Gizmodo has a simple fare table to show people how to do math:
If you click the button on the left, they just got you. Your card will have $9.45 on it, meaning you will get 3 rides and end up with $1.95. That is a great deal for the MTA. They get all the money from every rider who does that, and they get the interest on that until you refill again and repeat the cycle.
Let’s say you don’t take the bait. You click MetroCard. Then you get this screen with three new short cuts:
Three quick options. But wait a minute. One button leaves you with the same $9.45 card, and gives a remainder of $1.95 after just three uses. The next one is even more frustrating: you end up with a $19.95 card, leaving a remainder after 7 uses of $2.45! That’s right, the nickel we were talking about earlier. The last option does not leave you much better off. You’ll get a $40.95 card, which leads to $0.95 on your card after you use 16 rides. So all three buttons presented leave quite a bit of “insufficient fare” on the card.
and remember these three magic numbers: $9.55, $19.05 and $38.10. That’s right. Never use the shortcuts. Just type in one of those numbers.
Once you do, you’ll see your excess balances nearly vanish once you apply the 5% bonuses:
Congratulations to the author for decoding how New York’s government run transportation system systematically screws riders. They’ll definitely be changing the algorithm soon.