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FAQ - MetroCard Service

What transportation options do the different MetroCards cover?

MetroCards are issued as free (combination bus and subway) or half-fare (bus only) passes. Each MetroCard has a ten-digit serial number imprinted on the back of the pass near the magnetic tape. It only works between the hours of 5:30 AM and 8:30 PM on days when NYC DOE schools are in session, and is only to be used by the person to whom the card was issued.

  • Full-fare MetroCard: It provides three trips on either subway or bus lines. A special four-trip MetroCard is available upon principal request. On most trips, a card can be used to freely transfer from bus to subway, bus to bus, or subway to bus.
  • Half-Fare MetroCard: It is only good for use on buses and is only valid for three trips per day.

How and when are MetroCards distributed?

MetroCards are sent to schools twice a year, once per semester. For the fall semester, schools receive cards approximately one week before the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) school calendar begins. For the spring semester, schools receive cards in mid-January. Note that in the fall shipment, OPT sends approximately 20 percent more cards than are requested to account for the addition of new students and lost cards.

Schools distribute full- and half-fare cards to students according to their eligilibity codes in ATS. When distributing cards, the Charter Center recommends creating a list of MetroCard serial numbers (found on the back of the card) and having students sign on a line next to the serial number of the card they receive. This list can then be used to update the student's ATS record with his/her MetroCard serial number.

What happens if a student loses his or her MetroCard? How do schools request additional cards?

To assign a student a new MetroCard, schools must go in to the transportation part of ATS and deactivate the lost MetroCard and replace the old MetroCard serial number with the new MetroCard serial number for that student.

Schools can request additional MetroCards by emailing OPT with the school's OPT number and the number of cards needed by type of card (full/ half-fare). For more information, see this Web page.

How can a school get MetroCards for days outside of the NYCDOE calendar?

The quickest way to purchase MetroCards from the MTA is to set up a credit card account. There are other methods such as paying by check or paying directly through a bank account, but they take about four weeks. Turnaround for initial credit card account orders is within 10 business days, after which turnaround is about twenty four hours. The application process is as follows:

  • Go to the MTA’s website and select “How to Become a MetroCard Merchant." Bulk amounts are at the bottom of the page.
  • Select “Credit card purchase application” and fill out the form
  • Print and fax to the number on the form (in red), 718.694.1686

To facilitate fast account set up, it is best to fax the form and to call ahead so they can be looking for your fax. The person who handles Bulk Orders is Cathy Thomas at 718.694.1750.

Unlike MetroCards that are purchased at station machines, cards purchased in bulk directly from the MTA cannot be replaced if lost or stolen. However, damaged cards or cards that become inoperable can be replaced by following the normal online procedure.

MetroCard best practices

MetroCards are easily damaged or misplaced, but they are also easily traceable for replacement. Both the MetroCard distributor at the school and the student should follow these procedures:

  • The school transportation coordinator should keep a record of MetroCard serial numbers and the names of the students to whom the cards are given. Students should also be encouraged to record and store their serial number in a safe place.
  • When the MetroCard is issued, the student’s name should be printed on the white strip on the back before the card is used.
  • Students should be made aware that their MetroCard can only be used by them, and that if they let anyone else use or borrow it, a police officer or transit personnel can take away their card. If they alter or damage the card on purpose or use it in any other way than intended, it may be confiscated, and they may be fined or arrested.
  • If a student’s MetroCard is not working, he or she should return it to the school transportation coordinator after asking the station agent or bus operator for help.

How does a school maintain MetroCard inventory throughout the year?

Via the ATS MetroCard Inventory system. When MetroCards are distributed at the start of the year, MetroCard serial numbers are assigned to specific students. If a card is lost/replaced, the serial number/student record must be updated. OPT reviews inventory figures before sending additional cards.