MetroCard New York

MetroCard New York: information and prices

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The MetroCard New York is a good option if you are planning to spend a few days in New York and are looking for a simple and economical way to get around! The Metro is the easiest way to make the most of your stay in New York – you'll be able to get from one area to another quickly and make the most of your time here.

Convenient and affordable, the bus is also a very popular means of transport among New Yorkers. So if you want to do what they do and use the city's bus and underground lines, get a MetroCard New York – the must-have ticket for visiting New York!

Want to know more about this card? Just read the following article. I'll tell you where to buy it, how much it costs and even how to operate it!

What is the MetroCard?

metrocard new york

The MetroCard is a magnetic card that allows you to travel freely on the subways and buses in New York.

It is valid on all bus and underground lines in the city: you can use it in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island City, Staten Island, the Bronx and Westchester County. You can also use it if you want to take the Roosevelt Island cable car. It's a great way to get around New York City! You can go see the Top of the Rock and then take the underground down to the south side of Manhattan to visit the One World Trade Center. It would certainly take much longer on foot!

The MetroCard was introduced to modernise public transport in New York. It replaced the old tokens, which were used until 2003.

This yellow-coloured card is reloadable!

Why buy a New York MetroCard?

New York is huge! With the MetroCard, you'll be able to use the underground and bus and move from one area to another in a convenient and rather affordable way. It will also allow you to go around the city like real New Yorkers do!

You can easily visit the Empire State Building during the day and then return to your hotel in the evening. 

Please note that while it is still possible to pay for your bus trips in cash, this is no longer the case for the underground. If you want to use it, you will have to buy either a single ticket or a MetroCard.

Depending on your preferences, you can choose between two types of cards:

  • The pay-per-use card: REGULAR METROCARD / PAY-PER-RIDE CARD
    Your card will be charged for each journey you make.

  • The unlimited use payment card: UNLIMITED RIDE METROCARD
    You will top up your card with the unlimited formula of your choice: 7 days, 1 month or 1 year.

Where to buy the MetroCard?

You can buy your New York MetroCard: 

  • at a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) kiosk in the underground stations (note that not all underground stations have kiosks!);
  • at an automatic terminal, also in some of the city's underground stations (to find them, follow the signs at the entrance to the underground station);
  • in one of the vending machines at bus stops;
  • in a bus;
  • at tourist offices;
  • in some shops in New York.

How to buy a card from an electronic terminal? 

Don't worry, most of the time you will be able to select your language before proceeding. But if you can’t, here's how to do it:

  • Select "get new card".
  • Choose the type of card you want: 'regular' (simple, reloadable credit) or 'unlimited' (unlimited travel card).
  • For the MetroCard Unlimited, select the package of your choice: 7 days, 30 days or 1 year.
  • Proceed to payment. You will be asked for a postcode – since you live abroad, enter "99999" or "10001".

Payments are made by credit card or cash (tip: if you pay by cash but don't have the exact amount, stay as close as possible to the total to be paid – the machines don't give more than $9 in change!)

These kiosks will also allow you to find out how much credit you have left or when your MetroCard is due to expire:

  • Select "get card info".
  • To refill your card, you obviously select "refill your card".

Note that if you buy a MetroCard by credit card, you can only buy two per day. 

If you are 4 people, you will need 2 credit cards to get MetroCards for everyone. So pay in cash, it will be more convenient!

ticket metrocard

How much does the MetroCard cost?

A MetroCard costs $1. Fares then vary according to the length of validity chosen and the age of the user. In fact, you recharge your card according to your needs:

  • a trip,
  • a time,
  • a sum of money.

With the "PAY-PER-RIDE" MetroCard, you pay for the trips you take.

A metro journey costs $3 (single fare), but with a PAY-PER-RIDE card you will only pay $2.75.

They will be deducted from the credit on your card each time you travel.

You can load your card with anything from $5.50 to $100 – but note that you can only load a maximum of $80 at a time.

You can make metro/bus changes for up to 120 minutes after scanning your card.

Note that a card can be used by up to 4 people – i.e. if you only have one card in your group of 4 people, you can access the metro or bus by scanning it 4 times. However, if there are 5 of you, you will need a second card: the MetroCard can only be scanned 4 times in a row.

With the UNLIMITED RIDE METROCARD, you have several options:

  • The "7-DAY UNLIMITED RIDE METROCARD" is valid for 7 consecutive days. It costs $33.

If you plan to use public transport often during your stay, the 7-day unlimited card is the perfect solution. It will quickly become profitable! That's why it's the most commonly used card for tourists.

  • The "30-DAY UNLIMITED RIDE METROCARD" is valid for 30 days. It costs $127.
  • The one-year card is valid for a whole year, so it is of no interest to tourists.

Some New York residents are eligible for discounted fares: seniors and Medicare cardholders.

Note that children under 1.12 metres travel free of charge if accompanied by an adult paying full-fare – above this height, the adult fare applies. There is also a limit of 3: if you travel with more than 3 children, you will have to pay the adult fare for the 4th.

Here is a table summarising the fares with the MetroCard's specific features:

MetroCard purchase price: $1

Single ticket

 (without connection)

Single trip: $2.75

Active from the first use

Single ticket

 (with connections)

Metro/metro or metro/bus: $2.75

To be used within the 2 hour limit

"Pay-per-ride" card

Reloadable from $5.50 to $100

Valid for 1 year


Valid for up to 4 consecutive scans

Fare is deducted at each scan

"7-day unlimited" card


Valid for an unlimited period of 7 days

Valid for one person only

"30-day unlimited ride" card


Valid for 1 month

How to use your MetroCard?

transport new york

The MetroCard becomes active the first time it is used.

In the underground, you will have to swipe it in the slot provided. The yellow side should be on the turnstile side, with the magnetic strip facing down. Wait for the "go" signal to appear before you can pass.

On the bus, insert it into the reader.  

Note that if you have opted for the PAY-PER-RIDE METROCARD, you can use it several times consecutively (4 times maximum). If there are two of you, use it twice and two trips will be charged to your card. If there are three of you, three times (3 journeys debited), etc.

Remember to keep your MetroCard – don't throw it away at the end of your stay! Indeed, it has a certain lifespan (the date is written on the back), i.e. a period during which you can still recharge it. So you can use it again the next time you're in New York. It can also become a nice souvenir to bring back with you – especially as it will soon become a collector's item (see below)!

Also, be careful not to demagnetize your MetroCard! Keep your receipt in case it happens, so you can get another one (even if it only costs a dollar, think of the money loaded on it!).

Soon the end of the MetroCard!

New York’s transport network, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has introduced a new contactless payment system in 2019. Already in use, OMNY is a smartphone payment system, although it also exists in card form. The New York MetroCard is scheduled to be fully replaced in 2023.

Many underground stations are already equipped with OMNY cards, despite criticism of them. More details are available on the MTA's official website.

That's it for this article! I hope I made using New York public transports a bit easier to understand. Good luck to you in any case! 😉

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auteurs blog new york
A first trip to New York, and a new favorite city! 30 years old, city dweller and good-plan finder, I share my New York discoveries on this blog to help you visit this magnificent city with me. With each new trip, there are more activities to discover!


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