LA Metro TAP Cards are confusing. They are like if the Government decided to design a gift card/credit card combo. It’d be the LA Metro TAP Cards. Let’s dive into the secret world of LA Metro TAP Cards….

Rule #1. Don’t throw your TAP Card away.
It stays valid for years as a ‘wallet’ for your Metro fares. It costs $1 at Vending Machines and you only need one.

Rule #2. It’s only good for one person. Each person needs their own TAP card.
(An adult can bring two children under age 5 for free)

Rule #3. Buy “Stored Value” (the vending machines aren’t touch screen. You must use the buttons)
If you only want to read one thing on this page, the thing to remember is buy “Stored Value” not “Day, Week or Month Pass” unless you plan on riding LA Metro for 5 or more trips a day (day pass), or an average of 3 trips a day (7-day or 30-day pass)* — The reason is simple: Once you TAP you get unlimited transfers for two hours (no get-off/back-on privileges and no going back the way you came; those are “new trips”). You can get almost everywhere in LA County within that time frame (your trip doesn’t have to end within two-hours, you just have to do your last TAP before the two-hour limit).

Rule #5. You cannot buy “Stored Value” on buses.
It’s dumb but it’s important to remember so you don’t get stuck having to pay for a bus ride to a transit station to reload your TAP card.

Rule #5. No boarding discounts unless you are a Senior, Disabled or have Medicare.
All other fare discounts require applying to Metro and receiving a special TAP card. (This means no K-12, College/Vocational, Rider Relief, or other discounts).

What Happens When You TAP?

If you have purchased Stored Value, then your first tap will deduct $1.75 from your TAP Card balance. You’ll then have 2-hours from that first TAP to make any transfers (free) by simply tapping your TAP card when you board a train or bus. After 2-hours you’ll be charged the base fare again.

How do you check your balance?

There’s no easy way. TAP technology is difficult. Metro knows but is committed to the technology.

The only easy and accurate way is to find a TAP Vending Machine, tap your card (you don’t have to press any buttons unless you want a different language) and Press “H” key which should be “TAP Card Balance.”

Some TAP readers (buses and stations) will display your balance, if you have time to stop and look.


There are lots of other helpful tips on using Metro’s TAP Cards but we’ll dive into those more later. This is enough to get you started.

* Pass calculations:
$1.75 for 1 trip. To “beat” buying stored value, you must take one more trip than stored valued would cost you.
Day Pass, $7 = 4 trips. + 1 trip = 5 trips
7-day Pass†, $25 = 14 trips. + 1 trip = 15 trips (more than 2 trips a day on average)
30-day Pass†, $100 = 57 trips. + 1 trip = 58 trips (more than 2 trips a day on average if you use Metro less than 28 days)
† Silver Line Buses & Express Buses cost extra on these passes. (“Rapid” buses are not considered “Express”)

33 thoughts on “How to use LA Metro TAP Card?

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