The Problem of UnionPay in Amsterdam / the Netherlands

The Problem of UnionPay in Amsterdam / the Netherlands

Many people who travel from China to the Netherlands with their debit card on them are shocked when they find out the challenges of getting Euros with their UnionPay card – and the information at hand is contrasting and confusing.

It is late at night in September of 2017 when my friend arrives at Schiphol airport from Beijing. He is an experienced traveler, and in the months before coming to Amsterdam he visited South-Africa, Kenya, Vietnam, Iceland, and America.

Of all these places, Amsterdam is the only place where he runs into a problem with his Chinese bankcard: none of the ATMs at Schiphol Airport accept it. We later find out that none of the cash machines in Amsterdam city center do so either.

In the summer of 2018, another friend from China is stranded in Amsterdam with only 3 euros on him and his UnionPay card. He is traveling through Europe, and the Netherlands is the first location where his card suddenly does not work.

It turns out that after nearly a year, nothing has changed for UnionPay users who visit Holland. On Chinese forums, many people are facing the same problem.

My friends, respectively, have bank accounts at Beijing’s China Merchant’s Bank and CITIC bank that come with a UnionPay debit card, which is very common in mainland China (Chinese: 银联). According to the UnionPay International card website, it can be used in 168 different countries.

The Netherlands is on that list, but the possible use of UnionPay is very limited within the Netherlands; some more touristy spots such as the Tulip Park, Gassan Diamonds, Royal Diamonds at the Zaanse Schans, or Batavia Stad Amsterdam Fashion Outlet will accept UnionPay.

De Bijenkorf, one of Amsterdam’s major department stores, also says it accepts UnionPay, as well as Alipay and WeChat.


Option 1: Dutch Bank ATMs


But that does not help my friends from China who only brought their UnionPay cards to the Netherlands and need to withdraw Euros. The main banks in The Netherlands, such as Rabobank, ABN, or ING, will only accept international cards affiliated with Visa/Mastercard/Maestro/Cirrus.

ABN Amro replied to my UnionPay inquiries on Twitter, confirming that their ATMs only accept Visa- or Mastercards, and no other cards.

UnionPay also responded to my question to them on Twitter, with a link to an ATM locator that does not provide any options of banks to turn to.


Option 2: Chinese Banks in Amsterdam


Some Chinese banks have an office in Amsterdam. The ICBC, for example, has an office in Amsterdam on the Johannes Vermeerstraat 7, but their offices do not provide services for individual clients and also have no withdrawal services (we went there).


Option 3: EURONET ATMs


Over recent years, the yellow and blue ATMs by the company Euronet Worldwide have been mushrooming across Amsterdam and in other tourist spots. Especially in the Red Light District area and around the Dam area, these ATMs can be found in many tobacco & giftshops.

According to the Twitter client service of the Rabobank, the use the UnionPay card is only possible in the Netherlands at these ATMs of EURONET. (Since Rabobank does not have a contract with EURONET, it is not possible to use the UnionPay card at their ATMs.)

This is all somewhat confusing as Euronet and UnionPay are giving out mixed and confusing messages. UnionPay also confirmed to me on Twitter that Euronet would accept their cards.

However, when I telephoned the Euronet Worldwide service number in July of 2018 to inquire about this, they said their machines would not accept UnionPay at all in the Netherlands.

How confusing!:
* Many Euronet ATMs in Amsterdam do have a “UnionPay Accepted” sign, but when you try to take out money, it won’t accept the card.
* UnionPay says its cards are accepted with Euronet, but Euronet says they are not.


LAST OPTION: Western Union?


So what are the options for people such as my friends who arrive in Amsterdam without a Visa/Maestro and only their UnionPay? Firstly, of course, the best advice is to get the message out there that they will have a hard time using their UnionPay in the Netherlands in the first place, so that they better bring cash or a Visa- or Mastercard.

But for those already stranded in Amsterdam; there is a Western Union at Amsterdam Central station (a GWK with Western Union services). It is an option to have loved ones or friends back home send you money through there, although the exchange rates and the transfer costs are usually quite disappointing. It is an expensive option.

If you have Paypal, you could always transfer money to someone you know in the Netherlands (or perhaps ask your hotel?) and have them give you cash. Make sure you transfer enough money so that all exchange rate costs are covered, and you pay the fee.

Another option, although quite drastic, is to go to Belgium and Germany, where UnionPay is accepted at more than half of the ATMs.

For my friends, it worked out okay; with the financial ecosystem between us of Wechat/Paypal and Dutch/Chinese bank accounts, we’ve made it work with some transferring of money.

But for the future – let’s hope that UnionPay and Dutch banks will find a way to work together, because for many visitors from China, this issue really is a pain and takes time away from enjoying Amsterdam’s beautiful canals!

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25 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Raisa says:

    I just withdrew money at a Euronet ATM near Vondelpark, so it would seem that that’s definitely an option from July 20 2018. Still no ATMs for UnionPay in Schiphol though

  2. Celso says:

    Thanks for this write up, I’ve been struggling with this for years.

    I will try and find some Euronet ATM’s near Vondelpark and report back if that works

  3. D. says:

    The Euronet ATM on Ferdinand Bolstraat 104 works perfectly with UnionPay cards. Did it yesterday. Worked fine. The Euronet ATM in Overtoom did not work with UnionPay cards though- maybe it’s temporary.

  4. Sarah says:

    The ATM on Ferdinand Bol is within bakery, so if you need to use your Union Pay after the opening hours, the ATMs on Albert Cuypstraat 164 are working ! (Tested 5min ago)

  5. Steven says:

    Does anyone knows if there is any Euronet ATM machine in Delft or The Hague that accepts Union Pay card ?

    • Tom says:

      There’s one in a small shop less than 100m from the Escher Museum in The Hague. If youre looking at it, go down the street to the left, it will be on the right hand side. Just tried it out and it works fine

      • rose says:

        Thanks Tom, I am planning to try this one out and the one in Rotterdam. Have you visited this one in The Hague recently, and if so is it still working for Chinese Union Pay cards?

  6. Hisaya says:

    Just used the one Ferdinand Bolstraat 104, 1072 LN Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Worked perfectly 🙂

  7. Sarah says:

    Do you know what the maximum amount you can pin?

  8. T says:

    I usually go for the Belgium (BNP Paribas) or Germany (Commertzbank). To make the trip worthwhile I fill up the car with gas while Im there. Cheaper.

    But it sure is a pain in the butt. Amd has been for many years now.

  9. Johanna says:

    For those in Rotterdam: there is a EuroNet ATM inside a donner kebab shop that works fine with my UnionPay card. Just used it today, fee is €3.95.

    Hoogstraat 150
    3011PV Rotterdam

    In between Hans Anders and X21, near Markthal.

  10. Thomas says:

    Banks in BELGIUM appear to have blocked the use of Union Pay just recently. Checked all banks in Mechelen and they do not accept UnionPay anymore.

  11. Tom says:

    Hi Guys, does anyone knows If the Euronet Automats are still working with using Unionpay?
    I would be thankful to hear some responses.


  12. Britt says:

    There are three Euronet atm’s in Amsterdam and two in Rotterdam.
    I tried the one close to the Zuidas in Amsterdam. It worked!!

    You can just search on google maps ‘Euronet atm’, there are five in total in the Netherlands.
    3,95 euro’s per transaction.

    My card has a maximum of 10.000rmb per day and 100.000rmb per year, something to keep in mind.

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