Internet and Online Sales of the New York Subway Metrocard
Buying MetroCard's Online
The MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) does not currently provide a method to buy metrocard's online. They also do not provide a mechanism to check your Metrocard balance online or add any monetary value either.
History of MetroCard Online Sales
From 1999 to 2000 the MTA contracted for one year with an outside company, Ticketmaster's Citysearch, to sell Metrocard's over the internet, but this relationship failed for a few reasons:
- The sales commission that the MTA provided to Citysearch was comparable to the same commission that street vendors receive, which is a very low - around 2-3% per sale.
- The MTA dictated that the shipping fees were provided at face value, thus ensuring that Citysearch had no way to make up the low commission. The MTA figured that because Citysearch were selling Metrocard's online they should be happy with the internet traffic and try to cross sell some other product or service to create a profit (Classic gas station business model)
- Citysearch were not allowed to sell web based advertising and were required have any other products or services approved by the MTA
Ultimately, Citysearch failed in this venture to sell Metrocard's on the Internet due to lack of profitability and inability to cross-sell - They were stuck with the quandary - what are you going to cross sell someone who just wants to buy a subway MetroCard to the New York Subway anyway?
MetroCard Internet Sales - Product Fulfillment
One of the biggest issues in selling MetroCard's over the internet is product fulfillment.
Normally, at a subway booth or street vendor or store, you pay for your Metrocard and receive your goods immediately.
In internet sales payment is obviously easy but its much trickier getting the Metrocard into the buyers hands. Even though the package is light, shipping is difficult and expensive. Package tracking and signature is also required and their are increased customer service issues (For instance the buyer says they received an empty envelope and the MTA has to cancel the Metrocard.
Metrocard Online Credit Top Ups
Citysearch was only allowed to sell Metrocard's of fixed value. They were not provided with a mechanism to top-up existing Metrocard's, which would have eradicated the fulfillment issues.
nysubway.com Receives a Cease & Desist to Stop Selling Metrocard's Online
To fill the gap nysubway.com began providing Metrocard sales online as a non-profit service to our clients. The lawyers at the MTA provided us with a cease and desist order to stop this practice.
It appears that the MTA chooses not to sell Metrocard's online and they don't want anyone else doing it either, which is seen as a selfish act on their part as far as commuters are concerned.