Every city you visit has different methods of paying for public transport and specific rules that need to be followed for payment and usage. Fortunately, Seoul’s subway card system – or T-money card – is very straightforward and simple. If it’s your first time purchasing a MetroCard in Seoul, don’t worry! Take one read through this article and you will be riding the subway all over the city like a pro in no time.
In South Korea, MetroCards are referred to as T-money cards. They are rechargeable plastic cards that you can use to pay for public transportation such as subways, buses, and even taxis! They can be used within Seoul and in most provinces in South Korea. When you use your T-money to pay for bus and subway travel, you receive a W100 discount and can transfer with no extra charge! You can also transfer between bus and subway lines with no extra charge as long as the transfer takes place within 30 minutes. The appearance of each T-money card will vary depending on the type you purchase, this is what mine looks like!
Step one is purchasing a T-money card. T-money cards can be purchased at almost any convenience store (7 Eleven, CU, GS 25) or subway ticket booth. If you are flying into South Korea via Incheon International Airport and plan on taking the Airport Railroad line into the city, there is a CU located inside the terminal where you can purchase your T-money card. The card itself costs W2,500 (unless you are purchasing a tourist T-money card, more on that later) and you will need to load it with additional fare to be able to pay for each ride.
After you purchase your card you have to load it. This can also be done at the convenience store at the cashier or, through the automatic recharging machines located in each subway station. You can purchase your T-Money card using any form of payment, however, it is important to know that you can only reload your card using cash! This applies to both methods of reloading via machine or in-person at the convenience store. T-money cards can be loaded with any amount from W1,000 up to W90,000.
If you choose to load your card at the convenience store, simply go up to the counter and tell the person there that you would like to “charge” your card by saying “티머니 충전 할 수 있나요?” (am I able to recharge my T-money card here?). After they say yes or no, they might ask you how much you would like to load it with, at which point you can tell them the amount you would like to add, give them your T-money card, and give them your cash.
If you load your card using the machines located in the subway, you simply have to put your card in the designated spot, select the English option on the screen, and follow the instructions!
After you have loaded your card, you’re ready to start using public transportation! One important thing to remember is that you must tap your card before you get on and after you get off the subway. For buses, you tap once when you first enter the bus at the front, and once before you get off at the back. The price per subway ride for adults is W1,250, and for the bus, between W900 to W2,300 depending on the colour of the bus you ride – different colours indicate different types of city buses.
T-money cards can be categorized into 5 basic categories: T-money card, foreigner exclusive cards, integrated cards, customized cards, and mobile T-money.
The basic T-money card only lets you pay to ride the subway, bus, and taxi. The card itself does not serve another function. Many of my Korean friends have bank cards that function as a T-money card as well. When they want to use public transport all they need to do is tap their bank card and the amount is automatically deducted from their bank account. Using this method does give the user a slight discount per ride, so if you plan on being in South Korea long term and have a bank account set up, you should inquire about this type of joint card!
The Korea Tour Card is exclusive to international tourists and card access to public transportation anywhere in Korea. The Korea Tour Card also gives you discount benefits at many attractions such as Lotte World, Everland, and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul. You can also download this card via the mobile app also called Korea Tour Card, which gives you all the same benefits without having to carry a physical card in your wallet.
It is a bit more expensive to purchase this card (W4,000 compared to W2,500 the price of a regular T-money card), but because of the many discounts that are associated with using this card, the cost evens out very quickly. For a list of all available discounts, take a look at the Korea Tour Card website.
This card is especially beneficial if you are looking to travel around South Korea. You can receive discounts not only in Seoul, but also in Incheon, Daegu, Busan, and Jeju Island. If you are planning to stay in Seoul, you might want to look into the Discover Seoul Pass as a better option.
This card is available for purchase at many different locations, including major convenience stores (7/11, Emart 24, CU, GS25), subway stations in Seoul (Lines 1 to 8) and Incheon (Lines 1 to 2), and in both terminals at Incheon Airport.
There are also card vending machines located in major Seoul subway stations (Lines 1 to 4) and at Incheon International Airport Terminal 1 Station, Gimpo International Airport Station, and Seoul Station on the Airport Railroad Line. Some banks within Incheon also sell the card such as Shinhan Bank exchange booths in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, and Woori Bank exchange booths in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
If there is a remaining balance on your card at the end of your trip, you can have it refunded at certain locations with a service charge of W500. The price of the initial card purchase (W4,000) will not be refunded. Try not to load too much money onto your card as refunding amounts over W50,000 can be more complicated and time-consuming.
The South Korean public transportation is one of the cleanest and most efficient systems in Asia. Once you take the necessary steps outlined above to purchase and load your card, you will be all set to explore Seoul one T-money tap at a time.