Lost And Unused Metrocards Add Up To $52 Million a Year

Monday, April 18, 2011


The value of lost, expired or unused Metrocards over the course of a year adds up to a hefty $52 million. To encourage riders to keep better track of cards, the MTA will start charging a $1 Metrocard replacement fee later this year.

The program is expected to net $20 million from both the fee and the diminished costs associated with having fewer Metrocards -- to print, program, recycle and clean up -- in circulation. The MTA also hopes the surcharge will lower the 15 cents is spends on fare collection for every $1 taken in.

"Our study concluded that the great majority [of unused Metrocards] ... results from Metrocards that are lost, misplaced, sit in one's bag/dresser/wallet forever and get forgotten about or belong to visitors who've left town or ex-New Yorkers who've moved away," MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in an email.

"These occurrences wouldn't be significantly affected by a surcharge," he said.

Nearly half of all Metrocards sold are pay-per-ride rather than unlimited. As of now, 7- and 30-day unlimited cards must be discarded when they expire. But riders will be able to refill them once the fee is imposed. No date has been given for the switch.

A common problem for some transit users is to have a Metrocard with a leftover fare that doesn't add up to a ride. Riders can have the amounts from several cards consolidated onto one card by station agents.

Damaged cards that are not expired can be taken to station agents, who will swap the old balance onto a new card.

Expired Metrocards that still has value can be mailed to the NYC Transit for a refund within two years after purchase. Pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes are available at subway station booths and on buses. More details can be found on the problems page of the NYC MTA website.


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Comments [19]


While it's true you can exchance expired metrocards for new ones, that only works if you have balance. If the card is empty you are forced to pay for another card.

Mar. 27 2013 02:00 PM

While it's true you can exchance expired metrocards for new ones, that only works if you have balance. If the card is empty you are forced to pay for another card.

Mar. 27 2013 02:00 PM
Ana M from NYC

I hear from my co-workers that two-rides Metrocards frequently allow only one ride. Therefore, NYCTA charges the commuters $4.50 per ride adding to economic hardship they already are subjected to. Therefore, NYCTA should be concerned about it.

Feb. 08 2012 11:26 AM
Anymomous from Brooklyn from Brooklyn NYC USA Earth, Solar System, Universe

Hey anonymous from Red Hook:
I drive these busses. There are brand new cards that aren't worht the plastic they are wrapped in. And the farebox is an internal issue at the depots. Their failure rate is unbelievable. I have to wave people by because their cards read "read error". I am on a one man crusade to inform everyone who overpays and help the public, something the MTA officials in the suits are not doing.

Apr. 19 2011 05:36 PM
anonymous from Red Hook

Has no one ever heard of the phrase caveat emptor? Buyer beware. If the people buying the MetroCards fail to use all the value on the cards and throw the actualy card away that's their stupidity. Sure it benefits the MTA a little but the MTA would rather the public use the card over and over again, recharging and reusing them so the MTA doesn't have to make new cards. That's where they save their money. And you whiners complaining the card doesn't last because it's too flimsy are out of your minds. I've had my card for over one year, use it four times each day and occasionally on the weekend and have had no issues. Sure if YOU bend it it may stop working but if you keep it in you wallet or geet a little poket card size folder you'll have to buy a new card becaseu it expires befor it'll wear out. You're a bunch of chronic whiners.

Apr. 18 2011 06:00 PM
molly from New York City

The wnyc story should include where exactly the obliging station agents who will transfer balances to new cards are. I have yet to encounter a station agent who doesn't tell me I have to take up any issue with a metrocard with the MTA home office itself. And none has ever offered me a postage paid, addressed envelope! Was this story just late for April 1? Or is this a press release from the MTA?

Apr. 18 2011 02:07 PM
Anymomous from Brooklyyn from BKNY

I am a bus operator for NYCTA. Let me hip you to a few things I observe.
1)The advertising about the fare. The cash fare is $2.25. I find people putting $2.50 into the farebox. I call them back and ask them how much did they put in. They get defensive and say $2.50. I kindly reply, "Why did you overpay? The fare is only $2.25." They say, 'Ohhh, I did not know". Thats because they emphesize the fares going up, with no emphasis on the cash fare remaining the same. Only the One Time Use green tickets you purchase at the Subway Kiosk costs $2.50.
2)A LOT of metrocards have remaining balances on it that goes UNUSED! I see people put in a card with only $.25 or .15 or higher, and do not add the change to it. They rather use a new card and start over. The farebox takes the fare no matter what. You cannot check the balance on it (Why I do not know, I guess it is for the sake of schedule).
3)A lot of people STILL pay only $2.00. I have a lot of people who are short the .25 cents. What am I supposed to do? Refund their money? Tell them they cannot ride? NO there is a Shortfare/Farebeat button on the farebox. We are supposed to "challenge" a fare. Hell no, I have no gun, or authority to "challenge anyone". My life and health are not worth $2.25.
4) A lot of people STILL do not pay. They come on with a sob story. What am I supposed to do? You the public tell me________
5)Seniors tend to OVERPAY. A majority of them think the 1/2 fare is $1.25. They pay that. The 1/2 fare is $1.10. Then there are those who only put in $1.00. Am I supposed to challenge a Senior?

The inception of the Metrocard in 1997 was to collect interest on moneies unused. Thats is why you cannot get a transfer from bus to train or vice versa via cash payment. They anticipate you losing your cards so they can keep those extra pennies.

Oh then there is the infamous "Read Error code".
Thats all for now, resume....

Apr. 18 2011 01:49 PM
Ben from Park Slope

I agree with the other posters. This is a SCAM by the MTA.

The post office, for example, is no paragon of efficiency. But they LOVE stamp collecting and actively promote it.

Why? Because it means they sell millions of dollars of sticky paper each year that is taken out of service and ends up on the shelf of some collector somewhere. That is free money WHICH THEY PRINTED and which requires NO SERVICE in exchange.

So the MTA should LOVE the tourists who go back to Iowa with a $2.10 Metrocard. If they are charging a fee for these "lost cards," they are scamming us again and should be drawn and quartered immediately.

Apr. 18 2011 12:22 PM

You know - I got into an argument with an MTA employee at JFK about this. I had a card I used for the airtrain on my way out of NY. I still had the card. He was shoving his new, shiny plastic-wrapped cards in my face saying "$5 for the air-train." I asked if I just put $5 onto the card I already had on the machine, could I just use that? He rolled his eyes at me like it was the dumbest idea in the world, walked away and said "Go ahead. Do that. You won't get in." So, are they going to charge a $1 for their own inefficiency now?

Apr. 18 2011 10:49 AM
john from office

The vast majority of these cards are in the pockets of Tourist. Who buy a card and leave with cash still on the card. But, I dont see how this is a problem??

Apr. 18 2011 10:44 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

It's obvious enough that the entire purpose of not having fares and metrocard denominations evenly divisible is to encourage the cards to be used over and over again, and to have cards with insufficient balances remaining on them expiring, failing because of their flimsy construction, or being discarded. This is good for the MTA, since it reduces the number of new cards that they need to issue, and inevitably ends up allowing them to keep money that doesn't belong to them in the form of mountains of lost or expired $2.10 cards. This is also good for the MTA. Remember, the MTA is not the governemt. It's a public benefit corporation, which is to say it's basically private, and the goal of a private enterprise is to offer as little service as possible for as much money as possible. Anybody with a cell phone is well aware of this fact, and knowing that, nobody should be surprised that there's 52 million dollars floating around like this. Additionally, nobody should be surprised that the MTA is on the disposable card format instead of a rigid or RFID, like most of the rest of the world - It would result in a loss of revenue, customers and environment be damned. Until the MTA is fundamentally changed, we can expect to see revelations like this for a very long time, in addition to their surcharges on virtually every bill we pay.

Apr. 18 2011 10:06 AM

I'm with Catherine. The only reason I ever dump my card is because it bends so easily and can't be read. I don't see why it's the customer's fault when cards don't last after a few months of regular use.

Apr. 18 2011 10:02 AM
L. Bosnos from Manhattan

I agree with lanvy-nyc & Mr. Leitold. My first thought was that it was a problem for us CONSUMERS who lost money on our cards, not for the MTA which would be getting free money basically. Surprised to learn that the MTA thinks it's a problem for ITSELF! Seems like a joke. I do think they could do a better job of recycling those piles of cards which I often see littering the floor around the tiny little card-recycling boxes in the stations. What happens to all those cards, I'd like to know. Hmmm?

Apr. 18 2011 09:29 AM
Catherine from Brooklyn

Why did the MTA choose this form of card anyway? In London, Hong Kong, and even in Boston cards are sturdy and they can be kept in one's wallet because they can be tapped against the sensor rather than swiped. In Hong Kong you can even put cash on the card to use for other things, like grabbing coffee @ 7-11, its great! Why do New Yorkers always have to pay the price for the MTA's bad management and poor decisions?

Apr. 18 2011 08:28 AM

They will still have tens of million in unused cards, plus they get to charge everyone! sweet,

Apr. 18 2011 07:11 AM

This is bogus. We will have a dollar tacked on - then, more dollars when the card needs to be replaced? These cards are not permanent: they get damaged, they expire, and, yes: they do get lost Seems to me that rather than write comments we should be writing the Gov's office...

Apr. 18 2011 07:07 AM
Anna Shun from Brooklyn

I think this is a great idea.

It would do so much to eliminate waste. This is the greenest move of the MTA. I see metrocards on the ground ALL THE TIME. It's bad enough that it's unsightly, but that's just more plastic. What's wrong with people making efforts to keep better track of their cards.

Plus, keeping track of only one card will help to not to waste money. All the money you spend on the mess that is the MTA is in one place.

I also think the MTA should also create hard plastic cards like the Oyster card in London, bc the current card is pretty flimsy...

Apr. 18 2011 06:12 AM
lanvy-nyc from NYC

hold up a minute there!!! MTA gets $52M in sales for services they wont have to render....yet they see this as a problem to be resolved by charging us an extra $1 "cleanup and printing" fee?? This is such a RACKET to fund their inflated pensions.

Is this what it means to serve the people of New York?? Reduce service and increase price.

Apr. 18 2011 03:04 AM
William J Leitold from New York, NY

Only the MTA is capable of seeing unused Metrocards as a problem; no other bussiness in the world would see being paid and not using the service as a problem. My mistake, I forgot the MTA is government not a business, never mind.

Apr. 18 2011 12:37 AM

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