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Amsterdam Currency Exchange — Where To Change Your Money


May 28th, 2014 | Last updated: May 29th, 2014


The Netherlands uses the euro1 as its official currency — one of 18 of the 28 member states of the European Union to do so.2

If you travel to Amsterdam from a country that uses a different currency, you will need to exchange your dollars, pounds, or other money for euros.

Pott Change money exchange in Amsterdam

In travel forums, Amsterdam tourists sing the praises of the one-office money exchange firm Pott Change.

Exchange rates constantly fluctuate; one day your money buys you more local currency — and another day you get less.

Changing money is a service for which banks and exchange offices can charge you fees and/or commission.

The Short Story

The trick for travelers is to find the best exchange rate, at a bank or service that charges the least amount in fees and/or commissions.

Want the short story?

Skip right to our recommendation.

A transaction fee is a specific amount (for instance, $3 per exchange regardless of how much money is involved), and commission is a percentage of the amount of money changed.

Banks often drop or discount transaction fees if you use other banks (and their ATMs) with whom they are allied.

Exchange businesses tend to advertise with ‘no fees,’ ‘no commission’ or ‘no fees & no commission.’ Make sure you read the fine print or ask for details before you buy or sell money to see whether the advertised deal applies to the amount you intend to change.

Exchange companies earn money by selling currency in high volume to banks. In turn, banks earn money by trading in even larger amounts of currency.

Best place to change your money

Savvy travelers bring at least a small amount of euros so that they can immediately make use of services (e.g. bus, train, taxi) or get something to eat and drink upon arrival in Amsterdam.

Whether you then use ATMs or exchange services depends on a number of things we’ll detail below.

ATM (Cash Machine)

Many visitors report that they get ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ exchange rates by using their debit cards at Automated Teller Machines.

When you use a debit card to obtain euros at an ATM in Amsterdam, your bank withdraws the equivalent in your own currency from your checking account — generally using a favorable rate of exchange.

There are advantages, disadvantages, and pitfalls to consider. Do not skip this information, as doing so may end up costing you a lot of money.

ABN AMRO bank at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam

If you have to change money at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam, you’re better off at ABN AMRO than at GWK Travelex. Using your debit card at the ABN AMRO’s ATM is even better — but see below how much more money you can get in downtown Amsterdam

Advantages

  • There are lots of Automated Teller Machines in Amsterdam. Many of them are located inside and/or outside shopping centers, grocery stores (e.g. Albert Heijn, Dirk van den Broek) and tobacconists. Most of the latter double as bank- and post offices — but you cannot exchange money at their counters. If you need to ask someone for the nearest ATM, just ask for a ‘Geldautomaat‘ (literally, ‘Money Machine’).
  • Though they may look different from the ones you use at home, ATMs are easy to use. Most of the machines have English-language menus available.
  • You don’t have to carry large amounts of cash.
  • Many banks have network alliances with oversees banks, allowing you to use your debit card in a foreign ATM without paying extra usage fees for each withdrawal, transfer or balance inquiry.
  • Dutch banks do not charge a fee for use of their ATMs (but see ‘pitfalls’ regarding ‘independent’ ATMs).

Disadvantages

  • Usually you do not know what the actual exchange rate is until your transaction is finished — or until you return home.3
  • VISA (which operates the interbank network PLUS) and Mastercard (interbank network Cirrus) charge a 1 percent fee for each international transaction.
  • Your bank will charge a currency conversion fee of 1 to 3 percent. Verify this with your bank.
  • Your bank may also charge a transaction fee — $1.50 to $5.00 — each time you use your card outside its network. Ask your bank for details. If you frequently withdraw small amounts (e.g. due to withdrawal limits) your accumulating transaction fees can take a big bite out of your account.
  • If such fees are waived (or discounted) when using an ATM within the bank’s network alliance, it may be more challenging to find those ATMs rather than the nearest ones.

Pitfalls & Tips

  • You may not always be able to tell the difference between regular and “independent” ATMs. The latter always result in higher charges through added fees and/or the use of disadvantageous exchange rates. Generally it is best to only use machines operated by ABNAmro, ING, or Rabobank.
  • Not all cards issued by foreign banks work in all cash machines in Amsterdam. If your card sports a Mastercard (Cirrus, Maestro) and/or VISA (PLUS) logo it should work in any machine with those same logos.
  • Note that the logos on the back of your card (Cirrus, Maestro or PLUS) are more important than the logos on the front of your card. Stick with machines that carry one or more of the logos matching those on the back of your card. If you do not see those logos you may up paying a lot of extra charges.
  • Most ATMs in Europe accept only 4-digit PIN codes. If you currently have a 6-digit PIN, ask your bank to change it to a 4-digit PIN code.
  • Memorize your PIN code in numbers rather than in letters. The keypads on most ATMs in Amsterdam only show numbers.
  • Most ATMs in Europe will only let you access your primary checking account. Make sure you have enough cash in your account to cover your entire trip, or that you have a way to transfer money from a savings account to your checking account (e.g. electronic banking).
  • It is a good idea to let your bank know you are going to abroad — a so-called ‘travel notice.’ Otherwise the bank may block your card if it is suddenly used in Amsterdam rather than in your home town.
  • Ask your bank how much money you are allowed to withdraw within a 24-hour period. ATMs in Amsterdam also may have withdrawal limits. Most banks will allow you to increase your withdrawal limit.

Finally, make sure you have a backup card in case your debit card is lost, stolen, or swallowed by a machine. It is also a good idea to carry some emergency cash, which you can exchange locally, plus one or more credit cards.

It goes without saying that you should not carry these items all in one place. It is also a good idea to keep at least one backup card in the safe at your hotel.

Money Exchange

Many travelers prefer to bring cash rather than — or in addition to — using ATM cards.

With rare exceptions, banks in Amsterdam will not change your money unless you have an account there.

Instead you obtain euros at a ‘money exchange’ — also known as ‘bureau de change’ or ‘currency exchange’ (Geldwisselkantoor in Dutch).

Advantages

  • Money exchange services are highly competitive businesses, usually located close to eachother, and all vying for the same customers. That usually means you can take advantage of a very good exchange rate — but only if you avoid certain pitfalls. As you will see below, it really pays to shop around (or to follow the suggestions to those who have already done so)
  • Many years ago a number of exchange offices in Amsterdam engaged in rather shady business practices. For instance, a favorite scam at one firm was 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.

    Nowadays money exchange companies are licensed by De Nederlandse Bank, the Central Bank of the Netherlands, are subject to specific rules and regulations, and are supervised for compliance with the law (Wet op het financieel toezicht, Act on Financial Supervision).

Disadvantages

  • If you lose a debit- or credit card, you may be able to minimize your losses. If you lose cash, it’s gone. Be sure to have a backup plan. Be aware of your surroundings and people loitering nearby when exchanging your money.
Better safe that sorry:

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.

Use a money belt or bra pocket (or women’s underwear with a secret pocket) and other anti-theft products to carry your cash and passport.

Pitfalls, Tips, and Our Recommendation

  • While it may be tempting to exchange your cash at the airport, or at Amsterdam Central Station, you’d be selling yourself short. It would be like stealing from yourself.

    Wait till you are in town, then shop around for the best rate.

    GWK Travelex money exchange

    Travelex is a familiar name, and its many offices are found at convenient locations. But in online forums many travelers warn about its disadvantageous exchange rates.

    Here’s an example of how much money you can save, in this case when changing dollars to euros: on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, we checked how many euros we would get in exchange for $1500 in cash.4

    • GWK Travelex5 at Schiphol airport quoted us: €975 (which we were told was a ‘very special rate’).
    • The GWK Travelex office at Central Station said we’d receive €998.75
    • GWK Travelex’s Leidsestraat office offered €999.90.
    • ABN AMRO would hand over €1007.
    • Pott Change, a one-office exchange company whose praises are sung on many travel forums, came in at a whopping €1,072.50 — nearly €100 more than we would have received at GWK Travelex’s Schiphol office, and almost €75 more than Travelex offices at locations quoted us!
Our Recommendation

If we were tourists, having saved up our hard-earned money for a trip to Amsterdam, we would bring cash — safely tucked away — and head right to Pott Change.

Where to find Pott Change

Pott Change is located at Damrak 95, just short of Damsquare and opposite to the giant Bijenkorf warehouse. see the € sign on the map.

Damrak is the main street that leads from Central Station to Dam Square — an easy, 10-minute walk. You’ll see many other currency exchange businesses along the way, but we think it pays to pass them by.

Note: Our recommendation of Pott Change is an editorial decision, not sponsored or remunerated in any other way

If you prefer to take a tram, lines 4, 9, 16 and 24 stop right in front — one stop from the train station.

The money change company is open 7 days a week, 8:30 AM till 8:30 PM (Saturday and Sunday open at 9:30 AM)

Private cubicles are available to keep you safe from prying eyes.

Pott Change, which has been in business for over 25 years, is a Western Union agent.

Credit Cards

Credit cards will work at most ATM machines, particularly if you use a VISA or Mastercard — but be aware of the disadvantages and pitfalls listed above for the use of ATMs.

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.

Most credit cards charge an additional fee for international transactions.

Do note that many businesses in Amsterdam do not accept any credit cards.

There are safety considerations as well. Tourists are easy targets for unscrupulous workers who may swipe your card one or more extra times without you noticing (until you arrive back home and open your bills).

Why You Need to Carry 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 transaction fee for debit card purchases
Better safe that sorry:

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.

Use a money belt or bra pocket (or women’s underwear with a secret pocket) and other anti-theft products to carry your cash and passport.

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 or credit card).6

What To Avoid

  • Doing business with the first money change service you see
    • Airports and train stations charge high rental rates for prime locations — which you will help pay for
    • More often than not the large letters declaring ‘NO COMMISSION’ of ‘NO FEES’ give, while the small letters explaining the conditions under which that is true take away.
  • 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 elsewhere.
  • Helpful People on the Street
    Idiotic as it may sound, some tourists really need to be told this: Exchange your currency at a legitimate business. 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.
  • Businesses that offer to charge your card in dollars ‘for your convenience’
    That allows those companies to pick whichever exchange rate earns them the most money.

About This Page

This page has undergone a major revision on May 28, 2014, and will be periodically updated when necessary.

This article is the result of private research by the publisher of DutchAmsterdam.

None of the information in this article is sponsored in any way. We have not asked for, nor received, any form of compensation from any of the companies mentioned. As is our policy throughout this website, links are only included as an editorial decision, and are placed without any form of remuneration.

As always, our disclaimer applies.

Note: the Google Adsense advertisements on this page are included via a script. We do not exert any control over the ads displayed.

We wish you a gezellige time in our wonderful city!

Contact

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Notes:

  1. Read more about the euro (indeed, not capitalized) at Wikipedia. Familiarize yourself with specimens of banknotes and coins (with a confusing array of designs).
  2. These 18 members are collectively referred to as the eurozone, which includes: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain
  3. It usually is a good, competitive rate, but keep various bank fees in mind.
  4. Note: this was a highly informal, unscientific test conducted by phone. But the results are very similar to other tests we conducted earlier in the month.
  5. In most countries the company is known as Travelex. In Holland it is GWK Travelex. GWK stands for the Dutch name, grenswisselkantoor which literally means ‘Border Exchange Office.’
  6. Note that when I called around to various Brrood locations to verify this, the people answering the phone all gave different answers regarding which cards would or would not be accepted.
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