We've all been there. The train is coming into the station, and you grab your MetroCard and quickly try and swipe it at a turnstile.
"Please Swipe Again." "Please Swipe Again." "Insufficient Fare."
The last two words are killer. You think to yourself, "I swear I had a balance on this card." You go and check the card out and you see you have "$2.45." Yes, you need $2.50 to ride the subway, and you have $2.45 on your MetroCard. Sure enough you miss that train all because of that nickel.
How did you end up in that situation any way? It turns out the MTA has designed it that way. Imagine how many tourists come to NYC and leave with balances that never get used. Imagine how many people lose MetroCards with balances still on them. And even if it gets used on a later refill, the MTA gets to collect the cash earlier this way! Win win for them, right?
But now, with some simple math, you can fight back.
First, let's see how the MTA tricks you out of your money earlier than you might want to release it to them.
When you are buying a MetroCard, you can get a 5% bonus if your purchase is big enough, so you get the following screen early on in the purchase process:
If you click the button on the left, they just got you. Your card will have $9.45 on it, meaning you will get 3 rides and end up with $1.95. That is a great deal for the MTA. They get all the money from every rider who does that, and they get the interest on that until you refill again and repeat the cycle.
Let's say you don't take the bait. You click MetroCard. Then you get this screen with three new short cuts:
Three quick options. But wait a minute. One button leaves you with the same $9.45 card, and gives a remainder of $1.95 after just three uses. The next one is even more frustrating: you end up with a $19.95 card, leaving a remainder after 7 uses of $2.45! That's right, the nickel we were talking about earlier. The last option does not leave you much better off. You'll get a $40.95 card, which leads to $0.95 on your card after you use 16 rides. So all three buttons presented leave quite a bit of "insufficient fare" on the card.
So how do you fight back? Well, click "Other Amounts" and type your own values:
and remember these three magic numbers: $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10. That's right. Never use the shortcuts. Just type in one of those numbers.
Once you do, you'll see your excess balances nearly vanish once you apply the 5% bonuses
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