Let me start by saying I can’t believe this post is still relevant. I thought that by now the MetroCard would have gone the way of the dodo. However, you still need to hang on to those MetroCards.
The MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) of New York has done a lot of work to bring their payment system into the present. Previously, the only way to pay your fare on a subway was to use a MetroCard. The system was horribly outdated, overly confusing, and left tourists with random amounts of money left on their cards at the end of a trip.
On our most recent trip, using the subway from JFK to lower Manhattan and getting from our hotel to Times Square, we didn’t have to use a MetroCard. That’s because the city has completed the task of installing OMNY contactless readers at every subway station and on every city bus. I tapped my iPhone and Sharon used her Apple Watch to pay our fare. Using the Express Transit feature, we didn’t even need to unlock our devices before making the payment.
This doesn’t mean we could do without a MetroCard though, because the turnstiles to get out of the JFK Airtrain stations at Jamaica Station and Howard Beach still don’t have OMNY readers, yet.
You need a MetroCard at JFK Airport to ride the AirTrain, which is the only public transportation option that connects the airport to the subway and Long Island Rail Road. The AirTrain is free to ride within the airport, but you need to pay a $8.25 fare to ride between Jamaica Station and Howard Beach Station. You can purchase a MetroCard at vending machines or ticket booths at both of these stations for an additional $1 fee.
I knew this, but I hadn’t added a MetroCard to my “travel wallet shuffle” list. Fortunately, Sharon had an old one stuffed in the back of her wallet. It had a $0 balance and expired 6 months ago, but that was no matter. It still would save us some money.
I walked to the machine and went to add funds to a card. When I put in the expired card, the machine asked if I wanted to exchange the old card for a new one. I tapped “yes,” and it spit out my old card. I added the exact fare for 2 AirTrain rides.
I’m not even going to get into discussing why the machine doesn’t offer $8.25 or multiples thereof as an option, favoring choices of $10 and up. I had to manually type how much I wanted to load on the card to prevent a balance from remaining when we were finished.
Once the AirTrain at JFK completes the changeover, we won’t need MetroCards anymore. But who knows when that will happen? Until then, I’ll keep a MetroCard in my wallet when we travel to New York, in case of emergencies.
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