Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to make a living finding MetroCards (Updated 3-8-13)

It has been a week since the fare went up and the MTA is collecting an extra buck if you don't refill you existing MetroCard.  The is not less litter.  In fact, I have seen many people pay the extra $1 for a new card when the top of the MVM is strewn with cards.  I also assume that I will start finding many $1.95 cards instead of $1.70 cards. People are just going to put $10 in the machine and get a $9.45 card.  After they ride 3 times for $7.50 they will toss the card with $1.95 on it.  (3-8-13)


The card to the above was found sitting
 on top of the scanner box.  It had $7.25 on it
.
So next week the MTA will start charging $1 if you need a new card.  I really don't think I will find any less.  People leave $45 cards on top of the MVMs because they are careless, not because they don't care about the money.  So instead of finding a lot of  $1.70 card I will find a lot of  50 cent cards.  (3-1-13)

The other day I watched a guy freak out as he was trying to swipe his way onto the subway.  He kept swiping cards and  could not get in.  He slammed a pile of cards on top of a payphone and stored over the the machine and bought a Single Ride.  After he went through the turnstile I check the value on those cards.  They added up to over $20, mostly $1.70 cards and a few larger cards that had recently expired.  People just don't know that they can go over to the booth and get them combined. (12-25-11)

Now the bonus is 7%.   $10 gets you $10.70 and the fare is $2.25.  But, 4 trips is $9.  With $1.70 left our the card there is no extra ride when someone buys a $10.00 card.  Since 2011 started I have been finding cards with $1.70 on them for every one that used to have a nickel on it.


In the sidebar of this Blog I list the sum of the value of the MetroCards that I find. If I find 5 or 10 cents in a given day I don't post it, I wait till it adds up to something worth typing.

I would like to point out that I believe that every MetroCard that I find was lost by somebody. They were not put there for me to find. On more than one occasion I found some valuable cards (Transit Check Gold) and moments after I scanned it at the reader I saw a desperate individual looking at the ground in a subway station. Asking that person if they lost their MetroCard and returning it to them was more satisfying that riding for free for the rest of the month.

I think the design of the MetroCard lends itself to getting drooped. It is the thinnest thing in your picket. If you keep it with your cash or keys it can slide out without being noticed. I would urge everyone who uses a MetroCard to use a MetroCard holder of some sort.

That said; finding value on MetroCards is like winning at gambling without the risk of loosing your own money.

If you are interested in doing this either for sport, competition or to save money or to supplement your income; here is some advice.
  • The further you are from the subway the more likely the card has value on it. The highest value cards that I have found have been in on the Brooklyn Bridge, on the courses of races, in the middle of intersections, in supermarkets, parks, etc. These were not drooped by careless litter bugs. Nobody would walk to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge just to flick their MetroCard onto the sidewalk. It was dropped by somebody pulling their camera out of their pocket. So if you see a MetroCard in a place having nothing to do with the MTA, pick it up.
  • The cards just inside the turn-style are not worth picking up. I have seen countless slobs swipe their MetroCard with one fair left on it and drop it like they drop everything they have no more use for.In a subway station don't just look at the MetroCard Reader. Look on top of the MetroCard Vending machines. Look in the cracks in the vending machine. Look on the little shelf on the front of the "token booth". Especially the stations that do not have anybody working in them; the burgundy stations
  • Most of the cards I find in the subways station have 5 cents on them but many have $1.50 or some other amount under the subway fare. But like the lottery slogan, "Ya never know" sometimes there is $20 or more just sitting there waiting to be pickup. The upcoming increase in fare will obviously improve the quantity of cards with left over fare on them.
  • Many of the cards I find with more then $10 or $20 on them are "expired" I don't think many people know that you can exchange them for a new one
  • Follow the instructions on the card reader. If it says "Please Swipe Again", do it, just 2 or 3 times, then put it in the trash. If it says "See Agent" do that, but first try it again another day. That card probably has some value on it.
  • When it comes to combining MetroCards, don't over burden the "token clerk". It might be their job to combing MetroCards into a usable amount but some evoke unwritten "I can only combine 4 or 5 rule". Some have refused to help me at all because they said they have been on the ground. One clerk even told me her machine did not combine cards. I would not advise arguing with these people. They work in a bulletproof booth and it is an extra felony to "assault" them. They also have a pretty crappy job, there is no point in giving them a hard time.
  • If you look at the rest of my blog, you will see that I am a marathon runner. I run a lot. When I run, I make a point of passing through subway stations (I get some stair training). Also loops around Prospect Park can be a little repetitive. A larger loop can include many subway stations. The F train: Prospect Park and 7th Ave, the Q/B Train Parkside, Prospect Park and 7th Ave and the 2/3 Train Grand Army Plaza and Eastern Pky/Brooklyn Museum.
I once found a Transit Check Gold MetroCard. It worked for 3 and a half months. The original owner did not tell their payroll manager it was lost. But most of the monthly MetroCards I found did not work for as long as they should. The original owner contacted the MTA and reported it lost. They got a prorated refund. I was kinda glad.

Whenever I find a student MetroCard or a Senior/Disabled Card I hand it to the "token clerk". They are issued to specific individuals and it is against the law to use them.


Karma works both ways. If I ever see someone looking for a "swipe" to get them on the train, I always give them one. Also, I befriended a man in my neighborhood of little means (I don't believe he his homeless). We started talking about all the things that can be found. I told him I find lots of MetroCards. He did not even know what they were, he has not ridden mass transit in years he said. Now he picks up MetroCards and keeps them in his picket till he sees me. I do not give him the value on them. I give him 10 times the value on them or $10, whichever is greater.



I asked this question to the MTA:

Customer (******* ****) - 05/06/2009 12:18 PM
I read in the news that a man was sentences to jail time for bending metrocards.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/bent-metrocard-is-forgery-court-rules/

Are there any regulations against


1. Picking up discarded metrocards from the floor of a subway station or on the top of the metrocard testing machine?
2. Asking the booth attendant to combine them into a usable amount?
3. Using them for personal use?
4. Giving them to a friend or family?

This was the response I got:

Response (Melissa Glasgow) - 05/06/2009 03:21 PM
This is in response to your recent e-mail message to MTA New York City Transit regarding MetroCard.

As you may know, you may have uneven balances of several Pay-Per-Ride cards (that you have previously purchased and hold primary ownership of) moved to 1 card at the service booth of any one of our stations. You may only process 5 cards at a time (four old+ the one that the remaining values are being transferred to). This limitation exists to prevent fraudulent activity. You may also send your MetroCards to MetroCard, 2 Broadway, Room B11.59, New York, NY 10004. Due to fraudulent activity at our MVMs, this transaction/feature was removed from our MVMs, several years ago.

However, under the circumstances you have described, the station agent has the discretion to refuse to perform the transaction and summon NYPD Transit assistance, if he/she suspects fraudulent activity at our booths and/or turnstiles.

http://www.mta.info/mta/news/releases/?en=080625-NYCT85
http://www.mta.info/metrocard/termsunltd.htm

Thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

I asked what law I would be violating. The responded by telling me to submit a Freedom of Information Act request:

This is in response to your recent e-mail to MTA New York City Transit requesting information regarding the MetroCard tariff and the laws surrounding it.

Please be advised that the information you seek may be available under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). You must submit an electronic FOIL request to the appropriate MTA agency via the FOIL request page on the MTA website. If you send an electronic FOIL request in any other way or to the wrong agency, you will not receive the records you are seeking. You may submit an electronic FOIL request at www.mta.info/foil.htm. Be sure to select the appropriate MTA agency. Otherwise you may contact MUNY directly to investigate the feasibility if your request - http://www.mta.info/mta/aft/muny/

We hope this information is helpful and thank you for having taken the time to contact us.

Melissa Glasgow
Associate Staff Analyst

See more information in SubwayBlogger.com ,Yelp and The New York Post has an article about a women who finds cards. The New York times has a story about Single Ride Cards and refills. AM New York says the MTA is budgiting $48 Million in extra money from lost and unused MetroCards.  The Daily News thinks this is news.

57 comments:

  1. interesting, I just picked up three cards with 5 cents on sunday, figuring at least I'd be able to add money to them later. I had no idea they could be combined or transfered if expired. I don't know if I'd have the guts to ask for that kind of service.

    I usually just buy my cards in 10 and 20 dollar increments and I never have any odd numbers left

    ReplyDelete
  2. See, that doesn't qualify as law-breaking at all, in my book. Plenty of people accumulate weird balances on their cards and are left with these cards. It's only fair to transfer them to one card.

    i get a monthly card through work, and it would be terrible to lose it. Haven't yet. The monthly cards are wonderful if you make several trips a day, and they're an incentive to jump around different neighborhoods for photos (if I could only have more free time added to my life to do so, all would be perfect).

    I have to say I haven't picked up any cards. I think it's awesome that you do and have shared your time-earned skills with us. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just want you to know that William found a MetroCard on Sunday and picked up it saying, "hey, i found a metrocard for Michael!".

    He was quite pleased with himself, LOL. it was one of those one day use cards, so, i just chucked it, but, he is on the look out for you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Totally awesome, and something I totally do when visiting the city! One time someone dropped one of the unlimited ride from this time to this time. I got like 10 subway rides just for the hell of it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. First of all I've never found one Metrocard in all the traveling I've done around Queens, mostly, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Don't go into the Bronx much except to pass through, driving up New York state. So I wonder are you knocking people over the head and stealing their Metrocards? Hmmmm? Maybe I don't find Metrocards because I get around town in my car. I bet you travel the subway a lot... Hmmmm? Love your blog! Come over and visit me! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mary,

    There are no metrocards in you car. Maybe an old Triboro bridge token :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. "The further you are from the subway the more likely the card has value on it."

    this is exactly what i have found. if it's "out of context" i pick it up. i once got a monthly pass!

    ReplyDelete
  8. hey, I'm a metrocard artist and would love to have any leftover empty of fare Metrocards you may have. i've created a Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and ride around on my metrocard bike. the NYT has done a story on me as well. I'm on flickr and registered if you need to find me "andygpadre8" is my name. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey not so Anonymous andygpadre8,

    I will send you plenty, but how do I contact you?

    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=andygpadre8&w=all

    ReplyDelete
  10. Went for a run today on the hunt for metro cards. LOL found none. I went around 5:30pm I guess the trick is to go earlier in the morning. Slim pickens in the bronx today. Keep up the blog I love it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Obviously, I do not have a subway. I live in Alaska, but this whole "scouring for free stuff" is right up my alley. My hubby and one of my son's would be all over it. (My son once found $20 in front of Blockbuster after two of his brothers walked right over it and didn't see it). What a fun project.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm actually fed up with all these businesses like the MTA, Cablevision, Ticketmaster [Legal scalping.] & many others that skirt their way around the Law to cheat customers out of money whenever they can. The consumer protection laws are old & out-of-date & no Government agencies care anymore about protecting the consumer so these Businesses continually build & enhance their business models to deceive, cheat & steal money from consumers, every chance they get.
    Anybody ever question why there's a Magnet in the MTA's reader machine metal METROCARD box? They know riders are throwing Money out & this is there way of making sure they keep the money by erasing it from the cards.
    They don't clearly list the rules for Metrocards because they know they'll make more money from loads of nieve, ignorant or lazy customers who just throw unused value away. This is basically an illegal business practice but because all the agencies & government leaders are On-the-take too, they turn their backs on it & allow it to happen because they need the money for their next election campaign. Because of all these very questionable business practices the middle & lower classes, poor & less fortunate hard working consumers waste a significant portion of their yearly income to unfair commuting charges, unfair charges for Television and telephone service, and overcharging for any entertainment or sporting events [Legalized scalping.]. And it doesn't stop there. Everywhere you look the marketing & advertising practices are confusing & misleading for the specific purpose of cheating money out of consumers. God help us all.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't think the MTA directors use the unused metrocards $ to fund their elections.

    But more power to you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for the combining Metrocard advice (re: http://dazedeffect.blogspot.com/2010/03/partial-metrocards.html)! I never knew they could do that! I don't think they're going to be too happy with me giving them several cards at once though because usually when I ask them for simple things like a map (I like collecting transit maps) the person would let out an annoyed sigh before sliding one under that window slot.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hey! I was inspired by your comments on Yelp about hunting lost MetroCards, which led me to this blog. I've been picking up cards and combining them for a few days now and I've noticed that the MTA seems to be giving me a "trade-in value" which is less than the actual card value. Do you know what percentage they take off? When did they start doing this?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I never noticed any thing like that. If I find 5 20cent Metrocards, they turn them into a $1 card.

    ReplyDelete
  17. A few days ago I found a metrocard in front an elevator at work. I knew instantly it had to have $ on and it did! $48.50 cha ching
    Andy P=metrocard bike guy

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hey MR, Thanks for the Post on my site. I like your run route but Jamaica to Shea can be a very profitable run as well especially if you enjoy running the stairs on occasion and your not even a runner ;o)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just another quick comment relating to Metrocard checking. Yesterday, I checked a few cards at a reader and an older woman comes up to the reader, so I quickly let her use it. She checked 3 cards and then walked away leaving 2 of the 3 on the reader. I quickly checked the cards & one had $3 and the other had $1.50 so I quickly stopped the woman and told her she had $4.50 left on these cards. She said they're expired. I then told her that they're good a year after the expiration date & she could take them to a booth to get a new card. She grabbed those suckers out of my hand faster then I could blink an eye and didn't even say Thank You. I could of made $4.50 off this grumpy hag instead of being a nice guy ;o)

    ReplyDelete
  20. So what happens to the unclaimed money? And how much in lost cards goes unclaimed?

    This sounds like a job for the: NYC Independent Budget Office.
    http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ah, I answered my own question.

    $53M a year goes unclaimed in lost Metrocards. So you are finding a drop in the bucket. Actually less than a drop - or alternatively more than a bucket.

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local-beat/Gold-Mine-in-the-Subway-78416637.html


    That means there's $53,000,000 to find out there in the city. And I bet it beats earning nickles by returning deposit bottles.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Right after Christmas, I found an unlimited with 5 days left.

    In the last few weeks, I have found:metrocards worth:

    $13.25 on 60th St. & Columbus Ave.
    $19.75 on a seat on the E train (I asked the woman sitting next to it if it was hers - she said no, and made no move to pick it up, so...)
    $10.10 on 9th Ave.

    and, just today...

    $60.25 on the floor of the M1 bus going up Madison.

    $103.35! I hope I don't have trouble consolidating the cards. Did not know you could do that!

    Love finding money-filled metrocards.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I don't think a metroca. rd can be over $99

    ReplyDelete
  24. Is there a fee to combine Metrocards? I didn't think there was but I had four cards with under a dollar each so I decided to have them combined yesterday. I checked their value first and the total added up to $2.80. I went to the booth to have them combined and I ended up with a card for $2.60. Seems like they took an even 5 cents per card. When I was checking the values first I distinctly remember having a card worth $0.80. When I was watching the readout while the token booth guy was running the cards through I saw one go by for $0.75. I know I didn't have a $0.75 card. Anyway, it's not the money I'm wondering about so much as I was not aware of this being a new policy. I can't find any mention of this online so I'm wondering if token clerks are skimming cards in a "get rich slow" scheme like in "Office Space".

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hay Anonymous

    There is no fee. I think ya mighta just done the math wrong. There is a lot of oversight over what goes on in those booths.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I did the math twice and came up with $2.80. What I got back was $2.60. And as I said, I know I didn't have a $0.75 card but saw that amount on the screen.

    ReplyDelete
  27. You got cheated. It has happened to me twice, but I only caught them once (by $20).

    ReplyDelete
  28. For my first Halloween in New York, I made a dress made entirely of Metro cards. It was like chain mail, and pretty hard to sit down in, because the cards didn't really bend. I wore it to a party in Greenwich Village, and the conductor on the subway I took to get there (the R to the N) loved it and asked my husband to take a photo of me standing next to him as he leaned out the window of his guard booth.

    I checked every one of those cards before I sewed them into the dress to make sure there was no value left on them. Otherwise, they would have been yours, Michael. Some now have dried beer on them, and others have guacamole, but the dress lives on.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, you're beating my average. Based on your sidebar, you find on average $2.37 a day for a total of $3110.90 over 3.5+ years.

    Wow. I'm only finding about $1.36 a day.

    The "See Agent" cards...I usually check them in the metrocard machines too and say "invalid". You're saying if I bring them to an agent they may actually still find money on them??

    ReplyDelete
  30. The booth people roll their eyes if you bring them more than one "see agent".

    Try to use them at the actual turnstile and then mail them in.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi CU, I've been checking for awhile too & I agree that if you see a card on the street or not near the subway then chances are good there will be something left on it BUT I disagree with your statement that if it's just inside the Turnstile or in the Subway it probably won't have anything on it. I find cards all the time, inside & outside the turnstiles that have value on them. The most likely place a card gets accidentally dropped is at the turnstiles [Both inside & outside.]. Happy Hunting, DH

    ReplyDelete
  32. The metrocard machines could easily be programed to combine cards.The booth retards are the scum of the turd world.I haven't paid to get on the subway for 5 years.I have 4 shoe boxes with money metro-cards.The biggest hassle is renewing my cards at the machine when they expire I have thousands.The day when they layoff all the booth animals and have the metrocard vending machines combine cards is coming soon mabye by 2014.

    ReplyDelete
  33. @ John christian zimmerman jr.

    The MetroCard Vending Machines used to combine the values on multiple cards. The MTA disabled that functions because of fraud.

    I rarely have a problem combing my cards. I just say hello, please and thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  34. If there is fraud by some criminals is it fair to penalize all transit riders?Anyone can go from station to station and combine a zillion cards.So how exactly does it prevent or even deter fraud by making you go to a booth and combining your cards?The mta prevents you from combining cards at the machines because they know that the vast majority of people would do so if the could.The mta relies on frustrated customers tossing small denomination cards instead of waiting on a line at a booth to talk to bin ladens evil and unhelpful twin.If you bought the fraud argument as to why the machines no longer combine cards pal I got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.The only ones committing fraud are the subhuman, affirmative action, dingbats at the mta.When the booth savages all get laid off the mta will drop the soap and let us combine or cards at the vending machines bet on it.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Wow.

    But I only think you will get in trouble if you try to sell the cards you pick up.

    and it does not hurt to be nice

    ReplyDelete
  36. You have not addressed my question .How does making people go to the booth to combine metrocards as opposed to using a vending machine deter fraud in any way?
    As far as getting in trouble for selling cards What does that have to do with combining them at a metrocard vending machine?P.S. I am everywhere on the system and sir the booth people with rare exceptions are jerks that don't care about their job one bit.

    ReplyDelete
  37. anon...

    I can only assume someone figured out how to hack a MTA vending machine.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anon: hacking mag stripes is :trial & error work that a machine ignores but a person'll notice.

    ReplyDelete
  39. My greatest find was at the PHILADELPHIA Greyhound station. Just in Phila. for the day. It was a 30 day card with about 21 days left to use! What a find!

    The one that got away: Found a Metrocard in Boston-Logan Airport, but was going to be out of NYC for over a month. I am sure it was an unlimited but when I returned, it was expired.

    When I ride the Q-10 to JFK, I look hard for cards and have found some with much value on them. I also look for cards at NYC and out of town airports.

    Good luck in your quest to find the perfect Metrocard.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi, I find metrocards sometimes and have found student metrocards before which I know say "Student Metrocard" across the front. I found one card recently and it looks just like a regular MetroCard. It is yellow with the Blue MetroCard on the front. I tried to use it late in the night, it said "Not Valid Now" and the MetroCard Reader said "Limit of 3 rides per day".
    Is it possible this is a student MetroCard that looks like a regular MetroCard and will I get in trouble if I use it?
    I was too scared to use it at my station this morning, but when I got out at my destination this morning the station was deserted, so I swiped and it worked and told me I have 2 rides left today.

    Anyone know what kind of card I have?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that was only for when the school bus strike

      Delete
  41. i have notices that sometimes MetroCards that are issued to students look like the rest of the MetroCards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that was just for the school bus strike.

      Delete
  42. It's been 3 weeks since the $ 1 fee on new metrocards went into effect there's much fewer metrocards lying it has had a effect on finding metrocards but you still never know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it is hard to tell, but I have been finding just as many high value cards.

      Delete
  43. I'm still finding metrocards with $ despite being much fewer cards on the floor , there definately no more huge piles of littered metrocards. i'm definately ok with the $ 1 fee all you have to do keep refilling and when a card expires just trade it in for a new one within a year at a subway station.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think the MTA has just been cleaning better. When I do find a pile of cards, many of them still have value on them

      Delete
  44. i sometimes had to pick cards to add value to avoid the $1 fee and turns out they value in 1.70 or so. It was cool but to go around just purpose to collect left over values is kind'a desperate. I mean if you don't have a job or anything better to do with your time,ONLY then i'd recommend that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the advise, GoodBoy. I recommend you find something better to do with your time than read blogs.

      Delete
  45. Awesome blog! I have only found a few metro cards but always ignored the card on the floor. Now if I need a fair and I am out of money I will definitely look for cards.Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. look at the expired metrocards to see if they have been traded in or not, if not then you can trade in that expired metrocard in for a new one for $0.

      Delete
    2. Yes, Richard, that is a great way to get new clean cards to sell on ebay..

      Delete
  46. I love what you do.
    I'm so glad that I found this!!! :D

    ReplyDelete

You do not have to be nice!

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