In a perfect world, or even one that moderately made any kind of sense, you could buy a $10 MetroCard for $10, use it for four subway rides and refill it when the balance was drained.
But in New York City, where things rarely make sense, the MTA’s 5-percent bonus on all MetroCard purchases keeps transit-dependent commuters stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of balances that always fall just short of that $2.50 subway fare.
So, for all those helpless souls wandering underground on the wrong side of the turnstile with $2.45 MetroCard balances, IQuantNY blogger Ben Wellington has found a solution to outsmart the system, which involves memorizing one of three numbers that would apply to you.
Instead of choosing from among the machine’s $9 (plus $.45 bonus), $19 (plus $.95 bonus) or $39 (plus $1.95 bonus) choices, Mr. Wellington says to take control back. Turn your automated foe against itself and push the “Other Amounts” button.
In other words, type in $9.55, $19.05 or $38.10.
MTA’s options will leave you with end balances of $1.95, $2.45 and $.95, respectively, which either leaves you refilling your card endlessly or sacrificing perfectly good, yet perfectly unusable, money. However, input one of Mr. Wellington’s suggested dollar amounts and you’ll be left with an end balance of $.03, $.003 or $.005.
Sure, the bonuses sound good at first, but turns out the MTA actually stands to make more money than it gives. Purchasing a $9 MetroCard gets you an extra $.45, but you’ll likely end up giving back $1.45 of the original amount you spent in the first place. Furthermore, purchasing a $19 card will get you nearly an additional dollar in fare from the MTA, but you’re still contributing $1.50 of your money to the unusable end balance.
The only way the customer actually profits on the MTA’s bonus deal is with the $39 MetroCard purchase, in which the MTA gives a bonus of $1.95, leaving you with an end balance of $.95.
Congratulations, you just got yourself an extra dollar.