Don’t Throw Away An Expired New York MTA MetroCard

by joeheg

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 The system was horribly outdated, overly confusing, and left tourists with random amounts of money left on their cards at the end of a trip.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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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Amy Fischer January 3, 2022 - 8:57 pm

One time I had an expired metrocard that had $70 on it. I was taking the express bus regularly but then my commute changed. I mailed the card into the Brooklyn office that handles the things and thought I would never get it back. 7 months later they sent me a new card. I was happy.

Jennifer Barbour January 6, 2022 - 10:01 am

Yes I always keep my metro card, and put it in for a new one, I even told my friends, especially when we are low income every dollar counts.

Thanks for posting, because I never thought about posting this info.

Leslieann August 29, 2023 - 6:48 am


Warren September 11, 2023 - 9:44 pm

No. OMNY takes payments from digital wallets, credit or debit cards or you can get a refillable OMNY card.

Sol September 9, 2023 - 8:07 pm

There’s another reason not to throw away your metrocard just yet.
The city buses in long Island and Westchester don’t have OMNY card readers yet, but they still take metrocards. They have their own apps if you wanna take their buses and transfer within their systems, but if you’re transferring between NYC buses/subways and buses in Long Island or Westchester, you can only get a free transfer by using your metrocard.

John Lister January 6, 2022 - 11:39 am

Not just that. If you’re going to or from Westchester using their Beeline buses, you should use your MetroCard so you can get the free transfer at least until the buses are converted to OMNY.

Sol September 9, 2023 - 8:08 pm

Yes, and if you’re traveling between NYC buses/subways and long Island buses.

Robert Mazzella January 6, 2022 - 5:08 pm

The fares are $2.75, not $7.75.

Harvey Wachtel January 8, 2022 - 5:16 pm

$7.75 is the fare for the AirTrain to/from JFK.

Stephen August 27, 2023 - 11:44 am

Yep it’s outrageous, it’s why we Taxi from Manhattan to the airport 4 people plus luggage is cheaper and easier in a Taxi. It’s a disincentive to using public transit

Gerald Caporicci January 6, 2022 - 5:25 pm

I read quickly so I may have missed, but at present a big disadvantage of OMNI is that it doesn’t allow for unlimited weekly or monthly fares. It wouldn’t be unusual for a visitor to be on the subway six times in one day. At $2.75 per tap, a 7 day unlimited metro card is likely a much better value. It feels like the MTA is exploiting the convenience of OMNI to capture a bit more revenue. I understand that this will be corrected in the future when OMNI will be programmed to automatically give you the lowest fare – that is stop taking $2.75 per ride once you meet the 7 day max. Unrelated, it will also accommodate senior discounts.

Stephen August 27, 2023 - 11:41 am

This has now been implemented. 12 taps in a week on the same device / card gets you to a free ride at 13 plus.

It’s still imperfect as a tourist arriving on midweek to midweek would pay for 24 rides.

Mona August 28, 2023 - 9:42 am

Great info, thanks , nyc is still in cave man period because not everyone can afford a smartphone., believe it or not.

Calvin August 29, 2023 - 11:43 am

You missed it, after your single Omni fares equal the cost of a weekly pass, your remaining fares that week are free.

Rimma Kaminsky January 7, 2022 - 5:44 am

How people with discounted metrocard will pay for fair .This is not an option with omni machines

Stephen August 27, 2023 - 11:42 am Reply
Stephanie L. January 9, 2022 - 11:18 am

I Don’t Think The MTA Shouldn’t Phase Out The MetroCard Period, Because A Lot Of People Aren’t Tech Savvy, With The Technology Of The OMNY Payment Machine, And Most People Are Especially Unaware For/OF Identity Theft, OR Just Theft IN General, Especially Older People, Some People Just Doesn’t REALLY Understand How The System Works, Not To MENTION, DON’T Want To Learn About How, Because For MOST PEOPLE It’s TOO Complicated

Stephen August 27, 2023 - 11:52 am

Say what? MetroCard magnetic stripe tech is outdated. It’s being replaced with tap to pay. You can replace your MetroCard with an OMNY card that works in a similar manner and gets filled in a similar manner.

Or for most people with a contactless payment card you use that instead. What is hard about this one? Most people don’t use the magnetic stripe or get their credit card ironed to pay with it these days.

Vincenta Hunt January 10, 2022 - 12:55 am

The mat doesn’t care about the ppl. Elderly people used to MTA trains and buses please explain to me how to hell is it going to use the credit card on this new system where they probably don’t want you getting robbed from in the streets in on the Internet please explain to me how to actually going to use this and how they going to prevent being hacked. Sorry but I’m getting my own car or I’ll walk to work.i refuse to use my bank card to but used on the train or but. Sorry I just cant

joeheg January 10, 2022 - 11:33 pm

I imagine that’s what the new OMNY card is going to be useful for. I hope the include services like other places in the world where daily/weekly/monthly/senior tickets will be trackable if you use the same card for all transactions.

joeheg January 11, 2022 - 10:04 pm

You have way more personal experience and persistence dealing with this as a local. Since I’m an occasional visitor, I simply wanted to let people know not to throw away their cards because they have a zero balance.

Catherine Hayes January 12, 2022 - 2:28 pm

How will seniors pay half fare with OMNI?

Trichice26 April 15, 2022 - 9:02 pm

How will people with Fair Fares be able to use OMNI?

joeheg April 15, 2022 - 10:52 pm

For now, people who use the Fair Fares program are being told to continue using the MetroCard system. OMNY is working on adding these fares, as well as other discounted rates to the system.

Stephen August 27, 2023 - 11:53 am

Say what? MetroCard magnetic stripe tech is outdated. It’s being replaced with tap to pay. You can replace your MetroCard with an OMNY card that works in a similar manner and gets filled in a similar manner.

Or for most people with a contactless payment card you use that instead. What is hard about this one? Most people don’t use the magnetic stripe or get their credit card ironed to pay with it these days.

Diana Valle August 27, 2023 - 2:33 pm

I’m 72yrs old disabled use rollator walker w yellow lab service dog. I’m technically Challenged. Please don’t get rid of Metrocards bc I don’t understand Omni system + have no 1 2 help me. I had Access A Ride transportation for Disabled but taken from me. I have been assaulted many times. BTW, ACCESS A RIDE ISN’T FREE. IT COSTS $2.75 + NOW COSTS $2.90 EACH TRIP.

N August 27, 2023 - 5:16 pm

Now the fare 2.90

Uppercore August 27, 2023 - 6:59 pm

Currently there’s no OMNY system on Nice Long lsland bus service so l still use the card.

Shane August 28, 2023 - 11:41 am

MTA is short for Metropolitan Transit Authority not Mass Transit Authority as you published.

joeheg August 28, 2023 - 7:44 pm

Thanks for the catch. Not sure how that one got in there.

Johnathan Doe August 28, 2023 - 10:48 pm

You cant purchase metrocards are the booths anymore… FYI

PH August 31, 2023 - 8:12 am

Should remain optional for customers the forms of payments they rather use especially those that are high tech illiterate whether young or old.


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