Does NYC MetroCard expire?

The New York City MetroCard is the payment method used to ride the subway, local buses, and Select Bus Service. This rechargeable fare card allows riders to pay-per-ride or purchase unlimited ride packages. With millions of MetroCards in circulation throughout New York City, many riders wonder – does the NYC MetroCard expire?

Do MetroCards Expire?

Yes, MetroCards do have an expiration date. The expiration timeline depends on the type of MetroCard:

  • Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards – Expire after 2 years of inactivity
  • Unlimited Ride MetroCards – Expire at midnight on the last day of the service period
  • AirTrain JFK MetroCards – Expire after 2 years of inactivity

So regular MetroCards will expire after 2 years without use. Unlimited ride cards are only valid during the 7-day or 30-day period purchased. AirTrain JFK cards also expire after 2 years if unused.

Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard Expiration

Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards will expire 24 months after the last activity on the card. Activity refers to entering the subway, boarding a local bus, or adding value to the MetroCard balance. As long as you continue to use the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard, it will not expire.

But if left unused for 24 consecutive months, the MetroCard will expire and any remaining balance will be lost. There are no extensions or exceptions to the 2 year expiration timeline.

When Do the 2 Years Start?

The 2 year countdown begins after the last activity on the card, which could be:

  • Using the MetroCard to enter a subway station
  • Boarding a local NYC bus
  • Adding value or purchasing a fare at a ticket machine

As long as you use the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard periodically, the 2 year expiration date resets.

Why Do Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards Expire?

There are a few reasons why pay-per-ride MetroCards expire after 2 years of inactivity:

  • Remove lost or abandoned cards – Cards that are lost, damaged, or no longer used get removed from the system over time.
  • Security enhancement – Expiring inactive cards reduces fraud from lost or stolen MetroCards.
  • Encourage regular use – MetroCards are meant to be used regularly, not kept indefinitely.

By purging cards that are inactive for long periods, the MetroCard system remains efficient and secure.

Unlimited MetroCard Expiration

Unlimited Ride MetroCards work differently than Pay-Per-Ride cards. Unlimited cards provide 7-day or 30-day access to subways and buses, and expire at midnight on the last valid day.

For example, a 7-Day Unlimited MetroCard will expire at midnight on the 7th day after first use. A 30-Day Unlimited MetroCard remains valid until midnight on the 30th day. The Unlimited MetroCard will not work starting the next day.

Activating the Unlimited MetroCard

The 7 or 30 day countdown begins when you first use the Unlimited MetroCard to enter the subway or board a bus. Simply purchasing the card does NOT activate it.

Be sure to use the Unlimited MetroCard as soon as possible, since it does not become valid until scanning at a turnstile.

Unlimited Card Grace Period

Normally Unlimited MetroCards expire at midnight of the final eligible day. But there is a grace period if the expiration date falls during a weekday.

If the Unlimited Card expires on a Monday through Friday, it will remain valid until midnight of the following day. This provides riders enough time to exit the system.

However, there is NO grace period if the Unlimited Card expires on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday. The card stops working at midnight of the final day.

AirTrain JFK MetroCard Expiration

AirTrain JFK MetroCards also expire after 24 months of inactivity. These blue-colored MetroCards provide access to the JFK Airport AirTrain system.

If you purchase an AirTrain JFK MetroCard but don’t use it for 2 years, the remaining value will be lost. Like regular Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards, activity resets the 24-month expiration period.

Using the AirTrain JFK MetroCard

An AirTrain JFK MetroCard operates identically to a Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard within the JFK Airport system. You can add value and pay-per-ride.

But it cannot be used to access NYC subways and buses outside of JFK Airport. You must purchase a regular MetroCard for rides beyond the AirTrain system.

How to Check a MetroCard Balance and Expiration

You can check a MetroCard’s balance and expiration date at any subway station by doing the following:

  1. Insert the MetroCard into a subway turnstile slot
  2. Select “More Options” on the turnstile screen
  3. Choose “Check MetroCard Balance”
  4. The screen will display the card’s monetary balance and expiration date

The MetroCard does not need to have value in order to verify the expiration date. You can use this method on expired cards to confirm they are no longer valid.

Online Balance Checking

Unfortunately there is no way to check a MetroCard’s balance and expiration date online. The physical card must be used at a turnstile to access this information.

What Happens When a MetroCard Expires?

Here’s what happens when each type of MetroCard expires:

Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard

  • Remaining balance is lost
  • Card will be declined at turnstiles
  • Must purchase a new MetroCard

Unlimited MetroCard

  • Unlimited access expires at midnight of final eligible day
  • No more subway/bus rides permitted after expiration
  • Must purchase a new Unlimited MetroCard

AirTrain JFK MetroCard

  • Remaining balance is forfeited
  • Card will not be accepted at JFK AirTrain turnstiles
  • Must buy a new AirTrain JFK MetroCard

No expired MetroCard will grant access to the NYC transit system. The card must be replaced when it reaches the expiration date.

Replacing an Expired MetroCard

If your MetroCard expires, you will need to purchase a new one. There are a few options to buy a replacement MetroCard:

  • MTA Vending Machines – Located in all subway stations and some bus stops. Accepts cash, coins, and credit/debit cards.
  • MTA Booths – Located in some subway stations. Accepts cash, coins, credit/debit cards, and checks.
  • Retail Sales Outlets – Select stores and newsstands sell MetroCards. Cash only.
  • MTA Website – Unlimited Ride MetroCards can be purchased online and shipped.

The most convenient option is generally the vending machines located in subway stations. Be sure to have a payment method available when purchasing a new MetroCard.

Extending a MetroCard’s Expiration Date

Unfortunately, there is no way to extend the expiration date of a MetroCard. The following rules apply:

  • Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards expire after 24 months of inactivity, no exceptions.
  • Unlimited Ride MetroCards expire at midnight on the final eligible day, and cannot be extended.
  • AirTrain JFK MetroCards expire after 24 months with no use, with no way to extend.

Once a MetroCard reaches its expiration date, it must be replaced. There is no process to renew or push back the expiration in any circumstance.

Avoiding MetroCard Expiration

To maximize your MetroCard value and usage, avoid long periods of inactivity. Here are some tips:

  • If possible, use your Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard at least once every 24 months to reset the clock.
  • Activate Unlimited Ride MetroCards immediately rather than saving for later.
  • Consider smaller value Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards to encourage frequent use.
  • Register your MetroCard online to receive inactivity email alerts.

Staying aware of your MetroCard usage and expiration date can help you avoid losing an expired card with value or rides remaining.

Lost or Damaged MetroCards

If your MetroCard is ever lost, stolen or damaged, it cannot be recovered or transferred to a new card. You will need to purchase a brand new replacement MetroCard.

Unfortunately, any remaining balance or rides on a lost or damaged MetroCard are forfeited. There are no reimbursements or transfers of value from an expired, lost, or damaged card.

Transferring MetroCard Balance

There is no method to transfer or combine value from one MetroCard to another. Each MetroCard’s balance is discrete and cannot be consolidated or reloaded.

To redeem unused funds on an active MetroCard, simply continue using it for rides and value deduction until the balance is zero. Any leftover balance on expired, damaged, or lost cards is permanently lost.

Other MetroCard Features and Use Policies

Here are some additional notable MetroCard features and rules:

  • No fee for purchasing a new MetroCard
  • $1 new card fee for AirTrain JFK MetroCard only
  • 18% bonus when adding $5.50 or more to Pay-Per-Ride card
  • 7% bonus when adding less than $5.50 to Pay-Per-Ride card
  • Unlimited cards are valid for subway, local bus, and Select Bus Service
  • Unlimited MetroCards are non-refundable
  • Damaged MetroCards eligible for replacement discount

Be sure to understand all the MetroCard policies, which can be found on the MTA website and rider information materials. This will ensure you get the most use from your MetroCard.

Future of MetroCard in NYC

While the MetroCard system has served New York City well for decades, it will eventually be replaced. The MTA is planning to transition to a new contactless fare payment system.

Riders will be able to tap payment cards or mobile devices on dedicated readers to pay fares. This will reduce lines at subway stations and bus stops.

The MetroCard is expected to be officially phased out by 2023. Further details on the contactless payment rollout are still being finalized by the MTA.

Until the new system is implemented, the MetroCard will continue to be the primary method of payment for millions of NYC transit riders. Understanding the MetroCard expiration policies will ensure you get the most value from each card.


The NYC MetroCard system relies on expiration dates to maintain security and encourage usage. Pay-Per-Ride and AirTrain JFK MetroCards expire after 24 months of inactivity. Unlimited Ride MetroCards expire at midnight on the last eligible day.

Once a MetroCard reaches its expiration date, any unused balance or rides are lost. There is no way to extend the expiration or transfer balance to a new card. Riders must purchase a brand new replacement MetroCard once an existing card has expired.

By tracking your MetroCard’s expiration and staying aware of the rules, you can maximize usage and value. Soon the MetroCard will be phased out in favor of a new contactless fare payment system. But until then, understanding MetroCard expiration remains essential for all NYC transit riders.

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