Finding the right ORCA Card for you and how to add value
Whether you’re an occasional transit rider, or a daily power user, there are lots of reasons to use an ORCA card when you travel on public transit in the Puget Sound Region.
In addition to avoiding lines and saving time, customers can take advantage of real-time fare loading, automatic transfer credits, saving money with daily and monthly passes, more retail stores to buy and reload cards, balance protection and our new website and myORCA smartphone app to help you manage your account on the go.
Ready to get started? Below is a step-by-step guide to getting the best ORCA card and fare products for your travel needs.
Step 1: Get the ORCA card that is right for you
There are several types of ORCA cards for customers to consider. Our standard card is called the Adult card. We also have reduced fare cards for Seniors, Persons with Disabilities, customers with lower incomes and now Youth ages 6-18 ride free with a Youth ORCA card or other form of accepted ID. Visit our fare program page to find out which ORCA fare is right for you.
Step 2: Define your transit riding needs
Once you have an ORCA card, how much money to load or what pass to buy depends on what transit services you ride, and how frequently you ride them. Below are some examples of how customers use the ORCA card and recommendations for how to load your card:
First of all, welcome to the Puget Sound Region! If you want to learn about paying for transit on your next check out our ORCA visitors guide article.
Do you ride transit a few times a month to get to a doctor’s appointment, or see a game? If so, we recommend you add money (E-purse) to your card as needed for the trips you’re planning to take. If you’re planning to use transit for one day, you can also load a Regional Day Pass to your ORCA card for $8, which covers unlimited trips with a one-way cost of up to $3.50.
An easy way to make sure you always have some funds on your card, try setting up Autoload, so your account automatically gets refilled when your balance is running low. To set up an Autoload, you need to sign up for a myORCA account and connect your card. Watch our videos on how to create an account and link your card and how to set up an autoload for more information.
If you use transit every day or even multiple times per day, then a monthly pass could save you money. You can load a regional monthly pass that works on all transit agencies or load an agency-specific pass to ride on just one agency (available from Kitsap Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit and Washington State Ferries). So, which pass is the right one for you? Here’s more information about each to help you decide:
One of the most popular passes loaded to an ORCA card, the PugetPass is a monthly regional pass that works on all transit agencies meaning you can transfer from one agency service to another seamlessly while saving money. Here’s what you need to know about buying a PugetPass:
- PugetPasses work on a calendar month basis, which means if you buy a November PugetPass, it will work every day in the month of November and expire on the last day of the month.
- You can load or set up an Autoload for a PugetPass for the next month to your ORCA card starting on the 15th of the previous month. For example, you can load a PugetPass for November on your card starting on October 15th, so it’s ready to use on November 1st. If you set up an autoload, a new pass will be added to your account automatically each month until you cancel it. Note, there is no prorated pricing if you purchase a monthly pass after the first of the month.
- In the ORCA price guide, there are 23 different options for the PugetPass, ranging from trip values of $0.50 to $10.00. The PugetPass you should buy should cover the one-way price of your most frequent trip. For example:
- If most of your trips are on King County Metro buses, the one-way fare on that service is $2.75, so you should purchase the $2.75 PugetPass.
- If you ride Community Transit commuter busses every day, buy the $4.25 PugetPass.
- If you ride Sound Transit Link from Northgate to Rannier Beach, buy the $3.00 Pass (and don’t forget to tap off on trains!).
- Visit each transit agency’s website for more information on the fares for your most frequent trip:
- Community Transit, primarily serving Snohomish County and commuter routes to and from Snohomish County to Seattle and Bellevue
- Everett Transit, serving the City of Everett and parts of Snohomish County
- King County Metro, primarily serving King County
- Kitsap Transit, primarily serving Kitsap County
- Pierce Transit, primarily serving Pierce County including the City of Tacoma
- Sound Transit, providing regional rail and bus service connecting King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties
- The best way to know if a monthly PugetPass can save you money is to consider if you will use it more than 36 times in one month. The price of a PugetPass is 36 times the one-way trip value, for example the $1.75 PugetPass is $63.00 ($1.75 X 36).
- Want to purchase a PugetPass but transfer across multiple different transit services? It’s a good idea to keep some E-Purse funds loaded on your card, anywhere from $2-10 dollars is a good amount to budget depending on what services you will be using.
- Set up an E-Purse autoload if you transfer to higher-cost trips with your pass to cover the fare difference. If your plans change or sometimes you use different transit options, this is a great way to make sure your card doesn’t run out of money.
- For example, if you have a $2.75 Puget Pass because you ride King County metro busses every day, but you ride Link Light Rail from U-District to SeaTac to pick up a friend at the airport, that’s a $3.00 trip. Your pass will cover the first $2.75, but you’ll need to have some E-Purse money loaded to your card to cover the other $0.25.
Step 3: Reloading your ORCA card and managing your balance
Now that you have an ORCA card and know which fare products work best for your transit routine, you can set up an account on myORCA.com to protect your balance in the event of a lost/stolen/damaged card, add a payment method, load value from anywhere in real time, set up an Autoload, and manage multiple cards all in one place! For more information about how to use ORCA, visit our user guide where you can find more helpful articles and topics.