The Netherlands is one of 18 European countries that officially use the Euro1 — whether we want to or not (many Dutch people are nostalgic for the Guilder, not in the least because the Euro appears to have made lots of stuff more expensive)
Best Place To Exchange Your Money
While you can exchange your money for Euros at any bank, the best place to do so is GWK Travelex. (Note: in most countries the company is known as Travelex. In Holland it is GWK Travelex. GWK stands for the Dutch name, ‘Grens Wissel Kantoor‘ which literally means ‘Border Exchange Office.’)
Click the GWK logo on the right for their English-language websites, where among other things you will find a listing of current exchange rates, as well as a currency converter. (Change to your own country or language at the top of the page).
There is a GWK Travelex branch inside the main hall at Schiphol Airport.
There are several GWK branches inside Amsterdam Central Station. Just spot the blue sign (see photo), or find the one in the shopping tunnel just off the main hall.
Other convenient branches include the one inside Victoria Hotel (the large hotel on the street corner just across from Central Station), as well as further down the street at Damrak 86.
If you’re staying close to Leidseplein, you’ll find a GWK branch right across the street from Amsterdam American Hotel, at Leidseplein 31A.
Other options: Cash, ATM, Credit Card
There are other options to exchanging your money once you get here.
Bring Euros with you
You could exchange your money at your own bank, in your own country, and bring the cash with you. Generally, this is a bad idea since you don’t want to be running around with lots of cash — and you won’t want to stash it in your hotel room, either. While most hotels have safe deposit boxes, you do not know who has access to them.
You can bring a small amount of cash in Euros — enough to cover transport from Schiphol airport to your hotel, get something to eat, and perhaps (depending on hotel policies) pay your first night of stay. In fact, bringing some Euros with you is a good idea, for several reasons.
For one, you may not want to deal with a bank upon arriving after a long trip.
For another, many businesses in Amsterdam (and throughout the Netherlands and the rest of Europe) do not accept credit cards.
ATM debit cards are a good option. There are lots of Automated Teller Machines in Amsterdam, many of them located inside stores and tobacconists (most of which double as bank/post office). Just ask for a ‘Geldautomaat‘ (literally, Money Machine). They fast majority of ATMs, particularly in the center of town, have English-language menus.
Check with your bank to find out what fees apply.
Most banks charge a currency exchange fee of 1% to 3% per withdrawal, plus a cash withdrawal fee — generally $2 – $5 per transaction. So withdrawing, say, €300 at one time will cost you less than taking three times €100.
Some banks charge lower (or no) fees if you use an ATM that is within its own network.
You also want to check whether your cards needs to be activated for overseas use. As a security feature some banks automatically block accounts if they are suddenly use in a foreign country.
Not all cards will work in all machines, and many ATMs do not work with pin codes longer than 4 digits.
Credit cards will work at most ATM machines, particularly if you use a VISA or Mastercard.
This is an expensive way to get and spend money. Many stores and other businesses will add a surcharge if you use a credit card, since the credit card issuers charge them as well.
As with ATM debit cards, check with your card issuer to find out what fees each transaction will cost you. Most credit cards charge an additional fee (over and above what you bank takes) for international transactions.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and VisaCard can also be used to obtain cash at GWK Travelex offices.
Note that many businesses in Amsterdam do not even accept credit cards.
Why You Need to Carry Some Cash
- Many businesses in Amsterdam do not accept debit- and/or credit cards.
- Some ATM cards will not work in certain machines or with certain networks
- Some stores and restaurants charge a small transaction fee for debit card purchases
From the moment you arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol or at Central Station you will hear and read announcements alerting you to pickpockets.
Pickpockets love Amsterdam, and they LOVE tourists.
Why You Also Need to Carry Credit and/or Debit Cards
An increasing number of businesses in Amsterdam accept no cash whatsoever.
Want to buy some apples, cheese or a fruit juice at Marqt? Great, as long as you’ve got a debit card.
Feel like a sandwich and a cup of coffee at Bbrood? You’re welcome, but it’s strictly, “Alleen Pinnen” (PIN only — meaning you can only pay by debit card).
What To Avoid
- Bureaux de change / Independent money changers
Throughout central Amsterdam you will encounter many independent ‘bureaux de change,’ ‘cash changers,’ ‘currency exchangers,’ and so on — usually nothing more than holes-in-the-wall. Avoid them no matter what their ads say.
Their ‘No Commission’ promises usually mean you get a disadvantageous exchange rate — or they are good only if you purchase foreign currency rather than exchange foreign currency for Euros.
NOTE: A favorite trick (scam, really) is to hand you a map of the city along with your exchanged currency. When you later check your receipt it turns out they charged you €7,95 or more for the largely worthless map.
- Exchange Services at Hotels
If you’d let them, hotels will charge you to breathe. Exchanging your money at a hotel ensures that you get less money than you would get at a GWK Bank.
- Helpful People on the Street
Idiotic as it may sound, some tourists really need to be told this: Exchange your currency at a legitimate bank. Not at a bar, in a coffeeshop, or on the street.
- Fake Police Officers
In recent years there have been many instances in which tourists were approach by people who — to them — looked and acted like police officers. The ‘officers’ — often from East-European countries, and dressed in uniforms obtained via the Internet — claim that they want to alert the tourists about the existence of fake Euros. They offer (or demand) to check their wallets, and then apply an exchange trick — after which the tourists are left with no money, or a bunch of fake Euros. Real cops will not ask to see your money.
What To Do
- Use ATMs
You’ll find them everywhere, but the ones inside banks are the safest. Many tobacco shops (which often double as post offices) also have an ATM, either inside or outside. You can also find ATM machines inside many supermarkets.
- Use Traveler Checks
That way you do not have to walk around with large amounts of cash. Too, traveler checks are insured. That said, while GWK Travelex still issues and accepts travelers checks, most banks have stopped accepting them years ago.
- Pay Attention
Pay attention to your surroundings. Watch those who watch you. Put your money away while you are still inside the bank.
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