Frequently Asked Questions About SmartBenefits®

What is SmartBenefits®?


SmartBenefits® is a convenient Web-based program that lets employers assign the dollar value of employees' monthly commuting benefit directly to the employees' SmarTrip® cards. This can be done right from your computer using our website. With SmartBenefits®, you'll immediately eliminate the need to distribute vouchers and debit cards.

Van pool operators, van pool passengers, MetroAccess, MTA Commuter Bus, independent bus systems, MARC and VRE riders can allocate transit benefits to electronic SmartBenefits®.

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What if my transit provider doesn't accept SmarTrip® cards?

SmartBenefits® offers SmartBenefits® passenger allocation for customers whose transit providers do not accept SmarTrip® cards. VRE, MARC Rail, MTA Commuter Bus, MetroAccess, Vanpools and other independent bus systems have a program with Metro and to mail VRE & MARC Rail tickets to SmartBenefits® employee participants. To participate in this program, apply for a new SmartBenefits® passenger allocation account.

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How can my employer enroll in SmartBenefits®?

Your employer must complete the online SmartBenefits® application. After, the employer submits the application, we will return the appropriate forms to the employer for signature approval based on the payment information provided. Upon receipt of the signed forms, your employer will be assigned a customer account number, user ID, and password.

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How can employees find out more about SmartBenefits®?

Ask your employer if your company offers SmartBenefits®. If your employer does, someone in your benefits department should be able to explain how the program works. You can also learn more by visiting the SmartBenefits® website.

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How do Seniors or Persons with Disabilities SmarTrip® cards work with SmartBenefits®?

First, you must provide your employer with the serial number located on the back of your SmarTrip® card. Second, be sure to write down your number printed on the back of your SmarTrip® card.

The Senior SmarTrip® and Person with Disabilities SmarTrip® cards are specially encoded to automatically deduct the reduced fare each time you use a SmarTrip® card.

Note: If you currently have a Reduced Fare SmarTrip® card, you should not purchase the Senior SmarTrip® card unless your card is lost, stolen or damaged.

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How do I use SmartBenefits® Autoload?

At the beginning of each month, just present your registered card to a bus farebox, rail faregate or Metro parking target to pay your fare/fee as you normally would and your monthly benefits will be activated. This is referred to as Autoload you don't need to do anything special. If you are commuting regionally, Autoload works on Metrorail, Metrobus and the following bus systems:

  • ART
  • CUE
  • DASH
  • DC Circulator
  • Fairfax Connector
  • Loudoun County Transit
  • PRTC OmniRide
  • Ride On
  • TheBus

NOTE: MTA bus and rail systems, as well as the following commuter buses (Dillon's, Eyre, Martz/Gold Line, Atlantic Coast and Keller) ARE NOT supported by Autoload, therefore you will need to use the SmartBenefits® Passenger Allocation system and follow MTA instructions.

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How do I use my benefits once my employer converts to SmartBenefits® Autoload?

Bus and Rail riders - Just tap your card to the SmarTrip® target and your fare will be processed and reflected in the display window on the bus farebox and as you exit the Metrorail system. Once you exhaust your transit benefits, fares will be deducted from the stored value purse. Each month your benefits will be available in your account that is associated with your SmarTrip® card.

  • Passengers on MARC, VRE, MTA Commuter buses, vanpools or any other independent bus system, will need to allocate your transit benefits to your service provider - If you are a passenger who uses any transit provider that does not have a SmarTrip® card reader you'll need to set up a passenger allocation account. Once you complete the allocation process, your monthly amount will be sent to your transit provider there is nothing else for you to do except MTA Commuter Bus passengers and Commuter Direct users.
  • Passengers on MTA Commuter buses. You must follow the Passenger Allocation system instructions above AND you MUST order your pass each month before the 25th at the following link
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Why are passenger allocation cut-off dates different depending on the transit service provider?

Some transit service providers need time to process your order and have it delivered to you before the beginning of the month.

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My vanpool or transit service provider did not receive the funds that I allocated, what might have caused this to happen?

  • You accidently allocated the funds to the wrong service provider
  • Your employer suspended the benefits
  • Your employer reassigned the benefits to a replacement card but you have not updated your benefit allocation setting in your account
  • The benefit allocation was created after the cut-off date. For example, if you want to allocate your benefits to a service provider for the upcoming month, your allocation setting must be created prior to the date established by your service provider. Please confirm the date with your service provider.
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I allocate funds to a van pool, MetroAccess, MTA Commuter Buses or other transit services; do I need to tap my smartcard to a target?

No. You are not required to tap your card when allocating ALL of your transit benefits to a particular van pool service or transit provider. However, we recommend that you tap your card to a target from time to time ensuring that the latest software is loaded. You can tap it to the target at the Farecards and Passes machine in any Metrorail station. After tapping the card to the target, select the CANCEL button to close out the transaction.

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Do I still need to claim or download my benefits at a Farecards and Passes machine in a Metrorail station?

No. You no longer load your SmartBenefits® onto your SmarTrip® card at a Farecards and Passes machine as a SmartBenefits® Autoload participant.

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What happens to the value that was on my card the month prior to the SmartBenefits® Autoload conversion?

The value will remain on your card in the personal stored value purse. Stored value funds can be used to pay for transit or Metro parking.

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How can I determine how much I have remaining for transit or parking benefits?

You can view balance for:

  • Transit purse on the farebox when you board a bus or at any faregate when entering or exiting the Metrorail system
  • Parking purse when presenting your SmarTrip® card at any Metrorail parking target when paying your parking fee
  • Personal stored value by tapping your SmarTrip® card at any Farecards and Passes machine. (Remember to press the cancel button if you are only looking for your balance)
  • All balances plus transactions  by creating an online SmarTrip® account. Go to and click on Manage your Account Online to access your account previously setup or to setup an account.

    SmarTrip® Online Account Benefits Legend
    ALP SB TRN FF Account Linked Product SmartBenefits® Transit Full Fare
    ALP SB TRN SR Account Linked Product SmartBenefits® Transit Senior/Reduced Fare
    ALP SB PRK FF Account Linked Product SmartBenefits® Parking Full Fare

Note: If a portion of your transit fare or parking fee comes from your personal stored value purse because of insufficient funds in your transit or parking purses, the amount displayed when commuting will be the balance from your personal stored value purse and not your transit or parking purse.

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What if my employer changes the benefit amount or type, what do I need to do?

If you regularly ride Metrorail, Metrobus or any of the regional bus systems, your card will be properly prepared to accept the changes as long as the card is used at least two days before the end of the benefit month at your normal rail stations, bus system or parking lot.

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What do I need to do if I lose or replace my smartcard?

  • To expedite the process, purchase a card, register the card online at and inform SmarTrip® customer service (888-762-7874 or that you have lost your SmarTrip® card and to have them transfer your stored value funds to your replacement card. The SmarTrip® Customer Service Center will instruct you as to how to load these funds to your new SmarTrip®card, by following the SmartBenefits® prompts at the Farecards and Passes machine, and the length of time it will take before the funds are available to load to your card.
  • Immediately notify your employer with your registered replacement card serial number. Your employer will reassign your benefits to the replacement card. Remember, SmartBenefits® cannot be assigned to unregistered cards. The SmarTrip® Customer Service Center does not have the ability to reassign your benefits for you.
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SmarTrip® serial number: which numbers do I use for the serial number?


To accommodate enhanced SmarTrip® applications, Metro has introduced a new 20-digit serial number. When enrolling new employees, the SmartBenefits® system online will take up to 20-digits. Please identify card type in below examples and use serial numbers in the corresponding brackets without spaces.

  • Example 1: [012345678]
  • Example 2: [012345678] 3
  • Example 3: 0020 00 [01 2345 678] 1 or [0020 0002 2345 678 1]
  • Example 4: [0167 0693 4564 7994 9601]
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How do I register my card?

To register your SmarTrip® card online, you'll need to create a SmarTrip® account.

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How long will it take to register my card?

Customers should allow at least 24-hours for their card to appear as registered in the SmartBenefits® system.

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Why can't SmarTrip® Customer Service assign my benefits to my replacement card?

The SmartBenefits® program is an employer sponsored program with specific commuter IRS requirements. SmarTrip® customer service will not be able to reassign your transit or parking benefits to a replacement card. Please contact your employer for reassigning benefits to your replacement card. SmarTrip® customer service will handle processing any value that was in your personal stored value purse.

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Why are transit and parking benefits separated on my card?

To be compliant with Revenue Ruling 2006-57, 2006-2 C.B. 911. It provides guidance to employers on the use of smartcards, debit or credit cards, or other electronic media to provide qualified transportation fringes under Internal Revenue Code §§ 132(a)(5) and 132(f). The separate stored value, transit and parking purses restrict comingling or transfer of funds.

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What happens if I don't use all of my monthly transit benefits?

Employers determine the treatment of unused monthly benefits as either "Rollover" or "Non-Rollover". Rollover allows unused benefits to accumulate in the associated SmarTrip® account of the employee. For Non-rollover accounts, unused monthly benefits are credited back to the employer.

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I allocate a portion of my transit benefits to another transit service and use the remaining portion to ride bus or rail, what happens if I don't use all of the monthly funds assigned to my SmarTrip® card to ride bus or rail systems?

SmartBenefits® Passenger Allocation employee participants that do not use all of their transit funds on their SmarTrip® card for the current month, should allow at least 4 days for the new non-allocated monthly amount to be available for them to access on their SmarTrip® card. The best way to avoid this delay in benefit availability is to make sure that the employee depletes the entire amount several days before the end of the month. Passenger Allocation value is a use-based benefit and operates under different rules on the SmarTrip® card.

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How much can I accumulate in the separate purses?

If your employer allows rollover for unused benefits, a maximum of $4,045 for transit and $4,045 for parking is permitted. The rollover option is generally designated for pretax payroll employee participants. The treatment of unused benefits is subject to employer approval. The stored value purse on SmarTrip® holds $300 and the CharmCard® holds $200.

The following are some additional key points pertaining to the restricted transit and parking purses:

  • Transit funds are not transferrable from one purse to another.
  • Transit benefits will not pay for parking and parking benefits will not pay for transit.
  • You will not be able to transfer transit or parking benefits into your personal stored value purse.
  • Your personal stored value purse allows you to load additional funds to cover when funds are deducted from your transit or parking purses first. Only if and when those funds are exhausted, payments will be deducted from your personal stored value purse.
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If I have funds in my transit benefit purse, how can I use them to pay for parking at a Metro station?

To pay for parking you will only be allowed to use parking benefits or personal stored value funds. Transit benefits cannot be used to pay for parking.

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Can I add funds to the parking or transit benefits purse?

No. Only employers can designate value to the restricted parking or transit benefits purse. If you need additional funds to pay for parking or transit, you can add value to the stored value purse onboard the bus or in any Metrorail station at the Farecards and Passes machine.

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Can I move funds from my transit purse to stored value or the parking purse?

No, funds cannot be transferred between the transit, parking or stored value purses.

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Can I use SmartBenefits® transit funds to purchase a pass?

This feature isn't currently available, but we're working on it.

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I work for two different employers, can I use the same SmarTrip® card for both and still receive SmartBenefits® Autoload?

No, you will need a separate SmarTrip® card for each employer that is providing you with SmartBenefits®.

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I am retiring or changing employers, can I obtain the remaining benefits on my card?

Any unused transit benefits in a Non-rollover account will be credited back to your employers. If you have accumulated funds in your Rollover account, you can continue to use those funds until they are exhausted. In addition, you'll be able to use any funds remaining in the stored value purse.

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Can I use a MTA CharmCard®?

MTA CharmCard® is a smart fare card. The CharmCard® is accepted on any SmarTrip® reader. Metrobus and rail, all Washington DC bus systems including ART, CUE, DASH, DC Circulator, Fairfax Connector, PRTC OmniRide, Ride On, The Bus and the Baltimore Metro Subway, local bus and light rail. You can use the SmartBenefits® Autoload on these cards; however you need to keep in mind that the SmartBenefits® Autoload with the separate purse system WILL NOT work on the Baltimore Metro subway, local bus and light rail systems. Fares will be paid out of the stored value purse.

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