With fare hike upon us, beware stockpiled MetroCards, says MTA

By · Published in 2008

Back in the dark ages of the New York City subway, before the dawn of the MetroCard, fare hikes were momentous occasions around my house. My parents, who kept 10-packs of tokens in a Keds shoe box, were always prepared to beat the system when the MTA announced higher subway fares.

Unlike with MetroCards where computer chips can be programmed to deduct different amounts after a fare hike is instituted, tokens were a fixed-value item. Buy a token on December 30, 1991 for $1.15, and while the fare on January 2, 1992 may be $1.25, that token still cost you just $1.15.

So my parents would traipse off to the station at 93rd St. and Broadway and buy the maximum number of token packets allowed by the MTA. First, my mom would go and then my dad. Then, we would all head down to 86th St. and do it all over again. We beat the system.

Now, with a fare hike upon us, a lot of my readers have asked about Unlimited Ride MetroCards. These cards are facing the highest increases – as much as 6.6 percent for 30-day passes – and straphangers want to know if they can buy six months’ worth of Unlimited Ride MetroCards at $76 to use until the cards reach the expiration date printed on the back.

Well, not so fast, says the MTA. In a poster soon to appear in a station near you and available here as a PDF, the MTA lays out their policies regarding the potential stockpiling of Unlimited Ride MetroCards:

Unlimited Ride MetroCards currently being used for travel purchased prior to March 2nd will be valid for the full 7 or 30 days, even if some of those days are after the fare change.

In addition, customers who purchase an Unlimited Ride MetroCard prior to the fare change can take advantage of a “grace period,” allowing these cards to be used after March 2nd.

NYC Transit will monitor the number of cards in circulation and will announce at a later date the exact duration of the grace period. The MTA and NYC Transit assures its customers that, at a minimum, cards bought for normal, personal use will be valid for their full duration (1, 7 or 30 days) as long as the first day of travel is March 10 or earlier.

In plain English, riders can, after the fares go up on Sunday, continue to swipe Unlimited Ride MetroCards that are currently in use. My current 30-day pass expires around March 20th; I can use it for the duration.

Then, comes the grace period. The grace period hasn’t been defined, but if the MTA notices a run on 30-day passes this weekend, they could institute a grace period that is as short as eight days after the hike goes into effect. In other words, you won’t be able to use more than one of those stockpiled Unlimited Ride cards without paying extra.

However, if riders are judicious in their stockpiling, that grace period could be extended past March 10. Maybe the MTA gives riders a month or two; maybe just a week. But my words of advice are simply to beware. Overzealous commuters looking to save a few bucks may end up getting stuck with cards that can’t be used until the balance is paid anyway. Be judicious.

Meanwhile, my parents and I will just pine for the days of stockpiled tokens. Somewhere, that Keds box sits empty, wishing for a time when the system was beatable.

Categories : Fare Hikes, MetroCard

21 Responses to “With fare hike upon us, beware stockpiled MetroCards, says MTA”

  1. Avi says:

    If you want to beat the system you also need to consider the interest you could have made on your money by waiting to buy metrocards later. In the case of buying 1 metro card a week or two earlier the interest is not significant. But in the case of your mother that was a substantial amount of money she paid early.

  2. Carla says:

    This post seems to imply the answer to a question my sister and I were wondering about: Does the 30-day period begin when you purchase the card, or the first time you swipe it?

  3. Brian says:

    According to an email from TransitChek to its customers dated Jan 11, 2008, the Unlimited Metrocards purchased at the old price will be useable until June 30, 2008. See the email below for details:

    —— Forwarded Message
    From: “TransitChek”
    Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2008 14:43:20 -0800
    To: xxx
    Subject: New 2008 MTA Fares

    Dear TransitChek® Administrator,

    As you know, the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved new fares to go into effect March 2, 2008. The following are changes to the TransitChek® Program to incorporate these new fares:
    Current Pay-Per-Ride TransitChek MetroCards remain valid until the expiration date on the back of the Card
    7-day and 30-day Unlimited Ride TransitChek MetroCards, purchased prior to March 2, 2008 will be valid until June 30, 2008. These cards will expire on June 30, 2008, regardless of their printed expiration date or when they were first used
    To receive the full value of the Unlimited Ride Cards, employees must begin using their 30-Day Cards no later than June 1 and their 7-Day Cards no later than June 23
    The last day to order any TransitChek MetroCards at the current fare is February 1. After this date we will no longer have inventory of the current fare cards
    Below is a breakout of the current denominations and new denominations that will go into effect on March 2.


    Pay-Per-Ride Cards # of Trips Pay-Per-Ride Cards # of Trips
    $20.00 12 $24.35 14 NEW!
    $30.00 18 $31.30 18 NEW!
    $35.00 21 $40.00 23
    $40.00 24

    Unlimited Ride Card Cost Unlimited Ride Card Cost
    7-Day Unlimited $24.00 7-Day Unlimited $25.00
    30-Day Unlimited $76.00 14-Day Unlimited $47.00 NEW!
    30-Day Unlimited $81.00
    7-Day Express Bus Plus $41.00 NEW!
    Orders for New TransitChek MetroCards

    We can begin to accept orders for the new fare TransitChek MetroCards starting on February 13 and will begin shipping orders on February 18.

    Additional information about the fare increase, new TransitChek denominations and grace periods can be found at http://www.transitcenter.com/f.....ransitchek .

    By providing TransitChek commuter benefits you are offering valuable tax savings that can help offset the full impact of the upcoming increase. Now is an ideal time to reach out to those employees currently not enrolled in the TransitChek program to help them save on their commuting costs.

    As always, thank you for being a TransitChek customer.


    TransitChek Customer Service

  4. Carla: The 30-day period begins when you first swipe it. I keep my TransitCheck cards in the drawer for about three weeks before using them.

    Brian: I’d take what the MTA is saying over what TransitChek is saying. The way I read that e-mail, all cards expire on June 30 no matter what. The MTA can override that and set a sunset date on 30-day cards that would require the owner to either pay more or lose their card.

  5. Marsha says:

    Avi is right about the interest although that was only a minor consideration in hoarding tokens because it was the beating of the system that was the motivation. The second there was a hint of a fair increase we would start amassing 10-packs. Once it was official, we would swing into action and do the Broadway stroll buying tokens at every station on both sides of the street. Even when the MTA would limit purchases to 1 or 2 tokens, we were undeterred. Boy, that was fun!

  6. Mike says:

    Sounds like it’s safe to load up on pay-per-ride cards, then? (to get the 20% bonus instead of 15%)

  7. Indeed it is, Mike. Nothing will happen to any free rides that accrue today or tomorrow on pay-per-ride MetroCards.

  8. Wayne's World says:

    Nicely written piece. Sounds like your parents will do anything to save a buck.

  9. vnm says:

    The direct successor to the token is the pay-per-ride metrocard. The equivalent of stockpiling tokens a-la 1991 is putting $80 on a pay-per-ride card today (the max allowed), then shifting to the next machine over and doing the same.

  10. Alon Levy says:

    Yes… and for every $1,000 dollars in pay-per-rides you purchase, you’re going to save $43.48.

  11. Todd says:

    I’ll do anything to save a buck too! I’m getting a new 30 day card for myself and the wife tonight prior to the switch even though we’ve both got a couple weeks on our current cards.

  12. Alon Levy says:

    And people say that I’m stingy…

  13. BaruchHaTa says:

    will kick my latkas and sit me shiva!

    wish i would have read this exactly 11 days ago.

    oy vey!

  14. Joshua says:

    The subway stattion that your parents went to was on 91st Street not 93rd Street.

  15. Russel Roneldo says:

    My business partners were looking for MTA Reduced-Fare Metrocard App a few days ago and were informed about an excellent service that hosts a huge forms library . If people are looking for MTA Reduced-Fare Metrocard App too , here’s https://goo.gl/PBgYsq


  1. […] straphanging pals over at SecondAveSagas reminisce about the days when repeatedly sending out each member of your family to purchase subway […]

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  3. […] SecondAvenueSagas.com warns those people who thought they could beat the increase by stockpiling MetroCards. […]

  4. […] before the MTA raised the fares last week, the agency announced a grace period of indeterminate length ending no early than today. With that early deadline upon us, the MTA has issued guidelines for all […]

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