The MetroCard is your access pass to the subways and buses in New York City. Find out how this little card can be a big part of your trip.
What is a MetroCard and how do I use it?
- What is a MetroCard and how do I use it?
- Where can I buy this card?
- How much does it cost to use the Subways?
- MetroCard Prices
- Should I buy a pay-per-ride or an unlimited card?
- Are there any advantages to the pay-per-ride card?
- Can two people share the same card?
- Do I have to pay for my kids to use the buses and subways?
- What if I lose my card?
The MetroCard is a card used to access the New York City subway system and city buses. It does not include commuter railroads like the Long Island Railroad or the Metro North.
To use the card, swipe it at a turnstile in a subway station or “dip” the card into the farebox on a bus.
Where can I buy this card?
You can purchase a MetroCard from:
- MetroCard vending machines inside all subway stations. Vending machines accept cash, debit, or credit cards.
- An agent at a subway station booth. Agents accept cash only.
- Some airport kiosks and convenience stores throughout the city.
How much does it cost to use the Subways?
When you purchase a MetroCard to use the New York City Subway System, you will have to decide between the following two options:
- Pay-per-ride card: You can add the amount of money you want and then continue to add more money to “refill” the card at a vending machine as needed. Each time you use the card on a subway or bus, $2.50 is deducted from the total.
- Unlimited pass: This allows you to take the subway or city bus as many times as you want in a given period of time.
A $1 “new card fee” applies every time a new MetroCard is purchased.
*This is the cost per ride if you are using a pay-per-ride card. If you purchase a single ride card, which is for one time use only, it will cost $2.75.
Should I buy a pay-per-ride or an unlimited card?
This depends on how much you plan to use public transportation during your visit. If you intend to really get around the city and will be primarily using public transportation instead of taxis, then it is probably worthwhile to buy an unlimited card.
To get your money out of an unlimited card, you will have to use it every day and at least a couple of times each day. If you are sightseeing all day and you don’t stay in the same area, this shouldn’t be a problem. Just going from your hotel to one place and returning to your hotel is already two rides.
Also take into account the additional effort of having to keep track of how many rides are left on the card and continually stopping to put more money on the card. In our experience, tourists often find that it is less money and less hassle to get the unlimited card.
The table below shows the number of times you have to use an unlimited card to make it cheaper than using the pay-per-ride option.*
|7-Day Unlimited||13 rides in 7 days|
|30-Day Unlimited||45 rides in 30 days|
*This comparison does not take into account the small bonus you get when you use a pay-per-ride card (described below).
Are there any advantages to the pay-per-ride card?
You can get a little bit of a deal with the pay-per-ride card. If you put $5 or more on a card, you receive a 5% bonus. This usually doesn’t add up to much and you will likely end up with a balance that is a weird denomination like $1.15 that doesn’t pay for a ride and can’t be used unless you add more money.
Sharing is allowed for pay-per-ride cards but not for unlimited cards. With a pay-per-ride card, you can use it and then pass it behind you to another person for up to four people. The unlimited card can only be used for one person at a time. To protect against sharing, it cannot be used at the same subway station or on the same bus route for 18 minutes following each use.
Do I have to pay for my kids to use the buses and subways?
Up to 3 children can ride for free as long as they are no taller than 44 inches (112 centimeters) in height and accompanied by a paying adult.
What if I lose my card?
Your MetroCard balance is protected against loss or theft ONLY IF you have a 7-day or 30-day Unlimited Pass and you purchased the card from a vending machine using a credit, debit, or ATM card.
If these conditions apply to you and your card is lost or stolen, immediately call 511 to reach the Balance Protection Program. You will be refunded in the form of a credit back to your credit or debit card for $7.14 per day remaining on your 7-Day card or $3.47 per day remaining on your 30-Day card.
The amounts are based on the day you notify them of your loss.