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NS Dutch Railways Discount Cards (Explained)

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 products are generally linked to a personal OV-chip card which includes your name, date of birth and photo. There are 2 ways of paying the correct fare:

1. Using credit balance – 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. This option is now only available with the standard Dal Vordeel discount card.

2. NS Flex – This allows holders to receive a monthly invoice for travel which is paid by direct debit. This means you no longer have to keep topping-up the OV-chip card balance. NS seems keen to move travellers over to this new system.

NS Flex is available for all subscription products. It includes a few more features such as the possibility of switching to 1st class after check-in, automatic correction if forgetting to check-out and an included OV-Fiets cycle subscription.

train travel netherlands
Train travel in the Netherlands

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.

For OV-chip cards it is actually the check-in time that counts, not the travel time. (This is not the case for discounted e-tickets – see below).

There is a 5 minute allowance for checking-in just before a change between peak hours. This is because check-in must be done at the card readers at the station (not on the train) so you may need a bit of extra time for that. That means off-peak rates are actually valid for checking-in before 0635, after 0855, before 1605 and after 1825!

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. There are 2 options for discounted guest tickets:

I. OV-chip card – 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.

II. e-ticket – It is possible to purchase a discounted e-ticket (samenreisticket) online which can be printed, downloaded to a mobile or added to the NS app. You are not allowed to travel during peak times with a discounted e-ticket. You must be accompanied by someone who holds a discount card. It is not possible to buy a discounted ticket at the station.

rotterdam central station platforms
Platforms at Rotterdam Central station

NS Discount Travel Cards

There are basically 3 discount travel card options. You pay a subscription fee which will then entitle you to travel at a discounted rate at various times. There is also a free travel days add-on available for resident seniors aged 60+.

Dal Voordeel (off-peak discount card) – This is the most popular discount card option. For travel using credit balance it costs €60 per year and offers 40% discount for travel during all off-peak hours. You get a personal OV-chip card for free if you don’t have one already.

For NS Flex, the Dal Vordeel costs €5 per month (€5.10 per month in 2022) which is paid by direct debit and is cancellable anytime after the first month.

Weekend Voordeel (weekend discount) – This NS Flex subscription gives a 40% discount at weekends and public holidays. The discount is valid from 1830 Friday until 0400 on Monday. It costs just €2 per month paid by direct debit. It can be cancelled any time after the first month. Note, there is a €10 administration fee to join if you don’t already have a NS subscription.

Altijd Voordeel (anytime discount) – This NS Flex subscription gives a 20% discount for travel during peak hours and a 40% discount during off-peak hours. The Altijd Voordeel costs €23 per month (€24.20 per month in 2022) which works out at €276 (€290.40 in 2022) for the whole year. It can be cancelled any time after the first month. It should be considered if you travel at least twice a week during the peak times.

ns subscriptions diiscount overview
NS discount subscriptions – overview over time and day

Keuzedagen (optional free travel days) – Seniors 60+ who hold a credit balance Dal Voordeel card or an old Altijd Voordeel subscription card can pay an annual supplement of €26.50 (2nd class) or €51.90 (1st class) to get 7 unrestricted free travel days known as keuzedagen. These are currently not available on NS Flex subscriptions.

A keuzedag is valid for travel at off-peak times on weekdays and anytime at weekends or public holidays.

You need to request the keuzedag from NS and load it onto your card. You must use the keuzedag within 12 months or it will expire.

NS Unlimited Travel Subscriptions

There are a number of unlimited travel (100% discount) card options available with NS Flex on a monthly basis. These may offer value to those who need to do a lot of travel by train. They are all cancellable at any time after the first month.

Weekend Vrij (Weekend unlimited travel) – This offers the cardholder unlimited rail travel during the weekends, valid from 1830 Friday to 0400 Monday. For 2nd class travel it costs €31 per month (€31.60 per month in 2022). In 1st class it costs €37 per month (€37.70 per month in 2022). For an extra €3 per month (€3.10 per month in 2022) it offers the holder a 40% discount for off-peak travel on weekdays.

Dal Vrij (Off-peak unlimited travel) – This allows unlimited free travel during the off-peak hours on weekdays and anytime at weekends. For 2nd class travel it costs €106 per month (€107.90 per month in 2022). In 1st class it costs €134 per month (€136.40 per month in 2022).

Altijd Vrij (Unlimited travel) – This allows totally unrestricted free travel for the holder at any time on the Dutch rail network. For 2nd class travel it costs €356 per month (€362.40 per month in 2022). In 1st class it costs €602 per month (€612.80 per month in 2022).

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. The subscription fee (from around €61 per month) depends on length of the route. Longer routes will simply defer to the Altijd Vrij subscription.

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.

All NS discount cards and free travel subscriptions above can be ordered online at ns.nl

It is also possible to have a basic free NS Flex subscription (€10 admin fee) with no discount features to be able to pay for travel with monthly direct debit.

Note, if you have NS Flex and board a train without checking-in you will be invoiced the €50 fine directly!

For more on tickets see our complete guide How To Buy Dutch Train Tickets

International Rail Travel Discount Subscriptions

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.

There are separate subscription products from DB German railways and NMBS/SNCB Belgian railways.

RAILPLUS – Holders of NS subscriptions are allowed to purchase a RAILPLUS card. Costing €15 per year this card offers 15% discount on any standard cross border (international) rail service. It is only available over-the-counter at a NS station service desk.

It is actually valid in the following countries: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, 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.

Note, the RAILPLUS card is no longer valid for discount travel in Belgium.

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. It is not valid with Sparpreis discounted tickets to/from Germany.

International tickets can be purchased online at NS International

This article was originally published in 2011 and has been regularly updated. Last update 24 November 2021.

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