The currency in the Netherlands (Holland) is the Euro. If you live in a country with a different currency like Dollars or Pounds, you need to exchange your money into Euro when you visit Amsterdam and the rest of the country.
If you want to learn more about the Euro itself, read our post about "Money in the Netherlands." This post is about how to GET euros, and how to save money, while exchanging your money.
There are different ways to exchange money, not all are created equal
There are different ways to exchange currency in Euro. But there are only a few that are cost-effective. We'll go over the pros and cons for each option to exchange money in Euro in the Netherlands:
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TIP: If you have a flight departing from Schiphol or you transfer at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol than make sure to download this €5 off coupon from the Tax-Free shops. When you spend € 25 or more on perfumes, cosmetics, sunglasses, liquor or chocolate (after security) you get €5 off your purchase.
Option 1: Buy Euro at your local bank before you leave [not recommended]
Often we read or hear the advice to change some money before you leave home. The reasoning is that you'll have some cash when you arrive.
You've probably heard that advice yourself. Each time we hear this unnecessary advice, our mouths never fail to fall open. It's very EXPENSIVE advice. Don't do it. Here's why:
The exchange rate banks offer are terrible on top of the hefty fees they charge. Don't be fooled by no commission promotions, either. The exchange rate will just be worse then. 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? Many years ago, maybe, yes, this could have been good advice. Even today, at some destinations it still could be. But not in Western Europe. Western Europe (and especially Northern Europe) is becoming a cashless society. There is no need whatsoever to have local currency in cash when you arrive.
We read advice like, "you need it to buy your first necessities or to get away from the airport." It's not true. We simply do not know a single place at the airport that does not take a credit card for payment.
You'll be able to pay for a taxi with your credit card or get an Uber. If you want to take the train, you can buy your ticket with your credit card as well. Or even better (and cheaper), get your train tickets in the NS app before you leave. Then you have your ticket on your phone (paid with a credit card) and you avoid the paper ticket charge (€1) at the same time.
Option 2: Exchange Euro at the airport [not recommended]
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. Even worse than ordering from your local bank (and that is already bad).
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 the buying rate and the selling rate? That is what they earn! Plus, the commission and fees they charge.
Please do not get fooled by zero percent commission either or free buyback offers. In the end all that matters is how many Euro you get for x amount of your currency. After all costs, we promise you it won't be favorable.
To know if you get a good deal, you have to know the mid-market rate. 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 spent your money on more enjoyable things and keep reading.
Look at the mid-market rate in this widget:
Option 3: Withdraw cash from an ATM machine after arrival [much better choice]
After all this bad news, this option might be a cost-effective, and a good way to get Euro. In many cases, the ATM (cash machine) is your friend. In Holland, we call them a: "Geldautomaat."
BUT... Yes, there is a but. It depends on your bank, and the fees they are charging. For absolutely the best deal, scroll to option 4 below. If you want to use your personal bank and credit cards, you must know before you leave, how much they charge for using their card internationally.
You want to know their fees and percentages for cash withdrawals at an ATM in another currency and how much they charge for purchases. Shop around for the best deal because offers vary a lot!
For example, if we travel, our bank will charge us €4 for each withdrawal in a currency other than Euro, and €0.25 per transaction in a shop, that's it. No added percentage. The exchange rate is the mid-market rate. We have another bank that charges us 1%, but no fixed fee.
If your bank charges similar fees or less, it might be a good idea to get cash this way. If your bank charges (a lot) more than it's not such a good idea and you want to shop around before you leave.
A few tips when using an ATM to get Euro:
Option 4: Use the travel debit card we use ourselves: [best choice]
This is the card we use ourselves, and helped us save a lot of money!
Our personal favorite method to hold our foreign currency is with Transferwise and their free Borderless account. It comes with a free debit Mastercard®. Which you can use as a debit card to pay for online purchases, booking services, withdraw cash or to pay for regular purchases in any foreign currency, in any country locally. This is the card we advice you to use as well.
This card can hold multiple currencies at no extra charge, you can use it anywhere
What's so great about this account and card is that it can hold as many currencies (up to 40 different ones) in there as you like. The card is smart enough to know what currency to use where. It will use Euro if you are in Holland and British Pounds for example if you are in London.
You Only Pay Once
You only pay a low exchange fee when you transfer funds from one currency into another. After that you can use their debit MasterCard® as a local card without any further charges. You can even withdraw cash free of charge from an ATM (limits apply). A Borderless account with a debit MasterCard® is available if you live in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore or the EU.
You can store funds on the card as long as you like, there are NO extra fees. And if you don't use it? there are no sneaky fees either, no matter how long you don't use the funds.
As a bonus the card itself looks very cool. We often receive comments from people when we use it: "Oh, I like that card!" "Well thank you very much, we like it too :-)"
How your Transferwise Borderless Account Debit Card works:
The borderless account is an account with many different jars. One for each currency you want to hold. For a European trip that could be Euro, British Pounds, Swiss Francs, and the Scandinavian currencies, for example.
When you're ready to add money, you can transfer the amount from your checking account or credit card to your Transferwise account. You'll only pay a small fee for the exchange while you get the mid-market rate.
No sneaky hidden costs
TransferWise is very transparent with their costs. It's precisely this that we like so much about them. Once the funds are in the account and converted, you can use the card as a local card without further costs.
Example: Let's say you live in the United States and you are traveling to Holland. What you can do then is transfer Dollars in your Euro account. Just click the +Add button in your Euro account, type the amount you would like to transfer, let's say $500 or €500, and it will give you the exchange rate and the fee. Continue and pay with a direct transfer or with your credit card (a bit more expensive, but still cheap). And you have Euro in your account. It's that simple.
With your free TransferWise debit MasterCard® that comes with your borderless account, you can spend that money without any additional fees after you arrive. You can even withdraw cash at an ATM from your account. This is free up to €200 per 30 days. And 2% above that.
You can use your card at so many places you won't need that much cash. However, it's still smart having about €100 in cash, that is why we love we can do free ATM withdrawals up to €200 per month.
Transferwise Borderless App - This is a reason to get the card by itself
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 you'll get instant notifications when you use your card. It's so helpful!
Have funds left in your Borderless account? No problem
When your trip comes to an end 🙁 (we know sad face), you probably have some money left. Of course, you can let it sit there for free and come back to Holland very soon. Yeah! But you can also convert it back to your own currency with ease. The fee is minimal, and even the smallest amount can be changed back again, so no worry about needlessly spending remaining funds at the end of your trip.
Can everybody apply for a Transferwise Borderless account with a debit MasterCard®?
If you are living in a country where a borderless account with TransferWise is available, this is the best way to travel around and change your foreign currency. Currently, we know you're eligible if you reside in the United States, The UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore or in any European country.
TransferWise compared to 5 other US bank accounts and PayPal.
How TransferWise saved us money, not just in fees but also by catching overcharges
We have two accounts with Transferwise ourselves and we are very happy about them. One account is for business, and the other is personal. We use it on all our foreign trips. It's so easy to use, and it saves us a lot of money. Plus with the app, we stay on top of our spending. With the instant payment notifications, we always immediately know if the right amount has been charged to our card.
This really does come in handy. Like on our last trip to the US. The cashier at a Burrito place accidentally swiped our credit card twice. Which resulted in a double charge. Due to the notification on our phone, we could resolve this immediately with the manager.
Another incident happened in Las Vegas. At check-in, we got a notification for $500+. We asked the person helping us if that was for incidentals. "No," she said. "It's $300 for your room rate plus incidentals." We booked, however, at a discounted rate of $80. Again we could settle this on the spot.
Option 5: Change cash after arrival in Amsterdam or elsewhere in Holland [not recommended]
Yes, you can exchange cash currency into Euro in Amsterdam and in 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 (grenswisselkantoor), they change currency. 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, except for Potts Exchange in Amsterdam.
Although our advice is to ALWAYS use an ATM combined with a low fee debit card. Like the Transferwise Borderless debit Mastercard® we just discussed. But if you need to exchange cash, then the best exchange office is Potts in Amsterdam.
Potts is located on Damrak 95, opposite the Bijenkorf department store. Their rates are better than most, but still expect to lose 3-4% depending on the currency.
This recommendation is unsolicited - We’ve never received a discount or compensation from Potts Exchange.
Option 6: Pay with your bank or credit cards during your trip
Usually it's cheaper to pay directly for goods and services with your card than withdrawing cash and then pay for them. But our advice is the same as in option 3, it all depends on your bank and the fees they are charging. Check with your bank first. Probably you will be cheaper off using the Transferwise Borderless debit Mastercard® we've mentioned before.
Let's summarize: here is a money checklist before you leave home:
You called your bank and credit cards and asked about their charges for foreign transactions. If charges are high take the cards for emergencies only.
You've activated all your cards to use abroad before you leave home. No matter if you plan on using them or not. An emergency can always arise.
You've checked if all your cards have a chip on the front. If not, call your bank. In Europe, these are obligatory.
You know all the PINs for your cards. You need to use your PIN in Europe when you withdraw funds at an ATM and when you pay in a store or restaurant.
Once you arrive at the airport, you withdraw €100 in cash from an ATM with your TransferWise debit MasterCard® or your own low fee bank card.
You pay for most of your expenses with your TransferWise debit card or your own low fee bank card during your trip.
If you're not eligible for a TransferWise card, choose a card you already have with the lowest fees to pay in Europe, and use it to withdraw cash at the ATM.
Stay away from exchange offices in any shape or form. By doing so, you will save a lot of money. The money saved can be spent on something nice. Not on fees.
Let's answer a few more currency questions:
What bank cards are most common in Holland?
The Dutch live with their debit cards from a local bank. They don't really use a credit card all that often. Usually only when they travel. The result is that credit cards are not as widely accepted than elsewhere.
That includes debit cards from Visa® and MasterCard®. Still many places will accept them, just have some cash money on you in case they do not. If you have a card with a Maestro® logo, you can pay anywhere where you see the blue "PIN" sign, which is everywhere. Just make sure you have a PIN with your card and that it has a chip.
Can I change cash while I'm on the road and is that cheaper? Like at a post office? [No]
You might think it's possible to change your money at a bank or a post office while traveling in the Netherlands. You may also think that this is more cost effective than other options. The answer is no, no and no.
The role of banks has changed here. Bank branches are now just advisory offices. People come in, and they discuss their mortgage or open up a savings account. There is no cash inside a bank anymore. You won't be able to go in and ask an employee to change your money.
Post offices are closed for years now in this country. Local stores took over that role. PostNL points they are now called. They sell stamps, and you can bring your letters and parcels there. They have an ATM, but no cash.
Are ATMs easy to find in Amsterdam and in the rest of the country?
Yes, that is not something you have to worry about. There's actually legislation to make sure that a cash machine is available within a short distance from any person living here. That's especially important for small villages in the countryside and for older people. So they too, always have easy access to money.
You'll find an ATM anywhere. Usually, in smaller places, those ATMs are not in a bank branch. But they are inside a supermarket or a news outlet store. For example, inside an Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Bruna or Hema.
Those machines do not add an extra fee since they still belong to a bank. It's fine to use them. If you can't find them, ask a local. They can point you in the right direction.
You'll also find ATMs at most railway stations, in shopping malls, local shopping centers, major attractions like the Efteling, zoo's et cetera. It's difficult not to find an ATM nearby.
Tip: inside Google maps, there is a handy feature to locate an ATM near you.
To use Google Maps freely you need to have an affordable data bundle for Europe on your phone. Read our post about the best SIM card for Europe here to find the best deals!
Should I get traveler's cheques? [NO, this is the worst option]
No, please do not do that! Travellers cheques are something from the past. It is not a good way to exchange currency in Euro. It will be challenging to find a place that accepts them (remember banks have no money anymore at their branches), and at the few places that do accept them, you will get a terrible exchange rate. The same applies to buy them in Euro at home. Nobody accepts them here, and you'll still pay a bad rate. Please don't do that either.
A debit card that holds foreign currency (like TransferWise, see above) is the modern and much better version of traveler's cheques. Traveler's cheques had their time and place, so did VHS video cassettes. But we've moved on, right?
Did this post about how to exchange foreign currency into Euro help you?
We hope this post was helpful to you and that we've made currency exchange in Amsterdam and the rest of the country both less stressful and cheaper for you.
Join the conversation below if this information has helped you in any way. Also, let us know when you're (planning on) coming to Holland and why! We'd love to know.
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