How to TAP: Using TAP Cards 101

The change from paper tickets to TAP Cards is causing confusion for some at the ticket machines.

Discover LA by Metro:

Goodbye, Paper Tickets. It’s Time to TAP!

You must tap your TAP card before boarding each train.

The Los Angeles Metro system uses a plastic card containing a computer chip — TAP (Transit Access Pass) Card — for all fares. The TAP Card is used for fares on the light rail/subway and buses.

Each person needs a TAP Card — no sharing. The only exception: two children under 5 years old may ride for free when accompanied by a paying adult.

To ride the LA Metro light rail/subway, you need to tap your TAP Card for each train you ride. One-way fares include free transfers in the same journey for up to two hours; no stopovers or doubling back are permitted.

TAP Cards can be loaded with single-ride fares, dollar amounts, or pass fares.

All Metro ticket vending machines dispense TAP Cards for $1.00 in addition to the fare or pass loaded on them at the time of purchase. Once you have a TAP Card, it can be reloaded at any Metro ticket machine.

The automated ticket machines are easy to use and give step-by-step instructions in several languages.  The help button activates in-depth instructions.

For a better view of the steps, click on the photos to enlarge.

How to Buy Your TAP Card and Load Your Fare:

To buy a new TAP Card, press button A. To add dollar value or a fare to your TAP Card, press button G. To check your balance, press button H.

If you don’t have a TAP Card:

• To buy a new TAP Card, press the silver button on the machine for Option A — Purchase New TAP Card + Fare.

When you already have a TAP Card:

• To load dollar value onto your TAP Card, press button G.

• To check the balance on your TAP Card, press button H.

To add value or a pass to your TAP Card, or to check the status of your card, press the appropriate button, tap your card on the ticketing machine, and follow the instructions. Tap your TAP Card on the machine to complete your transaction.

Select Your Fare:

Payment can be made using cash, credit cards, or debit cards. Ticket machines accept $20 and smaller bills and coins. The machines dispense $1 coins instead of bills for change, so you might end up with a lot of coins if you insert a $20 bill.

The fares that can be added to a regular TAP Card are: A – 7-Day Pass; C – One Ride fare; F- Regular Day Pass; G – 30-Day Pass. H- Senior/Disabled peak fare; I – Senior/Disabled off-peak fare. Fares have increased from those shown here, effective September 15, 2014.

• Regular one-ride fares are $1.75.

• The senior or disabled fare is $.75 during peak hours and $.35 non-peak.

• A regular DayPass is $7 and is valid from the first tap until 3 a.m. the following morning. If you’re taking more than five trips in a day, the DayPass saves you money.

• A 7 DayPass is $25 and is the best bet if you’ll be doing 17 or more trips during a week.

• A 30 DayPass is $100.

The valid time period for a 7 DayPass or 30 DayPass begins on its first use. It doesn’t matter if it’s the beginning, middle, or end of the week or the month.

Load Dollar Value for Easy Riding:

Lump-sum dollar values can be added to a TAP Card. The amount of each fare is then deducted when you tap for the first leg of each trip. This is an easy way to handle multiple trips.

Lump-sum dollar amounts can also be added to your TAP Card. When tapped on entry, the amount of a regular one-way fare will be deducted from your balance unless a valid pass is loaded on the card; a pass takes precedence over one-way fares. For example, if you have a cash balance on your TAP Card and you buy a DayPass, your cash balance will not be reduced during the day that you use the DayPass.

Discount TAP Cards Require Special Purchase:

Senior and disabled TAP Cards are eligible for discounted fares.

Senior and disabled TAP Cards are not sold at the automated ticket machines. These cards, which allow loading of discounted passes, require an ID and must be obtained either from a Metro Customer Center or with a downloaded application form that is mailed in. Ticket machines recognize the status of these cards and allow the loading of discounted passes. Senior and disabled DayPasses are $2.50 and can be loaded only on these special TAP Cards. With this good value, it is worth the effort to get your special TAP Card if you qualify.

When lump-sum dollar amounts are loaded on these special TAP Cards, the discounted one-trip fare amount is automatically deducted at the first entry unless a valid pass is loaded.

Student discount TAP Cards are also available through Metro and some schools. See Metro’s Reduced Fares page for more information.

Tap and Go:

When you tap your TAP Card, you can see your fare status. If you tap more than once, the entry monitor will tell you that your card has been tapped.

The TAP Card registers if it has been tapped at the entry gate. Tap your TAP Card for each train you ride. You’ll find the TAP validators on the turnstile or next to the train platform entry. If you’re changing from the Red/Purple Line to the Expo or Blue Line in the 7th/Metro Station, there are TAP validators near the stairs on the Expo/Blue Line level.

Metro monitoring personnel have machines that read these cards. If you don’t have a valid TAP Card fare or transfer, you’ll be socked with a hefty $250 fine.

turnstiles at the Metro station

Turnstiles at Metro stations operate in both directions. It is necessary to press the TAP Card to the blue circle on entry. Turnstiles are unlocked for exiting passengers; no TAP Card tap is needed.

For more information on using Metro, see our pages on Riding Metro 101 and Metro Maps & Getting Around.

All photography, graphic images, and text copyright © and may not be downloaded or used without written permission.
Please contact us to license usage of images or text.

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42 Responses to How to TAP: Using TAP Cards 101

  1. Michael says:

    Why can’t you use one Tap card and pay for the other people in your group? Why does everyone need separate Tap cards if one can pay for each person. What a rip off.

    • Metro Duo says:

      As noted in our response to Michele below, we’re not affiliated with Metro and are not able to answer questions like this.

      We suggest that you use the Metro e-mail or phone contacts in that response.

      Good luck!

  2. Jake says:

    Is the day pass valid for 24 hours ? Or only till 11:59pm that day? Because i need to use four metro bus late at night and use four metro bus back around 1am and the day pass will help save money .please help

    • Metro Duo says:

      A single-day pass is valid until 3 am. Day passes can only be added to TAP Cards at Metro ticket machines and can’t be purchased on a bus.

      However, because you get free transfers for two hours when you’re traveling in the same direction, it will be less expensive for you to use the stored value on your TAP Card for two single fares, one for your outbound trip and one for your return.

  3. Ufuo says:

    Is there a daily fare cap with stored value?

    • Metro Duo says:

      We’re not clear about your question.

      Day passes allow unlimited rides on the days for which they are valid. If you have a valid single- or multi-day pass on the TAP Card, it will be used instead of any stored value.

      Individual rides get free transfers for up to two hours when you’re traveling in the same direction, i.e. not backtracking. Outside of those parameters, the stored value will be used to pay your fare.

  4. How can I find out how much is on my visa tap card

    • Metro Duo says:

      Hi, Linda! TAP Cards are not credit cards and are not part of the Visa network. The stored value on a TAP Card can be viewed on the ticketing machines at all Metro Rail stations. Just press Button H, then tap your card on the circular sensor.

  5. angelswtie1291@yahoo.com says:

    I have a discounted student TAP card. Am I allowed to use it more than one time in a day?
    For example, I need to go on the silver line and right after that I need to transfer and take the expo line. Will my discounted student TAP card cover both of those rides?

    • Metro Duo says:

      Yes, your discount TAP Card (student, senior, disabled, etc.) can be used repeatedly in one day as long as you have loaded enough fares or money on it. A good idea is to load a student discount Day Pass on your student TAP Card if you are riding a number of times in one day. The discount cards are programmed to accept loading of discount fares (regular TAP Cards will not accept discount Day Passes, for example) or to use the “added value” at the discount rate. For Metro’s official info. page see — http://www.taptogo.net/

      • angelswtie1291@yahoo.com says:

        I paid the $36 discounted price good for 30 days. However today was my first day using it. When I first got on the silver line bus and tapped it, it was okay, then when I got to 7th street/la metro rail to board the expo line, i tapped the card, and I got the red error stating stop, tap already used.

        • Metro Duo says:

          We are not affiliated with or employees of Metro, so we don’t have the answer to this technical glitch. The important ting is to tap for each train or bus so that if you are stopped by a Metro sheriff your card will show that it was tapped.

  6. John Burkett says:

    My tap car recently expired, and it still had $10 on it. I had to buy a new card, and I was wondering if there is a way to transfer the money I had on the old card to my new one? Or is there a way to renew my old one and keep the money I had on it?

    • Metro Duo says:

      Our TAP cards haven’t expired, so we don’t have an answer for you, sorry. We couldn’t find anything about this on the TAP website, so we suggest you call them at 866.TAPTOGO (1-866-827-8646).

      Good luck!

  7. Jeremy says:

    How long after reloading a tap card online, does it take for it be usable?
    I bought a 7-day pass this morning and loaded it onto the tap card I purchased yesterday for a day pass.
    It shows it online and through the taptogo phone line, but I couldn’t use it on any buses all day today.

  8. Kate says:

    I’m trying to pay for my fares on my TAP card with tokens and did so by selecting the metro rail 1 ride. But when i tried to check my balance, the balance had not changed, except that it notified me that I now had a metro 1 ride. How does this work? How would I select this once the remaining balance on my card has depleted? I’m simply confused as to what the metro 1 ride is, and why the balance doesn’t change despite adding tokens to my card.

  9. notahappycamper says:

    I will never ride Metro again or use another tap card again. My mother and I were robbed of $75.00 dollars each because the equipment used to scan the tap card wasn’t working. It was very shocking and humiliating to have sheriffs talk to us like we were criminals and intentionally didn’t pay. I later learned that the scanners when exiting red line to gold line don’t work. Don’t have time or money to contest something that probably is just a scam anyhow. I just cant afford to ride at this price.

  10. Jack says:

    Can the day pass be used with different lines? For example, using multiple rail lines to go from Union Station to LAX? Or is it only for one line, like the red line only?

    • Metro Duo says:

      Thanks for asking! Yes, the day pass can be used on all Metro Rail lines. It can also be used on most Metro bus lines.

      However, we recommend that you use the Flyaway bus service that goes from Union Station (Patsouras Plaza on the east side of the station) direct to LAX. It drops off and picks up at all terminals and is much faster and more convenient than using the Red/Purple, Blue, and Green Lines plus the shuttle bus to go that same route.

      Happy riding!

  11. Samantha says:

    How can I check the balance on my TAP card online? (Student reduced)
    I had to walk home today due to the bus driver telling me that my card did not have money in it :(

    • Metro Duo says:

      Hi, Samantha! We’re sorry that you had this experience.

      We’re not aware of any way to check the status of a TAP card on line.

      The Metro website has a page explaining how to check what’s loaded on your TAP card:

      http://www.metro.net/riding/fares/keep-tabs-your-tap-card/

      However, even if your TAP card doesn’t have a valid fare on it, you can pay cash for a single bus ride when you get onboard. On the Metro Rail lines, though, you need to use a TAP card.

      Good luck!

      • Mirza says:

        TAP card balances can be seen at http://www.taptogo.net

        • Metro Duo says:

          Thanks for sharing this valuable link. We will update our post info. soon to show this helpful tool.

        • melonpated says:

          No, they can’t. I’ve tried to use this link (which just takes you to the home page), and clicked “Manage your tap card on line”. You can only add fare products and check your contact information. There is a section called “My Cards”, but if you click on it, it gives you all the info for each card EXCEPT THE BALANCE. I’ve even tried clicking under “Trip History”, but no records show up there. It seems that it would tell you the balance if you’ve ridden within a certain amount of time, but the reason I don’t remember how much is on there is because I HAVEN’T ridden in a while. You can only check your balance at a tap card station (like this blog mentions). There is no way to check a balance on line.
          I’ve scoped the web, and no one has a direct link, or specific path to checking an LA Metro tap card balance on line.

          • avmanm says:

            Yes, you can. Log in to the TAP website. Click Manage Your TAP Account. Click the “Add Stored Value” button at the bottom right corner. The page that loads will have section called Card Status. There will be a field there saying “Value Remaining”, just above the drop down list for select value. You do not need to actually add money to be able to see your balance, you can just log out after seeing the balance. Here is a screenshot I got from my account:

            • Metro Duo says:

              Thank you for providing an answer once again, Mirza! You obviously have a lot of experience with the TAP website, and we appreciate your contributions to our blog!

  12. Sam says:

    My wife is not an frequent tap card user. This morning she deposited 5 dollars in cash at the Sierra Madre station to buy a daypass. She used the tap card to pass the machine gate and used the same card to pass the gate machine for a transfer at union station to the red line. But when she exited at the Vermont & Wilshire station the inspector said her tap card is invaild & issue a $75(failure to pay) violation and had to buy a second day pass.We don’t think this is right. Please tell us how to file a complaint to clear this voilation and get back the money she used to buy the 2nd daypass.

    • Metro Duo says:

      We’re sorry to learn of your experience. We are not part of Metro, so we aren’t able to help you directly.

      However, we took a quick look at Metro’s website and found two ways to contact their customer relations group:

      Their e-mail address: customerrelations@metro.net

      Their phone contact: 213.922.6235
      8:00am – 4:15pm (Monday-Friday)

      We passed through the 7th/Metro station yesterday and today while changing lines, and we noted that some of the TAP consoles by the stairs were being serviced and were not working. While they were taped over and marked, we observed some people tapping their cards on them. Perhaps this is what happened to you.

      We hope you can get this resolved easily.

  13. Jasmijn says:

    What can I do if I have a regular TAP card with, say, $20 loaded on to it and usually only ride twice at a time (meaning, out and back again, or one round trip, on the day when I do use it) but sometimes end up on multiple rides? For instance: today we went to Culver City on the Expo line around lunchtime and then later decided to go to North Hollywood on the Red Line for dinner, and we’re going to stop in Hollywood for a drink on the way back. It’s going to charge me 5 x $1.50, isn’t it? or would it basically consider this a day pass and stop at $5?

    Since I don’t usually ride 4 stretches in one day, if I load a day pass on to the card, will it automatically activate the day pass if I only use it for the one round trip? (thus wasting the rest of the value?) Or is there a way to tell the turnstile, “this time use a single $1.50 deduction” vs “this time use the day pass value”?

    • Metro Duo says:

      Thanks for reading our blog! Day passes are purchased separately from cash value and are activated the first time the card is used after the pass is loaded on the card. After the pass expires, cash value will be deducted when the card is used. There is no way to convert cash value to a day pass.

  14. Hamish O says:

    Not sure if you will see this, but I’m wondering if it is possible to load a TAP with multiple single rides. We are thinking of making 4 metro rail trips while in LA (2 return). We don’t want to use cash as there is no $6 option, so I am wondering if after purchasing a TAP + single ride for $2.50 at a red line machines we can immediately add 3 more single trips (using three transactions). If so this would mean we only need to go to the machines once. If not we will have to go to the machine each time, which is less convenient. I would much appreciate a reply.

    • Metro Duo says:

      Hi Hamish,
      We’re not employees of Metro, so we don’t have official insight into the workings of the TAP Cards.

      However, we have actually done this — added multiple rides. We found that while you can load multiple rides onto a TAP Card, the card doesn’t register them the same way as when you load a dollar amount — so get a receipt printed and keep it. Our experience was that the rides were deducted when we tapped the card, but the card reader showed no rides loaded.

      We tried this when we were traveling with a senior who didn’t have a senior TAP Card. We bought a regular TAP Card and then loaded six senior rides. Each ride was deducted when the card was tapped.

      However, during the journey, the card was checked by a sheriff and the rides did not register on his card reader. Fortunately we had receipts for the rides loaded all at the same time and the sheriff did not issue a ticket.

      We suggest that loading a day pass or adding value is a much easier way to use the TAP Cards — as this seems to be how they were setup.

      • Hamish O says:

        Thanks so much for such a comprehensive reply. Your knowledge on this subject is obviously very good.

        Based on what you’ve said I’ve decided we will add one ride each to out tap cards before each train ride.

        Using day passes or cash, although more convenient, would cost us considerably more, hence I have ruled out that option.

        It is interesting to read about TAP. In Auckland where I live a new card called HOP is being rolled out, and eventually cash will be the only option, with caps instead of passes, and single rides still on paper. Short-term users however will not use our card because it costs $10. This is because the card is charged after completing a ride (we have to tag off), which is because unlike LA we don’t have a flat fare. And obviously the charge for the card has to be greater than the maximum charge on the network or people would simply buy a card to ride with not have any balance (it supports negative balance), and instead buy a new card for each trip.

  15. Joe Wilder says:

    I bought a tap card at the Jefferson/ LaCienega station and loaded it with a senior fair. It took it. I mention this because the above information indicates I shouldn’t be able to do that. I also tapped it and the machine indicated the fare had been accepted.

    • Metro Duo says:

      Thanks for reading our blog!

      You can, indeed, load a single-ride senior fare on a standard TAP Card, as noted in our post. You need a Senior TAP Card to buy a senior multi-ride pass and/or add cash value for senior fares.

      If you qualify for a Senior or Disabled TAP Card, we think it’s worth the effort to get one. With cash value on the card, you needn’t stop at a ticketing machine every time you get on a train, and you can buy senior multi-ride passes as well.

  16. Richard says:

    This is a step in the right direction. When will we be able to add value to the tap card online In real time? Rather than wait two or three days to be able access the funds added. Seems absurd that I can do this with my Starbucks card easily but not with a tap card. Please fix.

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