Home MetroCard Coming Feb. 1: Refillable unlimited ride MetroCards

Coming Feb. 1: Refillable unlimited ride MetroCards

by Benjamin Kabak

As part of the MTA's public information campaign, MetroCard Vending Machines will soon be programmed with the above screen saver.

Every 30 days, I, like nearly 33 percent of subway riders, purchase a brand new MetroCard. My unlimited ride card is good for a month, but unless I have an EasyPayXpress card, at the end of 30 days, I have to discard my well-loved MetroCard and purchase a new one. Starting February 1, though, no longer will we have to go through the practice of wasting plastic as the MTA will be introducing the ability to refill unlimited ride cards.

While at Grand Army Plaza this morning for my silver chariot to whisk me away toward Manhattan, my eyes happened upon a new poster. “New!” the sign said, “7-day and 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCards can now be refilled.” As with pay-per-ride cards, a straphanger can use his or her unlimited ride card over and over again until the magnetic strip wears out or until the expiration date on the back. So how does it work?

Beginning next Wednesday, the unlimited ride cards come with a twist: You can essentially store an extra month on them. Any time after you begin to use an unlimited ride card, you have the option to purchase a refill, but that refill must be for the same time period. In other words, you can refill a 7-day card only with another 7-day period, and you can refill a 30-day card with only another 30-day card. You also do not need to wait until your current time period is over to refill the card as each card will store one refill at a time.

For those folks wary of keeping two months on one card — no one wants to misplace $208 in transit rides — you can also refill it after the expiration of your 7- or 30-day period as long as the card hasn’t reached its ultimate expiration date. According to Transit, the new refill option is “part of our continuing effort to provide customers with new options and added conveniences for paying fares.”

In a sense, this move has been a long-awaited one. Since the MTA announced plans to institute a $1 surcharge for all new MetroCard purchases, the authority had to adapt its system to allow for refillable unlimited ride cards. Despite the February 1 launch date, though, the MTA’s plan to institute such a surcharge will not be implemented until 2013. Still, for riders wary of going through 12 or more cards a year, this new option is both convenient and environmentally friendly. As I figure it, the MTA should save some money on fare collection costs as well as the refill option should reduce the number of cards they need to stock.

For more information, Transit says brochures are available at subway stations near you. After the jump, a glimpse at the poster I saw this morning.

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Todd January 25, 2012 - 12:57 pm

I love the idea of keeping a refill on there before it runs out. I’m curious to see how long the card will hold up before the strip malfunctions. I’m hard on mine.

Paul January 25, 2012 - 1:30 pm

I’ve been using my ExpressPay card for just under 2 years and it still works without a hitch. As far as I can tell, it’s the same kind of card so it’s safe to assume that these do last a while. That’s 20+ cards fewer than would have been necessary with a regular unlimited ride card.

So happy to hear about this improvement. The waste from the old cards was really awful.

Jason B. January 25, 2012 - 1:44 pm

I used to have TransitCheck Premium which was a TransitCheck that was good for one full year before the city switched its employees to WageWorks where we have to buy them monthly now. The premium card, which was the same as a regular MetroCard save a blue-colored backing, lasted pretty well. The card was eventually white from the ink rubbing off of it from how it got beat up.

But I’ve had my fair share of regular MetroCards (and a monthly, too) where the strip suddenly stops working. Maybe I put it down on some electronic system that fried the strip, but sometimes I’ve just pulled it from my pocket and that’s that.

The worry I have is about needing to mail in non-functional MetroCards. If the MTA wants to push people using theirs until the strip wears out or one year, they *have* to come up with better refund system for a malfunctioning MetroCard. Right now they are backlogged upwards of a month according to them, and in a rare instance it took them three months to process a refund on my card. That’s a long time to have to front the next month’s card for many of the working class. Hopefully eFix will soon process malfunctioning cards too.

Though, even though it took three months for my refund, they entered my information into the computer three days after I mailed it. It just took them three months to “process” it, whatever that entails on their end. It’s a little frustrating because if I called it in as stolen instead, I would have received my refund in a few days.

Paul January 25, 2012 - 2:09 pm

How is the MTA going to reconcile the $1 card surcharge with the TransitCheck program? Through that program people can receive a new Unlimited Ride MetroCard once a month. Those aren’t easy to refill when it’s pre-tax income arranged by your employer. I don’t think they should be penalizing participants with surcharges that they can’t avoid.

Jason B. January 25, 2012 - 2:19 pm

Hopefully those will be exempt, or covered through the administrative charges Transit Center charges the employer. Thankfully those come via Transit Center and not directly from the MTA.

Alon Levy January 25, 2012 - 4:28 pm

My pay-per-rides have generally lasted right up until they expired.

Kevin January 25, 2012 - 5:04 pm

It depends how lucky you are but an employee pass lasts up to the expiration date…and they go through a lot more swipes than a normal commuter.

William January 25, 2012 - 3:23 pm

After Feb. 1, will I be able to refill my current unlimited card or will I need to buy a new, refillable unlimited card?

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Ed January 25, 2012 - 8:12 pm

I found this interesting but I won’t be taking advantage of it.

The reasons are that I am worried about the strip running out or the card being stolen. I realize there are remedies for that but trying to get a replacement card from the MTA once every so often seems more time consuming and cumbersome than just taking a few minutes to get a new card when your card runs out. I’ve learned over the years to add in some extra time when planning my trips for the hassles and delays that always seem to occur and once a month that budgeted time goes towards getting a new card when the old one runs out.

Andrew January 25, 2012 - 10:28 pm

I don’t see why many people would take advantage of it. Unless you’re especially environmentally conscious, there’s no benefit, and there’s the added risk that the card will wear out. (As you say, getting a defective unlimited card replaced is a big hassle.)

Once the $1 charge is implemented, of course, that will change. The idea here is probably to test a system that will be fairly unpopular at first but will be critical next year.

If a second 30-day or 7-day period is added before the first one expires, I wonder if they have to be consecutive. If my 30-day unlimited expires today, I don’t necessarily have to start up the next one tomorrow – if I’m not going to be riding the subway much for the next few days, I might be better off waiting until next week to activate it. But if I add a second 30-day period to an existing 30-day card, will the clock keep counting or will it wait until I first swipe it before activating the second 30 days?

Benjamin Kabak January 25, 2012 - 10:30 pm

The clock does not keep ticking. The next term doesn’t begin until your first swipe, as it is now when you purchase a new card from an MVM.

Andrew January 25, 2012 - 10:39 pm

Good. Thank you.

Matthias January 26, 2012 - 4:01 pm

This is such a no-brainer. I wonder what took so long, and why the restriction on types of passes that can be added.

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John B. January 27, 2012 - 2:22 pm

I think that it was already time for bringing this feature with Metrocard. I hope they will improve their refilling services soon, that you will be able to refill as much time as needed.
As their customer, you should make the decision whether you want to refill one month or one week and not be limited by the current card type. As a programmer, I donĀ“t think that this would be such a problem. If I compare it for example with PRESTO Card in TO, Metrocard is still behind. I hope it will get better soon.

Andrew January 29, 2012 - 8:51 am

The MetroCard system is going to be replaced by a new smartcard system in a few years. I don’t think it makes sense to pay Cubic (the proprietary MetroCard vendor) to make major changes now. Frankly, I’m surprised even this change was made.

Richard June 8, 2012 - 2:49 am

I still find metrocards with leftover $ & unlimited ones even after february 1 2012

Nicole April 26, 2013 - 8:27 am

If I have 5 days left on my current 30-day card and then refill, does the new 30 days start at the next swipe and I lose my 5 days? Or, does it know the end date of the 5 remaining days and 30 more days starts at that time?

Benjamin Kabak April 26, 2013 - 10:53 am

It starts after your five days elapse. You can store extra time on your card, and it’s not used until your current period runs out.

Nicole D. June 15, 2013 - 5:50 pm

I lost my monthly metrocard yesterday on my way home from work. It still had ten days left on it. I usually receive my new card a week before the previous one expires. Can I start using my new card BEFORE the old one expires?

kristi July 25, 2014 - 10:58 pm

That’s all just lovely. But I still don’t understand why when getting rid of token that last hundreds of years they didn’t replace them with something stronger like a credit card. It is insane to replace something so solid with millions of future pieces of garbage. Shame!


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