New Button On MetroCard Machines Lets You Buy Rides With No Change Left Over


Hallelujah! Bundled in the new fare increases was a small change to MTA vending card machines that actually helps commuters – not adds to their misery.

When fare hikes rolled out this past Sunday, the MTA added a button to the machines for a value – $27.25 – that leaves commuters with exactly 11 rides and zero balance if they so choose.

The change was first noted by I Quant NY, a website that also served as one of the most vocal advocates for such an option, and did the widely reported math last year for the magic amount users could add to fill up their cards with no change left over.

The problem of leftover change on MetroCards was created after the fare hike in 2009, when the default buttons for adding value to your MetroCard never left you with an exact number of rides. You’d throw on, say, $9, end up with $9.45 after your bonus, then after three rides be left with $1.95 on the card. For the determined among us, we’d keep on hitting that $20 button and the once or twice a year we find a zero balance on our cards, well, it was like winning the lottery. Except you didn’t get anything.

That leftover fare – abandoned by tourists and occasional riders – ends up adding “at least $11 million annually” to the MTA’s bottom line, according to the New York Times.

Some have said it’s intentional. Others have suggested that, hey, maybe nobody at the MTA noticed. Regardless, those without the time, skill or inclination to do the math were screwed.

But beginning last Sunday, the MetroCard machines’ default values are nice round numbers – $9, $19 and $39 – plus bonuses. But there’s one that stands out – $27.25 (plus $3 bonus). That lands you exactly 11 rides, as I Quant NY notes.

There’s also a new online fare calculator to help you determine how much you need to refill a card to get it back to an even balance, a handy feature for those who want to get back on track and only need to put $27.25 on in the future.

The MTA has yet to really tout the change, and the machine itself doesn’t make it clear that it leaves you with zero balance. So those not in the know, like tourists, may still end up receiving the screw.

But the rest of us, hey, well, we’re better than that.

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  • disqus_QTP8yI2fRm

    Is this an actual problem? Paying for a ride and getting extra? Not knowing what to do with change? First world problems at their finest, really. People need to find other things to worry about.