need a bit of extra time for that.

Keuzedagen (chosen 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/after 0900 on weekdays or anytime at weekends and on public holidays. 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

There are a number of free travel (100% discount) card options available from NS.

Dal Vrij (Off-peak free travel) – This costs €99 per month (2nd class) or €172 per month (1st class) and allows free travel during the off-peak hours. It is possible to buy a second Dal Vrij subscription for a family member for the reduced monthly price of €42 (2nd class) or €99 (1st class).

Weekend Vrij (Weekend free travel) – This offers the cardholder unlimited rail travel during the weekends, valid from 1830 Friday to 0400 Monday. It costs €32 per month (2nd class) or €45 per month (1st class). It also offers the holder a 40% discount for off-peak travel on weekdays. It is possible to buy a second Weekend Vrij subscription for a family member for the reduced monthly price of €22 (2nd class) or €39 (1st class).

Altijd Vrij (Unlimited travel) – This allows totally unrestricted free travel for the holder. The 1 month subscription price is €408 (2nd class) or €698 (1st class). An annual subscription contract costs €332 per month (2nd class) or €557 per month (1st class). It is possible to buy a second Altijd Vrij subscription for a family member for the reduced monthly price of €155 (2nd class) or €332 (1st class).

You can upgrade the unlimited annual train card to OV Vrij Annual (Unlimited public transport) which also covers unrestricted free travel on buses, metro and trams for an extra €54.70 per month (total of €386.70 per month which works out at €4,640.40 per year).

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.

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.

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 subscriptions) – We have mentioned that some of the 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

Discount and free travel cards can be purchased online at ns.nl, however you must pay by iDeal (Dutch internet banking payment). NS does not currently accept credit card payments for online subscription payments. If you do not have iDeal, it is possible to purchase over the telephone on 030-7515155 – it will take 10 days to process the order.

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 25% discount on any standard cross border (international) rail service.

It is actually valid in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine. (Also valid in France, Norway, Spain and Sweden for holders under 26 or over 60).

The RailPlus card would give a 25% discount on travel between Netherlands and Belgium or Germany. 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.

Thalys ThePass – Mainly aimed at frequent business travellers, Thalys offers a number of annual discount subscription products which give up to 50% discount on flex and semi-flex tickets. These yearly subscriptions cost from €400 to €6,200.

DB Bahn Card – If you travel regularly in Germany then DB German Railways offers its DB Bahn Card 25, 50 and 100. These give a 25%, 50% or 100% discount respectively on German domestic rail travel.