SmarTrip is literally your ticket to ride on all Metrorail stations in DC, Maryland and Virginia, Metrobus routes, MTA, and other regional buses, as well as a way to pay for Metro parking lots and garages.
To avail of all of these amenities, you first have to load your card. For that reason, I’m listing (and explaining in detail) all the ways to put money on your SmartTrip card.
- On a SmarTrip POS Device
- Auto Reload
- On Metrorail
- On Metrobus
1. On a SmarTrip POS Device
SmarTrip point-of-sale (POS) devices are available at hundreds of CVS/pharmacy, Walmart, and Giant Food stores, as well as commuter stores and other locations that you can find here.
You can add funds to your card using one of these machines yourself, or you can ask for assistance from one of the employees. You can add value with cash, credit, or debit cards.
- Log in to your SmarTrip account
- Select the card to add stored value or a pass
- Navigate to the right menu
- Choose to Add Value or Add Pass
- Follow the prompts to complete your order
You can only use debit or credit cards as well as a digital wallet to add funds, for obvious reasons.
3. Auto Reload
Auto Reload is an easy way of continually adding funds to your SmarTrip card on autopilot without the need to think about it constantly.
Auto Reload automatically renews passes that are close to expiration and/or adds stored value when the balance is low.
The Auto Reload frequency occurs when the minimum threshold is reached and is as follows:
- $10 for Stored Value (Full Fare / Senior / Disabled)
- 3 days remaining for 7-Day Passes (Bus / Rail)
- 7 days remaining for Monthly Unlimited
These thresholds can’t be changed or edited.
Auto Reload is available for the following:
- Stored Value
- Monthly Unlimited Pass
- 7-Day Regional Bus Pass
- 7-Day Unlimited Pass
- 7-Day Short Trip Unlimited Pass
- Regional Transit Partner Passes:
- PRTC Monthly Pass
- DASH Monthly Pass
- Ride On Monthly Pass
- MTA 7-Day Pass
- MTA 31-Day Pass
- MTA Express 31-Day Pass
To activate the Auto Reload feature online, do the following:
- Login to your SmarTrip account
- Select the SmarTrip
- Select ADD VALUE or ADD PASS
- Check the box (Use Auto Reload to…) in the shopping cart
- Proceed through checkout
To cancel Auto Reload online, here’s what you need to do:
- Login to your SmarTrip account
- Find the SmarTrip that has Auto Reload activated (In Your Account page)
- On the Card Summary page, select the “Manage Auto Reloads” link
- Click “Details/Edit/Cancel” next to the Auto Reload you want to cancel
- Click “Cancel Auto Reload”
- Follow the prompts to complete the cancellation
To cancel Auto Reload in the SmarTrip app:
- Log into the app
- Select “Manage Auto Reload” on the Card Summary screen
- Select what you want to cancel Auto Reload for
- Tap “Remove Auto Reload”
The cancellation period is 14 days, and you are liable for any Auto Reload amounts charged to your debit or credit card within 5 days of beginning the process.
4. On Metrorail
Metrorail terminals are fairly easy to use. To add funds to your SmarTrip card on a terminal, simply do the following:
- Find a ‘blue’ Fare Vending or a ‘black’ Add Value machine (you can find them at the entry of every Metrorail station)
- Tap your SmarTrip card against the circular mark
- Follow the instructions
- Insert a credit or debit card or cash up to $20 bills (machines give up to $10 in change)
- Tap your SmarTrip card on the circular target again
- This will update the card and the machine will show you the new balance
5. On Metrobus
On Metrobus and most other regional transportation providers, the process is similar to Metrorail mentioned above:
- On the left side of the target, push the ADD VALUE button
- Touch your card to the target
- Put in any coins (except pennies) or bills up to $20
- Touch your card again on the target
- Once you hear a success beep, the value is loaded on your card
To ride on the bus, you will have to deduct a fair at this point as well. Metrobus (except PRTC and MTA) riders will hear a second success beep to indicate that a fare was automatically deducted.
PRTC and MTA riders will have to touch the card to the target once again to deduct a fare from their card.
How to Buy the SmarTrip Card?
In order to use your SmarTrip card, you first have to buy it. To do that, there are a couple of options.
1. Mobile Pay
To use a SmarTrip card on your smartphone, you can download the dedicated SmarTrip app or buy the card with your Apple or Google Wallet, and keep it there.
Simply open your preferred digital wallet app and choose SmarTrip under Transit Cards. Add the amount and confirm the purchase. The card is now in your wallet for future use.
However, only on the SmarTrip app can you register your card to protect your card’s balance.
You can just as easily buy a new plastic card by visiting the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) website.
There you can buy cards with one or three-day unlimited passes or one with stored value ($8 and $28).
There are also special edition cards available celebrating the 40th anniversary of Metrorail.
Although your order will generally be shipped the next business day via USPS first-class mail, you’re advised to expect at least 5 business days for delivery.
3. In Person
To buy your card in person, you can do so at fare vending machines at Metrorail stations or at one of Commuter Stores or Retail Outlets such as Walmart or Giant Food, for example.
Fares and cards are available instantly, of course.
What’s the Maximum Value on a SmarTrip card?
You can add up to $300 in stored value to your SmarTrip card. On registered cards, all the funds are insured and protected against theft and loss. This makes it safe to add as much value (up to $300) as you want, so you don’t have to constantly go to the website, app, or vending machines.
Of course, you can also enable the Auto Reload option, so that’s taken care of for you without you needing to do anything.
Can a SmarTrip card hold more than one pass?
You can buy and hold two unique passes on your SmarTrip card. For instance, an MTA Pass and a 7-Day Unlimited Pass. You can also have two copies of each unique pass.
One copy will be active, while the second one will be ready to activate when the first one lapses. This way, you can add your next 7-Day Unlimited Pass before the present one expires.
Can I Have Both Stored Value And a Pass?
You can have both Stored Value and a Pass on your card because the bus farebox will read the pass products first and then stored value to deduct a ride.
If there are no pass products available, the fare will be deducted from the Stored Value.
What if I Have Problems Loading Purchases?
If you encounter any problems when loading stored value or products, you can contact customer service at 1-888-762-7874.
There is some troubleshooting you can do yourself beforehand:
- Stored value and other products bought online are available for pickup within one business day for fare gates and fare vending machines and three business days for bus fareboxes
- Smart card product buys expire if you don’t load them to your card within 30 days
- If the card limits will be surpassed by the acquisition, the product will remain pending until the value of your card is low enough or until the product has lapsed after 30 days
- The system supplies your online purchases exclusively to the rail stations and buses that you’ve used in the last 21 days
- You have to touch your card at a bus farebox, a fare gate, or a fare vending machine if you haven’t used any in 21 days prior
- You also have to wait one day if you touched a target at a fare vending machine or a fare gate, or three days if you touched a bus farebox