by Maren Hunt
The Netherlands uses a card with an embedded chip for people to pay for travel on public transit. People load money onto the card and tap it on a card reader to pay for trips on trams, trains, subways, etc. It’s all very practical and efficient – except when it’s not. During the trip to Hilversum, the card reader didn’t register when I tapped my card at Centraal Station to leave Amsterdam. If you tap the card at one station without a corresponding destination, you’re charged the maximum fare for the type of trip you’re making. For trains, the maximum fare is €20. I didn’t realize my card hadn’t registered in Centraal, so I tapped my card at the reader in Hilversum. When I left Hilversum several hours later, I tapped the card at Hilversum and then again at Centraal when I got there. I thought everything had worked out correctly until I took a tram last night. When I got off, my balance read €2. I had been charged €40 for a roundtrip that should have been about €10. So I spend the afternoon at Centraal talking to a super nice (and attractive – I think they’re all supermodels here) guy at the service desk. He explained to me that unfortunately, he could not refund any money directly to my chip card; refunds can only be deposited into Dutch bank accounts. I, alas, don’t have a Dutch bank account, so I begrudgingly added €30 to my card balance so I can keep using it for travel. There are several morals to this story, but the one I’ll keep closest to my heart for now is: Make sure you hear a beep when you tap your card.