Let's say during my trip I have to make a transfer from one line to another. According to the Google search I did, I found that in most of the stations where multiple lines are interconnected, we can transfer from one line to another just by walking within the station.

But what if we have to walk out and get into a another line? Google maps shows intermediate walking between lines for some destinations. So if I do that will it cost me again?

And 7-day Unlimited MetroCard description here says that we must wait 18 minutes before using again. Also it states that "unlimited transfers, including between buses and subways".

I'm a bit confused here. For buses you have to get down from one have to get into another. So aren't we suppose to swipe the card again? How did this transfers work? What does it means unlimited transfers?

Is this is same for Pay-Per-Ride MetroCards as well? Although it clearly states that "free, Subway to subway transfers included within the system". Again it states this "free subway-bus and bus-bus transfers within 2 hours".

Would appreciate a clarification from someone who has experienced this before.

  • 3
    It's 18 min at the same station. You always have to swipe/dip but with an Unlimited card, it doesn't really matter if you 'transferring' since it's included anyway. The 2 hours window only applies to PPR cards since you only pay for 1 'trip' which can include both bus and subway.
    – DTRT
    Aug 29, 2017 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


No. The 18 minute limit applies only in the same station. You can use the card in any other station as soon as you are able to get there.

The most common related problem encountered by tourists is getting in on the wrong side of a station where you can't cross from one side to the other without leaving the station. Then they are at the mercy of the station agent's kindness to let them through the service gate.

I'm not sure how it works on the bus if you want to get back on the same line after doing a quick errand, but certainly if you're transferring to a different line you will have no problem.

Source: personal experience.

  • 2
    @Bahrom: It sounds like you need two of them to get actually unlimited travel. Aug 29, 2017 at 20:02
  • 13
    @HenningMakholm hahah, well it's to prevent a group of people from just buying a single card and (ab)using it.
    – Bahrom
    Aug 29, 2017 at 20:06
  • 2
    @Bahrom Also to discourage the selling of swipes. Aug 30, 2017 at 0:20
  • 10
    ...yeah, tourists. Definitely never happened to a New York native like me... (the 86 St. & Lex. station has nailed me like that more than once, I’m embarrassed to admit)
    – KRyan
    Aug 30, 2017 at 2:52
  • 2
    If that really is an issue, then why don't they treat those as multiple stations? The only purpose for the limitation I can imagine is preventing multiple users to use the same card in sequence. Which would not be an issue on different sides of the same station, would it?! Aug 30, 2017 at 10:28

For Unlimited metrocards, you do not have to wait to transfer from one line to another and you do not get charged - it gives you unlimited rides. 18 minute rule does not apply unless you're using the metrocard in the same station or on the same bus line (even if you are getting on a different bus - I once missed my stop, so I just decided to get on another bus going in the opposite direction, but my metrocard didn't work, showing that it was "Just used").

For Pay Per Ride metrocards, you can transfer once for free within 2 hours of the initial swipe in the following cases: Bus to Train, Train to Bus, Bus to Bus (different lines, see my experience above), and Train to Train (more on this below). You insert/swipe the card the 2nd time anyway, but it doesn't get charged.

For Train-Train transfers you can either:

  • Transfer within the station - these are free and you don't need to swipe again. Almost all the major lines are interconnected and you rarely have to walk outside in order to transfer.
  • Transfer outside of the station (usually paid, free ones labeled here as "Free out of subway system transfer") - if it's a free transfer, the conductor announces it on the train (so for Lexington Ave. / 59th St., "A free transfer is also available to 4, 5, and 6 trains by walking to the Lexington Ave. 59th St. station and using your metrocard").
  • It's an unlimited ride metro card. There's no additional charge for additional rides.
    – phoog
    Aug 29, 2017 at 18:28
  • @phoog, you're right, I'll update to reflect that it only applies for pay per ride.
    – Bahrom
    Aug 29, 2017 at 18:29
  • 3
    If you can hear anything the conductor says on the train, you are way ahead of me.
    – Kevin
    Aug 29, 2017 at 23:05
  • 1
    @Kevin the automated messages play back loud and clear on newer messages. I should have clarified that lol
    – Bahrom
    Aug 29, 2017 at 23:23
  • Just noticed I had said 'on newer messages' - I meant on newer trains.
    – Bahrom
    Jan 25, 2018 at 4:23

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