In this article we’ll  provide you with some info regarding the NY subway Metrocard. How to choose the right card for you and where to get one. Also if it is your first time in NY we’re sure that you will find the following tips useful.

MetroCard Types

There are two types to choose between: The Pay Per Ride  MetroCard and the Unlimited Ride MetroCard.

The Pay Per Ride MetroCard is going to cost you $2.75 each time you use the subway or the bus (standard ride). On the other hand the Unlimited Ride MetroCard gives you the option to ride the subway or the bus as many times as you want within a specific range of days.

In order to find out which is the best option for you, you have to consider your trip duration and it is possible to calculate how many times are you going to use the public transport.

Pay Per Ride MetroCard

More specifically the Pay Per Ride MetroCard can be filled with an initial value in any increment between $5.50 and $80. As we’ve mentioned earlier, each standard ride would cost you $2.75. There is a $1 fee in order to acquire the card; therefore to avoid a future $1 fee for the new card, you should keep the old and recharge it for any future use. More specifically:

  • One ride card costs $3. Probably you won’t need this one, since you’re going to use the transportation more than once.
  • The card can be shared by up to four people. Each ride is charged with $2.75/person . You won’t need to buy 4 individual cards and pay the $1 fee for each.  
  • The duration of a $2.75 ride is 2h. Within these 2 hours you can use subway are allowed to use any combination of subway trains and buses.
  • The card can be used in JFKAirTrain that connects the city with the JFK airport. An extra $5 fee is required.

More info about the NY subway here.

Unlimited MetroCard

This card allows you unlimited rides with the subway trains and the buses of NY. It is valid from the first day of usage until midnight of the last day. Weekly and Monthly cards are available.

Again there is the $1 fee for the card itself, so don’t throw the card, you might need it again.

The weekly Unlimited MetroCard costs $33. Further you can see how much money you save by using the card:

  • For 13 rides a $2.53/ride
  • For 15 rides a $2.20/ride
  • For 20 rides a 1.65/ride

If you are going to stay in NY more than 30 days then the monthly Unlimited MetroCard is the right choice. It costs $127 (normal fare) and $63.5 (reduced fare).

Important info that you need to know about Unlimited MetroCard:

  • The card can be used only by one individual.
  • It cannot be used again at the same subway station or the same bus route for (roughly) 18 minutes. This happens in order to prevent the card from being used by more than one person.
  • Not valid for the JFKAirTrain or the Express bus.
What other means of transport are available when using the MetroCard?

Both cards (Pay Per Ride and Unlimited MetroCard) allow you to use as well the following means of transport:

Staten Island subway: You can go there for free by using the Staten Island Ferry. Since you’re there you can take advantage of your MetroCard and explore the island by train.

Roosevelet Island tram: The tram that’s similar to a cablecar, is a great chance to enjoy the view of NY.

New JerseyPATH trains: They connect Manhattan and New Jersey. An extra fee is required if you’re using the Pay Per Ride MetroCard.

Deciding which card is better for you.

In order to decided which card is better for you, you need to know (more or less) how many times are you going to use the subway or bus system during your stay in NY. If you think that you are going to use the means of transport more than 12 times, the Unlimited MetroCard is the right choice for you. In any other case the Pay Per Ride card would be a smarter option when it comes to saving some money.

Read more about NY in our article, here.

Purchase Options

You can buy MetroCards at all subway stations, either at the station booth or by using a MetroCard ticket machine. MetroCards are also available at selected local merchants. Avoid buying the card online, because there are a lot of fraud targeting tourists. In the picture below you can see the two ticket machines. The bigger ones (right), you can pay by cash, debit card and credit card. The smaller ones (left) accept only debit and credit cards.

Ticket machines for metrocard

If you wish to pay by card, you will be asked to write your postal code. For citizens outside USA just type 99999. If you use cash the ticket machine can give you change only in coins and only up to $9.

Tip: Keep the receipt after every transaction. They will come in use in any case your card gets lost or is not functioning.

After purchasing your MetroCard

Now it’s time for the MetroCard Entries. As you can see at the following picture there are the turnstiles in the height of our hip (left) and the full height high turnstiles (right).

Another thing that you need to pay attention to when using the NY subway is the way that you swipe your card. With the MetroCard name facing toward you, swipe your MetroCard through the turnstile in one smooth move. If you do not do it correctly you will be asked to swipe your card again.

It is important to hold the card on your right hand (the machine is always on the right). During rush hour, when everyone is in a hurry it would be a good idea to have your card ready in order to swipe it fast instead of searching your card at the moment your reach the turnstiles.

At the following picture you can see how to hold your card. It is a very common mistake that is done from most of the tourists or even the local ones during rush hour. The card logo should be facing toward you with the black stripe being on bottom.

As we’ve said earlier, you need to swipe your card in a smooth way, not very fast but not very slow as well, otherwise you will be asked to swipe your card again. After a while, when you get used to how things work around there, moving around with the NY subway will be a piece of cake.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) the MetroCard is expected to be phased out by 2023, after almost 30 years. It will be replaced by OMNY, a contactless payment system where riders pay for their fare by waving or tapping credit or debit bank cards, smartphones or MTA-issued contactless smart cards. From 2020 till 2023 both system are going to be used at the same time.

For available activities in NY check here.