NYC Subway Etiquette 101: Metrocard tips.

You swipe your metrocard, and a little message reads “Please swipe again”, you swipe again, and yet another message says “Please swipe again”, then you swipe one final time and the card reads “Just used”, or even better “See Agent”.Β  Arrgghhhh.. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? WHY WHY WHY!

I saw this happen to someone this morning, behind him were two people who looked so angry you’d think someone had spit their elderly mother in the face. This got me to thinking though (and you know it’s dangerous when I think):

1. It is absolutely ridiculous and quite funny how angry people get when someone interrupts the flow of Metrocard traffic.

2. A few things you can do to prevent being the one that actually deserves the dirty looks.

3. A few tips on metrocard common sense.

Some of these things may seem fairly obvious toΒ  you, but believe me I see them every single day. Here is a list of actions that New Yorkers utterly hate and will probably bump or run you over for, followed by a few tips I employ with my metrocard.

Metrocard Don’ts:

1. Do not have your metrocard in your wallet, purse or pocket when you arrive at the turnstyle. By the time you are there the card should already be in your hand, deployed and ready to swipe.

2. Do not stop at the turnstyle to have a discussion with a friend or say goodbye to someone. New Yorkers are as sentimental as the next person, and we want you to have your moment with whomever it may be, however not at the expense of disrupting Metrocard traffic. So move your butt over to the side and handle your business out of our way!

3. Don’t swipe someone in with your unlimited card, if you are caught by the police you will get a ticket or fine. If you intend on sharing your card, then use your head in how you do it. Swiping the card in plain sight is not a good idea. I’ll let you figure out ways on how to avoid getting in trouble over this silly rule. This rule only applies to unlimited cards, you are ok with cash cards.

Metrocard Dos:

1. If you buy unlimited, buy a weekly card. I have a logical reason why I do this. If you buy a monthly card and it becomes damaged, your initial investment is much larger, the MTA will USUALLY replace your card, but you’ll have to buy another one to hold you over while they review and eventually mail you a new one. The same applies if you lose your card, but obviously that’s harder to prove. By getting a lower costing 1 week card, your initial upfront investment is lower and it doesn’t hurt your pocket as much if you have to buy a second one for whatever reason.

2. Have a backup metrocard. This is not only for the benefit of the people behind you, but for your own benefit as well. If your train is coming and you are running late, (as I often am) then it is a great idea to have a card ready, boom! I usually have an unlimited weekly card, but if that fails or runs out without my being prepared, I immediately fall back to the cash card I carry.

3. Soon the MTA will be releasing a new style of metrocard that will support “unlimited” rides and upon expiration become a cash ride card. This will eliminate the need for carrying the backup cash card I mentioned above.

4. Don’t mix up your cards, it’s hard to tell them apart! There are few things more annoying to a New Yorker that is in a rushΒ  than seeing some fool swiping, one, then two, then three, then four cards trying to figure out which one works! GET OUT OF THE WAY YO!

5. Know what you want from the vending machine. There are times during the day when you can go to the vending machine to learn how to use it. I recommend you do this if you are not familiar with it. Doing this during rush hour will only get you hated and the people behind you will get flustered.

These are a few simple tips on surviving in the second city within New York City, the subway!Β  If you have any tips I may have missed that you’d like to contribute, please put them in the comments section, really good ones may be added to this article!


  1. You should have seen be kicking the metro ticket machine at one of the metro stations in Prague. The machine kept eating my coins without giving me the ticket back. That was so frustrating!! That must have looked odd and awkward though. I see NYC machines are just the same… :S. Having a backup metrocard seems to be the best idea in this case.

    • I’d imagine you’d want to be cautious about attacking public/private property in a foreign country? Did $25 become $27 that day? Lol.

      Our machines tend to be good, the problems are actually the humans. They’re swiping and planning skills suck. Hahaha.

  2. Good advise on weekly unlimited/investment. I just buy another unlimited. Just keep track on what day the card it expires. It’s the same thing. Cause either way you’re gonna spend time buying a card. It’ll just be more time buying two for back up than one at a time. I didn’t know you could get a ticket if you’re caught sharing it though. Just proves that speaking truth is better than being nice. πŸ™‚

  3. And The Truth is Greater than perception. There are over a billion (Christian/other) friends without true religion. There is only one true religion/belief with few or no friends. And that’s one of the biggest pains to deal every day. The worst pain to deal with every day is ego defense. πŸ™‚ lol. The best joy is Islam/true and equal humbleness (only in regards to humans).

  4. LMAO! Oh my goodness, Yes! This is the truth. Metrocard rage is unnecessary most times but you have to admit that sometimes people deserve it. Especially when they are going at a glacial pace.

    • LOL @ Metrocard rage making it’s way to this post again. I guess in NYC you can have rage for any item.

      Have you ever eaten at “Subway” during lunch time? How about that one person who doesn’t know exactly what they want? Those vendors get Sandwich Rage!

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