Clipper on Caltrain FAQ
Basics: Getting the Card, Adding Passes and Cash
Where can I buy a Clipper card?
Clipper cards can be purchased at the Caltrain Administrative office in San Carlos between 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., at participating Clipper retail locations such as Walgreens and online at www.clippercard.com.
Youth (ages 5-18) and senior (ages 65 and older) customers must fill out an application to obtain a Clipper card. Disabled fare customers must have a Regional Transit Connection Clipper card. For more information, click here.
How much does a Clipper card cost?
Adult Clipper cards cost $3. The fee is waived if you sign-up for Autoload and obtain the card at the same time online. There is no fee for Youth and Senior Clipper cards.
How do I load the card, and does the amount ever expire?
Cash value on your card is used on a per-ride basis if you do not have a Monthly Pass or 8-ride Ticket. Cash on your card won't expire; time-limited passes and tickets will expire.
To load a Monthly Pass, 8-ride Ticket or cash, customers with Clipper cards (Adult, Youth, Senior, Disabled) can load their products immediately by going to:
- Participating transit agencies
- Clipper retail outlets, such as participating Walgreens
- Downtown San Francisco Muni fare machines
- BART ticket machines (e-cash only)
- Valley Transportation Authority light rail station ticket machines
- Clipper Add-Value Machines at San Francisco, Diridon and Palo Alto stations
Products/cash may also be loaded through the Clipper web site or over the phone with the Clipper Customer Service Bureau, but the product/cash may take up to five days to be loaded onto the card.
Clipper also offers autoload where your card is reloaded each month automatically. For more information, visit www.clippercard.com or call the Clipper Customer Service Bureau at 1-877-878-8883.
If I load a Monthly Pass or 8-ride Ticket on my Clipper card, am I good to go?
No. On Caltrain, you must also have a minimum of $1.25 in cash on your card.
Why do I have to have a minimum of $1.25 in cash on my Clipper card?
It's the way the system was configured to work in conjunction with a negative balance limit. If you forget to tag off, the highest fare between all zones is charged and you must have this amount on the card as cash. Since the Clipper card has a maximum negative amount and the maximum zones exceed that amount, an additional $1.25 is required. Although you have monthly pass on the card, you still must tag on and off once during the month. Based on the assumption that you will not tag off, the minimum cash value to go negative must be there. As Caltrain gets more experience with Clipper, it will review this requirement.
How many Monthly passes or 8-ride tickets can I buy?
You can buy only one Monthly Pass for a given month, no matter how you purchase it. If you have Autoload, you can only buy one 8-ride Ticket at a time but your next 8-ride will load when you are down to two rides so you don’t have to worry about “running out.” Reminder: an 8-ride Ticket expires in 30 days. The 30-day validity period starts when the new ticket is loaded.
Important note: These rules on Monthly passes and 8-ride tickets are for specific zone combinations. You can mix Monthly passes and 8-ride tickets in different zone combinations on the same card, for example, you might have one Zone 1 to 4 and three Zone 1 to 3 tickets on the same Clipper card.
Can I purchase Caltrain Day passes?
The Day Pass isn’t available on Clipper. You should purchase the paper pass from the ticket vending machine. If you are just making a round-trip, it will be less expensive to use Clipper cash.
What if I want to ride beyond the zones on my Monthly Pass or 8-ride?
With a Monthly Pass, you need to purchase a paper Zone Upgrade ticket from the ticket vending machine. With an 8-ride ticket, Zone Upgrades are not available; Clipper deducts the cost of the one‐way trip between the zones of the ride from the card’s stored cash.
What if I have to ride in between my zones using an 8-ride Ticket?
Clipper will deduct a ride from the 8-ride Ticket only if the trip matches the zones on the ticket, i.e. from Zone 1 to Zone 3. If the trip is from Zone 1 to Zone 2, Clipper will deduct cash from the card. If you are making a stopover in Zone 2 and will board again to go to Zone 3 then don't tag off or back on in Zone 2 as long as you will be arriving at your final destination station in Zone 3 within the alloted time (four hours from original tag on). Tag off at your final destination station and a ride will be deducted from the ticket. One-way travel, including stopovers, must occur in the same direction.
If I have Autoload, when will my next 8-ride Ticket load?
Signing up for Autoload is a great way to not be caught without a ticket for your set zones. When you reach two rides on your ticket (within the validation period), another 8-ride Ticket will load. Also, a new 8-ride Ticket will load when a customer tags for the first time after an 8-ride Ticket expires. Reminder: an 8-ride Ticket expires 30 days from when the ticket is loaded.
Tagging On and Tagging Off
How do I know that my tag was good?
Touch the card on the Clipper logo (not the screen) until you hear a beep and/or see green, yellow or red lights. If you continue to hold the card on the card reader, you can read the message (“Travel OK” or “Invalid fare”).
If you hear one beep (green light) or two beeps (yellow light), you have appropriate fare and can board the train. If you hear three beeps (red light), the card doesn’t have a valid fare on it. Either load new fare or Clipper cash to the card before boarding the train or purchase a paper ticket from the station ticket vending machine. The two beeps (yellow light) mean that the card is low on fare and may need to be reloaded before the next trip. Reminder: customers with Monthly passes and 8-ride tickets also must have at least $1.25 in cash on your card.
When tagging off, you'll hear a different tone from when you tagged on. Click HERE to hear the tag-off tone.
What are the rules on tagging a Monthly Pass?
You must tag on and off on the first day of use for the month of the pass. Monthly passes must be tagged by the 15th of the month, including for Autoload customers.
If you loaded your card at a Clipper retailer (such as Whole Foods or Anchor Drugs Pharmacy) or a Clipper Add-Value Machine then you don't need to tag (the pass was loaded when the card physically interacted with the Clipper terminal). If you buy the next month’s pass during the current month, Clipper will recognize the current pass. You need to wait to tag on and off for the month when the pass is valid (unless purchased through a retail vendor or Add-value Machine).
After the initial tags to load my Monthly Pass, should I continue to tag?
No, in fact you shouldn't tag your card unless you're traveling outside the zones on the pass and choose not to buy a paper Zone Upgrade. (The full cost will come from the card’s stored cash.)
What if I do tag on with my Monthly Pass anyway?
If you do tag on and off within your zone combination, or zone pair, the maximum fare will be deducted and then refunded, since Clipper will recognize that you have a Monthly Pass. But if you forget to tag off, or if you take a longer ride than is provided by your zone pairs, you will be charged the maximum fare from your tag origin. Tag-off must be completed within four hours of the initial tag.
What about tagging with an 8-ride?
It’s always necessary to tag on and off with an 8-ride Ticket. There is no Zone Upgrade available for an 8-ride Ticket.
I accidentally tagged my card twice. Was I charged twice?
If the second tag was done at the same station within 15 minutes of the first tag, the second tag cancelled your ride. A message will be displayed on the screen that your initial tag was refunded. If you want to ride the train, you will need to tag on again. If your second tag was done after 15 minutes, you will be charged the maximum one-way fare.
Are fare credits on SamTrans and VTA still available with Clipper?
Yes. Customers with a two-zone or greater Monthly Pass loaded on their Clipper card receive a local fare credit when they tag on SamTrans and VTA.
Troubleshooting Clipper on Caltrain
Why doesn’t my card work?
A card may seem not to be working because the card isn’t being held (touched) long enough or in the right location on the card reader. Touch the card on the Clipper logo (not the screen) until you hear a beep and/or see green, yellow or red lights. If you continue to hold the card on the card reader, you can read the message (“Travel OK” or “Invalid fare.”)
Do you have at least $1.25 in cash on your card? You must have at least that much on your card when riding Caltrain. Otherwise, even if you have a pass, you will get a “Travel denied” message. If your cash balance goes negative, you won’t be able to use your pass until you add cash value to your card.
Where you bought your pass or added value can make a difference in how soon you can access them. If the transactions take place at a Clipper retail location, a ticket office or an Add‐Value Machine, the pass or cash become available immediately. But if you add the value to your card online or over the phone, it may take up to three days before the ticket or value can be used.
If none of the above applies and you believe your card is defective, contact Clipper Customer Service at 1.877.878.8883 about a replacement.
How can I use Commuter Checks?
Most Clipper retailers accept Commuter Checks. For retail locations, call Clipper or go to www.clippercard.com/retail.
How do I stop the automatic withdrawals from my bank account or my credit card, which are now being posted to Clipper?
To cancel Autoload on your Clipper card, go to www.clippercard.com and log in to your registered card account, choose “check card value” located next to your card details, and from the card value page, select “Edit Autoload.”
How do I get a Monthly Parking Permit?
Clipper customers who buy a Caltrain Monthly Pass or one 8-ride Ticket can purchase a Monthly Parking Permit from any Caltrain station ticket vending machine. Click here for information.