The New York City Subway Is Finally Getting a Contactless Fare System

May 27, 2019

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Time to kiss your MetroCard goodbye! Or not, because that would be highly unsanitary.

But, starting May 31, the people of New York City will get to test out a new, contactless fare system that will allow passengers to simply tap through at the turnstile and pay per ride — no more swiping required. It’s called OMNY, and it will be functioning on all Staten Island buses and the 4, 5 and 6 lines between the Grand Central-42 Street and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center stations. The system will work with contactless debit or credit cards, as well as mobile devices and wearables set up with a mobile wallet.

If you’re wondering if contactless entry will work for you, take a look at your credit or debit card. Does it have a symbol that looks sort of like a sideways Wi-Fi icon? If it does, you have an EMV chip-equipped contactless card and can enter the subway just by tapping it against the turnstile screen.

If you don’t, you may be able to request a new card from your bank or credit card company.

With the new contactless system, you can also use your card through your smart device by linking your preferred payment method to one of your digital wallets, such as Apple or Google Pay. Just make sure you’re using a card that gets a high return on travel purchases, as train fares typically code as travel.

Related: The Best Cards for Travel Purchases

Google also announced companion features that will go hand-in-hand with OMNY. Starting May 23, New York City public transportation users can ask Google Assistant for an ETA of the next train by asking: “Hey, Google, when is the next 4 train arriving?” Or, “Hey, Google, when is the next train?”

While the system is still in its early, experimental stages, the MTA plans on having OMNY available throughout the entire subway system and on all bus routes by late 2020 on a full-fare, pay-per-ride basis. They also plan on eventually adding additional fare options such as time-based passes, reduced fares, student fares and more. According to some sources, including Untapped Cities, a contactless transit card will one day be available, too.

Old-fashioned MetroCards will remain until the new system is completely integrated and, if you remember the ye olde days of subway tokens, there will probably be a substantial grace period before swiping at the turnstile is a thing of the past.

The MTA also stated that “cash will always be an option” for access to MTA services.

Featured image by Jordan Sirek/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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