Apple Pay comes to DC Metro

Announced months ago and finally rolled out, Apple Pay with Express Transit Mode has finally come to the Washington DC Metro joining the ranks of many other cities that support it. But incredibly, it appears at first inspection that WMATA’s implementation doesn’t suck. Anyone who rides Metro will find this handy, but I know people like myself who often travel to DC will find this particularly handy because now I don’t have to remember to pack my SmarTrip card.

There are several perks to this:

  • One less card that you are likely to forget or lose.
  • You can reload your card from your iPhone without having to use a kiosk.
  • Visitors can get a card right on their iPhone without having to use a kiosk or download an app.

You can read WMATA’s official information about this new feature.


  • How do I tap in at a turnstile? Same way you do with your card currently. Just tap your iPhone or Apple Watch to the sensor. No need to use Face ID, Touch ID, or to unlock your device.
  • Where can I use it? Any Metro Station, Metro Bus, or local transit in DC and the suburbs that already takes SmarTrip. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Baltimore’s CharmCard, which has always been interchangeable with DC’s SmarTrip. So I’m not sure if it will work in Baltimore or not.
  • What devices are compatible? iPhone 8 and later or Apple Watch series 3 and later running the latest software. Though Apple says that Express Transit works with iPhones as old as iPhone 6s, it seems that WMATA’s implementation is more strict.
  • What happens if my battery dies? If you have an Apple Watch and you suspect that your iPhone battery might die you can transfer your card to your watch using the Watch app on iPhone. If you have an iPhone XS, XS Max, XR or later, there is a small reserve of battery power for paying transit that lasts up to five hours after your iPhone turns itself off. This does not work if you manually turn your iPhone off. Unfortunately, you may be stuck buying a new SmarTrip card if worse comes to worse.
  • Can I use my plastic card as a backup? Unfortunately not. The way WMATA’s system works the value of your card is held on your card or device itself so that it works instantly and doesn’t have to check in with the central computer each time it is used. After you tap a turnstile it lazily syncs up with the central computer so that if you lose the card it can be replaced.

How to transfer your existing funds

  1. Open the Wallet app on your iPhone
  2. Tap the “Plus” button in the upper right corner of Wallet
  3. Choose “SmarTrip – Washington DC”
  4. Tap “Transfer Existing Card”
  5. If you currently have your SmarTrip card registered on WMATA’s website make sure that your DOB and phone number match. If you get it wrong no worries, you can try again. You may need to log into the WMATA website to confirm or edit your information. Note that you can have different information associated with a specific card than with your account, and it’s looking for the specific card information.
  6. Place your existing SmarTrip card on a flat surface and your iPhone on top of it as shown in the image and wait. It takes about 10 or 20 seconds.
  7. Throw away your plastic SmarTrip card.

How to sign up for a new card on iPhone

If you’re visiting DC and don’t yet have a SmarTrip card it’s really easy to start without even having to visit a kiosk or download an app.

  1. Open the Wallet app on your iPhone
  2. Tap the “Plus” button in the upper right corner of Wallet
  3. On the “Card Type” screen choose “SmarTrip – Washington DC”
  4. Choose the amount you want to load onto your iPhone and tap “Add” to add funds using Apple Pay. If you don’t know how much you intend to use and if you are only visiting DC, it’s better to get too little and add small amounts as you go along.

How do I transfer it to my Apple Watch?

You can switch your SmarTrip card between your iPhone and your Watch as needed, but unfortunately, you cannot have it on both simultaneously. If you regularly wear an Apple Watch this might be preferable because you don’t have to pull your iPhone out of your pocket, you are probably less likely to have your Apple Watch lost or stolen, and Apple Watch batteries usually last longer than iPhone.

  1. Open the Watch app on iPhone
  2. Tap “Wallet”
  3. Tap the “Add” button next to your SmarTrip Card

How do I add more money?

Just open up the Wallet app, tap your SmarTrip card, and choose “Add Money”. You can use any card set up for Apple Pay. If you don’t have Apple Pay set up I urge you to consider it. Otherwise, you should be able to reload it at any kiosk just like you used to with the plastic card (in theory at least, I haven’t tried this and can’t find a definitive answer online).

If you have added your SmarTrip card to Apple Watch you can add money by finding the card in Wallet on the Watch itself. Tap the balance and then choose to add funds. I haven’t tested this but I assume that your Watch will need to have internet access to add funds, either through your iPhone nearby or if you have a model with built-in cellular. Otherwise you may need to add funds at a kiosk.

If you want to use a pass (unlimited travel on certain days) you will need to add those using the SmarTrip app.

Bonus: SmarTrip app for iPhone has been released