Sudden burst of expiring CharlieCards?

Yes, the darn things expire, as we learned on the fifth anniversary of the Charlie system. But it seems like quite a few people are reporting their CharlieCards have expired over the past couple of days.

Kait reports from the CharlieCard store in Downtown Crossing:

Anyone dealing with their expired CharlieCard now, beware. Many angry people (both customers & employees), v. long wait

The T's Joe Pesaturo says:

The Automated Fare Collection team is looking for any anomalies, but in the meantime, we encourage anyone with a CharlieCard of more than two years old to check the expiration date at any fare vending machine.

If your card's about to go south, you can either exchange it weekdays at the Downtown Crossing CharlieCard store or, if you don't plan to use the T for awhile, mail the card to the T and they'll transfer your value and send you a new card.

Revenue Department
10 Park Plaza Rm 4730
Boston Ma, 02116



    Free tagging: 


      Date on more recent cards

      By on

      More recent cards also have the expiration date printed on the front. My current one (which is slightly less than 2 years old) is good until 12/21, for example. I believe they started doing this when when first batch started to expire on people.

      Physical equipment failure

      By on

      The radio equipment and battery powering it is only rated to last for so long. It'll probably last longer than the printed expiration date, but the T opted to go for a more conservative estimate on end-of-life.


      Isn't a Charlie Card a passive RFID, meaning it gets its power from the device you've tapped it to?

      No Batteries

      By on

      You're correct, FastLane transponders have batteries, but not Charlie Cards. There's nothing that "wears out", and even if there was, people could simply replace their cards when it happened. The Ⓣ has plenty of things that wear out and need replacement on their own. Causing unnecessary inconvenience and expense by deliberately making the Charlie Cards fail without warning; via an arbitrary expiration date; is just plain stupid.

      My previous Charlie Card wore out...

      By on

      After only 2 years, it became harder and harder to get it to respond at the farebox. Had to keep retrying. Finally gave up and got a new one.

      Same thing seems to have happened to a friend of mine as well.

      Dunno what we're doing wrong, but our cards definitely did wear out, and much sooner than the expiration date.

      The RFID chips (from MiFare)

      By on

      The RFID chips (from MiFare) are only guaranteed for a certain lifetime by their vendor; the MBTA isn't making this up on their own.

      Independent of the chip, the antenna in the card is vulnerable to breaking after flexing too many times since the card isn't totally rigid.


      By on

      Who throws away perfectly functional items simply because the guarantee runs out? My card never leaves my wallet so it's subjected to very little flexing or other physical stress; it was still working as good as new until the Ⓣ deliberately broke it. Yet, as Matthew reported, his card stopped working after only two years.

      Clearly, there's a huge variation in the actual lifetime of the cards. If the new cards offered some additional features, then there might be a rationale for phasing them in on a scheduled basis. Since the new cards function exactly the same as the old ones, then what is the advantage of making them expire after an arbitrary time, instead of just replacing them when they stop working? It can't be to avoid the inconvenience of having the cards fail, because that's exactly what the Ⓣ causes by making them expire!

      My son put one through the wash

      The card went through the washer and dryer in his pocket. It was warped and didn't look like much, but I tried it the other day.

      $4.50 left, and took an upgrade!

      any flexing is bad flexing

      By on

      "My card never leaves my wallet so it's subjected to very little flexing or other physical stress"

      If it's in your wallet and you're a guy, it's subjected to quite a bit of flexing, unless you've got a hard-case wallet. The cards are several layers welded together; ANY flexing causes stress between layers and components.

      However, I agree with you completely - expiring the cards time-wise (and a big chunk of them all at once!) is just stupid. Let them fail at random and not overwhelm customer support staff!

      Yeah, but why don't they just

      By on

      Yeah, but why don't they just let it naturally expire? I'm sure they could still find out what fare was left on it by looking at the code printed on the card. Or at least I'd hope they would. I know a ton of people who have been inconvenienced by the card expiring but I don't know a single person who had a card stop working. One thing I will say is that those Charlie Cards seem to take a beating.

      There's a chance

      There's a chance that the card ID number might rub out, and then with a naturally expired card with no code, you're up a creek. Although, this is probably highly unlikely. I've not had a CharlieCard fade, so it must take quite a bit of abuse.

      Without Warning!

      By on

      It's pretty dumb that no one thought to program the fare gates and/or vending machines to give customers a fair warning that their cards will expire in a month or two. Mine expired in October, but even then, the machines didn't tell me why I couldn't buy the next month's pass.

      Although the Charlie Card office at DTX was swamped, it was fun to see the staff dressed in Halloween costumes. When I finally was waited on, the attendant was quite pleasant and efficient as he issued a new card and transferred over the balance from my old one.

      I actually got some sort of

      By on

      I actually got some sort of weird message when I went through the fare gate at Alewife this morning, but of course I was zooming through and only sort of registered that the display was different than usual, but I didn't see it for long enough to actually read it. I checked when I got off, though, and my card's expiration date isn't for another fourteen months, so... who knows what the message was.

      These expiration dates are completely ridiculous. Mine's in the middle of a month, which'd be really great if I hadn't discovered it till after loading a pass. Why doesn't continuous use delay the expiration date? Meanwhile, I have a DC Metro card from 2001 that still worked last time I visited there, more than seven years after the last time I'd used the card.

      Maybe it wouldn't be a big deal

      Maybe expired cards wouldn't be a big deal IF WASN'T SUCH A PITA TO GET A NEW CARD!

      When the system launched every station had an employee handing out empty Charlie cards. Now you can only get them at a few stops during the day which is extremely inconvenient for me and thousands of other. Can someone explain why they can't give a stack of cards to every station attendant OR have paid card dispenser machines like in DC and London?

      It's pretty infuriating when you see a booth with some guy looking bored behind a sign saying "NO CARDS HERE".

      The worst is the arbitrary

      By on

      The worst is the arbitrary times.


      Yes, the stack is still there, but if its 7:15pm, go fuck yourself.

      Don't tell too many people,

      By on

      Don't tell too many people, but recently at Alewife, there's been a stack of CharlieCards by the customer service phone. Which is useful when the clerk is nowhere to be found, even during the 7 AM - 7 PM hours when you're supposed to be able to get a card.

      Last time I needed one I

      By on

      Last time I needed one I ended up going to 7-11. It's a lot more convenient than dealing with the MBTA.

      I always thought it was

      I always thought it was hilariously ironic that the MBTA decided to name their fare cards after a legendary character who could never get off the subway because the fare system was too confusing.

      Yeah, I've always been

      By on

      Yeah, I've always been disappointed that the T didn't call it a T Cod.

      Yes, but if the winning entry

      Yes, but if the winning entry had been the Boston Strangler or Bill Buckner, do you think they still would have gone with it? Anyway, it just tickled my funny bone, especially when the cards were new and I was trying to get a handle on all the new fares.

      The T has no concept of customer service

      By on

      The T knew this was coming, in fact they planned for it to happen by making the cards expire. They suck They didn't do anything to communicate to the public or even prepare themselves for the onslaught. They suck. They compounded the problem by making it difficult to get new cards. There should be cards easily available at all stations. They suck. They really don't care that there is an long angry line at DTX. They suck.
      The new GM of the T is a political hack , in way over her head. There's a history of political hacks from both parties heading up the T.
      You can blame the legislature and a long list of governors for underfunding the T for a lot of its problems, but this expiring card situation is due to a severe lack of leadership and a severe lack of not giving a crap inside the T organization , regardless of the underfunding.


      By on

      you left off a last "they suck."

      In addition to all the other

      By on

      In addition to all the other insightful complaints about this situation, I'll add that they really should have made it possible to transfer the value to a new card yourself, at any vending machine. This whole requirement to go to the CharlieCard Store during the workday, or wait weeks to do it by mail, is really stupid.

      NYC's Metrocard machines will transfer value from a card about to expire, or one expired within the past year. And any station booth clerk can combine cards.

      And in possibly unrelated news...

      By on

      They apparently had a problem with their reoccurring monthly pass program. They doubled charged some cards (possibly all; I was one of those double charged). They claim to have credited back the extra charge; I haven't seen it yet, but I'll give it another day or so. I also got an email apologizing if I had any trouble using the card, which fortunately I haven't.

      Must sssuuuucccckkkk to be an MBTA customer service rep this month!

      My girlfriend had her bus

      By on

      My girlfriend had her bus pass double charged, it was already credited back to her account though. First time it has happened, we both thought it odd...

      My (first?) Charlie Card

      My (first?) Charlie Card expired suddenly in the fall of 2012, found out as I was in a hurry somewhere. Checked my new card tonight, I've got it until 2021, can't really complain about that.

      On the opposite side of that spectrum...

      I had tested an old Inner Express Bus pass to see if it was expired...not only was it not expired, it got activated! I had changed to a Link Pass in December and the people who handle the transit passes had sent a new CharlieCard but obviously they didn't deactivate the Inner Express Bus pass. I'll have to check with my employer to make sure I don't get charged twice next month.

      Too simple?

      How about programming the card reader system to ignore expiration dates...