New month, Fast Pass, dead Clipper card

Photo by Sam Churchill

Muni rider Erica wrote us with one helluva situation. We at MDHQ are stumped by this one, so we turn it over to you, dear reader: Anyone have advice for Erica?

Help! I’m having a hellvua time with my clipper card. I bought the October fast pass over the weekend, online, and the next time I tried to tag my card I discovered it was dead. De-magged, probably even though that’s not supposed to happen. Yeah right. Anyway, since I couldn’t tag it, the Oct fast pass never showed up on my clipper card. I went to clipper service in the Embarcadero station (pain in the ass), and the very nice man gave me a new card, but couldn’t transfer the pass since it hadn’t yet showed up on my original card.

You see where this is going. Is the pass ever going to show up on my card, or am I screwed? I’ve been carrying around the receipt, but it’s such a hassle to convince the operators to let me board…even though at the same time ten people are getting in the back door without paying.

What to do? Have you ever encountered this problem?

Well? Bueller? Bueller?


  • Can you go to your online clipper account and change the clipper card number to the new one you have? Otherwise I have no idea. And the clipper people aren’t always able to help. The wife just went through a month long battle trying to get her auto load to auto load. She ended up having to pay 2 weeks worth of regular Muni fares while she got it sorted out.

  • david vartanoff

    first, NEVER use Clipper on line to add value. Second, follow the rules for calling your bank to reject the charge to the dead card. Third, buy your new pass at a face to face vendor (Walgreens works well for me) who processes the add directly to your card while you watch.

  • Buzz Beefpie

    Be the eleventh through the back door, and have your receipt ready on the *smirk* chance you’re challenged for fare.

  • raymond

    There’s no “not supposed to happen”, getting de-magnetised CAN’T happen to a clipper card, as they were never magnetised in the first place.

    Call clipper customer service. Call centers can often do things that face-to-face customer service can’t.

  • unemployed dragon

    This is precisely why I will not use the Clipper card. I’m quite happy to pay cash. This is robbery on the part of the Clipper system, and, dare I say, MUNI.

  • Dexter Wong

    Akit, what’s your take on this problem?

  • Hi Erica/Muni Diaries,

    I speculate that what happened with Erica’s card is that she did correctly make the purchase through, but she did not leave enough time for the pass to be sent from the Clipper back-end down to the reader on the pass where it can be loaded to a card. This process takes from 3-5 days to complete, at which time Erica could have tagged her card and the pass would have been correctly added.

    Clipper is not a “real time” system; when Erica or another customer makes a purchase through, the system cannot instantly add value to the card because the system must send an instruction from the back-end to a bus garage and then the bus garage transmits the instruction to the bus, and only then can Erica pick up her pass. See for a short video explaining this process.

    At this point, I recommend calling Clipper customer service to make sure the pass will be loaded to your new card and not your old one.

    If you haven’t done so already, “like” us on Facebook at; it’s a good way to get info on these types of situations.

    – Jake (Clipper Program Staff)

  • Susan

    @Jake – nice of you to respond, but you’ve obviously never had to call Clipper to try to resolve anything. The people who answer the calls have a pretty much across the board lack of ability to provide anything that most of us would call Customer Service!

  • Erica

    Thanks for all the advice everyone! After multiple trips to the service center and a couple of phone calls, this is still not resolved (even though everyone I’ve talked to has been very nice).

    Since at this point in the month it wouldn’t even make sense for me to get the fast pass, I’m just going to do a chargeback on my credit and hope that November goes more smoothly.

    • raymond

      Hopefully Clipper starts learning, soon, that they need to get a better handle on their back-end processes.

      You shouldn’t have to go through the chargeback process just because the company can’t manage a refund for what they themselves admit is a “lost” transaction.

  • Scott

    I had to call the clipper people because I couldn’t get my BART high value autoload to work when I changed from the $60 to $45 loads. There is no way to change directly from one to the other without disabling it and re-enabling it on their web site. But disabling it disables it for good (until you talk with someone), so even when you re-enable the high value autoload it doesn’t work.

    The person I talked to at Clipper was actually good and got it fixed by the next morning after I called. But something is seriously wrong if you can’t make a simple change from one option to another on a vendor’s web site, but instead have to disable, re-enable a different option, wait 5 days and then call customer service in order to make a simple change.

    The clipper rep’s story about their fleet of gerbils delivering clipper card receipts to muni bus drivers is a load of bs. If that’s the case, why can you add value instantly at a store like Walgreens? How come Walgreens isn’t using the gerbil method? You know, there is this thing called the Internet? It means you can transfer information fast and cheap and don’t have to use gerbils to deliver receipts to bus drivers.

    And if you’re really using the gerbil method of delivery in 2011, how incompetent are you?

    PS. Your clipper card can’t get demagnetized since it shoots out tiny radio waves (RFID), however the radio-wave shooting chip inside there could get damaged or broken, so then it wouldn’t work anymore.

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