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An illustration of a NYC MTA Metrocard that says "Mastercard" instead.
Daniel Wolfe
Taken for a free ride: Priceless.
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How much free NYC subway rides will cost Mastercard

By Daniel Wolfe

Just how many tourists, Brooklynites, bankers and media executives ride the New York City subway on Fridays during summer? While it sounds like banal cocktail party fodder, it’s actually key to knowing how many free subway rides Mastercard is giving to riders when they tap their phones or cards at a turnstile.

The credit card company has launched a promotion to pay for New Yorker’s subway trips if they use a Mastercard to tap into the system. Riders can use a physical card that has an RFID chip or a virtual one loaded onto their phone’s digital wallet app.

Currently, most of the New York Subway turnstiles only accept the MetroCard a thin, single-purpose, magnetic-striped piece of plastic. However, there are now 16 stations that accept contactless payment. The system is called OMNY, and is in place along some stations along the 4, 5, and 6 lines. Since June 7, card holders who used a Mastercard to tap in at these stations will be reimbursed up to $5.50 every Friday in June and July—the equivalent of two rides.

So what’s the bottom line of this stunt?

The company’s hope is to get customers used to tapping for payments versus swiping. “The promotion is more for behavior change than anything else,” said Mastercard spokesperson, Chaiti Sen. Switching consumers to contactless payments is good business. A study out of the International Journal of Economic Sciences showed that such technologies led to 8%-10% greater spending among debit and credit cardholders.