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December 02, 2012

How to Avoid the Next Fare Hike on Metro-North

Don’t look now, but there’s a 5% fare increase coming January 1st 2013!
But if you’d like to avoid paying more, here’s a simple (and legal) trick:
BUY TICKETS BEFORE 12/31:   There’s nothing stopping you from buying tickets before the January 1st fare hike of 5%.  Just be sure you can use them before they expire and become worthless (see below).
Here are some other money saving tips for commuters, daytrippers and familes:
TRANSITCHEK:      For commuters, see if your employer subscribes to this fabulous service, which allows workers to save up to $500 a year in mass transit costs by using pre-tax dollars.  A recent survey shows that 45% of all New York City companies offer TransitChek which can be used on trains, subways and even ferries. 
GO BY TRAIN OFF-PEAK:          If you can arrive at Grand Central on weekdays after 10 am and avoid the 4 pm – 8 pm peak return hours, you can save 25%.  Off-peak is also in effect on weekends and holidays.  Your train will be less crowded, too.
BUY TICKETS AT THE STATION:        If you buy your ticket with cash on the train you’ll pay the conductor a $5.75 - $6.50 “service charge”… a mistake you’ll make only once!  There are ticket machines at most stations, but the cheapest tickets are those bought online.  And go for the ten-trip tickets, peak or off-peak, to achieve additional savings.  The same ten-trip ticket can be shared among passengers, even those traveling together in a group.
LOOK OUT FOR NEW TICKET RULES!:        Watch out!  Metro-North changed its ticket rules last year in what many consider a hidden fare hike.  One way and round-trip tickets are now valid for only 60 days.  Even ten-trip tickets are now valid for only six months.  And forget about getting a refund on an old ticket, even if it hasn’t expired.  Refunds cost $10 per transaction.
KIDS, FAMILY & SENIOR FARES:           Buy tickets for your kids (ages 5 – 11) in advance and save 50% over adult fares.  Or pay $1 per kid on board (up to four kids traveling with an adult, but not in morning peak hours).  Seniors, the disabled and those on Medicare get 50% off the one way peak fare.  But you must have proper ID and you can’t ride in the morning rush hours.
FREE STATION PARKING:         Even rail stations that require parking permits usually offer free parking after 5 pm and on weekends.  Check with your local town. 
Once you’re in NYC, you can save even more money on mass transit.
METROCARDS:     MetroCards can be bought at most stations (or combined with your Metro-North ticket) and offers some incredible deals compared to the $2.25 cash fare:  put $10 on a card (bought with cash, credit or debit card) and you get a 7% bonus.  Swipe your card to ride the subway and you’ll get a free transfer to a connecting bus, or vice versa.  You can buy unlimited ride MetroCards for a week ($29) or a month ($104).  There’s now even an ExpressPay MetroCard the refills itself like an EZ-Pass.

The bottom line is that it’s never cheap going into “the city”.  But with a little planning and some insider tips, you can still save money.  Enjoy!

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