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May 30, 2019

Those very first SEPTA Key cards are set to expire July 31 — here's how to renew and keep your balance

Early-adopters of the fare system won't lose their money, as long as their cards are registered. They will have to go to a sales office in-person to renew

Public Transportation SEPTA Key
0530_SEPTA key expiration Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

For customers that bought SEPTA Key in June 2016, the expiration date is July 31, 2019. To get a new card and transfer over a remaining balance, customers have to visit a SEPTA sale location.

For anyone that bought a SEPTA Key in its early days, you should know this: Your card is about to expire.

SEPTA rolled out the Key system in June 2016 with a three-year expiration date on its cards. So, July 31 marks when the first group of cards in the system's history is set to expire. You can find your card's expiration date right on its front.

There's been a lot of confusion surrounding how to keep your money and renew your SEPTA Key: Are there transferrable balances? Can you get a new Key card online? Will expired cards remember your balance? If your card is unregistered are you sh*t out of luck?

SEPTA Spokesperson Andrew Busch said 39,386 users will have expired cards come Aug. 1, 2019 — out of the 1.2 million total Key customers.

"We're hoping that by trying to highlight it a couple months ahead of time, everybody checks their card to see if they have an expiring one ... it gives them a little bit of time," he told PhillyVoice on Thursday.

Whether or not your SEPTA Key is among those first set to expire, everyone will eventually need to renew their cards. Here is how:

Register, register, register

The first step of this whole process is to make sure your SEPTA Key card is registered. Do that at and if it's less than 30 days since you purchased it, you'll get back the $4.95 fee. Busch said of all Travel Wallet users with July 31 expiration dates, about 52% have registered their cards.

For unregistered SEPTA Key holders, Busch said he was unsure whether they'll be able to recover their funds after the card expires. 

"The best advice we have for people right now, if you're not registered: This is a good time to make sure you're registered," he said.

Sorry, no online renewals

To transfer old funds onto a new SEPTA Key, you'll have to go in-person to a SEPTA sales location — there are nine of themBut as of June 3, you can also call the SEPTA Key Call Center at 855-56-SEPTA to transfer Travel Wallet funds. The phone option was added after outraged customers realized the expiration process was tricker than it should be.

At a sales location, you have to present your expiring Key to the person at the sales office; you'll pay the $4.95 card fee, again; and the SEPTA employee will give you a new Key with your expired card's balance transferred to it.

You'll need to register the new card within 30 days to get that $4.95 back (and by "back," SEPTA means added to your Travel Wallet balance). But your balance and account will then be connected to the new card, so you *won't* lose any of your money. 

So, here's the ACTUAL process.

  1. Go buy a new Key, either at a kiosk or sales location.
  2. Register your card online or over the phone at 855-567-3782.
  3. Call 855-567-3782 to transfer your balance onto the new card or visit a sales location.
  4. Update information like autoload, credit card info, and delete inactive cards online.

The good news is that registered SEPTA Key users who wait until after their cards' expiration dates to renew will still be able to go to a sales office, purchase new cards and have the remaining balances transferred. That's because accounts with expired cards still exist — the card is just unusable.

The biggest takeaway is that you *can't* renew your Key card online. You need to show up in-person at a sales location or make the phone call. 

Busch said there's no timeline for making the shift to online renewals, but it has been discussed among SEPTA officials. The option to call the Key Call Center was added after much public animosity toward the system they had in place.

"We know it's not going to be convenient for everyone to go back to a sales office," he said. "We want to see what the process would be to move this online. ... There are discussions on that. We'll know more about that moving forward."

After July 31, the next batch of expiring Key cards will come at the end of November. And as of now, those cardholders will need to show up in-person, too.

"I don't know if something will be able to be done between now and then, but we're definitely looking into it," he said.

TrailPass vs. Travel Wallet

A majority of SEPTA Key cardholders are using the Travel Wallet, which you can load with any dollar amount that never will expire. 

Of the nearly 40,000 users with July 31 expiration dates, Busch said almost 91% are Travel Wallet customers.

For weekly and monthly TrailPass users with expiring cards — which account for the remaining 9% of those Key customers — the SEPTA Key system will not allow you to purchase a pass that extends beyond July 29 on that card. So you won't get screwed into buying a weekly pass on a SEPTA Key card that expires halfway through the week you paid for, Busch said.

But he again recommended getting a new card sooner rather than later to avoid any overlap period.

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