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BART has refunded a staggering sum of money for unused blue-and-white paper tickets

a close up shot of expired BART paper tickets and a Clipper card reader
BART has always issued refunds for paper tickets, but since the agency stopped accepting them in November 2023, it's mailed checks to more than 4,500 riders. | Source: Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Those old paper BART tickets that live in your inner wallet pocket—they’re as good as cash.

In fact, since November 2023, the transit agency has paid out a considerable sum to paper-hoarding people who turned in their old tickets: some $489,980, disbursed to 4,524 people. That pencils out to more than $100 per person on average—tiny windfalls for objects many may have assumed were worthless after BART stopped accepting paper tickets as payment on Nov. 30, 2023. 

Even though Clipper cards and their electronic equivalent are now the only way to board that 10-car Yellow Line train to Antioch, any leftover blue-and-white cards with their magnetic stripes weren’t suddenly rendered worthless. 

The balance, once automatically stamped on each ticket as riders passed through the turnstiles, can now be redeemed for cash—as long tickets have more than $1 left on them. There's no deadline for turning them in, either. 

“BART has always provided refunds for paper tickets, and as we have phased out paper tickets, the number of claims has increased,” said agency spokesperson Alicia Trost. Since the current fiscal year began last July, the total redeemed exceeds $622,000.

One Redditor recently posted about obtaining a refund form from a nearby BART station, which they filled out and mailed in along with a stash of accumulated transit passes totaling some $40. 

“This past week, I got a check from BART for the full amount. Hot dog! It took about two months, and I’d honestly forgotten all about it,” they said.

The process is simple but requires navigating a bit of bureaucracy. The refund form, which you can download online, asks for a rider’s name, address, phone number, email and a description of the number of tickets. Unable to completely rid itself of paper, BART issues refunds via paper check. 

The agency discourages people from mailing in the tickets, even recommending that those who do use the postal service take out insurance for their ticket-stuffed envelopes. Alternatively, riders can submit the forms to station agents or the Customer Service Center at Lake Merritt Station in Oakland. 

What if riders find a BART ticket in a junk drawer with a balance of less than $1? They’re not entirely out of luck. It turns out that certain nonprofit organizations accept these “tiny tickets,” to use BART’s lingo. The nonprofits can then redeem them for a refund from the BART Treasury, although it is unclear how much that program has raised.

Still, that $0.35 in extra karma may help you on your next BART ride.

Astrid Kane can be reached at