Reminder: Minimum Fare Requirement for Smartrip Cards goes into effect Sept. 1

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC


Beginning Sept. 1, customers will be able to get a $3 rebate for new SmarTrip® card purchases when they register their card online. The cards will still cost $5, but a $3 credit will be refunded to the card five days after first use. SmarTrip® online registration also protects a rider’s balance if the card is lost or stolen and allows customers to add value to the card via the web.

Also beginning Sept. 1, riders will need a minimum of $1.20 on a SmarTrip® card to enter the Metrorail system. For riders using a senior/disabled SmarTrip® card, the minimum will be 35 cents. The change makes SmarTrip® consistent with paper fare cards, which have a minimum fare requirement for entry into the rail system.

Additional changes to SmarTrip® starting Sept. 1 include:

SmarTrip® card vending machines will be available in all Metrorail stations to make it easier and more convenient for riders to purchase the cards. The machines are already in 47 stations.
The Metrorail Fast Pass, which provides seven days of unlimited Metrorail travel, will be available only on SmarTrip® and can be purchased online or at station vending machines. Paper Fast Pass cards will no longer be sold after Aug. 31, and will be accepted only through Dec. 31.

Metro introduced SmarTrip® cards in 1996 and has encouraged riders to take advantage of the plastic, rechargeable fare card that offers lower Metrobus and Metrorail fares. Bus riders save 20-cents per ride, get free bus-to-bus transfers and a 50-cent discount if transferring to rail when using SmarTrip®. Metrorail riders avoid the $1 surcharge on paper fare cards by using SmarTrip® and receive the 50-cent discount when transferring from rail to bus.

18 Comment

  • metro is the worst. why take away the small convenience of being able to go in the negative every once in a while. the worst. on. all. counts.

    • I agree. They take away the smallest of convieniences and consistenly raise the fares; yet, the service continues on a downward spiral.

      • I’m shocked, SHOCKED I say, to learn that an institution so long affiliated with Jim Graham could be involved in suckiness.

  • Bummer. One of the great conveniences of a Smartrip is not having to think about how much money you need on your card. Not sure what the point of this is–not to stop scammers from using and disposing of cards instead of refilling them, since you can presumably still exit with negative dollars. Is that even a problem? It seems like it would be way more trouble than it’s worth.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      I think if you registered your card online, you can set it up to auto-reload when it goes below a certain amount, which means you would never need to think about how much is on your card.

    • It isn’t a problem now because you purchase the card for $5, so it was more effective to pay off the negative balance than buy a new card. One of the complaints of the current program is that the card isn’t worth $5 and they should offer it for closer to cost, so they are changing it to a $2 effective price. These means that you could easily go negative more than the purchase price of the card, if you could enter the system with a $0 balance. Someone could definately catch on and (without doing anything illegal) simply discard there card after each use or two.

      I don’t really see what the big deal is. Before you couldn’t enter with less than $0, now its $1.20. Before you bought the card for $5, now its $2. Seems like its just a different number on the screen.. and you are floating metro 80 cents less than before.

      • Look at that math, $1.80 less is floated.

      • It’s not the biggest hassle in the world to remember that your balance has to be above $1.20 rather than zero, but it’s pretty arbitrary. $1.20 won’t get you anywhere in the system–the lowest rail fares are now $1.70 and bus fare is $1.60.

  • Tsar of Truxton

    Does anyone know how the minimum will work with multiple “purses.” I typically have no idea how much money is in the second purse until my monthly work benefits run out and then all of a sudden I have a new balance. Presumably, it must be less than $1.20 in both accounts combined.

    • You can see the balance in the purse holding your private money – the money you have added to your card directly (not the money that has been added as a transit benefit) by using the Fare machines. If you tap your card to add money, the balance you will see is that purse of private money. You will see the balance of the transit benefit flashed on the Faregate on exiting the system (if that balance is not $0). The transit benefit is used to pay fares first; when it is $0 the system wiill start to deduct from your private purse.
      This implies that the two purses together would be used to reach the qualifying $1.20, but it’s not clear, so that is a good question.
      Sound confusing?
      It is!

  • Semi good that you can be reimbursed part of that fee. I am on my 3rd metro card in as many years because they are an inferior product, they break, de-magnitize, choose not to work in wallets, chose not to work at all, etc…I wonder where they’re made, and why we can’t have a quality piece of plastic. I’ve had my (FREE) Charlie Card in Boston since they issued them about 6 years ago and no problems…(admitting that the MBTA does not have model financial practices)

    • I thought that SmarTrip cards couldn’t be “demagnetized.” I thought they didn’t have a magnet in them — they have wires or something else that triggers the scanner.

  • Gah, that puts a damper on my afternoon. I like the fact that if I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to put money on my card, I can still get in with only $0.15. I understand not letting me on if I’m in the negative but really, $1.20?

  • I thought part of the purpose for paying $5 upfront for the card was so that you could go -$5 to recoup your costs. If the true fee for the card is $2, then shouldn’t metro give all current registered cardholders (who paid $5) a $3 credit?

    • this is dumb they should have left it the way it was….There was no problem…And i dont think the issue is money what they need to be concerned about is the actual SERVICE….The majority of the time public transit is NOT on time. and it runs extremely slow in the weekends (some ppl still do have to go to work)

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