SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Kneuppel uses a SEPTA Key card at a turnstile in the concourse under Dilworth Park.

SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Kneuppel uses a SEPTA Key card at a turnstile in the concourse under Dilworth Park.

Anna Orso/Billy Penn

SEPTA Key launches Monday: Here’s what you need to know

It’s been a literal decade since SEPTA started conceptualizing a digital fare payment system that would bring it into the 21st century — and Monday is the day we’ve been waiting for.

SEPTA Key, the new way to pay to ride SEPTA in which you will be able to use a (gasp!) credit or debit card, will partially roll out on Monday. It’s dubbed the “Early Adopters” program, and 10,000 people will be able to get a SEPTA Key card beginning Monday at 6 a.m.

Here’s everything you need to know about becoming one of the first people to try out SEPTA’s new system:

It’s a fancy TransPass… for now

Don’t throw out your single-use tokens just yet.

For now, Early Adopters can purchase only a weekly or a monthly TransPass from one of a number of fare kiosk locations across the city. In the future, you’ll be able to buy a Key card and load however much money you want on it. But SEPTA’s not quite there yet.

However, these TransPasses are reloadable so one card can be used over and over again. Don’t throw it out! You’ll be able to tap the card at a fare kiosk or log onto the SEPTA Key website and reload another weekly or monthly fare cost .

Where to do it

Early Adopters will be able to use their new Key card for travel on all SEPTA transit routes including buses, trolleys, trackless trolleys, the Market-Frankford Line, the Broad Street Line and the Norristown High Speed Line. However, you can only purchase the card itself at one of these locations:

Market-Frankford Line:

  • 69th Street Transportation Center
  • 52nd Street Station
  • 30th Street Station
  • 15th Street Station/ Dilworth Park
  • Erie-Torresdale Station
  • Frankford Transportation Center

Broad Street Line:

  • Olney Transportation Center
  • Erie Station (South Mezzanine)
  • Cecil B. Moore Station
  • Dilworth Park
  • Walnut/Locust Station
  • Snyder Station

SEPTA HQ at 1234 Market Street:

  • Lobby Fare Kiosks
  • SEPTA Sales Office

How buying the card works

You’ve seen the “Testing!” kiosks. Using a credit card, debit card or cash, you use the fare kiosk to insert payment and the kiosk will print a credit card-like teal piece of plastic for you right there. The card will have a 16-digit number on it to be used as an identifier, but it won’t have your name embossed on it.

So you’re prepared with your card or cash, a weekly pass costs $24 and a monthly one costs $91. Here’s how it’s done:

An important note for before you buy your first Key card: These are for subway, El, trolley, bus and high-speed line transit only. SEPTA Key for Regional Rail hasn’t been developed yet — give it a couple years.

How using the card works

The card itself is contactless, so once it’s loaded with money, you approach one of those red-orang boxes mounted atop the turnstiles, and tap that with the card. The arrow will turn green and you’ll be able to walk through. A similar green arrow will appear on buses as well. Here’s SEPTA General Manager Jeff Kneuppel entering through the turnstile at the Dilworth Park concourse:

Other tips for using the Key

1. After you buy the card, you’ll have the option to register it at www.SEPTAKey.org. You’re going to want to do that. Now, if you lose your $91 monthly TransPass, you’re SOL. With the Key, you’ll be able to contact SEPTA in the event you lose your card and they’ll cancel that one and provide you with a new one.

2. If you’re using cash, know ahead of time that the kiosks do not accept $50 or $100 bills. However, it does accept those cool $1 coins if for some reason you carry those, and it’ll take all other denominations. And you don’t need the exact amount! The kiosks dispense change, and it’s in bills instead of quarters(!).

3. On the first day of the rollout, SEPTA “ambassadors” will be out and about near the new kiosks to assist customers in purchasing and using the new cards. If you’re struggling to use a kiosk or a turnstile and a SEPTA ambassador isn’t around, find the new SEPTA call boxes. They’ll connect you directly to SEPTA HQ and someone who can help will be on the line.

4. You can set up an account on the SEPTA Key website (or through calling SEPTA customer service) so that your pass can auto-load in the future. Using a credit card or bank account as your source of payment, you can set up the card to automatically reload once your week or month ends.

5. Don’t want a Key card just yet? That’s fine. SEPTA will be running both the old and new systems for several months during the Early Adopters program, which is still technically a testing phase for SEPTA.

6. They really want your feedback. Once you use SEPTA Key, log onto the website or call customer service and tell them how it went. If all goes well, the full SEPTA Key rollout should happen sometime by the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

They hope.

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