NS Dutch Railways has a wide (and perhaps confusing) range of discount cards and season tickets available. These come as either travel with discount (reizen met korting) or unlimited travel (onbeperkt 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.
If you are simply looking for the standard annual discount card (NS Dal Vordeel) then you can order the card here. Otherwise continue reading our complete guide on all NS discount and unlimited travel cards.
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 (see below).
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.
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!
Discounts for guests travelling with NS cardholders
One of the main benefits of the NS discount and unlimited 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 “Joint Journey 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/mobile ticket – It is possible to purchase a Joint Journey Discount 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 disposable ticket at the 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+. All the cards can be ordered online from NS directly. Prices are for 2023.
Dal Voordeel (off-peak discount card)
This is the most popular NS discount card option. For travel using credit on balance it costs €67.20 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 €5.60 per month which is paid by direct debit and is cancellable anytime after the first month. Order the NS Dal Voordeel discount card here
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 €2.20 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. Order the NS Weekend Voordeel here
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 €26.70 per month which works out at €320.40 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. Order the NS Altijd Voordeel here
Keuzedagen (optional free travel days) – Seniors 60+ who hold a Dal Voordeel card (credit on balance) can pay an annual supplement of €27.50 (2nd class) or €53.70 (1st class) to get 7 unrestricted free travel days known as keuzedagen.[‘keuze‘ means ‘choice’ or ‘selection’ in Dutch; ‘dagen‘ means days]
A keuzedag is valid for travel at off-peak times on weekdays and anytime at weekends or public holidays.
You can add the keuzedagen as an optional extra when buying a Dal Voordeel subscription on balance. If you already hold the card then you need to request the keuzedag from NS and load it onto your card. These are currently not available on NS Flex subscriptions.
You must use the keuzedagen within 12 months or they 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 can be ordered online, monthly payments are made by direct debit and they are all cancellable at any time after the first month. Prices are for 2023.
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 €34.95 per month. In 1st class it costs €43.95 per month. For an extra €3.40 per month it offers the holder and up to 3 guests a 40% discount for off-peak travel on weekdays. Order Weekend Vrij here
Dal Vrij (Off-peak unlimited travel)
This allows unlimited free travel during the off-peak hours on weekdays and anytime at weekends. Up to 3 guests can travel with 40% discount during off-peak hours. For 2nd class travel it costs €119.95 per month. In 1st class it costs €159.95 per month. Order Dal Vrij here
A Dal Vrij subscription for those aged 65+ costs €54.95 per month (2nd class) and €87.95 per month (1st class).
Altijd Vrij (Unlimited travel at anytime)
This allows totally unrestricted free travel for the holder at any time on the Dutch rail network. Up to 3 guests can travel with 40% discount during off-peak hours. For 2nd class travel it costs €353.80 per month. In 1st class it costs €601.50 per month. Order Altijd Vrij here
Maandkaart Altijd Vrij (Unlimited travel month ticket)
It is also possible to buy the unlimited travel option as a stand alone Maandkaart (month ticket) rather than as a subscription-based season ticket. You can add this to a personal OV-chip card from the NS ticket machine and payment is made up front.
For 1 month the costs are €424.60 (2nd class) and €721.80 (1st class).
There is also a 3 month option which is €1,061.40 (2nd class) and €1,804.50 (1st class).
The Maandkaart does not offer guest discounts.
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.
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
Note, international rail tickets can be purchased online at NS International
This article was originally published in 2011 and has been regularly updated. Last update 16 December 2022.
Links on AmsterdamTips.com may pay us an affiliate commission.