Riders of New York transit can now try the MTA’s new “tap-and-go” mobile wallet and contactless card payment system, called OMNY. The readers were gradually switched on Friday, May 31 from noon to 1pm. This means yes, you can now use your phone to pay for the subway. And the MetroCard? Its days are numbered.
Here’s what it looks like to pay for subway fare with Apple Pay on an iPhone:
And here’s how it works with an Apple Watch:
Easy! But there are some things you need to know.
The contactless payment pilot in New York is currently limited to Staten Island buses and 16 stations on the 4, 5, and 6 subway lines.
For the subway, you can pay with your phone, wearable, or credit card, as long as you board and exit between Grand Central–42nd Street and Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center.
To use Apple Pay for transit, you’ll need a compatible device and you’ll need to set up the Express Transit feature in Settings.
Transit payment via Apple Pay works with iPhone SE and iPhone 6S or newer smartphones, as well as Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 or later. You will need to update to the latest software (iOS 12.3 on iPhone and watchOS 5.2.1 on Apple Watch) to enable Express Transit.
After updating, open Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Express Transit Card and select the credit card or debit card to use for transit.
Once Express Transit is turned on, all you need to do is hold your phone or Apple Watch near a tap-and-go transit terminal. The fare will automatically be deducted.
Note: No Face ID or passcode authentication will be necessary.
For now, you can only buy single-fare tickets using the tap-and-go system.
The system is currently only set up for pay-per-ride fares. It doesn’t work with unlimited or reduced fare passes yet. However, on its website, the MTA says that it will “introduce more fare options as the system rolls out.” In any case, using your mobile wallet will save you the $1 MetroCard fee (as long as you’re riding the 4, 5, or 6 trains).
The OMNY launch doesn’t apply to just Apple devices — you can use other digital wallets and credit cards with contactless payment enabled too.
OMNY will accept digital wallets, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay, and Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover cards with contactless payment (there will be a sideways WiFi-looking symbol on your card if so).
The MTA plans to roll out Apple Pay over the entire subway system and bus routes by late 2020. MetroCard will be phased out by 2023 (sorry, Kathleen Hanna).
Riders will always be able to pay with cash at retail locations and vending machines, according to the MTA. Otherwise, only smart devices or contactless credit cards will be accepted.