Beginning January 8, 2018, WMATA’s Metro's fare system will no longer allow customers to carry a negative balance on a SmarTrip card for Metrobus and Metrorail.
Sounds pretty obvious, right? Previously, riders using a SmarTrip card were allowed to complete certain trips even though there were insufficient funds on their SmarTrip card to pay the fare. For example, a customer with $3 on their card who takes a rail trip valued at $3.25 would be permitted to exit the rail system leaving a negative $0.25 balance on the card.
While it’s true most customers eventually load additional value to the SmarTrip card to resolve the negative balance, over the past 17 years, unresolved negative balances have added up to be nearly $25 million dollars.
Customers entering the Metrorail system should check their balance before trying to enter the faregate and load sufficient funds for their trip prior to entering the system. If your SmarTrip card does not have enough value to pay for the trip, the gate will not open and the customer will be directed to an Exitfare machine. (Be advised: Exitfare machines accept cash/coins only) On Metrobus, the farebox will buzz if a customer's SmarTrip card has insufficient value to pay for the trip.
In addition, current rail pass users - SelectPass, DC Student Passes, One Day Pass, Seven Day Passes, etc - should check to ensure that their "stored value" is not showing a negative balance.
Metro riders are encouraged to sign up for Auto Reload via their SmarTrip account to avoid SmarTrip value’s dropping too low. The "set it and forget it" feature adds value to your card automatically anytime the value drops below $10. Learn more at wmata.com/autoreload.