From Academic Kids


The MetroCard is the current payment method for the New York Subway (metro) system as well as for buses in the New York City Transit 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 reduce the burden of carrying and collecting tokens. The MetroCard is handled by a division of the MTA known as MetroCard Operations and manufactured by the Cubic Corporation.



  • January 6, 1994 - MetroCard turnstiles open at 4/5 Wall Street and N/R Whitehall Street stations
  • May 15, 1997 - The last MetroCard turnstiles are installed and the entire bus and subway system accepts MetroCards
  • July 4, 1997 - MetroCard Gold offers free subway/bus, bus/subway, and bus/bus transfers
  • January 1, 1998 - Bonus free rides given for purchases of $15 or more
  • July 4, 1998 - 7-Day and 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCards introduced
  • January 1, 1999 - The 1-Day Fun Pass is introduced
  • January 25, 1999 - The first MetroCard Vending Machines are installed
  • April 13, 2003 - Tokens no longer sold
  • May 4, 2003 - Fares increased from $1.50 to $2.00; tokens no longer accepted
  • February 2005- Unlimited ride fare for the 7-Day and 30-Day MetroCard increases.


Each MetroCard is assigned a unique, permanent ten-digit serial number when it is manufactured. The value of a card 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 Negative List, a list of MetroCards that have been invalidated for various reasons, 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 transistion 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 white and green colored MetroCards that 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. 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 eliminated the need for the token booth clerk to have to manually open the gate whenever a disabled person required entry. There is also a combination MetroCard/Metro-North monthly train pass issued to commuters who purchase their pass by mail - one side is the MetroCard, while the other is the Metro-North pass with a photo of the pass owner. The Long Island Rail Road also offers this to their customers, but without a photo on the pass.

Several transfers on the subway system are free with a MetroCard other than a single-ride card, and are advertised in schedules and signed.

Fare information

Single-ride MetroCards

  • $2.00 for one subway or local bus ride, with one free bus/bus transfer
  • Single-Ride cards do not offer subway/bus transfers
  • Cards expire two hours from time of purchase

Pay-per-ride MetroCards

  • $4.00 to $80.00 in any increment
  • Cards equal to or greater than $10.00 receive a 20% bonus (ex. $20.00 buys 12 rides)
  • $2.00 deducted for each subway or local bus usage, excluding transfers
  • Free subway/bus, bus/subway, and bus/bus transfers within two hours of usage
  • 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:

  • MTA New York City Transit subways and local buses
  • MTA New York City Transit express buses
  • MTA Bus
  • MTA Long Island Bus
  • MTA Staten Island Railway
  • Most NYC private local and express bus lines
  • Nearly all PATH stations with all stations expected to be MetroCard accessible by mid 2005
  • AirTrain JFK (operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) terminals located at the Howard Beach or Sutphin Blvd/Jamaica subway stations

Unlimited ride MetroCards

  • 1-Day Fun Pass, $7.00 for unlimited subway and local bus rides until 3 A.M. the day following first usage
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 (A line) or Sutphin Boulevard/Jamaica (E, J, Z) stations and at MetroCard vendors in JFK Airport. There are no transfer priviledges 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
  • Most NYC private bus lines
  • 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 line) or Sutphin Boulevard/Jamaica (E, J, Z lines)

Purchase options

Subway station booths

These booths are located in all subway stations and are run by station agents. Every MetroCard can be purchased at a booth with the exception of the 1-Day Fun Pass and SingleRide ticket. Only 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.

MetroCard vending machines

MetroCard Vending Machines (MVMs) are machines located in all subway stations. They were first introduced in January 1999 and can now be found in two models. Standard MVMs are large vending machines that accept cash, credit cards, and ATM or debit cards in order 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 although the smaller machines do not sell SingleRide tickets. After payment, the MetroCard is dispensed, along with an optional paper transaction receipt. The MVM can also add fares to a used MetroCard. They 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 Windows NT Version 4.0 SP6. 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 van

There is one MetroCard Van and two MetroCard Buses that 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 merchants

As well as at subway stations, the 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.

Purchase by mail

Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road riders who opt to 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.

See also

External links


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