Today the Clipper Card, the unified payment card for all public transit in the San Francisco Bay Area, got Express Transit support in Apple Wallet. What does this mean? One less card in your wallet and one less card to pack. Now your iPhone or Apple Watch is your Clipper Card! Once it’s set up you simply tap your chosen device to any payment terminal. There is no need to unlock your device or to wake it up first. And you can even reload your card on your device using Apple Pay!
You can easily transfer your existing Clipper Card to Wallet, or you can sign up for a new card instantly. The Clipper website has detailed instructions, and Apple’s website has a great overview as well. Essentially, you open up the Wallet app, tap the + button, and follow the prompts!
DC’s SmarTrip, LA’s Tap, Chicago’s Ventra, and Portland’s Hop all got this treatment last year. And New York City is working on fully implementing this system with the goal of replacing Metro Cards soon, though they currently allow you to use an Apple Pay credit card to pay the standard trip rate which is handy for visitors.
To set it up
Once it’s configured you can transfer the card to your Apple Watch if you want. But be aware that it can only be on one device at a time.
To use the virtual Clipper Card you use your phone just like you would your physical card. Simply tap your device to the card reader. You do not need to wake up your device or unlock it. The antenna is on top of your phone near the earpiece, so you do not need to lay it flat on the reader. Just hold the top of your phone close to or on the reader.
What are the device requirements? You must have an iPhone 8 or later. If you wish to add it to Apple Watch, you must have a Series 3 or later.
Are the plastic cards being discontinued? Am I being forced to use this? No, this is entirely optional and simply offered as a convenience for those who wish to use their smartphones for transit payment.
Can I continue using my plastic Clipper Card? If you set up this new mobile option your plastic card is deactivated. You can only have one card, whether it is physical or virtual. You could have two separate cards with individual balances but that would just be more expensive and more difficult to maintain.
Can I use either my iPhone or my Apple Watch? Yes, and you can easily move your card from one device to the other as often as you like, but it may only be on one at a time. And you can only move it using your iPhone. So I recommend leaving it on whichever device you always have with you so that you don’t have to worry about moving it back and forth. I always wear my Apple Watch and I sometimes leave my iPhone at home so I will be keeping it on my watch.
What if my battery dies? If you have an iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR or later and your iPhone shuts down on its own, your phone will still work for up to five hours hours for transit. Just before you need to tap, press the side button, and a little bit of your reserve energy will be used to activate the card. This feature does not work if you proactively turn your device off, only if it shuts down on its own due to low power.
Won’t this slow things down with people fumbling for their phones? You do not need to unlock your phone or wake it up (with the exception of the iconic San Francisco Cable Car and other handheld fare readers, where you will also need to authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your passcode). The actual card read does take a fraction of a second longer than the traditional card from what I’ve heard, but this loss in time should be made up for with the fact that most people have their phones handy all the time and they won’t have to sift through their wallet for a plastic card.
Do I need internet or cellular access to use my card? Nope! The authentication is done on the terminal itself and does not depend on our iPhone’s access to the internet at all, so it easily works anywhere. You do, however, need internet access if you wish to manually add value to your card.