For immediate release: November 24, 2017

SmarTrip® cards will not permit negative balances, effective January 8, 2018

Beginning January 8, Metro's fare system will no longer allow customers to carry a negative balance on a SmarTrip card for Metrobus and Metrorail. 

Previously, customers would be permitted to complete certain trips even though there were insufficient funds on the SmarTrip® card to pay the appropriate 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 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 worth about $25 million dollars.

"In an environment where every dollar counts, we are taking a common sense approach to ensure that Metro is properly collecting the value of the transportation it provides in order to reduce the demand on Metro customers and the region for additional funding," said Metro's Chief Financial Officer, Dennis Anosike.

Customers entering the Metrorail system are advised that they should load sufficient funds for their trip prior to entering the system. If a SmarTrip® card does not have enough value to pay for the trip, the faregate will not open and the customer will be directed to an Exitfare machine. (Note: 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" purse is not showing a negative balance. Beginning January 8, Metro faregates will require that the negative balance be paid, even if there is a valid pass on the card.

To avoid concerns about your SmarTrip® value dropping too low, all Metro customers are encouraged to sign up for Auto Reload via their SmarTrip account, the "set it and forget it" feature that adds value to your card automatically anytime the value drops below $10. Learn more at