MetroCard in New York City

Image of author Steffen
2. April 2019
143 ratings

All you need to know about the NYC MetroCard

The MetroCard is a pre-paid card that conveniently allows you to pay for subway and bus transit in New York City. It is necessary to purchase one to gain access to the subway trains. It can be purchased at virtually every subway station. The card offers various advantages: you don’t have to carry a lot of cash in the City, it fits into any pocket, and depending on your length of stay, transit costs are covered by a flat rate!


In this article we let you know how to:

Recognise Express and Local Trains
Purchase MetroCard New York
Purchase MetroCard New York [VIDEO] 
Read a New York Subway Map

Express trains vs local trains

Generally, there is a difference between express trains and local trains. Express trains, in contrast to local trains that stop at every station of a particular line, do not stop at every station.
MTA Express MapSubway lines are marked so that it is easy to tell which type of train services the line: a letter or number in a circle designates a local train. If the letter or number is is in a diamond, you are looking at an express train.

Recognising stations

The subway map also shows which stations are serviced by what type of train. Stations serviced by express trains are indicated by a white dot with a black rim. Regular stations are designated by only a black dot.

From the example on the left, you can see that the 125th Street Station and 86th Street Station are serviced by express trains.

You can also see that underneath every station, there are numbers or letters – these indicate which lines stop at that particular station. In our example, Line 6 stops at the following stations: 86 St., 96 St., 103 St., 116 St., and 125 St. Lines 4 and 5 only stop at 86 St. and 125 St. stations.

Uptown and Downtown 

Upon entering a subway station, you will notice clearly marked signs for “uptown” and “downtown.” If you wish to travel north, i.e., the street numbers get higher, then you need to choose “uptown” (you are traveling upwards – at least geographically). If you would like to head south, follow the “downtown” signs.

Subway2Purchase New York MetroCard

Types of MetroCards and Costs
Depending on your length of stay in New York, it makes sense to purchase one of the following cards: We usually get the 7-Day-Unlimited because we generally complete more than 12 single rides (12x Single Ride Ticket at $ 2.75 = $ 33 – which is more expensive than the flat rate 7-Day Unlimited for $ 30).

7-Day Unlimited – $30

7-Day Express Bus Plus – $55

30-Day Unlimited – $112

Single Ride ticket – $2.75
(No Reduced-Fare)

Video, how to purchase a New York MetroCard

If purchasing the MetroCard from a ticket machine, you will be asked for a 5-digit zip code (postal code). If you don’t know the zip code of your hotel, simply enter 00000 (5 zeros)!

Here is a short video explaining how to purchase a card: 

How to purchase a metro card

play video

You can view the New York subway network map complete with all stations here for free. The operator, MTA, also provides mobile apps.

Strange sights: Secret subway station underneath City Hall

There is one station that can no longer be reached by subway: The City Hall station. This part of the system was opened in 1904 and used until 1945. Due to the increase in the number of passengers, longer trains had to be implemented that required longer platforms which is why the station had to be closed. However, because the platform of City Hall station is not straight but curved, renovation of the station was not deemed cost effective.
Would you like to see this historic station? Take the 6, to the last official station in downtown Manhattan and stay seated on the train. The 6 train uses the City Hall Loop to go back toward Uptown.

Have a great stay!

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Ahmet Suleyman

This popped up just when i was thinking about a weekly metrocard. Thanks

Steve coulthard

Very helpfull

Joy Rothschild

Helpful article but did not mention how to get a senior metro card which is what I am interested in. I live out of state but come into NYC frequently to visit grand children and wanted to know if I could purchase on line.

Maureen Steinert

Hi Joy,

you would need to apply for a reduced MetroCard. You can do so by mail or in person. Take a look here:



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