STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New York City is now one step closer to officially phasing out the iconic MetroCard.
Earlier this month, the MTA began distributing OMNY cards to retailers across the five boroughs, giving New Yorkers their first look at the sleek new card that will be used to tap onto the city’s buses and subways in the years to come.
OMNY, the MTA’s new contactless fare payment, has been rolled out in phases over the past two years, and is now available systemwide at all 472 subway stations, on all 5,800 buses and at all Staten Island Railway stations.
The system allows users to use contactless cards, smartphones or other smart devices to simply tap to pay their fare on all buses and subways throughout the MTA system, as opposed to dipping or swiping a MetroCard.
So how much do these OMNY cards cost? Where can commuters get their hands on one? And do they even need one at this point?
Here’s everything we know so far about the new OMNY card.
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
Purchasing an OMNY card will cost commuters $5, plus whatever monetary value they elect to load onto the card.
While the $5 surcharge for an OMNY card appears to be a stark increase from the $1 charge associated with purchasing a new MetroCard, commuters can use their OMNY card for nearly five times as long.
OMNY cards do not expire until seven years after their purchase date, as opposed to MetroCards, which expire in 18 months.
The OMNY cards can be refilled at the retail locations where they’re purchased or online by creating an OMNY account and linking the card.
WHERE CAN YOU BUY THEM?
The MTA has started shipping the new OMNY cards to retail locations throughout the city, like chain drug stores, check-cashing sites and local delis where MetroCards are currently available for purchase.
An MTA spokesman cautioned that once the cards are shipped to a location, the agency does not have control over whether they’re immediately made available for purchase — meaning some locations that received the cards may not have yet put them up for sale.
For now, those seeking an OMNY card may need to ask around at places where they’ve previously purchased MetroCards to see if the new card is currently available at that location.
In the coming months, the MTA will roll out an online tool that will allow customers to view retailers in their area that have been stocked with OMNY cards, similar to the existing MetroCard Merchant Locator, according to the spokesman.
Later this year, the MTA will begin installing OMNY vending machines at subway stations and other transit hubs throughout the city, granting commuters a quick and easy way to purchase and refill their card.
It’s currently unclear where the OMNY vending machines will be installed on Staten Island, a borough that has MetroCard vending machines installed at just two locations — the St. George Ferry Terminal and the Eltingville Transit Center.
DO YOU NEED AN OMNY CARD?
Though many people are anxious to get their hands on the new card, there’s only a small number of commuters who will actually need them, and even those people don’t need them just yet.
The vast majority of commuters will never need to purchase an OMNY card if they don’t want one; they can continue paying their fare with their smart device or their own contactless card, as millions have done since the new system was rolled out.
The only people who will need an OMNY card are those without a bank account who have no other means of contactless payment and exclusively use cash to fund their transit trips.
But even these people have over a year to purchase and fill their OMNY card, with the MTA continuing to support the MetroCard for the next year-plus, before completely phasing it out in 2023.