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How to use OMNY, the MetroCard replacement coming to some subway lines, buses

The MTA's new tap-to-pay system will launch on May 31 at 16 subway stations and on Staten Island buses.

The OMNY payment system was on display at

The OMNY payment system was on display at the MTA Board meeting on April 17. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Spring is a time for new beginnings, and for the MTA that means rolling out a new way to enter the subway.

On May 31, the MTA will launch OMNY, its new tap-to-pay system that will eventually replace the swipe, swipe, swipe of the MetroCard.

In an attempt to control the chaos likely to occur if the MetroCard was tossed out overnight, the MTA is rolling out the new system in phases, starting with 16 subway stations on the 4, 5 and 6 lines in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The new technology will also be available on Staten Island buses at the same time.

For now, the only people who will benefit from using OMNY  are Staten Islanders who rely on the bus system and subway riders whose commutes start and end at a station that has the new technology, but even those straphangers would also need a MetroCard to move around outside of those stations.

Here’s what else you need to know about how to use OMNY.

How does OMNY work?

When OMNY launches, riders will be able to hold a contactless bank card (debit, credit or prepaid) or a smartphone mobile wallet up to the new card readers installed at turnstiles to enter the subway system. 

Other forms of payment are also in the works, including an MTA app and an OMNY card.

How do I know whether I have a contactless bank card?

Contactless cards have a specific symbol on the front or back that looks similar to the image used to represent Wi-Fi. Many financial institutions have begun to issue contactless cards, and the MTA said riders should be able to request one from their bank or credit card company.

What about paying with cash?

For its launch, riders will not be able to pay for OMNY with cash. Riders who want to pay in cash will have to wait until the MTA rolls out the OMNY card, which is expected to be available via select retailers in February 2021 and in new station vending machines by 2023.

Is there a weekly or monthly payment option?

OMNY will only be available as a full fare, single ride payment option until the technology is installed and launched across the entire subway and bus system, per the MTA. The transit authority expects to be able to offer weekly, monthly and discounted fares sometime in late 2020.

Which subway stations are equipped with OMNY technology?

Sixteen subway stations that serve the 4, 5 and 6 lines between Grand Central-42nd Street in Manhattan and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center in Brooklyn should be equipped with the tap-to-pay technology by May 31.

When will OMNY launch systemwide?

OMNY is expected to launch across the subway and bus systems by the end of 2020, but the MetroCard will stick around until July 2023.


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