How to Buy a Subway Ticket


Buying a subway ticket sounds simple enough but can become quite confusing if you do not know what type of ticket you need. Most metropolitan subway systems have a wide range of tickets available for tourists, everyday commuters and people in between.

Things You'll Need

  • Subway map
  • Credit card or cash

Determine What Type of Subway Ticket You Need

  • Assess your use of the subway before you buy a ticket--how often you use it and how far you travel. There are different types of tickets for different uses. Find the most economical option for your individual needs.

  • Contact the subway system you will be using to determine whether your child needs his own ticket. In Washington DC, riders 4 years old and younger ride free with a paying adult. In Chicago, kids 7 and under are free and in Boston, you can ride for free until you are 12 years old.

  • Buy a reloadable fare card if you use the subway for your daily commute to work. You can add more money to it as needed and may even get a discounted rate if you add a certain amount of money per month. You will also be less likely to lose a plastic credit-card type fare card than paper tickets or tokens.

  • Inquire about a tourist's or visitor's pass if you are in town only for a short time but will be using the subway a lot during your visit. You usually buy this type of ticket for a flat rate, and it is valid for a number of days. You may get on and off the subway as much as you wish during this time period.

  • Ask a station manager about reduced fare options for senior citizens or students before you buy your subway ticket. You may find that you qualify for a discount.

Purchase Tickets

  • Buy your commuter fare card at an automated machine at the station. Many stations now provide machines to dispense tickets and fare cards, but these machines may not offer visitor passes. Insert your credit card or cash and decide how much value you want to put on your card.

  • Go to the ticket booth at the subway station if the type of ticket you want to buy is not available at an automated kiosk. A subway employee can sell you your tickets or direct you to the appropriate area.

  • Purchase subway tickets online, if this option is available, to save yourself time. Some large cities now offer online sales, including Austin, Texas and Los Angeles (see Resources below). Check with your local public transit authority for more information.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some transit systems give their customers a discount when they use a credit card for their ticket purchases. Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) charges more per ride if you pay in cash (see Resources below). Verify prices with your local subway if you have questions about fares.

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