Illustration for article titled Apple Pay Users Are Getting Unintentionally Charged at NYC Subway Turnstiles
Image: AP

The MTA, New York City’s monument to dysfunction and grime and anguish, is overcharging us again, the bastards. Riders have reported seeing $2.75 charges on their Apple Pay accounts after walking past contactless OMNY fare readers, even when using the physical MetroCards. Like most of our city’s public transit woes, this is apparently happening in no other city but ours.

The MTA confirmed in a statement that they’ve received about 30 complaints. Sure enough, someone tweeted half an hour before this writing that they’d been unintentionally charged at the 66th Street-Lincoln Center station. More riders complained on social media that they’ve been double charged, which tracks with a recent Gothamist report. The same complaints have not been reported in other cities with the tap-only Express Transit system, including Beijing, Shanghai, London, Portland, and Tokyo, which have custom technology. To be fair, Twitter shows plenty of complaints about overcharges in London.

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But: is Apple a party to these $2.75 crimes??? Express Transit mode, which is available on iOS 12.3 or later, is automatically enabled for Apple Pay customers and pays for a ride when users tap the correct area of the turnstile without the intermediary step of forcing users to unlock their devices. So if that stuff applies to you and you’re in New York, there’s a nonzero chance that you put your phone down on the OMNY screen and got charged.

You get one warning. Updating your iOS to 12.3 or later (in New York), entering the greater New York area, and setting up Apple Pay will trigger an automatic notification explaining how Express Transit works. It’s possible that it already happened to you. You can disable it by going to Settings>Wallet & Apple Pay>Express Transit Card and choosing the “none” option.

In a statement, OMNY executive Al Putre said that the system is a “popular success that’s working well for the vast majority of people” and added that they’re working on the problem with Apple. Apple says that “[m]illions of customers in cities including Shanghai, Tokyo, London, and Portland enjoy the convenience of Apple Pay Express Transit every day.”

Hmmm. Defensive. Suspicious. Whoever’s fault this is, they’d better fix this because the MTA hopes to implement the OMNY system citywide by the end of this year and phase out the swipe readers with the app and contactless cards by 2023, and the swipe system is literally the only thing that works around here. Even so, I have never seen two fully operational subway pass vending machines side-by-side.

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It’s fun to have a villain, perhaps one we can unite around like Chris Cuomo or the Riddler. But this one is boring and predictable and drains our money in increments that are too menial to spend any time fighting over, and besides, the MTA is currently busy with updates to prevent people from falling out of the trains to their doom. You can get a refund if you report it, but we just want to get home, man.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

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