We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
121 posts
44 reviews
Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Hi

I've read back through other board messages on the clipper card and almost all say that it isn't worth it for tourists. It looks really good to me so I am confused and wondering if I am missing something. I'll only be in SF for 48 hours and the 3 day muni (which I could only use for 2 days) does not look like a good deal at $33. I plan to ride return BART from the airport, maybe one or two rides on cable cars, ferry back from Sausolito and probably a few buses/streetcars here and there. Wouldn't a clipper be great for this? Would save me having to fumble around with cash for buses etc and even in 2 days it looks like I would make back the $3 cost of the card in discounted fares. Even if I ended up out of pocket a little I'd still prefer it really as hate having to have correct fare for every ride and especially in a currency you aren't used to. Am I missing something? If I arrive at SFO at 8pm will I be able to buy a clipper or will the booth be closed? Thanks for your advice.

42 replies to this topic
Pacifica, California
Destination Expert
for Pacifica
Level Contributor
11,441 posts
4 reviews
1. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

I have a Clipper Card and love it. But for a long time they were a pain to get, set up, and add money to, and too often tourists incorrectly thought Clipper Cards were discount passes. That's been changing recently, so there's more of a justification for buying them. Old reputations die hard.

Level Contributor
3,618 posts
1 review
2. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

You can buy Muni (city bus) tickets ahead of time at Metro stations or on your phone.

There are a few decent discounts with Clipper but not many. While the GG Transit ferry to Sausalito is one, there are two ferry companies that make the SF <-> Sausalito run and the other (Blue & Gold) doesn't accept Clipper at all -- much less offer a discount.

For such a short period of time, I don't see the need for a Clipper. Most large cities are moving in the direction of requiring them (as turn stiles at metro stations that take paper fare cards have loads of moving parts and are nightmares to maintain). However, as long as our transit systems allow you to stay away from Clipper, that's what I recommend for a short stay.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
121 posts
44 reviews
3. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Thanks for info re ferry. I hadn't realised it was only good on one ferry line. I guess I'm used to ticketless travel in my own city so feel more comfortable with that than paying with cash.

Berkeley, California
Level Contributor
672 posts
18 reviews
4. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

I actually think that Clipper Card is great for all the reasons you mention, wagtail. While it's true you can get the MUNI app for MUNI fares (will you have a US data plan?), that won't get you transfer discounts (50 cent discount for transfer to MUNI from BART or from the GG Ferry, among others). The GG Ferry from Sausalito Clipper *discount* is $5.50 each way - almost twice the cost of the card!

http://goldengateferry.org/fareprograms/

And the ferry that doesn't accept Clipper runs from Sausalito only four times/day, and costs even more than the GG one.

You do not have to buy a Clipper Card at a kiosk - there is now at least one machine right at every BART station that accepts credit cards. You can also use those machines (as well as MUNI ticket machines, and others) to load more value onto the card.

Now that it's so easy to obtain, I'd think it's a no-brainer. And in a trip that costs thousands of dollars already, even if you only make back $1 of the $3 cost on lower BART fares, the convenience would be worth $2 to me. (When you get home, you can offer to loan it to all your friends who come for a visit!)

By the way - I'm assuming your'e not age 65 or over, or younger than 19. If either applies to you, let us know.

Edited: February 19, 2018, 8:26 am
Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
1,224 posts
5. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

If you are more comfortable with a card, then by all means use it. If it feels more simple to you, the cost isn't enough to be a concern.

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
121 posts
44 reviews
6. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Thanks everyone! I'll go ahead and get one. People seemed so negative on the other threads I was worried I was missing some major flaw but maybe that was just teething problems in the early day.

California
Level Contributor
535 posts
2 reviews
7. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Golden gate ferries do accept the clipper card. Discounts are available for handicapped and senior passengers only. regular clipper may save some money if you use it every time you travel.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
6,670 posts
194 reviews
8. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

I want to correct the Blue & Gold issue with Clipper Cards. I just rode them last week to Angel Island. I noticed on the way back, we looped through Tiburon and Sausalito. The people bidding there (not Angel Island) could use Clipper, but there were no discounts.

This seems to be a new option.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 8:05 am
San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
59,775 posts
149 reviews
9. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

Up until recently there was no advantage to getting a clipper card as fares on BART and Muni had the same cost with or without clipper for a visitor

Clipper card was not that easy to get for a visitor at SFO. Now they are available at the BART Sfo station

But that GG Ferry did have the discount for a long time so that was always a good deal

So if you are in SF for a few days and want one card then use clipper.

But if you are not using the ferry, and just doing a RT by BART to SF then you are spending a couple

of bucks more which is not that big a deal. You can use MUNI mobile for SF based transit in lieu of a clipper

But if you want to keep it simple clipper is the way to go

Edited: February 20, 2018, 8:25 am
sf
Level Contributor
3,704 posts
10. Re: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?

One other factor is BART on Jan 1st started charging 50 cents more every ride using a paper ticket. So if you're taking BART a lot it makes sense for the Clippercard

Reply to: Clipper card - why is it discouraged for tourists?
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted