Metro riders have paid $5 for a SmarTrip card since the transit agency introduced the option in 1996.
But that’s about to change -- sort of. Starting September 1, Metro will offer a $3 discount for riders who register their card online -- effectively dropping the purchase price to $2. Refunds will be issued five days after the card is first used.
Saving $3 isn’t the only benefit of online registration. Metro said it also protects the rider’s balance should the card be lost or stolen.
Metro said it is installing SmarTrip card vending machines in all rail stations by September. Upgrades are under way for the 10 stations that sell the most paper fare cards -- including Foggy Bottom, Union Station, Smithsonian and Rosslyn. These upgrades will be complete by July 1.
This fall an “auto reload” feature will be rolled out to all SmarTrip card holders. Riders have had the ability to manually add value to their cards online for some time, but with planned upgrades they may not need to. Customers will soon be able to link their SmarTrip cards to a credit or debit card, so that money is automatically transferred to the SmarTrip card should its value drop below a customer-specified amount.
Starting July 1, riders will be able to load one-day rail passes and the new 28-day rail pass to their SmarTrip cards, something which is currently unavailable. Also starting July 1, riders without SmarTrip cards will see a $1 increase in fare costs. The additional charge may be avoided with the one-time purchase of a SmarTrip card.
Future upgrades planned for 2013 and 2014 include a mobile application that will allow riders to do everything they can currently do online, on their phones -- including purchase passes with SmartBenefits and to add value to SmarTrip cards.