swiped at

MetroCard (New York City)

MetroCard redirects here. For other cards see MetroCard (disambiguation)
The MetroCard is the current payment method for the New York City Subway (rapid transit) system, buses in the New York City Transit (including routes operated by Atlantic Express under contract to the MTA), MTA Bus, and 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 Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) known as MetroCard Operations and manufactured by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc.


  • June 1, 1993 - MTA distributes 3,000 MetroCards in the first major test of the technology.
  • January 6, 1994 – MetroCard compatible turnstiles opened at Wall Street on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line (}) and Whitehall Street–South Ferry on the BMT Broadway Line (). Before 1997, the MetroCard design was blue with yellow lettering. These blue cards are now collector's items.
  • May 15, 1997 – The last MetroCard turnstiles were installed by this date, and the entire bus and subway system accepted MetroCards
  • July 4, 1997 – For the first time, free transfers are made available between bus and subway at any location with MetroCard. This program was originally billed as "MetroCard Gold". The color scheme of the cards where changed to their current blue lettering on a 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
  • January 1, 1999 – The 1-Day Fun Pass was introduced
  • January 25, 1999 – The first MetroCard Vending Machines were installed.
  • April 13, 2003 – Tokens were no longer sold.
  • 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)
  • February 27, 2005 – The 1-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $4 to $7, the 7-day unlimited-ride fare increased from $21 to $24, and the 30-Day MetroCard increased from $70 to $76.
  • 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,the 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.


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 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.

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. A student that lives up to 1/2 mile from the school receives a half fare. A student that lives 1 mile or more from the school receives a full fare MetroCard. 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.

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.

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.

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

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

  • $2.00 for one subway or local bus ride, with one free bus/bus transfer (issued upon request to Bus Operator). 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 $1.75, valid for 2 hours and only on PATH.

Pay-per-ride MetroCards

  • $4.00 to $80.00 in any increment (though vending machines only sell values in multiples of 5 cents).
  • Cards equal to or greater than $7.00 receive a 15% bonus (ex. $40.00 buys 23 rides and $80.00 buys 46 rides).
  • $2.00 deducted for each subway, Staten Island Railway, or local bus usage, excluding valid transfers; $5.00 deducted for express bus (NYCT bus or MTA bus).
  • $1.75 deducted per each usage on PATH (no transfer privileges).
  • $5.00 deducted per each usage on AirTrain JFK.
  • One free subway to local bus, bus to subway, or bus to local bus transfer within two hours of initial entry.
  • One free transfer between a bus or subway and the Staten Island Railway within two hours of initial entry.
  • One transfer for $3.00 for local bus or subway to express bus.
  • One free subway to subway transfer within two hours of initial entry between the 59th Street (4, 5, and 6 lines) or Lexington Avenue - 59th Street (N, R, and W lines) stations and the Lexington Avenue - 63rd Street (F line) station, or between the 23rd Street - Ely Avenue (E and V lines) or Long Island City - Court Square (G line) stations and 45th Road - Court House Square station (7 line).
  • Two consecutive free transfers for Staten Island local bus to Staten Island Railway to Manhattan local bus or subway and vice versa. All transfers must be completed within two hours.
  • Two consecutive free transfers from Long Island Bus to second and third bus (or subway, only from Long Island Bus routes that go to subway stations) valid within two hours.
  • May be used to pay for and transfer up to four people at once.
  • Cards can be refilled by as little as 1 cent (at token booths; 5 cent increments at vending machines) and as much as $80 and can hold $100.
  • Card may be refilled until one month before expiration date but used until expiration date.
  • Card balance may be transferred to a new card at any vending machine or token booth, up to two years after expiration.

Accepted at:

EasyPayXPress MetroCard

Home page:

  • Works just like a pay per ride MetroCard, but is automatically refilled from an linked credit or debit card, . (works similarly to the E-ZPass)
  • The card is a regular looking MetroCard, but on the back it says "EasypayXpress" and "Automatic Refill Only" in black letters
  • Initial buy-in is $40 (plus bonus, so you get $46 in value); another $40 payment (plus bonus) is automatically processed when the balance goes below $30.
  • EasyPay customers can review the account and ride usage on-line, and can elect to receive a detailed statement in the 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.
  • Apply on-line at

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 or Sutphin Boulevard–JFK stations and at MetroCard vendors in JFK Airport. There are no transfer privileges granted on this card.

Unlimited ride MetroCards

  • 1-Day Fun Pass, $7.50 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until 3 A.M. the day following first usage.
  • 7-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $25.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage.
  • 14-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $47.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the fourteenth day following first usage.
  • 30-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $81.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight on the thirtieth day following first usage.
    • 30-Day Unlimited Ride 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.
  • 7-Day Express Bus Plus Card, $41.00 for unlimited express bus, local bus, and subway rides until midnight on the seventh day following first usage.
  • 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 or Sutphin Boulevard–JFK 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 can't 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 can't be reused after it expires, and there is no credit for unused rides.

Accepted at:

  • MTA New York City Transit subways and local buses
  • MTA Long Island Bus
  • MTA Bus
  • MTA Staten Island Railway
  • Only 7-Day Express Bus Plus accepted on express buses including Bee-Line BxM4C and 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

  • Given to all New York City school students who do grifety on the nyc buses and trains as well as all New York City high schools, both public and private.
  • 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 $1.00, student pays $1.00 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. Half fare cards only work on buses since the cards can't store value, and the payment must be made in coins on the spot for each usage, eliminating subway usage of the cards. There are 3 or 4 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). Rides do not roll over.
  • 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 a afterschool 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.
  • Students that attend special night school who live far from their homes are given a special student card that is valid Mon-Thurs from 1pm to 1am.

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 $1.80 (Transfer cost 25¢))
  • MTA Bus (Until further notice, MTA Bus's express bus student fare remains $2.50 with FF Card or $3.25 with HF Card)
  • MTA Staten Island Railway (Only full fare cards are accepted)

Disabled/Senior Citizen Metrocards

  • Given to senior citizens and the disabled as a combination photo ID and MetroCard.
  • Allows half or 100% (free) reduced fare within the MTA system
  • Cards are marked as "Photo ID Pass"
  • Cards issued to persons with mobility impairments are accepted at wheelchair doors at selected stations.

Accepted at:

MetroCard Bus Transfer

The MetroCard Bus Transfer is issued when a person pays a certain required fare with exact change aboard on any bus accepted MetroCard. This bus transfer slip can be requested when you ask a bus operator for one way bus connection trip. Certain bus transfer fares may apply with Westchester Bee Line bus system and MTA Long Island Bus. 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, as well as transfers from N4 to Q3, from N25 to Q46, and from N26 to Q46 (vice-versa is not valid)).

Transit Employee Metrocards

  • Given to MTA employees as a combination photo ID and Metrocard pass.
  • All cards give free rides 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:

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) 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 Machines (MVMs) are machines located in all subway stations, the Staten Island Ferry terminals, the Roosevelt Island Tramway station, the Hempstead Transit Center, Eltingville Transit Center, 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. They return up to $6 in coin change for every cash transaction. Purchases less than $1 requires cash transaction. 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 and PATH Single Ride tickets.

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 Microsoft Windows 2000 Server SP4. 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

One MetroCard Van and two MetroCard Buses 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 on the MTA website.

Neighborhood MetroCard merchants

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

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, 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 SingleRide ticket and commensurate discounts were offered for monthly unlimited MetroCards.

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, 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. 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 "contactless" smart card fare collection system, initially ending on December 31, 2006 but extended until May 31, 2007. 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. Anyone with such a tag can apply to participate This smart card system is aimed to ease congestion near the fare control area by reducing time spent at paying for fare. It is a new system that MTA and other transportation authorities in the region will eventually implement.

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 in pooling revenues 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 their effort to promote ways to save the environment. The letters were Green Colored and the back of the card has 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 (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 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, 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 which 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".

If a con artist isn't using a stolen or broken card, they 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, making it an attractive offer to a rider.

There are reports of people making $200-$300/day running this scam. A report from New York State Senator Martin J. Golden claims this scam is costing the MTA $260,000/year, and some con artists are making up to $800/day executing it.

All aspects of this scam have been recently prohibited by MTA policy and a New York State law: now it is a crime to deface a MetroCard; it is a crime to sell a swipe (although not a card), and it is a crime to 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).

Since the MetroCard stores data on a magnetic stripe, the use of a magnetic stripe encoder allows the information to be read and re-written. Because the cards can hold only a limited amount of data, the information is not encrypted, and anyone with a magstripe encoder can easily change the data on their card. While this scam does involve an initial investment of buying the encoder (about $400 at retail), the con artist can do the majority of the scam from the comfort of his/her own home.

See also

External links

  • Read and Re-Write data to a MetroCard: Using a Magnetic Stripe Encoder
  • Port Authority of NY and NJ Homepage
  • Antenna Design
  • MetroCard mag strip layout
  • NYC MetroCard Bonus Calculator
  • MetroCard Article with various turnstile machine photos - also sells Metrocards over the internet
  • MetroCard Balance Calculator
  • 'NJ Transit to adopt MetroCard


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