On a recent Saturday, I had my hands full of bags at the 34th Street/Herald Square subway station and couldn't reach for my MetroCard without putting everything down, so instead, I pulled out my phone and initiated a payment by tapping it on one of those high-tech OMNY readers.
Would it work? Would I get double-charged? I did it. It worked and it worked quickly. I walked through without incident and there were no double-charges.
A few days later, I pulled out my credit card with a contactless chip in it and tried that (despite being slightly uncomfortable waving my credit card around). It also worked flawlessly and, of course, no one snatched my card away.
By now, straphangers have seen the ads inside trains alerting them that they can now use their phones, credit cards and even their smartwatches to pay the subway fare. But since the program hasn't been completely rolled out yet, not every station has the OMNY readers so commuters haven't had to deal with them yet.
So to help you get a better understanding, we've answered some common questions you may have.
So, what does OMNY stand for, anyway?
It's an acronym for "One Metro New York" that plays off the word "omni," meaning "all."
How does it work?
Instead of swiping a card, which can be very frustrating when your card has seen better days, you'll simply tap your smartphone, smartwatch (even a Fitbit) or a single contactless chip credit or debit card (which has a symbol on it). If you use a smart device, you'll have to have a credit card linked to it beforehand for it to work.
You'll also be able to purchase an OMNY tap card (with cash or credit) at retail stores in the region as well as at vending machines in stations.
The reader won't tell you your fare, so you'll have to look on your credit card statement to see how much you were charged, otherwise, you can see it by signing up for an OMNY account. You can sign up at omny.info/register for free.
Can I switch between a contactless card and my smart device?
Yes, but only one payment method can be used at a single time and you must use the same credit or debit card you first used to get free transfers.
Do I have to make an OMNY account?
No, unless you'd like to access your trips and charges in one place.
Where are the OMNY taps right now?
Taps are at every station now. As of December 31, 2020, 15,000 OMNY readers were installed across the city at 472 stations and on all 5,800 buses and Staten Island Railway stations on December 31, wrapping up the first phase of the rollout.
Why the change?
It turns out the NYC is behind other major cities in terms of up-to-date public transit payment options. London's tube has had the Oyster Card, Boston's T has had the CharlieCard and Tokyo has had the Suica for years. It's about time this progressive city got on board.
When will OMNY be in full swing?
It is in full swing right now, but by 2023, you'll have to use OMNY.
What if I don't want to?
Luckily, until 2023, you can use MetroCard and eTix. After that, there won't be a choice.
Can I pay with cash then?
Yes, much like you do now for the MetroCard, and it'll be available for purchase from retailers and OMNY vending machines.
What about my reduced fair card and my unlimited ride pass?
The MTA announced in December that it'll begin expanding fare options this year for OMNY with reduced fares for senior customers and riders with disabilities and the integration with paratransit services.