The currency used in the Netherlands (Holland) is the Euro. If you live in a country outside the Eurozone, like in America or Great Britain, you must exchange currency in Amsterdam or elsewhere for Euros.
You’ll find more information about the Euro in the frequently asked questions at the bottom of this post. But the main topic of my post today is about the best way to exchange your money. There are many wrong ways to do it and only a few good/better ones.
I don’t know about you, but I rather spend my money on fun activities and not just give it away to banks.
Below you will find a detailed explanation of the different options, why most lose you a lot of money, and which methods are better. Let’s dive in:
Different Ways to Exchange Currency in Amsterdam and Beyond
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🚨 Option 1: Use Your Credit Card From Home
When I talk to my readers, I always ask if they thought about the currency before their trip, and still, I’m surprised when I hear: “Oh, I’ll just use my credit cards while I’m there.”
I understand it is the most simple solution. I also know the ads banks broadcast. I’ve heard them all. “With our card, you pay no fees for foreign transactions,” or “With us, you pay no markup on foreign currency.” They often throw in extra perks, like extra points, to sweeten the deal.
Great marketing, often not so great for your wallet. Usually, 9 out of 10, it is either/or. So no fees translate to a (high) markup or no markup, which means a fee is added. Rarely both are waived, this is how they make money, and you lose quite a bit, even with the nice ad saying there are no fees when you travel. Sneaky right?
What does this mean: a fee is usually a fixed amount for every charge or ATM withdrawal in a currency other than your own. Now this is on top of fees the ATM itself charges.
A markup is usually the commercial (inflated) exchange rate vs. the official (mid-market) rate you see on Google or Yahoo. Those costs add up, entirely out of sight to you. It looks free, but you pay pretty significantly for the privilege.
Before you’re sure you have a card with a good deal, check the fine print and look for fees AND markup. If not clear, ask the card issuer about their foreign exchange fees AND if they use the mid-market rate, and if not, how much (%) they add to it.
🔔 Also essential to realize: Credit cards are NOT as well accepted as debit cards and cash in Amsterdam and beyond. Relying on your credit card only will become quite inconvenient quite quickly. Also, you need the contactless option on your card and a pin code for every transaction above a certain amount.
Many stores won’t accept credit cards at all. Albert Heijn Supermarkets (the largest chain in the country) does not accept them. Also, small old fashion stores might still be cash-only 🤔.
Option five is better: a specific travel-optimized debit card with super low fees for foreign purchases and for withdrawing cash. This is how I travel myself.
🚨 Option 2: Exchange Your Currency And Buy Euro Before You Leave
Especially popular with British and Americans is exchanging currency at home from a local bank, post office, or airport.
The advice is: better safe than sorry, and have (some) cash at hand when you arrive. It’s very EXPENSIVE advice. Please don’t do it. Here’s why:
Banks’ exchange rates are terrible on top of their hefty fees. Don’t be fooled by no-commission promotions often seen in the UK. The exchange rate will just be worse. Again always check against the mid-market exchange rate. That is the one you’ll find on Google. Just notice the difference between the two.
How about the benefit of having some local currency when you arrive? There is nothing at Schiphol Airport you can’t pay for with a debit or credit card. You do not need cash in your first hours in the Netherlands. Even for transportation from the airport, you can use a card.
One of the nicer benefits of option five, my recommended debit card, is that you can, after arrival, withdraw some cash without extra costs, just as a backup if you want some money. This is a valuable and helpful perk of this card.
Please don’t exchange cash from home. It’s such a waste of your money. You worked hard for it.
🚨 Option 3: Exchange Euro at the Airport
No matter which airport you travel from, via, or to, exchanging your money at an airport is always a bad idea. It will cost you A LOT of money! It’s the worst option out of all.
Are you wondering why? Just look at those screens that publish the exchange rates at the exchange office. Do you see the massive difference between buying and selling rates? That is what they earn! Plus, the commission and fees they charge on top of that.
Do not be fooled by zero percent commission or free buyback offers. Ultimately, all that matters is how many euros you get for x amount of your currency. After all costs, I promise you it won’t be favorable.
You must know the mid-market rate to know if you get a good deal. That is the one you see on Google. You’ll be shocked to find out how much less an exchange office offers you, especially at an airport.
Be smart and spend your money on more enjoyable things and check out the Wise Borderless Debit card below instead.
🚨 Option 4: Withdraw Cash From an ATM After Arrival
After all this bad news, this option might seem a cost-effective way to get Euro. Unfortunately, it’s often not. Unless you have the right card.
Most ATMs charge a fee if you are not a customer of them. Then your card issuer might add an ATM withdrawal fee on top of that. And most likely, you will also be hit with an inflated exchange rate higher than the mid-market rate. Often an ATM withdrawal can be nearly as expensive as exchanging at a bureau.
🏧 Here are a few tips when using an ATM to get Euro
- Use a bank card with low ATM fees (and reasonable exchange rates). Our recommended Wise card does precisely that.
- When the ATM asks you to be charged in your currency, like USD, decline, ALWAYS choose Euro.
- Debit cards are usually cheaper than credit cards (but check this).
- Obvious, but still often forgotten: make sure you know your pin code.
- Magnet strips don’t work in Europe. Make sure your card has a chip on the front (or is contactless)
- Tell your bank when you’re traveling, so they can unblock your card for overseas use.
✅ Option 5: Use a Wise Borderless Debit Card
My favorite method to hold my foreign currency is with the Wise Borderless card. This is the card I use, and it has helped me save a lot of money!
It’s a free account with free virtual debit Visa and Mastercards. For a small fee, you can also get a physical card, which I recommend. Sometimes contactless does not work as expected. In cases like that, it’s nice to have an actual card. But that’s entirely up to you.
You can hold money in jars. Each jar is a currency. You can activate these, for example, in US dollars, British pounds, and Euros. Only when you transfer money from one currency to another do you pay a small fee. Fees vary between payment methods, but they’re always low cost.
I love how honest their fee structure is—no hidden charges. No monthly fees or maintenance charges either.
Once the funds are converted, you can spend it as a local without extra costs. On top of that, a few small ATM withdrawals are allowed free of charge each month. If your card is not accepted, having some cash in your pocket is nice.
You can also use this card for online purchases in another currency, like Euro. For example, when purchasing your museum or transport tickets before you leave. It’s a multifunctional card that you will quickly appreciate when traveling overseas.
These are the benefits in short:
- No hidden fees, just low costs that are communicated upfront.
- Jars for each currency. The card is smart enough to know where you are and which to use.
- No monthly fees or maintenance fees. You pay when you add funds. That’s it.
- You can transfer between currencies if you have multiple currencies in your account.
- Any remaining funds can be transferred back at a minimal fee to your money.
A Borderless account with a debit card is available if you live in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, or any country in the EU.
As a bonus, the card itself looks very cool. I often receive comments from people when I use it: “Oh, I like that card!” “Well, thank you very much. I like it too 🤗.”
This Is How Your Wise Borderless Account Works:
When you’re ready to add money, you can transfer the amount from your checking account or credit card to your Transferwise account. Login to your wise account. Click the currency you want to add (like Euro) via the + button.
You can then fill out how much you would like to convert. It tells you the current rate and the costs (estimate). Then on the next screen, you select a payment method. Here you can see the definite costs. A direct debit or bank transfer is often cheaper than using your credit card. Once the payment is received, your new currency is added and ready to be spent. It’s that simple.
If you want cash, it’s easy to get some at an ATM. In Holland, make sure it’s a yellow “Geldmaat.” They won’t charge extra fees and can be found anywhere in banks, railway stations, and often larger chains. Do not use the private ATMs you often see in tourist shops. These add additional costs.
You won’t need that much cash. However, I still advise having €100 to €200 in cash just in case. This is free with the account.
Transferwise Borderless App
Another excellent benefit of your TransferWise debit MasterCard® is that it comes with a convenient app on your phone. You can use it to add money to your account with ease. You can see your balance(s) and get instant notifications when you use your card. It’s so helpful!
Wise compared to 5 other US bank accounts and PayPal.
🟠 Option 6: Change Cash After Arrival in Amsterdam
You can exchange cash currency for euros in the city and the rest of the country. Although outside Amsterdam, it will require some effort. At most train stations in larger cities, you will find a GWK Travelex, to change currency. But again, the rates aren’t favorable. Avoid it if you can.
You’ll also find independent exchange offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Expect poor rates. but there is one exception, Potts Exchange in Amsterdam. I’m not affiliated with them in any way but they just offer relatively really good rates.
Potts is located on Damrak 95, opposite the Bijenkorf department store. Very central. Their rates are better than most but still expect to lose 3-4% depending on the currency.
The Wise debit card still is the better option. But sometimes you need a currency exchange, and then it’s good to know a better option.
📝 Here is a Money Checklist Before You Leave
- Check ALL fees, charges, and exchange rates other than midmarket rates for all your cards.
- Activate your cards to use abroad before you depart. Also, cards you don’t plan to use: an emergency can happen.
- You’ve checked if your cards have a chip on the front. If not, call your bank. In Europe, these are necessary.
- You know all the PINs for your cards. You need to use your PIN in Europe.
- You’ve opened a free account with Wise (if you’re eligible), ordered your debit card, and added Euros to your jar.
- After arrival in Amsterdam, it’s smart to withdraw 100-€200 in cash from a “Geldmaat” ATM with your (Wise) card.
- Pay for most of your expenses with your Wise debit card or low-fee bank card during your trip.
- Avoid exchange offices if you can. Pott’s might be the exception here.
🙋♂️ Frequently Asked Questions About Euros
What bank cards are most common in Holland?
The Dutch use their debit cards from a local bank. They don’t use credit cards. Usually, only when they travel. The result is that credit cards are not as widely accepted as elsewhere.
Many places will accept them but also have debit cards and some cash on hand in case they do not.
Are ATMs easy to find in Amsterdam and the rest of the country?
Yes, that is not something you have to worry about. There’s legislation to ensure that a cash machine is available within a short distance from anyone living here. That’s especially important for small villages in the countryside and older people.
You’ll find an ATM anywhere. Usually, those ATMs are not in a bank branches in smaller places. But they are inside a supermarket or a news outlet store. For example, inside an Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Bruna, or Hema. All free ATMs are now branded yellow and called “Geldmaat.”
You’ll also find these ATMs at most railway stations, in shopping malls, local shopping centers, and major attractions like the Efteling, Zoo, et cetera. Just ensure you’re not using a private ATM that is not bright yellow and branded geldmaat.
TIP: Use Google Maps. It has an excellent option for searching for ATMs in an area.
Can I use Traveler’s Cheques in Amsterdam and the Netherlands?
Not that I’m aware of anymore. It will be tough to use them. And if you can, you will be confronted with high exchange fees and costs. Traveler cheques are from another era and not your best option today, like the travel debit card I recommend on this page.
Is the Netherlands on the euro?
Yes, the Netherlands has been using the euro since 2002. You can not use or exchange guilders anymore in case you still have any lying around. Those are now souvenirs. In Amsterdam, Holland, and the rest of the Netherlands, we use Euro only.
What different coins does the Euro have?
Euros are divided into cents, just like dollars. One Euro is equal to 100 cents. Coins exist in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents plus one and two euro coins.
Note that in the Netherlands, we no longer use the one- and two-cent coins. We round the final price you need to pay up or down to the nearest 5-cent point. But in neighboring countries, these coins are used. They won’t be accepted here, so spend them in the country where you got them or take them home as a souvenir.
A fun fact to know is that euro coins are the same on one side of the coin (front). But on the backside, they differ depending on which country minted them. You can collect the prints from every member state. It’s fun to do. Try to guess where each coin is originally from. They are worth the same and can be used anywhere. It’s just trivia.
What different banknotes does the Euro have?
Euro bills come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 notes. There was a 500 euro note once, but it is being phased out since ordinary people never use them. 100 and 200 euro bills will also be challenging to spend, even 50 notes sometimes. It’s best to have a mix of the smaller notes when possible.
When you withdraw cash from an ATM, you’re often given a choice of which notes you want to receive. Choose the smaller denominations when you can. If you get 50 notes, try to break them at larger stores or use them for higher-priced items.
What is the Currency Symbol for the Euro
The symbol to denote the euro is €. It’s not always clear where to place it. In the Netherlands, we always put in front of the amount. Thus € 100. You can use a space or not.
In neighboring countries, the symbol is often placed behind the amount. This is done in Belgium, Germany, and France, for example. It’s never wrong where you place it. But it will look odd for a Dutch person to see the symbol behind the amount. That indicates to them something foreign so that you know.