Frequently Asked Questions
To help you get acquainted with the use and functions of your new MTA CharmCard® please read the FAQs below.
When do CharmCards® go on sale?
Where can I buy CharmCard®?
How much do CharmCards® cost?
What do I have to do to start using my CharmCard®?
Where can I use my card?
What kinds of fares can I buy?
What does Cash Value mean?
What is a 1-Day Pass, 7-Day Pass and a 30-Day Pass?
What if my CharmCard® has both Stored Value and a Pass Product?
How do I pay my single trip fare?
How do I Check Value on my card?
How do I Add Value on my card?
How do I add a 1-Day, 7-Day or 30-Day pass at a TVM?
How do I add a 1-Day pass at the Farebox?
Will "Reduced Fare" eligible customers (seniors and people with disabilities) be able to purchase a CharmCard which will charge the reduced fares?
Can Commuter Choice benefits be loaded to a CharmCard®?
Can someone else use my card?
What fare is accepted to ride in the Washington, DC region?
What is the difference between CharmCard® and the SmarTrip® card?
Can my CharmCard hold more than one pass?
What if I have trouble using my card or lose it?
How long may I use my card?
- Full Fare CharmCards® are on sale now.
- Reduced Fare for seniors will be on sale in January 2011.
- Cards are available at the Transit Store, online, and at participating CVS and Giant Stores (Click here for a list of participating stores)
To get started, you must first add cash value or a pass product to your CharmCard®. On a Local Bus farebox, you may add up to four bills or $20 stored value. Or you may purchase a 1-Day Pass.
At a ticket vending machine you have different options. You may add up to $200 of cash value to your card and you may add a 1-Day, 7-Day or 30-Day pass product to your card. The pass validity does not begin until you first use it and will continue for the specified number of days on your pass.
On MTA Metro Subway, Light Rail and Local Bus and on any of the regional service in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and anywhere you see the CharmCard® and SmarTrip® names displayed. Remember, passes are only accepted in the region in which they were purchased.
You may load a maximum cash value of $200 to your card; and/or load a 1-Day, 7-Day or 30-Day Pass at Metro and Light Rail ticket vending machine (TVM). You may load up to $20 cash (remember four bills only) or purchase a 1-Day pass at the Bus farebox.
Cash Value is the amount of cash you have loaded on your card. You may use cash value to purchase pass products or have each ride deducted from cash value each time you tap the farebox, faregate, or Light Rail TVM target.
These pass products provide unlimited use of Local Bus, Metro Subway and Light Rail for the duration of the designated pass period – 1 day, 7 days or 30 days. The pass validity begins the day you first use it, and continues for the specified number of days on your pass. Please note that the time of day of your first use is not applied to the pass validity period: for example, if you begin using a 7-Day Pass on Monday at 8:00 a.m. or 11:30 p.m., the pass is only valid until the following Sunday at 11:59 p.m. REMINDER: TVM allows purchase of 1-Day, 7-Day and 30-Day pass. Bus farebox allows 1-Day pass purchase. MTA passes are not accepted in the Washington, DC region.
This combination is OK. The farebox, faregate and Light Rail TVM are programmed to read pass products, 1-Day, 7-Day and 30-Day pass first and then stored value to deduct a ride. If there are no pass products on the card, the proper fare from stored value will be deducted. If there is a combination of pass product and stored value, the pass will be read first and the fare will not be deduct from stored value.
Local Bus: Tap your card to the target on the top of the farebox. If you have cash balance on your card, the MTA fare collection system will deduct the cost of the single trip fare from your card. If you have a 1-Day, 7-Day, or 30-Day pass product on your card the fare collection system will automatically verify your transaction.
Metro Subway: Tap the target at the faregate as you enter the system, take your ride and tap again as you exit the system. If you have cash balance on your card, the MTA fare collection system will deduct the cost of the single trip fare from your card. If you have a 1-Day, 7-Day, or 30-Day pass product on your card the fare collection system will automatically verify your transaction. If you encounter a faregate with the barrier already open prior to touching your CharmCard®, DO NOT pass through the open faregate. This will make your card “out of sync” and you will have to see the station manager before using your card again.
Light Rail: At the TVM on the right side of screen under SMART CARD select ‘Purchase Single-Trip Fare or Activate Pass for First Ride’. Select single trip fare or activate a previously purchased pass. Touch your card to the target. Your fare will be deducted or pass activated and verified.
Ticket Vending Machine: If the screen directions are not fully visible, press any TVM button to begin. The TVM is designed for most smart card transactions to occur on the right side of the screen. Press the “Check Balance” button. Touch your card to the target. The value will be displayed on the screen.
Bus Farebox: Press “Check Value” button on the right side of the farebox. Tap your card to the target, the value will be displayed on the screen.
Ticket Vending Machine: If the screen directions are not fully visible, press any TVM button to begin. Press the “Add Value” button. Touch your card to the target. On the "Select Add Value Amount” screen, select the amount you wish to add. Press to pay with cash or credit. Follow screen prompts. Touch your card to the target again to load value.
Bus Farebox: Press the “Add Value” button on the left side of the farebox. Tap your card to the target. Insert cash (four bills only up to $20) into the farebox. Tap your card again to the target and the cash value will be loaded to your card.
- If the screen directions are not fully visible, press any button to begin.
- Under ‘Smart Card’ select pass type.
- Select payment cash, credit or stored value.
- Insert cash or swipe credit card.
- Touch card to target.
- Transaction receipt? Yes or no.
- Tell bus operator you would like to purchase a 1-Day Pass.
- Touch card to target.
- You will hear 2 beeps as $3.50 was extracted from your card and the 1-Day Pass loaded to your card.
Note: If you do not have $3.50 in stored value on your card, first ‘Add Value’.
Will “Reduced Fare” eligible customers (seniors and people with disabilities) be able to purchase a CharmCard® which will charge the reduced fares?
Reduced Fare CharmCards are available for Seniors and Persons with Permanent Disabilities. Reduced Fare CharmCards are only available through the MTA Reduced Fare Certification office located at 6 St. Paul Street, 1st Floor, Baltimore, MD, 21202. Please visit the Reduced Fare Certification Office for more information.
Not yet. We are in the beginning stage of investigating a Commuter Choice program with CharmCard®.
No. Do not lend or pass your card to anyone. The CharmCard® is non-transferrable. To reduce the likelihood of multiple fares paid with the same card a ‘pass back’ feature is set for 10 minutes. Another fare may not be deducted from your card for a period of 10 minutes. Although you may check balance during this time.
Stored value is always accepted to ride in the Washington, DC and the Baltimore region. If you purchase a pass in either Washington, DC or Baltimore, the pass is only accepted to ride in the region where you purchased it. Your card is capable of storing multiple passes and cash value.
The SmarTrip® and CharmCard® may look different on the outside, but they are the same smart card on the inside. In fact, you may use either one interchangeably in the Washington, DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas to pay your transit fare and to exit Metro parking lots in the Washington, DC area.
Yes, your card has the memory to store multiple passes from both regions, Baltimore and Washington DC and stored cash value.
Pay for your trip with cash. Call the Regional Customer Service Center at 1-888-SmarTrip (762-7874) immediately.
For as long as you like. The card is for you to keep as it will not expire.