Clipper Card

CAndrew88's picture

The rollout of the clipper card has in my opinion been a failure although it is a great step toward a more efficient regional transit system.  The card should be available at all BART stations and riders should be able to pay by credit card or cash on location.  All the Walgreens that are supposed to offer the card are usually clueless about purchasing and setting it up.  Discuss:

Nick Vojdani's picture

I have had problems ordering my Clipper Card online.

I have attempted many times to order a card online and run into trouble because my billing/ mailing address is outside the area. Being able to pick up a card at the BART station would be excellent. I hope this changes soon, it is too inconvenient having to buy paper tickets all the time. 

nblackburn's picture

long wait

It is also really annoying and difficult to get a "youth" clipper card. i had to go to the ac transit office, verify my age with my passport, they took my picture, and it took 11 business days for them to mail me my card.

Zaquex's picture


Clipper cards have been great (after the name and logo change)! It's true that it does take about 11 days to receive your card. Once you have it, it a whole lot less hassle adding money online rather than at the stations, especially when you're in a rush to work. Also, it's a lot more secure having a separate card with money preloaded like a debit card. You can (but shouldn't!) lose your card, and only the small bit of money put on the card is lost. Securities are put in to prevent someone from using it: money added to it is delayed, pictures are put on the card, and it can only be used for transportation. People can't take cash out of it. Of course, this isn't 100% secure, but it's a pretty thorough program.

Eric Jaye's picture

Why Not

Why not actually make it easy to get the card? Can't we put machines in the BART/METRO stations that sell them? What about machines in some bus shelters? What about incentives for merchants to sell them, particularly during the initial phase?

This has always seemed like a key failure at MUNI - making it difficult to buy a Fast Pass. If they were actually trying to increase ridership, they would make it easy to get a pass, not the obstacle course it is now. This might be urban legend - but at one point there was some talk that businesses wouldn't sell the Fast Pass because of restrictive city ordinances on vendors.

I do know that the kiosks in BART stations don't sell MUNI fast passes because of some problem with city vendor requirements.


nblackburn's picture

I agree

It should be easier to get a card. for boston and new york's subway systems a similar plastic debit-type card that can be purchased in the station. 11 day wait is ridiculous. That's two weeks of work.

Zaquex's picture

Anyone else?

I completely agree with ericjaye as far as accessibility. One thing I have noticed just recently is the time it takes to reload the card with cash. I have reloaded $50 four days ago, and the website mentions "it can take up to 3 days for the value to be available to be loaded onto your card." ( However, after 4 days I have yet to be able to use this. Is this due to the fact that I have the older green TransLink card?

jlee247352's picture


Since we have the clipper card. Are they going deal away with the transfer when we scan our clipper card???

LZamora30's picture

Clipper Card Chaos

I think that the clipper card is great; however, it can be a major pain sometimes! Quoting SFgate:

" Most of the troubles, Goodwin said, involve the Clipper customer service center, which has had to add staff, including more representatives speaking languages other than English, and improve training. A big problem came this month when the automated loading of commuter benefits for about 6,000 Wage Works customers didn't occur as scheduled. Some Muni Fast Pass users have had difficulties getting their monthly passes loaded onto their Clipper cards because of technical problems involving differing fare rules at Muni and BART. Some cable car commuters complained about problems getting operators to accept Clipper cards."

Read more:


There are so many problems in addition to the problems mentioned in this forum and this article, but is the Bay Area Transportation Commission even close to fixing glitches like this? I like the idea of the clipper card as a whole, but these problems need to be fixed NOW.
Zaquex's picture

Transfer Solution

Transfers can be addressed by the MUNI operator giving you a receipt after boarding and paying. Then when getting on the next bus, instead of tagging the card again--just show the receipt.

Phil Ting's picture


I have the original Translink - was one of the first users.  I havent had a problem yet, but I guess I had better check my monthly bill to be sure.  Hope they can work out the kinks.  This idea is long overdue and needed

AWH2O's picture

A Fan!

I was a fan of TransLink and even with its limitations, it was a big improvement over paper tickets and multiple passes. Clipper may have gotten off to a rocky start, and could've had a stronger roll out, but I have confidence that they will work those things out. The concept is great; let's give them a chance to work out the challenges.

DonRoss's picture

Walgreens - Limited Options

I think it is outrageous that MUNI reduced the number of places you can by a card to get on MUNI and Bart. Before you could go to a number of places, including City Hall. Now you can only go to Walgreens. I went to buy my first card and of course their system was down. Not the way to encourage more people to take public transportation.

Zaquex's picture

Transfer Situation

I too am an original Translink card holder, and still use the old card (because it cost $5 to get a shinier card and another $5 to get the money on that card back). I have just discovered that if the card is tagged within a certain time limit (as with most transfers), the fee with be only the transfer fee.

SpencerSF's picture

The mechanics of the Clipper card...

...are pathetic on the backend. Look at the Oyster Card in London and the Octopus Card in Hong Kong - those are easy to use and the name (and inspiration) suggest is slow like the Clipper ships with sails!

ExcelsiorMom's picture

I think it is a limitation

I think it is a limitation that the Clipper card does not yet link with Samtrans.  Also, for me, the idea of adding money online is great.  But what about all the people who have limited or no access to the Internet, or for those who going online can be overwhelming (the elderly with limited english, for example)?  Again, we need to make our transportation system accessible for ALL users.

machenlaw's picture

away for a few weeks, and look what happens

Did I miss the public outreach prior to implementation of this program - for which S.F. is so famous?  I returned to a new world after a few weeks vacation.  

Not sure how Police are supposed to patrol whether your Clipper card has expired - do they have hand held devices, too?  Seems like a very expensive system without much practicality. If the Police don't have hand held devices, they will have to walk the Clipper card to the machine to see whether it clears for each and every card they check - seems very labor intensive.    

The other thing I noticed - and that has been obliquely commented on: if you "accidentally" press the wrong button saying you want a single issue Muni fare, it charges a 25 cent surcharge.  Yet, there is no prohibition against buying a plastic refillable card again and again at the $2.00 tariff. . . . hmmmmm.  Very curious.  Did someone convince Muni that they might be able to make a profit on inefficiency or rider's "stupidity" or disregard for small change, like BART did for many years?  How many of us still have a 10 cent or 35 cent unused BART ticket kicking around the inside pocket of a backpack? Ultimately, I wonder who swindled Muni into a contract like this one?  

vaudeville's picture

noise from the clipper drive people mad

Why the beep noise? The people at clipper card are either deaf or not very musical.  Sorry for those old folks and the drivers who are so close to the #$@! machine.  Do tell me that it has to be loud so that the driver knows whehter it is valid or not; cause s/he does not give a D*. 

Diego's picture

Some problems

Like machenlaw points out, police do now have to walk around with a small device for reading Clipper cards. I agree that it makes the process more labor intensive - though the entire ticket checking process itself might not be the best way to ensure compliance with the rules.

I wonder how much is spent on sending police onto MUNI trains to have them do a sweep? It seems like a time waster for good cops - what about BART style doors where you cannot get in or out of the MUNI system without swiping your Clipper card? As it is now, anybody can walk out the new doors without verification. Is this going to change later? I think once we eliminate the paper passes everything is going to go a lot smoother.

Sure, it'll be hard to enforce in open MUNI stops, but at least anybody heading downtown will be forced to verify their payment and we'll save on MUNI checkers.

Juan Carlos Sanchez's picture


So, I finally got myself to buy a Clipper card. Since I ride the bus daily, and I usually pay with cash, purchasing a Clipper card was a no-brainer. But, when I first used it last week, I was more than annoyed when the bus driver refused to give me a transfer ticket. Was he wrong or are Clipper users really not eligible for transfers?

If they are not - then that policy must be changed immediately. How can we expect our city to adopt the Clipper card when we have created a financial disincentive for the service?

SpencerSF's picture

Clipper Card and MUNI FAQ's

Not to sound like a nagging mother...but, come on all - do some research first before you post here. 

Here is a list of FAQ's on the Clipper Card and Muni...;jsessionid=322B042CB962EB6BC8CE231DF6E89F0B


SpencerSF's picture

Clipper and Transfers

Juan, this is from the Clipper Card Website:;jsessionid=322B042CB962EB6BC8CE231DF6E89F0B

Should I ask for a transfer when I board a Muni vehicle? How can I prove that I paid?

Clipper will automatically calculate the 90-minute transfer period on Muni, so you are not required to carry a paper transfer. You must touch your card each time you transfer and enter a vehicle so that the card reader can confirm the transfer period is still in effect. The card reader will beep and show a green light to indicate that your transfer is valid. Transit fare inspectors have hand held card readers and conduct random checks of Clipper customers to ensure that they have touched their cards properly. The hand held card reader only confirms that you have proper payment; it does not affect your card balance.

ro's picture

Secretly still resisting your clipper?

I <3 Clipper Card

I am a huge fan of clipper card. Not only is it more durable than a paper pass it also uses RFID tech so I'm not worried that it will demagnetize next to all my credit cards. I've used so many different busses, Caltrain, and BARTs these past few months, its been wonderful to just slap my wallet onto the sensor and be done with it.

I do hate how long it takes to load new money onto the card online, which is usually 3 days. Overall however, I think this is a great move for the SF Bay Area to move to a more regionally cohesive system like our more sensible compatriots in Japan and Denmark have.

Eric Jaye's picture

From MUNI today



SFMTA Announces Muni Implementation of New

Clipper Program Policy


SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates the Municipal Railway (Muni), today announced that  as of Tuesday, March 1 it will begin implementing a new regional Clipper Program policy that is designed to counteract the abuse of the negative balance feature of the program. The policy increases the minimum add-value requirement from $2 to $5 for Clipper adult fare customers.


The new minimum add-value requirement is $5 or a fare product, e.g. an adult Muni “A” or “M” Fast Pass®. The new policy does not affect the minimum requirement on the Youth, Senior or RTC Clipper cards, which is currently $.75.


The new minimum requirement generally only applies to customers who are purchasing a new Adult Clipper card and want to add cash value at the time of purchase.


The minimum requirement does not affect a customer who has an existing Clipper card and wishes to reload cash value at any of the following:

·        Clipper retailers, such as participating Walgreens

·        Operator ticket office (e.g. the SFMTA Customer Service Center)

·        Clipper website

·        Clipper Customer Service call center, 877.878.8883

·        Add-value machines at AC Transit or Golden Gate Ferry locations


At the Muni Metro ticket vending machines (TVM), however, whether purchasing a new Clipper card or reloading an existing Clipper card, Muni adult fare customers are subject to the minimum $5 requirement, regardless of the current value on the existing card.  Muni Metro customers who do not wish to pay this $5 minimum may instead purchase a single or round trip regular adult fare Limited Use Muni Ticket out of the TVM.

alwaysthepickychick's picture

Clipper Card For Dummies

You have to HOLD your clipper card over the reader for about 2-3 seconds.  You can't "scan" your card by moving it past the reader, or it will not detect your card. 
You can pay monthly fees for unlimited rides on AC Transit and MUNI.  You can load cash on your card to cover incidental overages (i.e.  OX line on AC Transit, which is $2 more than regular AC Transit fare) If you pay for your monthly AC Transit adult fare $80 and you have cash loaded on your clipper card, the fare is reduced by $1.00.  If you don't have cash loaded on your card, even if you still pay the monthly $80 adult fare, you have to pay the extra $2.00 in cash.  It can also be used for single BART transactions.  The ferry?  I have no clue, who uses that except tourists?
BART can be set up to auto-deduct from your checking account.  Since there is no monthly fare for unlimited rides on BART, the amount varies. . This is the same as the old BART system.  There is a small discount, but it's minimal. 
It seems odd to me that a city with so many forms of public transportation that each one is independently run, rather than a common tranit authority, but that would make too much sense. 
The clipper card is convenient and easy, if you take the time to read the directions.  Novel idea, I know.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137