SmarTrip cards are going digital — for iPhone or Apple Watch users who want a mobile-pay option.
Starting Tuesday, commuters throughout the Washington, D.C., area can use Apple Pay to board Metro trains, buses and regional transit lines.
It's the first mobile-pay option Metro has rolled out. All you need to do is add a new or existing SmarTrip card into the Apple Wallet app and tap your device where you used to touch a SmarTrip card.
No longer will you have to stand in line at the vending machine or rifle through your wallet, Metro says.
It's not available to everyone. You must have an iPhone 8, an Apple Watch Series 3 or a newer device. All of the old payment methods, including physical cards, will still work.
Options for riders with other phones, such as Android, are in the works, News4 Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss has learned.
The new service works anywhere SmarTrip cards are accepted, Metro says. That includes 91 Metro stations across D.C., Maryland and Virginia; Metro parking lots and garages; all Metrobuses and regional bus providers: ART, DASH, Fairfax Connector, Cue, Ride On, TheBus, Circulator, Loudoun County Transit and Potomac and Rappahannock Transit/PRTC.
D.C. is the first city in North America to roll out Apple Pay as a payment option accepted universally throughout the system, Metro says.
Here's how it works. If you want a new digital SmarTrip card, it can be purchased within the Apple Wallet app.
To transfer an existing card with its value to an iPhone or Apple Watch, open the Wallet app, tap the plus sign and choose SmartTrip. After that, the app will guide you through transferring your balance.
It appears that if you choose to transfer the balance from an existing card, your physical card is put out of service and can no longer be used. So, if you're chronically on low-battery, consider having backup options in your wallet.
However, the app also gives a note that your transit card may be available when your iPhone needs to be recharged.
To pay, tap your device on the same area where you would normally tap a SmarTrip card. You don't need to open the app or even wake up your phone or use Touch ID or Face ID for it to work — just "tap and go," Metro says (You're automatically signed up for this feature, but can disable it in your device settings).
"If you have an iPhone or Apple Watch, you already have everything you need to simply tap and go," Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in a statement.
To add more funds through Apple Wallet, you'll need to have a debit or credit card set up for Apple Pay. Metro also gives a second reload option, a separate newly-launched app.
Metro has debuted a new SmarTrip app that can help you add funds, buy passes, manage multiple cards and more.
The mobile option will also allow SmartTrip support in multiple languages, as well as more options for riders who have disabilities.
Metro says they hope the mobile option will be easier for tourists and when large-scale events eventually resume, because fewer people will need to add money at the vending machines.
Cities across the world allow Apple Pay as a payment option on some transit, including New York, Portland, Hong Kong and London. But D.C. offering this mobile payment option for all Metro and regional transit is unique in North America.
Metro has been working on a mobile option for fare payments for years. But there are no plans to stop the usage of physical SmarTrip cards.
Stay with News4 for more on this developing story