MetroCard (New York City)

MetroCard (New York City)
Location New York City
Launched 1993
Technology Magnetic strip
Operator Cubic
Manager MTA
Currency USD
Stored-value Pay-Per-Ride
Auto recharge EasyPayXPress
Unlimited use Unlimited Ride
Validity New York City Subway
MTA Regional Bus
Long Island Bus
Roosevelt Island Tramway
AirTrain JFK
The Bee-Line System
Staten Island Railway
Hudson Rail Link
Retailed Vending machines
MetroCard buses and vans
Authorized merchants
Variants SingleRide
Employee ID

The MetroCard is the payment method for the New York City Subway rapid transit system; New York City Transit buses, including routes operated by Atlantic Express under contract to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA); MTA Bus, and MTA Long Island Bus systems; the PATH subway system; the Roosevelt Island Tram; AirTrain JFK; and Westchester County's Bee-Line Bus System. It is a thin, plastic card on which the customer electronically loads fares. It was introduced to enhance the technology of the transit system and eliminate the burden of carrying and collecting tokens. The MTA discontinued the use of tokens in the subway on May 3, 2003, and on buses on December 31, 2003. The MetroCard is managed by a division of the MTA known as MetroCard Operations and manufactured by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.[1]



  • June 1, 1993 - MTA distributes 3,000 MetroCards in the first major test of the technology.[2]
  • January 6, 1994 – MetroCard compatible turnstiles opened at Wall Street on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line (4 5 trains) and Whitehall Street – South Ferry on the BMT Broadway Line (N R trains).
  • Before 1997, the MetroCard design was blue with yellow lettering. These blue cards are now collector's items [3]
  • May 15, 1997 – The last MetroCard turnstiles were installed by this date, and the entire bus and subway system accepted MetroCards
  • July 4, 1997 – First free transfers available between bus and subway at any location with MetroCard. This program was originally billed as "MetroCard Gold". Card colors changed to the current blue lettering on goldenrod background
  • January 1, 1998 – Bonus free rides (10% of the purchase amount) were given for purchases of $15 or more
  • July 4, 1998 – 7-Day and 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards were introduced, at $17 and $63 respectively. A 30-day "Express Bus Plus" MetroCard, allowing unlimited rides on express buses in addition to local buses and the subway, was also introduced at $120.[4]
  • January 1, 1999 – The 1-Day Fun Pass was introduced, at a cost of $4.
  • January 25, 1999 – The first MetroCard Vending Machines were installed.[5]
  • April 13, 2003 – Tokens were no longer sold.[6]
  • May 4, 2003 – Fares were increased from $1.50 to $2.00; bonus free ride amount was increased to 20% of the purchase amount for purchases of $10 or more; tokens were no longer accepted (except for a six-month transition period on buses where they were accepted for $1.50 credit towards the $2 ride). The 1-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $4 to $7, the 7-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $17 to $21, and the 30-Day MetroCard increased from $63 to $70. The 30-day Express Bus Plus was replaced with a 7-day Express Bus Plus card at $33.[7][8]
  • February 27, 2005 – The 7-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $21 to $24, the 7-day "Express Bus Plus" unlimited-ride fare increased from $33 to $41, and the 30-Day MetroCard increased from $70 to $76.[9][10][11]
  • March 2, 2008 – The 1-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $7 to $7.50, the 7-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $24 to $25, a new 14-day unlimited-ride was introduced that cost $47, and the 30-Day MetroCard increased from $76 to $81. Bonus free ride amount reduced to 15% for purchases of $7 or more.[12]
  • June 28, 2009 - Fares were increased from $2 to $2.25. Bonus goes to 15% for every $8. Unlimited cards rise to $8.25 (1 day), $27 (7 day), $45 (7 day express bus), $51.50 (14 day) and $89 (30 day).
  • December 30, 2010 – The bonus value for Pay-Per-Ride decreased to 7% for every $10. The 1-Day Fun Pass and the 14-Day Unlimited Ride have been discontinued. The 7-Day Unlimited Ride increased to $29, the 7-Day Express Bus Plus increased to $50, and the 30-Day Unlimited Ride increased to $104.[13]


An obsolete New York City Subway token.
The Blue MetroCard design when it was first introduced in 1994
Select Bus Service pay shelter for pre-payment of fare before boarding Select Bus Service BRT buses.

Each MetroCard stored value card is assigned a unique, permanent ten-digit serial number when it is manufactured. The value is stored magnetically on the card itself, while the card's transaction history is held centrally in the Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Database. When a card is purchased and fares are loaded onto it, the MetroCard Vending Machine or station agent's computer stores the amount of the purchase onto the card and updates the database, identifying the card by its serial number. Whenever the card is swiped at a turnstile, the value of the card is read, the new value is written, the customer is let through, and then the central database is updated with the new transaction as soon as possible. Cards are not validated in real time against the database when swiped to pay the fare. The AFC Database is necessary to maintain transaction records to track a card if needed. It has actually been used to acquit criminal suspects[14] by placing them away from the scene of a crime. The database also stores a list of MetroCards that have been invalidated for various reasons (such as lost or stolen student or unlimited monthly cards), and it distributes the list to turnstiles in order to deny access to a revoked card.

The older blue MetroCards were not capable of the many kinds of fare options that the gold ones currently offer. The format of the magnetic stripe used by the blue MetroCard offered very little other than the standard pay-per-swipe fare. Also, gold MetroCards allow groups of people (up to four) to ride together using a single pay-per-swipe MetroCard. The gold MetroCard keeps track of the number of swipes at a location in order to allow those same number of people to transfer at a subsequent location, if applicable. The MetroCard system was designed to ensure backward compatibility, which allowed a smooth transition from the blue format to gold.[15]

There are special kinds of MetroCards issued for students, senior citizens, the disabled, and transit employees. These cards offer discounted rides and usually have the picture of the intended patron on the card to minimize fraudulent use. Students receive cards corresponding to their grade level and the distance they live from the school. Orange and white cards are issued to children in Kindergarten to the 6th grade, and white and green colored cards for teenagers from the 7th grade to the 12th grade. These MetroCards allow them to commute to and from school between 5:30 AM and 8:30 PM. Student MetroCards are either full-fare, which can be used up to three times daily for the subway or bus; or half fare, which can only be used for buses. Students are given Metrocards based on their grade level (K-2, 3-6, and 7-12). Student MetroCards do not have photo identification.

MetroCards for the disabled have exclusive rights to the special gates used for wheelchair access in some stations. This eliminates the need for the token booth clerk to have to manually open the gate whenever a disabled person requires entry. Metrocards for seniors allow them to ride at a half fare on all buses and subways except for express buses going in the peak direction from 6-10AM, and 3-7PM.

Both Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road offer combined ticket/MetroCard options. One side of the card displays the railroad ticket or monthly/weekly pass, and the other side is the MetroCard. These cards are made of laminated paper, which is different from SingleTicket/Bus Transfer paper Metrocards, and different from plastic ones.

Several transfers on the subway system, which involve leaving fare control are free with a MetroCard (other than a SingleRide card), and are specified in maps and signs.

Fares and MetroCard types

SingleRide Tickets

A SingleRide Ticket

The SingleRide Ticket (introduced to replace subway tokens and single cash fares) is a piece of paper with a magnetic strip on the front, and with the date and time of purchase stamped on the back:

  • $2.50 for one subway or local bus ride, with one free bus/bus transfer (issued by Bus Operator upon request). No subway/bus or bus/subway transfers are provided on this card. NOTE: No transfers from Bx12 Select Bus Service to any other buses with Single Ride Tickets.
  • SingleRide tickets expire two hours from time of purchase
  • SingleRide tickets can only be purchased at MetroCard Vending Machines.

Although the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard is accepted on PATH, the regular SingleRide ticket is not. However, a PATH SingleRide ticket is available from MVMs in PATH stations for $2.00, valid for 2 hours and only on PATH.

Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards

  • $4.50 to $80.00 initial value in any increment (though vending machines only sell values in multiples of 5 cents).
  • Card purchases or refills equal to or greater than $10.00 receive a 7% bonus (ex. $37.85 buys 18 rides and $73.60 buys 35 rides). See for a fare calculator.
  • $2.25 deducted for each subway, Staten Island Railway, or local bus use, excluding valid transfers.
  • $5.50 deducted for express bus use (NYCT bus or MTA Bus).
  • $2.00 deducted per use on PATH (no transfer privileges).
  • $5.00 deducted per use on AirTrain JFK.
  • Up to 4 people can ride together on a single Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard due to card limits (also applicable with PATH train usage). If multiple people are riding together on the same MetroCard the first person can swipe the card through the necessary number of times and other riders can walk through the turnstile following them.
  • Transfers available within two hours of initial entry:
    • One free transfer from
      • subway to local bus
      • bus to subway
      • bus to local bus
      • express bus to express bus
      • bus or subway to Staten Island Railway
      • subway to subway between the 59th Street (4 5 6 <6> trains) or Lexington Avenue - 59th Street (N Q R trains) stations and the Lexington Avenue - 63rd Street (F train) station
    • Two consecutive free transfers
      • Staten Island local bus to Staten Island Railway to Manhattan local bus or subway and vice versa
      • between the B61 and B62 and any intersecting bus route (Ex: B61 to B62 to B24)
    • $3.25 for each local bus or subway to express bus transfer.
  • Cards can be refilled
    • in 1 cent increments at token booths.
    • in 5 cent increments at vending machines.
    • up to $80 in one transaction and up to a total value of $100.
    • until one month before expiration date.
  • Card balance may be transferred to a new card
    • at any token booth, up to one year after expiration. [16]
    • at any MVM, up to one month before expiry or one year after expiry, by selecting the "Refill Your Metrocard" option. [17]
    • by mailing the Metrocard to the MTA up to two years after expiration. [18]
  • Individually wrapped cards are also available, and found in values of $4.50 and above at authorized merchants. Wrappers are color coded for denomination recognition. (Wrapped $2.25 cards are used for refunds by the MTA and available to various businesses and institutions)

Accepted on:

EasyPayXPress MetroCard

Home page:

  • Works just like a pay per ride or unlimited MetroCard, but is automatically refilled from a linked credit or debit card (works similarly to the E-ZPass)
  • An EasyPayXpress Pay-Per-Ride account is opened with $30.00 You will receive a 7% bonus, so your account starts out with $32.10. You also receive a 7% bonus every time $10.00 or more is added to your account. Whenever your EasyPayXpress balance goes below $20, your credit/debit card will be used to replenish your account.
  • Initial pay-per-ride buy-in is $45 (plus 15% bonus, so you get $51.75 in value); another $45 payment (including bonus) is automatically processed when the balance goes below $20. Initial unlimited ride buy-in is $89.
  • EasyPay customers can review the account and ride usage on-line, printed statements are no longer sent by mail.
  • Was originally designed for express bus customers in mind, however it is now marketed to all customers.
  • When used on bus, reader displays "PASS". When used on the subway, turnstile simply says "GO"
  • Free transfers are still available.
  • The card does not yet work on the JFK AirTrain or PATH systems
  • Reduced-fare EasyPay version converts from Pay-Per-Ride to Unlimited rides (during that billing cycle) once the value of fares used meet or exceed the cost of a reduced-fare 30-Day Unlimited Ride card. Express bus fares do not contribute.

JFK Airport Airtrain Discount MetroCard

  • Up to 10 trips on the Airtrain JFK within 6 months at $25.00. This card can only be purchased at specially marked MetroCard Vending Machines at the Howard Beach – JFK Airport (A train) or Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport (E J Z trains) stations and at MetroCard vendors in JFK Airport. There are no transfer privileges granted on this card.

Unlimited MetroCards

  • 7-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $29.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage.
  • 30-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $104.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the thirtieth day following first usage.
  • 7-Day Express Bus Plus Card, $50.00 for unlimited express bus, local bus, and subway rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage.
    • 30-Day Unlimited and 7-Day Express Bus Plus Cards that are purchased using a credit, debit or ATM card from a MetroCard vending machine can be reported lost or stolen to receive a pro-rated credit for the card.[19]
  • 30-Day AirTrain JFK Unlimited Ride Card, $40.00 for unlimited trips on the AirTrain (operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) until midnight on the thirtieth day from first usage. This card can only be purchased at specially marked MetroCard Vending Machines at the Howard Beach – JFK Airport (A train) or Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport (E J Z trains) stations and at MetroCard vendors in JFK Airport. There are no transfer privileges with this card as it only works on the AirTrain.
  • Any Unlimited Ride Card cannot be used at the same subway station or on the same bus route for 18 minutes after it is first used.
  • The Unlimited Ride Card cannot be reused after it expires. However, an unused, expired Unlimited Ride Card may be replaced by mailing it in to the MTA.
  • The Unlimited Ride MetroCard cannot be used to transfer to an express bus. Only 7 Day Express Bus Plus cards can be used on express buses.
  • Any Unlimited Ride Card is not accepted on the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH).
  • Individually wrapped cards are also available at authorized merchants. Wrappers are color coded for time/denomination recognition.
  • Unlimited cards are good for only one person and should not be used to provide access to persons other than the owner, even after the 18 minutes has elapsed. Use of an unlimited card for more than one person can result in a summons or arrest for both the card's owner and the second party to which access was provided.

Accepted at:

  • MTA New York City Transit subways and local buses
  • MTA Long Island Bus
  • MTA Bus
  • MTA Staten Island Railway
  • Roosevelt Island Tramway
  • Only 7-Day Express Bus Plus accepted on express buses Atlantic Express buses X23/X24 in contract service.
  • Westchester County Bee-Line Bus
  • The AirTrain JFK Unlimited card is accepted only on the AirTrain JFK. No other Unlimited Ride cards are accepted at AirTrain turnstiles.

Student MetroCards

Student MetroCard (Grades: 7-12) (face)
Student MetroCard (Grades: K-6) (face)
  • Given to some New York City public and private school students allowing discounted access to the NYCT buses and trains, depending on the distance traveled between their school and their home (as registered with the Board of Education.)
  • Two types of cards, one orange and one green. Orange is for Kindergarten through 6th Grade, green for 7th through 12th Grade students. All half-fare cards are also green for Kindergarten–12th Grade students.
  • Half Fare (Card pays $1.15, student pays $1.10 in change) or Full Fare (Card pays Full Fare), depending on the distance (radius) from the students' household to the school they are attending, usually with the students who live closer getting half-fare cards (See below). Half fare cards only work on buses since the cards cannot store value (unlike a senior/disabled half fare card), and the payment must be made in coins on the spot for each usage, eliminating subway usage of the cards. There are 3 rides given to the student every Monday to Friday from 5:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. (plus a 30 minute delay) each day, except for holidays and vacations, where use of a student card is illegal and can result in a fine and/or court summons. The holidays and vacation usage ban is not enforced electronically by the fare collection system, but sporadically enforced by the Transit Police and very rarely MTA employees (when used at a subway turnstile, an indicator lights up, on a bus the driver's console states the card is a student one). Rides do not roll over. Issuance of the cards is done locally by each school. Schools have a stack of student MetroCards on campus and hand them out, recording their serial numbers and the name of the student it was issued to (to be able to later terminate the card if lost). There is no "activation" process for the cards to become electronically valid. Not all schools follow travel distance or full/half fare rules in issuing the cards to students.
  • Some schools that have activities on Sundays or late at night have cards valid until 10:30 pm and on Sundays.
  • Some schools and youth agencies will give out one time use cards that have a 1-4 rides on them for special events like field trips and extraordinary trips like to an after school program or social programs or parole officer meetings, these card can not be refilled and will not get recharged after their rides are up and are effectively disposable. These cards have green faces, but state their value and limitations on the back.
  • Students that attend special night school who live far from their homes are given a special student card that is valid Mon-Thurs from 1 pm to 1 am.

Students receive cards corresponding to their grade level and the distance they live from the school. Orange and white cards are issued to children in Kindergarten to the 6th grade, and white and green colored cards for teenagers from the 7th grade to the 12th grade. These MetroCards allow them to commute to and from school between 5:30 AM and 8:30 PM. Student MetroCards are either full-fare, which can be used up to three times daily for the subway or bus; or half fare, which can only be used for buses. Students are given MetroCards based on their grade level (K-2, 3-6, and 7-12).

Students who receive a full-fare MetroCards must live:

  • More than 0.5 miles away if they are in grades K-2
  • More than 1.0 miles away if they are in grades 3-6
  • More than 1.5 miles away if they are in grades 7-12

Students who receive a half-fare MetroCards must live:

  • Between 0.0 and 0.5 miles away if they are in grades K-2
  • Between 0.5 and 1.0 miles away if they are in grades 3-6
  • Between 1.0 and 1.5 miles away if they are in grades 7-12

A 4-trip card is also given to students who have a 2+ hour commute. There are also two-trip cards that are valid at all times (except Sundays), for special school trips. Student MetroCards do not have photo identification.[20]

Accepted at:

  • MTA New York City Transit subways and local buses (1/2 Fare cards are only accepted on buses)
  • MTA Long Island Bus (Cards issued from Nassau County Schools only, free with blue student MetroCard, purple card requires coin payment of $2.00)
  • MTA Bus
  • MTA Staten Island Railway (Only full fare cards are accepted)

Disabled/Senior Citizen Reduced-Fare MetroCards

Senior Reduced-Fare MetroCard (Male & Female) (Back)
Disability Reduced-Fare MetroCard (Male & Female) (Back)
Autogate Disability Reduced-Fare MetroCard (Male & Female) (Back)
  • Given to senior citizens and the disabled as a combination photo ID and MetroCard.
  • Allows half-fare or 100% (free) reduced fare within the MTA system. (Express Bus during off-peak hours only)
  • Half fare is also available on the 7-day and 30-day Unlimited MetroCards. (not on 7-Day Express Bus Plus)
  • Card back is color-coded to match gender of card holder (Elderly: green is male, yellow is female. Disabled: blue is male, pink is female) and numerically coded (0*) to designate eligibility category.
  • Card face is marked as "Photo ID Pass"
  • Temporary replacement cards are purple with no photo. (Value cannot be refunded if stolen or lost)
  • "Autogate" cards issued to persons with mobility impairments are accepted at wheelchair doors at selected stations.
  • Reduced-fare EasyPay (automatic refill) card available (details above).

Accepted at:

*(When produced, allows reduced-fare ticket purchase except for city-bound trains during morning peak hours)

Additionally, like an Access-A-Ride or Medicare card, a valid reduced-fare card can also be shown when using cash, or a standard Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, to pay a reduced fare. In the subway system, this is accomplished by providing the individual a return trip ticket at the token booth before payment of full fare. The white paper ticket (similar in appearance to the pre-MetroCard bus transfer, or block tickets offered during service disruptions) is usable for later use (up to three months) at subway token booths for a subway ride (without additional transfer), or on buses (additional bus transfer issued upon request). This ticket is not to be confused with an actual transfer, which is still stored on the regular Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard being used for two hours. Bus operators are not provided with these return tickets, so reduced fare is only possible with coins alone. (a bus transfer can then be issued) Return tickets are marked red for use by seniors, and green for the disabled.

Separate applications for Senior and Disability Reduced-fare MetroCards are available at most token booths, on buses, online and at some MTA facilities like the MetroCard Customer Service Center. Mailed applications must be accompanied by a passport-type photo unless applying in person on the MetroCard bus, or at the center. (photos taken on-site)

MetroCard Bus Transfer

MetroCard Bus Transfer (Face)
Emergency Services MetroCard (Back)

The MetroCard Bus Transfer is issued when a person pays a certain required fare with exact change aboard any bus accepting MetroCard. This bus transfer slip can be requested when one asks a bus operator for one way bus connection trip. The transfer slip is inserted into the fare box on the second bus, which retains it. Westchester Bee Line bus system and MTA Long Island Bus. and MTA New York City Transit bus is free to transfer from one bus to another bus that is accepted with MetroCard. The bus transfer is a paper MetroCard like the SingleRide Metrocard. This transfer does not grant cash customers subway access and does not allow inter-company transfers (except between NYCT and MTA Bus or between LIB and Suffolk Transit).

Where the fare paid to get the transfer is less than that required on the second bus, the difference must be paid on boarding.

The predecessor to the MetroCard bus transfer was the original bus transfer. These paper tickets allowed bus to bus transfers. Available in pads of several different colors for use at different times, boroughs or directions, they would be torn at a certain time-marked line to indicate when the transfer would expire. A version of this still exists today as the "General Order Transfer" (aka "block ticket") which is provided to customers as they leave the subway system during service disruptions to re-enter the system at another point (often via a shuttle bus).

Transit Employee ID Cards

  • Known as an EPIC Pass. Given to MTA employees as a combination photo ID and MetroCard pass.
  • Cards give employees a free travel pass within the MTA system, with the exception of express buses.
  • Cards are color-coded to match gender of employee (red is male, blue is female)
  • Letter on the card indicates an employee's status and expiration date
  • Cards have the standard 18-minute delay between consecutive swipes at a particular MTA facility.
  • Cards are integrated into MTA's time management system at various locations in the city.

Accepted at:

Emergency Services MetroCards

  • Issued to officers of the NYPD and FDNY.
  • Cards not subject to the standard 18-minute delay between consecutive swipes at a particular MTA facility.

Purchase options

Subway station booths

Booths are located in most subway stations and are staffed by station agents. Every type of MetroCard (minimum purchase $4.50) can be purchased at a booth with the exception of the 1-Day Fun Pass, the SingleRide ticket, and MetroCards specific to other transit systems (PATH, JFK Airtrain). All transactions must be in cash; $50 bills are only accepted with a purchase of $30 or more, and $100 bills only with a $70 or greater purchase. Credit/Debit cards are not accepted at booths.

MetroCard vending machines

Metrocard Vending Machine.

MetroCard Vending Machines (MVMs) are machines located in all subway stations, the Staten Island Ferry terminals, the Roosevelt Island Tramway station, the Hempstead Transit Center at the Hempstead (LIRR station), Eltingville Transit Center, just inside the terminal near the LaGuardia Airport bus stop, at the Howard Beach and Jamaica AirTrain terminals near John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the NYC Visitors Center on 7 Avenue & 53 Street. They debuted on January 1, 1999 and are now found in two models. Standard MVMs are large vending machines that accept cash, credit cards, and ATM/debit cards and are in every station. Cash transactions are required for purchases of less than 1$, can return up to 6$ in coin change, and accept up to 30 consecutively inserted coins. There are also smaller versions of these machines that only accept credit and ATM/debit cards. Both machines allow a customer to purchase any type of MetroCard through a touch screen hierarchical menu. After payment, the MetroCard is dispensed, along with an optional paper transaction receipt. The MVM can also add fares to previously issued MetroCards. PATH Vending machines have a similar look and can dispense Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, PATH Single Ride tickets and communicate with PATH Smartlink RFID cards.

The machines are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 through use of braille and a headset jack. Audible commands for each menu item are provided once a headset is connected and the proper sequence is keyed through the keypad. All non-visual commands are then entered via the keypad instead of the touch screen. MetroCard Vending Machines run on the old Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, which Microsoft retired around 2004. The look and feel of the software as well as the exterior bezels were designed by Masamichi Udagawa, an employee of the design firm IDEO. The rest of the machine's construction and design were performed by Cubic Transportation Systems.

MetroCard bus and van

The MetroCard bus
The MetroCard sales van

Providing many of the services available at the customer service center, one MetroCard Van and two MetroCard Buses (retired buses converted to sales duty) routinely travel to specific locations in New York City and Westchester County, stopping for a day (or half a day) at the announced locations. MetroCards can be purchased or refilled directly from these vehicles. Schedules are available at token booths, on buses, or online at the MTA website. Reduced-fare MetroCard applications can also be processed on the bus, including taking photographs for these cards.

The MetroCard van serves all five boroughs and Westchester County, while the MetroCard bus serves Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and parts of Brooklyn. [1]

Neighborhood MetroCard merchants

MetroCard can be purchased at any participating vendor.[21] This includes hundreds of stores across New York City, and Nassau and Westchester Counties that sell sealed, pre-paid MetroCards for face value. A comprehensive listing can be found on the MTA website.[22]

Purchase by mail

Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders who purchase a monthly or weekly rail pass through the mail (a useful option for people who commute daily on a continuous basis) receive a pass that is a MetroCard on the reverse side. The purchaser may opt to add value to the card at any subway station booth or MVM or may have the card pre-valued: Weekly passes may have a $20 MetroCard attached and monthly passes may have a monthly pass. In the case of the latter the monthly pass is valid for the same calendar month as the rail ticket (therefore it may be valid up to 31 days).

Railroad Ticket Vending Machines

Railroad ticket vending machines (TVM) for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad offer the option to purchase combined tickets/passes and MetroCards. A $4 MetroCard is available with a round-trip ticket, $20 MetroCard with a weekly pass and $40 MetroCard with monthly pass. In addition, the machines sell separate $20 MetroCards. TVMs at Jamaica Station on AirTrain JFK sell a one way ticket with a $5 MetroCard to pay the AirTrain fare.

Beginning in 2007 with the start of service on the S89 bus, a combined HBLR monthly pass and monthly MetroCard is available at NJT Ticket Vending Machines at HBLR stations.

Holiday Rates

In 2005, the MTA offered half-fare discounts to riders on weekends during the last week of 2005 and New Year's Day, 2006, allowing subway and bus rides for $1 instead of the regular $2 fare with a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard. The discounts did not apply to the Single Ride ticket or express buses and commensurate discounts were offered for monthly unlimited MetroCards.

MetroCard Customer Service Center

A walk-in center providing help with MetroCard problems, processing reduced-fare applications and providing maps and schedules. It is located in lower Manhattan at 3 Stone Street (near Broadway) and business hours are weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM. During his 2009 campaign for New York City Public Advocate, activist Alex Zablocki suggested that the MTA allow customers the ability to check MetroCard balances online.[23]

Future of the MetroCard

In 2006 the MTA and Port Authority announced plans to replace the Metrocard with smart cards. In February the Port Authority unveiled a $73 million smart card system in the newly built World Trade Center PATH station. The Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) SmartLink card contains an antenna attached to a computer chip inside the card, which can be read by turnstiles without requiring passengers to swipe cards. This card will eventually replace the magnetic-strip QuickCard accepted at PATH turnstiles.

As of March 31, 2006, Metrocard Vending Machines have replaced PATH QuickCard machines at PATH stations.

The New York City subway and bus network will eventually use this same technology.[citation needed] A consortium of New York metropolitan transit agencies, including the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit, will test different versions and introduce a single standard. In the future all New York City area transit systems will use the same "contactless" payment system.

On July 1, 2006, MTA launched a six-month pilot program to test the new "contact-less" smart card fare collection system, initially ending on December 31, 2006 but extended until May 31, 2007.[24] This program will be tested at all stations on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line and at four stations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. The testing system utilizes Citibank Mastercard's Paypass keytags.[25] Anyone with such a tag can apply to participate. This smart card system is intended to ease congestion near the fare control area by reducing time spent at paying for fare. MTA and other transportation authorities in the region say they will eventually implement system-wide.[26][27]

Since April 1, 2007, Metrocards are used as fare media on the Westchester County Bee Line bus system. Westchester County DOT has entered into an agreement with the MTA to pool revenue from the Metrocard fare system. Pay-per-ride and Unlimited Ride Metrocards are now accepted on all Bee-Line local buses and the BxM4C (Route 28) express bus, with a fare and transfer structure identical to NYC Transit bus/subway system. This includes transfers between Bee Line buses and NYC Transit bus/subway lines in the Bronx and Manhattan.

In April 2008, in observance of Earth Day, the MTA released five million "Green MetroCards" in an effort to promote environmental awareness. The lettering was green in color and the back of the card had factoids on ways to save the environment.

Fraud and scams

The MetroCard system is susceptible to various types of frauds, perpetrated by clever con artists. Usually these frauds involve the con artist preventing or dissuading the commuter from using his or her own MetroCard, and then charging the commuter for entry to the system (entry is gained by a method that costs the con artist nothing).

One instance would be for the con artist to deliberately jam a MetroCard vending machine in a station (e.g. with chewing gum), and then wait for somebody to try buying a new card just as a train is approaching. As the innocent customer discovers that the machine is broken, the con artist offers to swipe the rider through the turnstile on their own card in return for $2.25 (the same as the regular fare). If the rider accepts, the con artist swipes their altered or stolen card, and lets the rider go through the turnstile. The rider comes out even (they lost $2.25 but got a ride out of it) or slightly behind (if he or she was counting on getting a discount), the con artist makes $2.25, and the MTA is stiffed a fare (plus the cost of fixing the damaged vending machine). This scam is often run by a team of 2 or more people, with one person working the turnstile and the others acting as lookouts.

Also, Metrocard Vending Machines have a software bug that will disable the bill or coin acceptor after a series of rejected bills or coins, which can result in a row of MVMs all saying "No Bills" or "No Coins".[28]

If a con artist is not using a stolen or broken card, he or she can use an array of unlimited cards. Multiple cards are needed because of the 18-minute delay between each swipe at the same station. Using unlimited cards, a con artist is able to sell rides for $1 instead of $2.

A report from New York State Senator Martin J. Golden claims this scam is costing the MTA $260,000 a year, and some con artists are making up to $800 a day executing it.[29]

All aspects of this scam have been recently prohibited by MTA policy and a New York State law.[30] It is now a crime to do any of these things:

  • deface a MetroCard
  • sell a swipe (although selling the cards themselves is allowed)
  • enter the system without properly paying a fare.

Some con artists will approach a tourist having trouble with the swiping of the card, and pretend to be helpful, but will use a sleight-of-hand trick to switch the tourist's MetroCard with one having little or no value.

The introduction of MetroCards did eliminate one class of criminals. When the NYC subway still used tokens, token suckers would steal tokens by jamming turnstile coin slots, waiting for unsuspecting passengers to deposit tokens (only to discover that the turnstile did not work), then returning to suck out the token. The retirement of tokens in 2003 put the token suckers out of commission, or, at the very least, forced them to find new ways of scamming the system (see above).

The MetroCard does have a magnetic stripe, but both the track offsets and the encoding differ from standard Magstripe cards. It's a proprietary format developed by the contractor Cubic. Off-the-shelf reader/writers for the standard cards are useless, and even hypothetically could work only with both physical and software modification. Some have had partial success decoding it using audio tape recorder heads, laptop sound cards, and custom Linux software.[31]

See also


  1. ^ * Cubic Corporation
  2. ^ Faison, Seth (June 2, 1993). "3,000 Subway Riders, Cards in Hand, Test New Fare System". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  3. ^ Mallozzi, Vincent M. (August 30, 2008). "On MetroCards’ Flip Side, Art Exhibits That Catch Collectors’ Eyes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  4. ^ Newman, Andy (July 3, 1998). "Hop On, Hop Off: The Unlimited Metrocard Arrives". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  5. ^ Williams, Monte (January 26, 1999). "Metrocard Machines' Subway Debut". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  6. ^ Markowitz, Michael (April 28, 2003). "NYC Subway Token, 1953-2003". Gotham Gazette (New York). Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  7. ^ Smith, Jesse J. (January 19, 2003). "Commuters could face 33% fare hike". The Daily Freeman (Kingston). [dead link]
  8. ^ Kennedy, Randy (March 6, 2003). "The Transit Increases: Overview; Transit Authority Seeks an Increase in Fares and Tolls". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  9. ^ "MTA Hikes Some MetroCard Fares". Columbia Daily Spectator. January 18, 2005. [dead link]
  10. ^ Chan, Sewell; Farmer, Ann (February 28, 2005). "Facing the Pain Of Rising Fares, And Riding On". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  11. ^ "New Fare Information - Effective February 27, 2005". New York City Transit. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  12. ^ "Fares & MetroCard". New York City Transit. Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (December 31, 2008). "Murder Case Dropped After MetroCard Verifies Alibi". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  15. ^ Pierre-Pierre, Garry (February 21, 1997). "205 More Buses Ordered To Handle Free Transfers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  16. ^ "Problem with MetroCard?". Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  17. ^ "Transfer your balance off an old MetroCard". May 28, 2005. Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  18. ^ "Has your MetroCard expired?". Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  19. ^ "Insurance for 30-Day MetroCard". New York City Transit. 
  20. ^ "How Do I Check the Balance on a Regular MetroCard?". Frequently Asked Question About the MetroCard. January 9, 2003. Archived from the original on 2007-11-03. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  21. ^ Local MTA MetroCard Merchants
  22. ^ * Metropolitan Transportation Authority Homepage
  23. ^ DAnna, Eddie (February 3, 2009). "Staten Island Public Advocate Candidate Makes High-tech MetroCard Suggestion". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  24. ^ The NYC Subway Trial - FAQs (MasterCard)[dead link]
  25. ^ "MTA Launches Smart Card Trial Program". NY1. July 11, 2006. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  26. ^ "Subway 'Smart Cards' Program Begins". [dead link]
  27. ^ "Smart Cards for the Subways". [dead link]
  28. ^ Luo, Michael (February 3, 2004). "MetroCard Dispensers Breaking Down, Victims of Tampering and Their Own Success". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  29. ^ "Golden: Assembly Inaction Allows MetroCard Swipe Scam to Continue in New York" (Press release). Martin Golden. November 8, 2004. Archived from the original on 2005-01-07. 
  30. ^ "Rules of Conduct". MTA New York City Transit. Section 1050.13. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  31. ^ " – New York City's MTA Exposed!". Redbird[disambiguation needed ]. October 23, 2008. Archived from the original on 2007-11-21. 

External links

External videos
MetroCard Gold TV Commercials (1997), Metropolitan Transportation Authority Archive; July 2, 2010; 3:35 YouTube video clip

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