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Buy MetroCard New York: This is how the subway works

The New York Metro is one of the oldest and largest subway networks in the world. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the New York metro and which tickets you need.

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The New York subway is the best and, above all, the cheapest means of transport to discover New York. By the way, it's officially called the New York City Subway.

With 25 lines and almost 500 stations, the New York Metro is not exactly clear and often seems a bit overwhelming to travelers at first glance.

Which tickets do I need? How do I get it? How do I find the right line? We'll answer all of these and more questions about the New York Metro in this article.

So you don't have to worry about the subway ride in New York anymore and you can look forward to your trip even more.

After all, we want to make sure that you can safely reach the 22 best New York attractions by subway too.

Also read our other articles on New York

The MetroCard: tickets and options

Let's start with the most important information: tickets and prices for the New York subway.

Fortunately, the tariff system for the metro is very simple and clear. Many cities can learn something from this.

The options are:

  • Single Ride: $ 3
  • MetroCard single trip: $ 2.75
  • 7-day MetroCard: $ 33

There is also a 30-day card for $ 121 and a 7-day card including an express bus for $ 59.50. However, these are usually not of interest to tourists.

Incidentally, the MetroCard is not only valid in the subway, but also in the buses in the city.

Which option is the most worthwhile?

The answer in a nutshell:

  • A single ride ticket is worthwhile for 1 to 3 trips.
  • With 4 to 12 journeys, it is worthwhile to top up the Metro Card with a sum of money.
  • The 7-day metro card is worthwhile for 13 trips or more.

Of course, we have a few more information for you to explain:

Buying single tickets for $ 3 is only really worth it if you don't take the subway more than two or three times, especially since you have to go to the machine before each trip.

Almost every visitor to New York takes the metro much more often, so that this option is only considered for very few.

The choice therefore usually falls on a MetroCard. The MetroCard costs 1 dollar once and you can then top it up either with time (7 days or 31 days) or with money.

If you load them up with money, you'll pay $ 2.75 for each trip, $ 0.25 less than a single ticket. You also get a 5% bonus on your top-up amount. So do you load z. For example, if you put $ 10 on your MetroCard, you'll get $ 10.50, if you top up $ 20, it's $ 21, and so on.

If you take the metro at least 13 times during your trip, a 7-day card is worthwhile for you. Even if you are only in New York for 5 days, but drive three times a day, this is the cheapest option.

If you take the subway between 4 and 12 times, the cheapest option for you is to buy a rechargeable metro card. This is usually the cheapest option, especially for very short trips of 2-3 days.

Information on using the MetroCard

The MetroCard must be pushed through the card reader before entering the platform at the turnstile. The magnetic stripe points down to the left. The card must not be pushed through too quickly, but also not too slowly, otherwise it will not work. But with a little practice, it's very easy.

When leaving the platform, you don't have to swipe the MetroCard again. The turnstiles can simply be passed when getting out.

Are there discounted MetroCards?

Unfortunately, there are no reduced rates for metro tickets in New York. All passengers, whether old or young, have to pay the same fare.

The only exceptions are children who are shorter than 44 inches (1.12 meters). They can use the metro for free. All older children must pay full price.

There are also reduced MetroCards, z. B. for people over 65 years of age. But for this you have to apply very laboriously and the processing time for this is several weeks. So this is not an option for tourists.

Can several people share a MetroCard?

If you choose the 7-day Metrocard, each person needs their own MetroCard. If a MetroCard has been swiped through a card reader, it can only be swiped a second time at the same station after 18 minutes.

This prevents multiple people from going through the turnstiles with one card.

If the billing is per trip, it is possible that several people share a card. Nevertheless, we recommend that everyone get their own card, because it is simply faster at the turnstiles and you don't get angry looks from annoyed commuters.

Can you change with the MetroCard?

With the 7-day MetroCard you can of course change as much as you want and also switch between subway and bus.

This is much more complicated with the normal MetroCard. Sometimes switching is free and sometimes it is not. There are so many different regulations and exceptions that we cannot list them all here. We therefore recommend simply buying the 7-day card.

Buy New York MetroCard

Now you already know which ticket is right for you. Now we'll also tell you how you can buy and top up the MetroCard.

You can buy the MetroCard on site at the machine or order it in advance in Germany.

# 1 buy MetroCard at the machine

In every New York subway station you will find one or more machines where you can buy or top up your MetroCard. Fortunately, the machines are not particularly complicated. From time to time it happened to us that the machines just didn't work, but unfortunately you can't influence that.

Here is our step-by-step guide on how to buy or top up the MetroCard:

Step 1:

First you select the language on the machine. We only saw German at a single machine, most of the time you can choose between English, Spanish or French.

2nd step:

In the second step, you have the choice between a single ticket (single ride) and the MetroCard item.

To buy or top up a MetroCard, choose MetroCard. In the next step you can choose between “Refill your card” (top up MetroCard) or “Get new card” (buy a new MetroCard).

Option 1: Buy a new MetroCard

Here you now have the choice between "Regular MetroCard" or "Unlimited Ride". If you want to buy a 7-day pass, choose “Unlimited Ride”. If you want to top up money on your new MetroCard, choose "Regular MetroCard".

Option 2: Top up MetroCard

If you want to top up your existing MetroCard, choose "Refill your card". In the next step you have the choice between "Add time" (top up time, e.g. 7 days) or "Add Value" (top up money).

When you top up money, you can choose between different amounts or enter any amount. If you only have to drive one more time at the end and you e.g. If, for example, you are missing only 20 cents for a trip, you can only top up these 20 cents.

3rd step:

For payment you have the choice between cash, ATM card and credit card. However, cash is not available at all machines, credit cards always work.

After you have inserted your credit card, you wait until the display reads “Remove your Credit Card” and only then pull it out again.

The prompt "Please enter your ZIP code and press ENTER on the keypad below."

It is recommended to enter 99999 or 00000 there if you are not from the USA. But we also entered 12345 or the postcode of our hotel 10013 there.

It all works too. The only important thing is that it is a five-digit number.

That's it already. At the end you will be asked if you would like a receipt and then the journey can finally start.

Order MetroCard in advance

Unfortunately, it is currently no longer possible to order the Metrocard online in advance. We keep our eyes open here and as soon as such an offer is available again, we will link it here.

For more information on the different options on how to get to the city from JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports, please see this article:

All information about airport transfers in New York

Tips for riding the subway in New York

Taking the subway in New York is definitely an experience, but also a bit more stressful than in many other cities in the world.

The New York Subway was built between 1904 and 1940, and most train stations look like time has stood still since then.

Many subway stations are old and shabby, and summer is often stuffy and hot. The lifts themselves are not the newest either, but they are well air-conditioned.

Be careful with large luggage

If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, the subway is not always the best option. Most of the stations have neither an elevator nor escalators.

It's also not that easy to get through the narrow turnstiles with large suitcases.

If it doesn't work at all, you can always use the service or emergency entrance. This also applies to strollers. To do this, you usually have to speak to a Metro employee on site.

Pay attention to the direction

It is very important to know which direction you want to go. At the subway stations in Manhattan it is always written outside whether the train is going uptown (north) or downtown (south). So always make sure that you take the correct entrance.

It's faster than you think you're walking on the wrong platform. It's especially stupid if you only notice it when you've passed the turnstiles.

With a 7-day card, you have to wait 18 minutes before you can get onto the correct platform. A normal MetroCard is $ 2.75 away.

If you ask one of the employees at the station nicely and describe your mishap, he'll usually let you through.

Pay attention to your station

In the more modern cars there is sometimes a display of the stations, but this is not available on many railways. So you always have to pay attention to where you are.

There are announcements, but they are not always easy to understand. In the train stations, however, it is always clear which station it is.

Express and Local Trains

On some routes, both express and local trains run. Make sure that you always take a local train, unless you explicitly want to take an express.

Express trains only stop at a few, selected stations and make it possible to get from A to B much faster.

However, if you accidentally get on an express train, it may not stop at your desired stop.

Find seats

The New York subways are never really empty. You have the best chance of getting a seat at the front or at the back. The middle wagons are usually the busiest.

If at all possible, avoid the peak hours between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. and between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Alternatives to the metro

Even if the New York metro is anything but modern, it is very practical. Even so, there are some alternatives that are sometimes not all that bad.


Some distances can be covered very easily by ferry. The crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn is on the ferry z. B. much nicer than in the subway.

Ferry tickets are available directly at the terminals. The MetroCard is not valid here.


Some routes are quicker to take with buses than with the metro. We always recommend taking the shortest route, e.g. B. to check via Google Maps.

You can use most buses (local buses) with the MetroCard. You only have to pay extra for express buses, but they are not relevant for tourists in normal city traffic.

Taxis and Uber

New York's yellow taxis are world famous and an integral part of the cityscape. Driving a cab in New York is relatively cheap.

The starting price is $ 2.50 and you also pay $ 2.50 per mile. The taxi is a good alternative, especially for short journeys or with several people.

Like almost everywhere else in the world, the Uber driving service app is very popular in New York.

The prices here are again a lot cheaper than the taxi tariff.

Hop on Hop off buses

In New York, too, there are the typical double-decker buses that cover all the tourist highlights on various routes. There are short explanations in different languages.

We would recommend the tours to anyone who is not that good on foot and wants to see as much as possible in a short period of time. For everyone else, we definitely recommend exploring the city on foot and by metro.

Buy tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus


There are 12,000 rental bikes and 750 stations spread across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City.

Cycling around New York is becoming increasingly popular not only with locals but also with tourists.

We personally love to ride bikes, but in New York we prefer to walk and take the subway.

But if you like to be out and about by bike, the CitiBikes offer might be for you. All you have to do is download the CitiBike app to your mobile phone.

There you can choose between a single ride ($ 3 per 30-minute trip), a day pass ($ 12), a 3-day pass ($ 34) or an annual pass ($ 169) with which you can get as many 45- You can make minute trips as you want, decide.

With the app you can also find all CitiBike stations in the city.

Which is a bit cumbersome: You are only allowed to ride a bike for 30 minutes at a time, for every 15 minutes that you start you pay $ 4.

But you can park your bike at a station and switch to a new bike, which you can then use for another 30 minutes.

alternative: You just borrow a “normal” bike. Many hotels even provide bicycles for free.

These were our collected tips and information about the New York subway and the MetroCard. Do you still have questions? Then we look forward to your comment