This Little Known iPhone Feature Saved Me From Major Embarassment

by joeheg

Since we live in Orlando, there’s not much opportunity for us to use public transportation. We occasionally use the SunRail to get to downtown Orlando but the train doesn’t run late on the weekdays and has no weekend service.

However, we like to use public transportation when we travel. We frequently take the subway when visiting New York and I was thrilled to learn that we could pay for rides using an iPhone or Apple Watch.

Several mass transit systems around the world allow you to use a card in your Apple Wallet to pay for rides. With “Express Mode,” you don’t have to unlock your device. It’s as simple as tap and go. With the MTA in New York, the charge goes to your selected credit card. However, for other transit systems, you need to link one of their payment cards to your Apple Wallet.

When we visited Washington D.C., I purchased a SmarTrip card from a vending machine for $2. While on the Metro from Dulles Airport to Metro Center, I linked the card to my iPhone.

a screenshot of a cellphone

A word of caution is that once your link your card to your Apple Wallet, the physical card is useless.

Everything was fine as all I had to do was tap my phone to exit the station and the money was deducted from my account. I could add money to my card by using my phone or tapping my phone on a machine at a station. While I wanted to use my device as my ticket, Sharon used her physical ticket for our trip.

After a full day of sightseeing, I realized that my phone battery was almost dead and I forgot to bring my charger with me. Fortunately, the iPhone has a feature built for idiots like me who run out of battery.

You might be able to use your Express Mode cards, passes, and keys on your iPhone, even when your device needs to be charged. With compatible iPhone models, you might be able to use power reserve with some cards, passes, and keys that have Express Mode turned on for up to five hours when your iPhone needs to be charged.

Even if your iPhone is “dead,” it still has some charge left. You can use that reserve to pay for mass transit rides with Express Mode.

While I couldn’t turn on my phone, I was able to add funds to my SmarTrip account at a machine, tap on the Metro, and pay for the ride when exiting the station.

The worst-case scenario would have been having to pay $2 for another card and deal with Sharon calling me names for the rest of the trip because I was so stupid to run out of battery on my phone without bringing my Anker charger.

Fortunately, the Apple geeks who designed the iPhone planned for people like me who let their phone go dead but still need to use it to get on a train home.

Thanks, Apple!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Gene May 6, 2023 - 4:30 pm

Sharon, call you names? Can’t imagine.

Sammy May 6, 2023 - 10:20 pm

Metro Center, not Metro Central

joeheg May 6, 2023 - 10:58 pm

Thanks. Don’t know if I can blame that one on autocorrect or if it was my mistake.


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