T-Money Your Way in Korea
For a journey that's convenient and cost-efficient, get a T-Money as soon as you arrive.
- T-Money can be used to pay for your subway, bus, and cab fares. It can also be used in certain stores like Starbucks, GS25, and Dunkin' Donuts.
- It comes in various forms and designs, so pick the one that suits you.
- Purchase a T-Money card in the airport, subway station, or CVS. Cards are usually sold for ₩3,000 (around ₱150 or $2.8).
- Your Discover Seoul Pass also works as a T-Money card.
- You can save money and time with this baby.
T-Money is a smart way to pay for public transit fares. It saves from having to buy a single-journey ticket each time you ride the train. T-Money can also be used in some cabs and buses, as well as in select convenience stores (CVS), vendo machines, Starbucks, and Dunkin' Donuts.
The reason why I got T-Money is because it gives at least ₩100 discount (or around ₱5 or $0.09) on bus and subway fares. It's not much, but I was able to save ₩3,200 at the end of my solo trip, which is almost the cost of a tall Iced Americano in Starbucks.
With T-Money, you can also make transfers (bus-to-bus, subway-to-bus, and bus-to-subway) without incurring additional cost, provided that you hop in and out of the next leg within 30 minutes. Beyond this time, you'll be charged for multiple trips.
Buying and Topping Up
Before buying your T-Money, know that you can pick the form and design that you'd like. You may opt to get a T-Money card, key chain, phone charm, watch, or bag tag.
Cards also have various designs to choose from, i.e. Kakao Friends, Pokemon, and BTS, so pick whatever your heart desires. To see T-Money cards with exclusive benefits, read more on the official website here.
T-Money cards are sold in convenience stores that have the T-Money logo. You can go to a GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, Ministop, Story Way, or Buy The Way. When I arrived in the airport, I went to the first CVS I saw and purchased my T-Money Card from there. I bought the card for ₩4,000 (around ₱200 or $3.7) and requested for an initial top-up of ₩15,000 (around ₱730 or $14), which covered for my all-stop train ticket and subway metro fares for my first three days or so.
You can also purchase a T-Money card from ticket vending machines found in the airport or subway stations. These machines operate in English and are very easy to use.
The same machine can also be used to reload your card. Simply place the card on the sensor (it's the middle box below the screen) and the machine will display the top-up amount options. Insert your cash (or coins), and you'll be all set to ride the next train.
Of course, you can also go to a CVS to recharge your card.
How much should I load?
To help you with your budgeting, here's a quick listing of bus, taxi, and subway fares in South Korea (as of mid-2017):
The express train can take you to Seoul in 53 minutes, while the All-Stop in 43 minutes.
The basic fare applies to travel distance of 10 km or less. You will be charged an additional ₩100 (around ₱5 or $0.09) for every 5 km traveled within a distance of 10-50 km, and ₩100 for every 8 km traveled with a distance of over 50 km.
Section 1 is for travels of up to 10.5 km, while section 2 is for travels that exceed 10.5 km.
For standard cabs, a surcharge of 20% applies during late-night hours (12mn to 4am) and/or when you're headed somewhere outside the city (30% applies if traveling out of Busan).
For deluxe or jumbo cabs, no surcharges are applicable.
When riding the bus, place your card on the sensor until you hear it beep. You'll then see the charged amount as well as the balance you have left in the card. Before getting off, make sure to tap your card on the sensor by the rear doors to get the discount or free transfer.
The process is basically the same when using the T-Money in the Subway, except you'd have to tap your card on the sensor found at the turnstiles.
If you plan to use your Korea T-Money card in a taxi, inform the driver that you want to use it before getting in. If their service vehicle is equipped with the function, you can then tap your T-Money on the sensor, which is usually located between the two front seats. If your balance isn't enough to cover the expense, you can pay for the amount you're short using cash.
If you have a remaining balance of ₩20,000 or less in your T-Money card, you can go to a partner CVS and get a refund. The amount that you will get back will be your balance less the service fee (around ₩500).
If you have more than ₩20,000 left in your T-Money and want a refund, you'd have to drop by T-Money's headquarters.
- If you're availing a Discover Seoul Pass, then you don't have to buy a separate T-Money card since it already functions as one!
- Buy your T-Money Card from a vending machine at subway stations; they are usually cheaper.
- The free transfer within the 30-minute timeframe is only applicable if you actually transfer. If you're hopping into to the same numbered bus or re-entering the same subway station even within 30 minutes, you'll still be charged.
- Tap, tap, tap. Don't forget to tap your card on the sensor when you get off the bus. If you do, you will not be able to get the transfer discount.
- T-Money cards don't expire. Hence, you can use it the next time you go to South Korea.
Korea Railplus Transport Card & Cashbee
Aside from T-Money, you can also consider getting other e-money cards, such as Cashbee and Korea Railplus Transport Card. From what I read, both function the same way as T-Money, however they're not as popular as T-Money among locals and tourists alike.
If you're purchasing the Cashbee card in Korea, note that, as of writing time, it cannot be used in Daejeon (Line 1) and these bus routes/areas:
- Gyeongbuk (Andong)
- Gyeongnam (Geoje, Tongyeong, Hadong, Hapcheon, Hamyang, Geochang, Changnyeong, Goseong, Sancheong, Namhae)
If you're renting a car, you can use Korea Railplus Transport card to pay for parking.
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