Probably final update, July 21, 2017.
Back in May 2014 I suddenly stopped taking the subway on a regular basis. About the same time the MTA started charging a dollar if you didn't bring them a Metro card when you wanted to put money on it. Now that I'm back taking the subway on a somewhat regular basis I've made an observation that there are a lot less Metro cards laying on the floor in subway stations. This could be because people are keeping their valueless Metro cards for refill purposes, or that people are picking them up to save a dollar and they need a new card, or that the MTA is doing a better job at cleaning the stations. In any case, I'm not finding subway stations with their floors strewn with MetroCards.
However, when I do find cards laying around the subway the ratio of how many have value on them is about the same as it was before 2014. Between 5% and 10% of the cards I find sitting on top of the vending machines have some money or some days of use left on them. Also, I'm still noticing the same amount of cards on the floor in supermarkets, parks or places that are not subway stations. Those cards are still worth bending down and picking up. Every time I do that I remind myself that there was three years where I couldn't bend down and pick them up.
Update, May 24, 2016
It's been a long time but I'm finally updating this.
It's kind of ironic but the MTA gave me a Metro card with my picture on it. I don't have to put money on it and it just comes loaded with eight swipes a day. I guess they'd rather have me on public mass transit then send an Ack-Stress o Ride to go get me. This past Saturday when I was approaching the starting line to the Brooklyn half Marathon there was a Metro car on the ground. I can bend down but it's hard to pick things up off the floor, so I compels my friend Josh to pick it up. He didn't need it so I wound up running the whole race with it in my pocket. I just checked it, and it's going to work till May 31.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
We hope this information is helpful and thank you for having taken the time to contact us.
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.