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New York City Subway MetorCard
New York Subway MetroCard
Back MetroCard

The MetroCard is the current payment method for the New York City Subway (rapid transit) system, buses in the New York City Transit, 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 (starting April 1st, 2007). 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 on the subway in May 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 the Cubic Corporation.[1]

In addition, the Metrocard (note capitalization) is used as a stored ride fare card on several municipal bus operators in Los Angeles County, California, such as Montebello Bus Lines, Foothill Transit, Norwalk Transit, Culver City Bus, and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus, using some of the same technical principles as the New York MetroCard. [1] To avoid confusion, and to accommodate a transition to new smart card technology, the LA County Metrocard will be replaced by the TAP Card in 2007.


  • January 6, 1994 – MetroCard compatible turnstiles opened at Wall Street on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line (3, 3) and Whitehall Street–South Ferry on the BMT Broadway Line (N, R). 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, and the entire bus and subway system accepted MetroCards
  • July 4, 1997 – MetroCard Gold offered free subway/bus, bus/subway, and bus/bus transfers
  • 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)
  • January 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.


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 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, and the central database is updated with the new transaction. 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 shares it with 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, the end of high school. 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 Railroad offer a combined monthly pass/MetroCard option. One side of the card displays the railroad monthly pass, and the other side is the MetroCard.

Several transfers on the subway system are free with a MetroCard (other than a SingleRide card), and are specified in schedules and signs.

Predecessor systems elsewhereEdit

Previously, since the late 1980s, the MBTA, the mass transit system of Boston, Massachusetts, had used unlimited farecards.

Fare informationEdit

SingleRide ticket MetroCardsEdit

MTA New York City Bus MetroCard Single Ride Ticket


SingleRide card

The SingleRide MetroCard (introduced to replace subway tokens) 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. (increasing to $2.25 on June 28, 2009)
  • SingleRide cards expire two hours from time of purchase
  • SingleRide cards can only be purchased at MetroCard Vending Machines.

Although the Pay-per-ride MetroCard is accepted on PATH , the single ride MetroCard is not. A similar card is available from MVMs in PATH stations for $1.75, valid for 2 hours and only on PATH.

Pay-per-ride MetroCardsEdit

  • $4.00 to $80.00 in any increment (min increase to $4.50 on June 28, 2009)
  • Purchases equal to or greater than $7.00 (min increases to $8 June 28, 2009) receive a 15% bonus (ex. $7 buys you $8.05, $10 buys you $11.50)
  • $2.00 deducted for each subway, Staten Island Railway, or local bus usage, excluding valid transfers ($2.25 starting June 28, 2009); $5 deducted for each express bus usage ($5.50 starting June 28, 2009)
  • $1.75 deducted per each usage on PATH (No transfer privileges).
  • One free subway->local bus, bus->subway, or bus->local bus transfer within two hours of initial entry
  • May be used to pay for and transfer up to four people at once
  • Cards can be refilled by as little as 1 cent 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 other card up to a year after expiration.
  • May be used for the payment of the $5 access fee for up to 4 persons on the AirTrain JFK

Accepted at:

Unlimited ride MetroCardsEdit

  • 1-Day Fun Pass, $7.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until 3 A.M. the day following first usage (Discontinued as of Dec 31, 2010)
  • 7-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $24.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight seven days following first usage
  • 30-Day Unlimited Ride Card, $76.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until midnight thirty days 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/stolen to receive a pro-rated credit for the card [2]
  • 7-Day Express Bus Plus Card, $41.00 for unlimited express bus, local bus, and subway rides until midnight seven days following first usage
  • The Unlimited Ride Card cannot be used at the same subway station or bus route for eighteen minutes after it is first used
  • The Unlimited Ride Card cannot be reused after it expires, and there is no credit for unused rides
  • 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, 30 days from first usage. This card can only be purchased at specially marked MetroCard Vending Machines at the Howard Beach-JFK Airport (A) or Sutphin Boulevard/Jamaica (E, J, Z) stations and at MetroCard vendors in JFK Airport. There are no transfer privileges granted on this card

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
  • The AirTrain JFK Unlimited card is accepted only at AirTrain terminals at Howard Beach (A) or Sutphin Boulevard/Jamaica (E, J, Z)

Student MetroCardsEdit

  • Given to all New York City school students who commute, 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.
  • 1/2 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. There are 3 or 4 rides given to the student every Monday to Friday from 5:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. each day. There are also special cards for those who attend school when it is not a normal school day.

Accepted at:

  • MTA New York City Transit subways and local buses (1/2 Fare cards are only accepted on buses)
  • MTA Long Island Bus
  • MTA Bus
  • MTA Staten Island Railway (Full Fare cards are only accepted at the Saint George Ferry Terminal Station)

Disabled/Senior Citizen MetrocardsEdit

  • Given to senior citizens and the disabled as a combination photo ID and metrocard.
  • Allows 1/2 or 100% reduced fare within the MTA system
  • Cards are marked as "Photo ID Pass"
  • Accepted at wheelchair doors at selected stations (cardholder swipes for access)

Accepted at:

Transit Employee MetrocardsEdit

  • 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 optionsEdit

Subway station boothsEdit

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 and SingleRide ticket, which must be purchased at MetroCard vending machines. Cash is accepted for a transaction; $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 accepted at MVMs.

MetroCard vending machinesEdit


MetroCard Vending Machines (MVMs) are machines located in all subway stations. They were first introduced in January 1999 and are now found in two models. Standard MVMs are large vending machines that accept cash, credit cards, and ATM or debit cards to purchase a MetroCard for use on a subway or bus. They return up to $6 in coin change for every cash transaction. There are also much smaller versions of these machines that only accept credit and ATM/debit cards. Both machines allow a customer to purchase every 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. As an extra security measure, starting in 2005 and added to all machines by mid-2006, all credit card transactions must have the cardholder's zip code entered via the keypad as validation.

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. Masamichi was an employee of the design firm IDEO. He soon left IDEO and started his own company called Antenna Design, an industrial design company based in Manhattan. The rest of the machine's construction and design were performed by Cubic Transportation Systems.

MetroCard bus and vanEdit

One MetroCard Van and two MetroCard Buses routinely travel throughout New York City, making stops at scheduled locations. MetroCards can be purchased or refilled directly from these vehicles. Schedules are available on the MTA website.

Neighborhood MetroCard merchantsEdit

MetroCard can be purchased at any participating vendor. This includes hundreds of stores across New York City that sell sealed, pre-paid MetroCards for face value. A comprehensive listing can be found on the MTA website. [2]

Purchase by mailEdit

Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders who purchase a monthly 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 can opt to load the MetroCard side with any value supported by the system.

MetroCards can also be purchased by mail at at up to 40% off.

Holiday RatesEdit

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 rides for $1 instead of the regular $2 fare with a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard. The discounts did not apply to the SingleRide ticket or Unlimited-Ride MetroCards.

Future of the MetroCardEdit

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, which will end on December 31, 2006. 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.[3] [4]

Beginning April 1, 2007, Metrocards will 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 will be accepted on all Bee-Line local buses and the BxM4C 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.

Fraud and scamsEdit

The MetroCard system is susceptible to various types of frauds, perpetrated by clever con artists, who have figured out how to get the turnstile to release without charging a fare.

A typical con involves deliberately jamming a MetroCard vending machine in a station, and then waiting 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 mark through the turnstile on their own card in return for $2 (the same as the regular fare). If the mark accepts, the con artist swipes their altered card, and lets the mark go through the turnstile. The mark comes out even (they lost $2 but got a ride out of it), 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.

There are reports of people making $200-$300/day running this scam. A report from New York State Senator Martin J. Golden [3] claims this scam is costing the MTA $260,000/year, and some con artists are making up to $800/day executing it. To prepare for this scam, MetroCards are often altered by folding the card at a specific point, rendering it inoperable. The turnstile initially rejects the card, but automatically accepts it after three swipes.


  1. * Cubic Corporation
  2. * Metropolitan Transportation Authority Homepage
  3. Subway 'Smart Cards' Program Begins
  4. Smart Cards for the Subways