Management & Operations

Seoul Improves Smart Cards, Allows A Negative Balance

Posted on August 13, 2007 by Jayna Rust

Seoul Metropolitan Government has made improvements to its “T-money” payment system, providing greater flexibility and convenience for riders.

Run by Korea Smart Card Co. Ltd. (KSCC), the T-money cards are purchased for a small fee and give riders a discount off the base fare for each bus and subway trip — ranging from a savings of 10% for adults and up to 50% for children — versus cash tickets.

The cards, embedded with CPU-enabled self-calculation, are used for public transportation — buses, subway and taxis — as well as other public services (including parking lot fees, museums and vending machines) throughout the city. Using cash, card holders can continually add value to the cards at a variety of outlets.

Since the end of April, passengers who use T-money transportation cards can get cash receipts to submit with their tax returns at the end of the year. Now, after registering online with T-money, card holders can have the company send cash receipts to the Republic of Korea’s National Tax Service if monthly card charges total 5,000 won ($5.39 USD) or more.

In mid-May, the city government also began a Minus Transportation Policy, which enables passengers to buy a special “T-money minus card” for an extra 1,000 won ($1.08 USD) refundable deposit.

“Before this policy, if passengers were short of the final fare, they had to pay in cash and could not get the benefit of a transfer [between bus and train] discount,” said Hyeon-Jeoung Kim of Seoul Metropolitan Government. “People can now receive the discount even with insufficient funds, albeit limited to only once.” The negative balance is recorded on the card, and the next time the card has money added to it, the passenger makes up the “minus balance.”

This policy is especially helpful for passengers who transfer from bus to subway.

Normally, a base fare is deducted while aboard the bus, and when the card holder transfers to the subway, he or she doesn’t have to pay a second base fare. Before the policy, if the card did not have a minimum of 250 won, passengers had to pay cash for the transfer.

Both of these pre-paid card policies were created for the benefit of the rider, who spends an average of 104,670 won ($113.25 USD) per month on public transportation fees. “It is the hope of the Seoul Metropolitan Government that the public transportation system becomes more convenient and attractive for the citizens,” Kim said.

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