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

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.  Cash on your card won't expire; time-limited passes and tickets will expire. 

To load a Monthly Pass 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 (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 website 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 or call the Clipper Customer Service Bureau at 1-877-878-8883.

If I load a Monthly Pass 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. 

How many Monthly passes can I buy?
You can buy only one Monthly Pass for a given month, no matter how you purchase it. 

Important note: These rules on Monthly passes are for specific zone combinations. You can mix Monthly passes 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 station ticket 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?
With a Monthly Pass, you need to purchase a paper Zone Upgrade ticket from the Caltrain station ticket machine. 

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 Caltrain station ticket 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 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.

How do I locate the Clipper Reader if I am visually impaired?
To assists passengers with visual impairments, Caltrain has introduced new tone locators to Clipper card machine readers. The readers will emit a beeping sound every 15 seconds, which can alert passengers with visual impairments to where they can tag their Clipper card. The locator noise produced by the Clipper card readers will have a lower decibel level and tone than the sounds that indicate whether a person has tagged on or off at the card-reading machines.

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.  You must tag on and off within your zone combination purchased.

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.

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 do I use my Commuter voucher or Commuter benefit card?
Most Clipper retailers accept Commuter vouchers.  For retail locations, call Clipper or go to  Retailers don't accept commuter benefit cards but Clipper add-value machines and Caltrain headquarters accept them.  Click here for information.

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 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 can purchase a Monthly Parking Permit from any Caltrain station ticket machine. Click here for information. 

2/11/19 -  maw