Impending fifth anniversary of CharlieCards could mean a trip to Downtown Crossing

CharlieCards have a five-year expiration date, as Ron Newman discovered. Since they were introduced in late 2006, that means lots of them are going to be expiring soon. Any value you have left on an expired card won't just go poof, however. MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo says:

T riders may have the value on their expiring cards transferred to a new one at the T's Customer Service windows at Downtown Crossing (in the underground corridor across from Macy's). We'll be launching a public information campaign very soon.

UPDATE: Pesaturo adds: "Customers with stored value only on their CharlieCards need not worry. Their CharlieCards will be good for another two years past this fall's expiration date."



    Free tagging: 


    Mind asking Joe what the point is?

    I'm curious if this is a technicality of the system or some stupid built-in age/life of the technology built into the spec (the way some IT departments won't let you have a company computer that's older than X years old). What's the point of expiring the RFID chips? Why is the MBTA incurring the cost of replacing everyone's CharlieCard every 5 years (when most people's are perfectly preserved and probably glued to the leather of their wallet by now from not being pulled out)?


    Mine Gave Up Early

    My first Charlie card stopped working (mid-month, mind you, so I had to buy a few weekly passes, too) last year. One of the sides had become sort of bent and frayed, so maybe the chip or whatever was damaged.

    Have you guys really never had to replace yours?

    lifetime of the card

    -Ten year retention
    -100,000 read-write cycles on the memory chip
    -"250 bending cycles on each side, 500 torsion cycles on
    each side as specified in ISO10373 without loosing
    functionality and aesthetic aspects."

    The ten year figure only applies to retention of data on the chip, not the whole card functioning. The MBTA is not the first implementation of MiFare cards, so there's probably data on how long they remain functional. I'm sure there's also a curve for time vs. failure rate, and the MBTA made a decision on where in the curve they felt they wanted to yank cards out of the system. Who knows how they fail - probably they start to need multiple tries to tap, and cause problems beyond lengthening the time it takes for people to board and pay on the bus.

    It would have been nice if they had modified the card's in-system age by a function of, say, RAND(0-1)x 3 months, to smooth out the surge in deactivated cards. And of course they should have publicized why the cards would stop working. And of course it would have been nice if you got a "CARD WILL EXPIRE IN 60 DAYS" notice at turnstiles.

    Wouldn't it be nice if all kiosks were capable of transferring your old card to a new one? Five years seems like plenty of time to implement the software to make that happen. Then again, five years also seems like plenty of time to give handheld readers to conductors on the commuter rail, eh?

    More answers from the T

    Most of the expiring CharlieCards are issued through the MBTA's Senior and People with Disabilities Pass program and the Corporate Pass program. For holders of these CharlieCards, the transition to a new Card will occur automatically (the customer will not have to visit the Downtown Crossing Customer Service windows).

    Over the last 12 months or so, holders of passes for Seniors and People with Disabilities have been coming in to have their passes replaced. Holders of passes issued through the Corporate Pass program are receiving new passes through their employers.

    Why do they expire? At the time of the 2006 procurement process, a 5-year useable life was the industry standard for such cards.

    What happens to a monthly pass if the card expires in the middle of the month? While there could be some exceptions, most of the cards that expire at dates in the middle of months are Senior or TAP passes, and have the expiration printed on them. Any exceptions would be given a new pass or refund.

    Why Downtown Crossing and not the machines at stations? The functionality is not available at standard fare vending machines. The value can only be transferred at the Pass Sales office.

    Joe Pesaturo is misinformed or not telling the truth

    Any card that people received during the first month of the CharlieCard program (December 2006) will be expiring this year.

    Of the eleven cards I have, five of them expire this year. Three of them on 10/31/11, one on 11/18/11 (yes, the middle of a month), and one on 12/31/11. Yet another one expires on 1/31/12.

    The card that expires on 11/18/11 has the First Night and Shaw's Supermarkets logos on the back. These were WIDELY distributed during December 2006. Everyone who bought a First Night 2007 button at a Shaw's store received one.

    None of my cards are senior, disabled, blind, or corporate pass program cards.

    Tell him to try again with a better answer.

    (Also, what does "the transition to a new Card will occur automatically" mean? And since I am holding in my hand right now a card with an 11/18/11 expiration date, what will happen to it if I put a November pass on it next month?)

    That's good to hear, but ...

    ... still doesn't answer what happens to people who try to add a November monthly pass to their cards that expire on 11/18/11 (or, for that matter, 10/31/11). Can they do so at machines? Can they do so online? What if they have set up automatic recurring monthly pass purchases online? Will the cards work for all of November?

    I think you need to bother Joe one more time.

    Another bald-faced lie from

    Another bald-faced lie from Petasaurus. My cards have expired. At several different turnstiles at more than one station, they are refused, and a "expired" message is displayed. Charlie machines also refuse to acknowledge them, except to call them expired. These four different cards have never held anything but stored value. MBTA Customer "service" droids at multiple stations confirm that the cards have expired, and they say that the only way to retrieve my stored value is to visit the sales location at Downtown Crossing on a weekday (requiring time off from work), or at Harvard Square if anyone can figure out when they're open.

    Once again, Charlie is a major cluster-fork, and T management responds with lies.

    no shit, Sherlock Pestaturo

    Why Downtown Crossing and not the machines at stations? The functionality is not available at standard fare vending machines. The value can only be transferred at the Pass Sales office.

    No kiddin', we know that. The question is: why hasn't the T, in the 5 years since, developed the software to MAKE THE FUNCTIONALITY AVAILABLE so that those of us with lives don't have to blow a 2-3 hours of our lives dealing with this bullshit if we don't live near or on a subway line?

    For god sakes, it's been five years and you still have to go downtown to transfer/combine values on multiple cards or charlietickets. Why can't they at the very least open up service stations at the end of each line?

    And when the hell are we going to get charliecard access for the ferries and commuter rail, something promised years ago? Maybe it might cut down on the fraud we heard about recently that cost the T millions and they were unaware of for years until someone finally noticed the passes were Funny?

    Ah, gotta love the MBTA

    This sounds like a clusterfrack just waiting to happen! I can promise that I will probably be less than polite if my Card and the monthly pass on it suddently stop working and I'm told to make a special trip, out of my way, to get it cleared up. Though, admittedly, not nearly as impolite as I'd be if I'm also told to cough up an extra fare to get there...


    Most likely

    This seems most likely. As much as it sucks to shlep to DTX to get your info swapped, it would suck more to have it stop working after you load $20 onto it.

    The thing I don't get is why they can only do this at DTX. I had a metrocard expire on me my most recent visit to NYC and they were able to swap my money onto a new card right at the station in one of those booths. Took all of two minutes. Do our little huts have nothing in them besides an air conditioner? What a waste if that's the case...

    MBTA does not trust its employees

    The MBTA does not trust its employees to do these things and not create fake passes or steal money. I once tried to transfer a monthly pass that got printed on a CharlieTicket on to my CharlieCard at the DTX service center and was told that they could not do it, even though the pass had just been created a few minutes beforehand. While the MBTA won't go on record about it, the control of money, passes, and keys to the fare machines is much higher than with the old token system. With the old token system, the MBTA was getting robbed blind by some employees on such a regular basis that no one really knew how bad the problem was.


    they do

    The little huts occasionally have a garishly-accessorized woman wider than she is taller, killing time reading books until her pension is fully vested and she can spend the rest of her days kicking back in Florida, costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical care from heart disease until she has a massive stroke at the local Sonic.


    This is correct; all the

    This is correct; all the power the chips use is derived from the RF signal from the reader. But as mentioned upthread, there are other things that can fail - eventual mechanical failure of the antenna due to bending, or failure of the flash storage due to write cycles.

    Ron -- I checked out your method

    But the info provided was extremely unclear. It didn't really say how long the card would last, only that _if not used_ it would expire in Feb 2012. No hint as to the lifetime of the monthly pass portion, just confirmation of the fact that my current pass runs out at the end of this month.

    The only thing that's unclear

    The only thing that's unclear is the wording on the ticket machine screen. It says something like "Card must be used by 10/31/11 to stay active."

    I used my card today, and the date wasn't extended. How close to 10/31 does it have to be until that date would change? It might actually mean that cards expire on that date (or two years afterwards, according to the T).


    If the "expiration date" of the RFID on the oldest cards

    is still a couple of years away, then it seems to me that there's still enough time for the T put a flag into the software so people can't add value to the card after a certain date, and informing them they need a new card.

    This would be far more logical than the current plan of requiring people to take the time to go to DTX to transfer value from their current card to a new one.

    Try six weeks away

    If you click over to my b0st0n LiveJournal post (which Adam also linked to), you'll see that some of my Charlie Cards, including the one I regularly use, expire on October 31, 2011.

    Others have varying expiration dates all the way up to April 14, 2021. Since that's almost ten years away, I don't see why some of the cards need to expire after just five years.


    Multiple Cards

    If you are a bus user, you sometimes need to keep a "full" one in reserve, since reloading on the bus is difficult, or impossible if the reload function fails.

    We have six of them for four people. That way, the kids swap an empty one for a full card when their card runs low and I can refill it downtown.

    We used to have a couple more around, but the boys have turned into Charlie Card Evangelists: they will give their friends an empty card and teach them how to fill it up with their own money.


    You seriously go downtown to load value onto cards? You know you can do that at any station, or online, right?

    Also, HEY LOOK, a way to manage multiple cards in your family and see what the balances are!

    Are you still standing up, because THERE'S MORE, FOLKS! There's this technology called a MONTHLY PASS. Instead of paying $1.25 a trip (or, say, $2.50 a day if you're taking a round trip and miss the transfer window), you can use something called a MONTHLY PASS. This exciting item requires only about 16 round trips before you come out ahead (assuming your employer does not discount it.)

    Bus pass for daily commuters: half off your monthly commuting expenses. Giving everyone on the bus (and down the rest of the entire line) 30 seconds of their life back: PRICELESS.



    I work downtown, stupid. I have a T pass. I reload the Charlie Family as I walk through a station.

    Pretty simple, even for a fool like you.

    Much simpler and faster than dealing with the T website that never seems to work - except to charge your credit card sixteen times in order to complete a single transaction (yes, folks - it took sixteen charges and fifteen uncharges for a single reload - a real time saver!!!). If you would rather spend the half hour reloading four passes - or trying to do so - when you can do it in two minutes in a station you are walking through any way, well, go ahead. I don't have time to waste time on a computer just so I can say how hip and savvy I am for wasting time.

    BTW, Monthly passes cost $60, jerkwad. The most my kids go through in a month is $20-$25.

    You can't use the passes for multiple persons at a time, either, dickweed.

    The cards are registerd. Why don't I reload them through the website? Well GET THIS BABYWIPE: you CANNOT get the reload for the goddamn things ON A BUS. That means PAYING EXTRA if your card is empty since you don't get the transfer on them at the station that many people HAVE to take a bus to get to so that they can reload.

    Now that you have your SPECIAL reality CLUE from the REAL WORLD, go ask mommy for dinner delivery to the basement.



    "you CANNOT get the reload for the goddamn things ON A BUS"

    What? Charliecards are charliecards. You can add value to them online and then use them on the bus just fine.

    Also, monthly bus passes are $30, not $60. $60 is for the linkpass. Both of those are undiscounted - a couple of employers make them available to employers for half off.

    Also: why is it that nobody else has problems getting billed "sixteen times"? Maybe because you kept clicking 'submit' or reloading the page, hmm?


    Nope, I had similar problems

    Nope, I had similar problems with the website. I had 3 Charlie Cards registered (mine, hubby's, and a spare). When I tried to auto-load a pass on one, it charged me 3 times. They couldn't refund my money to the credit card I used so they refunded it to my charlie card as cash value. Then, the fact that I had cash value and a monthly pass on the same card meant when I tried to buy the next month's pass, it would charge me but fail to load the pass. I had to go to some special office at Park Place to get it all separated out. Although I was one of the first to try auto-loading, I have completely given up on the web and just use the machines at Forest Hills and Back Bay.

    What she means by can't reload on the bus is for buying on the web. You buy on the web and then tap your card at a machine or subway gate and it updates. But the bus fare machines aren't connected that way and can't download the update. You have to pay the bus fare and then tap in at the subway.

    Please read more slowly before leaping to conclusions, Captain McJudgyPants.


    Not when Bratt is in the house.

    If he were my teen, I'd smack him, take his phone, and his charlie card away until he demonstrated sufficient maturity for less restricted mobility.

    I should mention in my

    I should mention in my experience, if the card is empty the machine is broken, many times the trolley/bus driver just let the person go on in. Granted, this doesn't mean one should try and take advantage of the driver's generosity, but it also means that is having a system keep two cards in reserve when a card goes low necessary? One could just keep one card and if the bus's machine doesn't work, well it's not like one have to walk home. It just seems like a hassle to keeping track how much money is in identical looking cards and switching them around at home.

    You aren't a teen boy

    Teens get put off the bus if they don't have the fare in cash and the machine doesn't work. Trust me.

    And it isn't much hassle - kids put an empty in one place, pick up a full as they go out the door. I scoop up the empties and fill them.


    Why I have more than one CharlieCard

    I pick them up if people leave them behind on trains, platforms, and occasionally buses. I did this a lot more in the early days of Charlie, when people didn't understand they were supposed to hold onto the cards after using them.

    Occasionally the abandoned cards have significant value, but usually not (often $1 or less). At one point I had about 30 of them, many of which I eventually redistributed back to other customers by leaving them on top of Charlie vending machines.

    I keep a few around in case I have friends or family visiting.

    A couple of them have commemorative souvenir value, at least for me: one with First Night and Shaw's Supermarket logos on the back (included with First Night 2007 buttons bought at Shaw's), and another that says it is in honor of the Dedication of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, November 15, 2008. It has a photo of the two Dukakises on the back. I don't remember actually going to this event, so it must have been another lost card that I just picked up.

    You accidentally take an extra Smugital or two today?

    Man, I can just see you there, wiping the dust off your hands as you walk away from the tangled heap of defeated UHub commenters you've just verbally beaten upside the head and how!

    Some of us have kids who, believe it or not, don't have wallets and who often walk around in outfits without pockets (let me introduce you to this exotic creature known as a tween girl). Some of us have wives who like emptying their purses of stuff they don't use a lot.


    This doesn't work

    This doesn't work for me. I already have a Proximity card in my wallet to gain access to a building. If you have TWO of these cards near each other, they won't work. It doesn't matter if I store it on opposite ends of my wallet, it still doesn't work. My Door card is just too powerful (verses the wimpy Charlie Card's signal)

    I'm surprised someone hasn't enterprise'd on transit card holders that are EVERYWHERE in SF. It looks like a small bill fold wallett, but only holds cards. Its thick and has a hole to be put on a keyring. This would be a killer for a vendor in downtown crossing.


    Multiple Cards

    I have a couple of them. I have the main one I use. And two or three I use as Visitor passes when friends and family come visit. (Yes I have multiple people at a time that come visit a few times a year).

    AND I have an extra card I keep in my man-bag just in case I drop my main card (Its happened before and you still need a way to GET to DTX to have them migrate a monthly to a new card)

    Zeroing out, hopefully.

    I guess this afternoon I'll check the expiration dates of my three cards, and write the dates on them. If any are getting close to expiring, hopefully I'll be able to run them down to zero, and then get new ones.

    Sure would be nice if the online registration said what the expiration dates are.


    I see my balance. Go to this

    I see my balance.

    Go to this page -- -- and after logging in, choose "Add single purchase of stored value". Click on the card serial number and then click the "Show Card Details" button underneath.

    I see --

    Last Known Stored Value : $13.75
    Last Known Transaction: Lynn Garage
    Last Updated Timestamp: September09, 2011 06:30:12 PM

    (Yes, it could be more intuitive. And no, it doesn't show the expiration date.)


    I last used the card the day

    I last used the card the day before that date on the 52 bus. I guess that bus lives in Lynn and the transaction reflects when the bus's farebox data was dumped into the central system.

    I'm not sure if that's the current balance.

    This is a *guess*

    Did you just register the card on the website? Maybe you have to tap it to update the computer, and then the balance will appear?

    I know the first time I tap my card in the new month it is clearly updating everything to show the new month's pass. The card and the system have to talk to each other.

    Again, just a guess here.

    Ron, I have the same

    Ron, I have the same situation.

    Actual Card Details
    Last Known Stored Value : $0.00
    Last Known Transaction: ---
    Last Updated Timestamp: ---
    Last Purchased Ticket: ---
    Last Purchased Location: ---
    Last Purchased Timestamp: ---

    I signed up whenever the website went live and have sued the card many times.

    Only DTX?

    Got the part about it must be a pass sales office. But the MyCharlie page says "... You can also update it at T sales offices at Back Bay, Downtown Crossing, Harvard, North Station and South Station. " so presumably those will be able to transfer value too. Right?

    Of course that doesn't help the bus-only users, etc.

    Checked the expiries,

    Checked the expiries, and I have one end of October and two end of January. So they actually will still be good for another two years?

    And is there a "green" way of throwing the old ones away?

    (And, I can see the stored values of my cards on the website.)

    "Coming Soon!"

    And they STILL haven't figured out how to get Charlie Cards to work on the commuter rail. That was supposed to be early in the first year of operation.

    I bet nobody at the T has thought about expiring Charlie Cards for more than 2 minutes until Ron brought it up today. Now they have 5 and a half weeks to do something.

    charlie card adventures

    6 weeks later, I wonder if they've done anything. It was fun getting on a bus with a couple of bags of groceries, and finding that my recently reloaded Charlie Card had expired. Even better when the condescending bus driver acted like I was scamming him.

    I wish I noticed this thread back when it was first posted.


    Yes, she can go to Harvard Square at the end of the month and have the value transfered. Or she can go to the sales office at the Downtown Crossing station, which is open M-F 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    I had two cards. One expired

    I had two cards.

    One expired and fortunately, I was at DTX at the time so I could get the value transferred ($4.80).

    My second car says it expires December 31st. Ive tapped, added value etc, and the date refuses to change.

    Its the scam of the century. There will probably be a nice class action suit digging into our deep, deep, taxpayer vaults.

    Now the T says

    Can the expiration date of a CharlieCard be changed?
    Yes, the MBTA will update general public cards that are still being used to extend the expiration date another two years. Customers will have to tap their card on any MBTA device to receive the update before the card expiration. You will know that your card has been updated when you receive a “Card Updated” message on the screen.

    CharlieCards will receive an update in the month they are set to expire.

    Reduced Fare Program cards (for seniors, persons with disabilities, passengers who are blind/visually impaired and junior-high and high school students) will still expire on the date printed on the card.

    CharlieCard isn't Updating

    I've been using my card all month including the purchase of a monthly pass and it never updated. Just expired today in the middle of the monthly pass. Maybe you need to go through some arcane procedure to get an update, but they don't spell that out anywhere.

    We have a small stack of the

    We have a small stack of the cards for visitors; the day before they arrive I just load one up with however much money we think they'll want and show them how to use it and add money if they need to. Usually we end up with value remaining on it after they leave.

    I misplaced my TAP card, so had to use one of those one day. It worked, and had about $14 remaining. The next week, I was at a kiosk checking all our cards to see which ones had how much on them (and writing the card numbers and value down so we know). That card came up as "Expired" (wtf MBTA I just used it!) so I have to hoof down to DTX and hope they can transfer it.

    The one that showed as expired had red printing for the card number, while all our others have black print. Does anyone know if that's pertinent (earlier batch, etc)?

    Worse than before?

    I got a new one the other day and mine also says 12/21. Totally useless - God forbid they print all 4 digits of the year, so people could differentiate December 2021 from December 21st [2012]. I know from reading this thread that the cards expire 10 years after they're manufactured, but out-of-towners would have no idea.

    Yes, they expire

    My friend got caught in this. We went to get on the bus, and the machine just said EXPIRED. Went to a charlie kiosk, and the machine wouldn't even give him the data screen, it just said EXPIRED PASS on the screen. Tale about useless information. Not even instructions on what to do. (This was a corporate monthly pass).