So I lost my Clipper card…and my Fast Pass

Muni Clipper Ticketing Machine - Civic Center Secondary Gates
Photo by Agent Akit
When Geoff (he of the other spelling) tried to replace a cracked Translink card, he found that he would be without his Fast Pass until the new Clipper card is mailed to him. Since the Fast Pass is already a $60-$70, would this be a problem for you? Here’s an excerpt of what Geoff experienced when he called Clipper about the card:

The Situation: I give my wife a TransLink card (pre clipper design) loaded with a Muni M Fast Past (Metro Only, $60 value) to use for her daily commute.

The Problem: On her third day of using it, a small crack occurs on the TransLink card, near (but not including) the chip. The card is now broken, and completely useless (doesn’t even fail when you tag it, nothing at all happens).

My Solution (hopefully): Go down to the Embarcadero Station and trade it in for a new card, and get the Fast Pass transferred. Seems like a logic and easy thing to do, given that this is the information age. Take the Fast Pass off of one card, add it to another, voila!

Reality: I head down to the station, and the agent at the desk tells me to go get a new Clipper card from the newsstand across the way, and contact Clipper Customer Support about transferring the Fast Pass. I am a bit frustrated that I have to call but I figure it should still be a cut and dry situation. When I called Clipper Customer Support, at first I am told that the balance on my card cannot be transferred to my new card until the old card has been “blocked” (or deactivated) for 24 hours. They then can move it to the new card.

Then the customer service agent realizes I am trying to transfer a Fast Pass, and not a cash balance. She informs me that she needs to block the original card, and then she can mail me a new card with my Fast Pass on it. This seems illogical given that I am holding a brand new card ready to go. Can’t use it at all.

Geoff said he talked to a very “calm and collected” supervisor at Clipper who said that their system cannot transfer Fast Passes from one card to another the way Geoff had expected this to work. It would take about three days to get a new card mailed to him. I’ve only transferred cash from one Clipper card to another and was also told that I had to wait for the new card in the mail. It took about a week to receive my new card. Since it was cash (and the service agents I talked to were pretty nice), it was a small inconvenience for me, but for riders with a Fast Pass on Clipper, should Clipper come up with a better way to replace your lost/damaged card?


  • My Translink card cracked. I went to Walgreens and got a new card. I registered the new card online at Clipper. I called Clipper, they deactivated my old card and transferred my fastpass onto the new card. I had to wait three days for it to work. My only problems with this transfer were with wageworks. Clipper was pretty painless.

  • The MTC is working on a plan to open an in-person customer service center at Embaracadero station where cards can be exchanged, but that’s still a long way off.

    One of the other ideas I’ve read about is to have in-person vendors have “super” capabilities. They will be able to provide more services than just giving out cards and adding value.

  • One of my suggestions to the supervisor was to have an actual person working somewhere that could work with customers. It seems to me that the majority of clipper users on muni are going to be fast pass holders, and that cracking cards will become a larger issue one the adoption of clipper has spread. Expecting a 3 day to a week turn around on getting a new fast pass seems inexcusable.

  • Cory Moll

    What they need to do is get some competent programmers in there and add the functionality needed to do these things. Seriously. Software. Click, click, done.

  • angela

    3 days seems a long time, not to mention inconvenient, to transfer information from one old/broken card to a new card. the technology is available to make this transaction within an hour.

  • JimmyD

    The three day thing makes no sense. I can re-fill my Starbucks card within minutes.
    This whole thing feels like it was rushed.

  • Gary

    I had exactly this problem with a FastPass on my broken Translink card. It was painful as an early adopter of to pay out-of-pocket for Muni rides as I waited for my new Clipper card (with pass) to be mailed from the Translink/Clipper customer service center.

    The minute they started processing the new card my old, still-working-sometimes Translink card was “blocked” and unusable the few times I could get it to tag at a reader.

    I had a brand new Clipper card I would’ve love to have transferred my pass to, but no could do.

  • Erich

    Clipper has been a pain since I was forced to switch.

    It took 1.5 months to get my autoload fast pass working properly after making numerous attempts on their somewhat functional website followed by numerous calls and manual faxing of requests that went into a black hole.

    They finally fixed the site (might have been a data problem with my card) after a month and was able to order it on my own.

    Customer service never delivered after 3-4 faxes, a dozen phone calls, and empty promises.

  • James O'Boston

    This is fucking ridiculous. Yes, I have a degree in relevant crap from a place you’ve heard of so I am qualified to comment… ridiculous.

    Most of all, this is disrespectful to the people who use this service…. customers, that is.

  • Paul

    I had the exact same thing happen to me, and it made me very angry. I’ve already paid for the time, so I felt that, in effect, Clipper was stealing my money from me because they were unable to restore my access to my service for over a week.

    There’s no fathomable reason for it to take this long. In New York, when you lose your MetroCard, your credit card is debited with a prorated amount from the day you report it lost/stolen. In DC, which uses the same RFID technology as here, they can replace the cards instantly.

    The technology involved in this system is embarrassingly bad.

  • Vincent

    I have a question, which part needs to be cracked before the Translink/Clipper card will be defective because I noticed with my mother RTC Discount ID card, it was always in the envelope until it came in until the card was loaded with a Muni Pass last night and when I looked at the card, there was a crack or scratch that was from the edge of the Translink chip that’s visible to 80% of the way of the bottom edge of the card but the card works fine so no sure how these cards are made, wouldn’t only the visible gold color part on a Translink card be the only part that needs to be cracked before the card no longer works while if you cracked the rest of the card, it would still work?

    • Hi Vincent, I’m not sure I understand your question. But to the best of my knowledge, the RFID chip in your card would have to compromised in some way (a simple crack is unlikely to cause this, though that could eventually lead to damage to the chip).

      • Vincent

        Hi Jeff:

        Nevermind the last question, I read on akit that you can see the antenna with light so I tried it with a translink card and I can see the entire circuitry. What I meant was Geoff and others in this thread reported that cards no longer work when crack but how severe does the crack have to be before the card stops working? Or do you have to crack the actual chip since it seems like you can break the antenna’s circuitry too. Also, I’m just trying to figure out if the crack needs to basically make it all the way through the card before it kills the card? Thanks.

    • Gary

      My TransLink(R) card that stopped working had only the most imperceptible separation around the metal contacts for the smart chip, but this was enough to make it slowly read successfully less and less often. Of course, it worked 0% of the time as soon as I requested a replacement to be mailed, because they instantly blocked the old card.

      • Vincent

        I think it’s because it broke the connection to the antenna that is around the edges of the entire card. So I think to play it safe, it’s best to get a new card for the next month while it’s free for those of us that don’t have ecash on the card and use monthly passes.

  • Vincent

    Forgot to mention, are the Translink/Clipper cards cheaply made that it’s so easy to crack because credit cards from AMEX, Visa and MasterCard have the chips in the same way, both the Translink and the Clipper style but when was the last time you saw someone who cracked their credit card, sure it may have scratches from the swiping but you never see a crack on the card or anything like that.

    • Unless there are newer credit cards that use RFID, I’m not aware that any do. TransLink/Clipper cards do, though. That’s why you touch the card to the reader, rather than swiping it like a magnetic-stipe card.

      • Vincent

        All the above mentioned credit card/debit card counterparts are tapped at the merchant instead of swiped for payment at merchants that have the systems installed.

        Also, I have been a early Translink tester when they provided translink cards and also a amount of free ecash probably atleast 8 years ago and I still have those cards and they haven’t cracked yet so it seems like the new cards are manufactured poorly or something which is the reason why it can crack so easily. For adults, getting a Clipper card backup is easy since all you need to do is while they are free as long as you load it, just get a new one each month as a backup as I think they only crack after usage.

        But for Senior, Youth, they can always apply for a second one as backup since one will sit idle at home just in case.

        For the people with the RTC Discount ID/Clipper, those are the worst ones since you can’t get a second card without blocking the first so if they are Seniors and not Disabled, they can always get a Senior Card to use for the next month while next month, they get the RTC Card replaced.

        So even if someone came up with a solution to replace cards on the spot, the RTC is the hardest one as that one has the picture ID on the front of it which isn’t created on the spot.

  • Vincent

    Actually, credit cards have used RFID for a long while, atleast since 2001.

    The American Express Blue/Blue Cash all have the RFID, it used to look like the Translink’s Gold Chip and then later became internal like the Clipper which has been there for probably over 8 years.

    Visa’s PayWave uses RFID as well and that seems to be part of the Wells Fargo debit/check, credit cards as well as Chase’s debit/check, credit cards. Bank of America and their FIA Card Services division even though Visa was originally known as BankAmericard doesn’t have the RFID.

    MasterCard’s PayPass has been in use for some time too which is also RFID based. This is on all HSBC Credit Card’s. CitiCards doesn’t put the RFID into the cards but rather they have this keytag thing that’s inside a sealed thick rubber case.

    Bank of America’s SafePass and their brokerage/investment services division which was known as Banc of America Investment Services, Inc., later as Bank of America Online Investing – Powered by Merrill Lynch and now known as Merrill EDGE has had SafePass for atleast 3-4 years which is a card that generates 6 digit security codes but it still has the RFID gold chip like the Translink does.

    I think only Discover Card is the one who doesn’t have RFID technology standard on their cards yet.

    • I see. My silly bank has been giving me dinosaurs all this time!

      • Vincent

        I think probably they have to pay extra for the RFID technology in the cards since take Visa for example, a majority of Visa cards have the RFID technology such as Chase, Wells Fargo but Visa originally started known as Bankamericard and none of their cards have the Visa RFID on the card when you would expect them to be the first to have it. Maybe some banks just don’t want to deal with disputes, etc with the tagged payment on their debit/credit cards as it’s not a signature based transaction so they don’t really have a written proof of authorization from the merchant.

    • Jimd

      When Amex Blue first appeared about 10 years ago, it was a smart chip only. I had one of the Blue cards and have no idea what the heck the chip did. It did not have RFID capability until several years later.

      • Vincent

        I remember the original AMEX Blue Cash had a external gold chip like how the Translink looks like on the outside and then later, it was internal. So does the Translink actually have both a smart chip on the outside that requires contact and a internal one?

        • Jimd

          The green Translink cards were contact or contactless. The blue Clipper cards are contactless only. It’s one chip, but there are multiple interfaces for it.

          I don’t have an Amex Blue any more but looking at the design, how the chip is no longer exposed, and the array of lines coming from the chip, I assume the Amex Blue is now contactless only.

        • Vincent

          I had both versions of the Amex Blue Cash. When it first came out, it had the gold chip just like the translink card did which was exposed. The renewal cards all had the chip inside except the card was clear so you can see the small chip inside. I’ve never used it but I know Virgin Records in San Francisco used to have the machines for it. When I was on the Translink Pilot program back in 2003, I remember it was still tagged on a machine outside the BART Station Agent’s booth and it never required contact just like how it works on Muni buses currently so I’ve never seen it using the contact portion of the card.

  • I have a RTC card ($20 monthly disabled pass fee). I went to the 23rd & Mission Walgreens, gave z clerk $20, no questions asked (i.e., disabled pass, maam?, how would u like to put this $20 to ur pass?, nothing asked of me by z clerk). Since this is my second month using z Clipper on z RTC card I assumed z clerk knew to put DISABLED PASS on z RTC card. Guess what – no way – she put cash value. As I was leaving, I had a feeling something was not right. Well, low and behold, I take z MUNI Monday, October 3 and z card is debited $0.75. Aaahhhh!!!! So, I then went to 23rd & Mission Walgreens. They were not willing to change z cash value to monthly pass. They had the nerve to ask me to come back Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 4 pm when z clerk who put z money on my card will be at work. I couldn’t believe it. I went home, called Walgreens Headquarter, left a complaint. Called Clipper’s phone number. No one at Clipper was able to help me until Wednesday morning (credit $5) Whoopededo!!! On Tuesday, I went back still no resolution so I put $20 DISABLED PASS ON ME CARD (there is already $17 on z card) So, I paid a total of $40 for z month of October in comparison to paying $20.What A HEADACHE? PLEASE TELL CLERKS DISABLED PASS PLEASE NOT CASH VALUE.

    • Vincent

      One of the major problems with the Translink/Clipper is that the cash value should be able to be used to buy a pass but apparently that isn’t possible. The other thing about Walgreens is I’m curious what are the payment options available, is it cash only or can you use a credit/debit card? I know with the paper passes, they only accept cash while Safeway, Cole Hardware all accept credit/debit cards as people who pay using the later usually get cashback of either 3% or 5% and with Cole Hardware, it’s an additional 5% from their frequent shoppers program but Walgreens apparently is greedy and takes cash only while they are a merchant that takes credit/debit cards for all other sales.

  • Don

    My issue is not so much with the technology of the card, but with the Clipper philosophy, which seems to be that the customer is always wrong. My credit card was stolen, so I canceled the card and called Clipper asking for advice. I mistakenly thought that my Translink card would not be able to deduct from my bank account. The phone support person, between sighs at my ignorant questions, told me to go to Walgreens and put money on my Translink card. She did not tell me that with autoload, the monthly charge carries over to your new credit card. At Walgreens, they told me that my Translink card wouldn’t allow them to update it, so they sold me a new Clipper card. Then, my NEW credit card got the autoload charge for the original Translink card. When I called Clipper back, they told me that I should have deregistered the translink card, but that I could apply for a refund. However, they were careful to repeat several times that there was “no guarantee” that I would get an actual refund. Also, there is a $5 processing fee just for filing the form. Nice.

  • Holy smokes, a million times EXACTLY, Geoff. Clipper customer service is terrible, and the girl who “helped” me at the Ferry Building kiosk was clueless. All my old feelings about being fucked over by a system I am essentially forced to use are resurfacing. I hate Clipper, and I hate Muni for making me use such a shitty system run by incompetents.

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