MTA’s new OMNY system lets rider get refunded for crummy NYC subway service

Clayton Guse, New York Daily News

A wrinkle in the MTA’s new tap-and-pay OMNY system allowed at least one disgruntled straphanger to collect a fare refund because of unreliable subway service.

Christopher Volpe, 28, used his Chase bank card programmed onto his smartphone to go through the turnstiles at Columbus Circle Sept. 18, only to discover trains on the A and C lines were delayed by more than 15 minutes.

Volpe wound up leaving the station and hopping into a cab. He later went to his online Chase account and disputed the $2.75 OMNY payment under “services not rendered.”

Chase refunded the charge, Volpe’s bank records show. Yet a month later, the MTA went to recover the refund — and Volpe disputed it again. His records show Chase reversed the charge one more time and closed out the complaint.

“Going through Chase is easier than going through the impossible process of dealing with the MTA,” said Volpe. “I filed the dispute under ‘services not rendered’ because the train that day was 15-plus (minutes) delayed, and they didn’t even update the app or their feeds until well into the delay.”

Until the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began to roll out the OMNY system at subway turnstiles in May 2019, it was all but impossible for paying riders to get a refund for lousy subway service.

Riders could sometimes get refunds when an unlimited MetroCard would break or malfunction. Before the MetroCard was rolled out in the 1990s, there was no way to be refunded for a subway token once a rider jammed it into a turnstile.

Because OMNY payments are issued directly from a bank to the turnstile instead of a vending machine, it opens the option for more riders like Volpe to dispute charges with their bank.

If more riders can get fare refunds the same way Volpe did, it would mark the first time in the subway’s 115-year history that straphangers could get restitution for unreliable train service.

Chase spokeswoman Carolyn Evert would not say how many OMNY charges have been reversed by the bank.

“When a customer has a dispute, we always provide the cardholder a provisional credit while we work through the issue with a merchant,” said Everet.

MTA spokesman Ken Lovett said the agency doesn’t “issue refunds for services rendered,” noting the agency wins 99% of the OMNY disputes it processes. He wouldn’t say how many riders that figure represented.

Volpe — who regularly bemoans the subway’s unreliability on Twitter — said the last time he got a refund from the MTA was last year when he loaded up a special edition Gay Pride MetroCard with a 30-day unlimited pass. Less than a month later, a subway fare hike went into effect and his card was deactivated.

“It took me multiple follow-ups over two or three months before they sent me a letter saying that the case was closed and that they would refund it to my credit card, but not the full amount, only the time I lost,” said Volpe. “This time I used OMNY, so disputing was pretty easy for the specific charge with the specific time and date.”


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