Watch Out for this PRESTO Card Quirk Before You Miss Your GO Train

I don’t use public transit much because I live within walking distance of my job and many of my activities. I do have a PRESTO Card, though, for when I take transit or take the GO train. It’s handy and slightly cheaper. Not being a frequent PRESTO user, however, had an unexpected downside that nearly caused me to miss my train.

How Can You Add Money to Your PRESTO Transit Card?

The two most common ways to add cash to your PRESTO card are to pay at a transit station or to pay online.

If you’re at a transit station, you just ask the staff to add a certain amount to your card, hand them the cash or pay them by debit or credit card, and voila, your card is updated with the new balance.

If you have registered your card and set up an account for online access, you can also load your card with more cash by paying online.

When Does the Cash You Paid for Online Get Added to Your PRESTO Card?

If you pay for say, $50 more on your PRESTO card using the online program, it does NOT get loaded onto your card immediately. Instead, it gets loaded onto your card in 24 hours at the time you next tap your card on a PRESTO reader. So, when I pay for some more cash for my teenager’s PRESTO card, it gets loaded on the card the next time my teen takes transit.

What Happens If You Load Your PRESTO Card Online But Don’t Tap It for a Long Time?

In my case, I loaded some more cash onto my PRESTO card online but did not ride on transit or tap my card for over a month. (A planned trip was postponed.)

When I received my credit card bill 2 months later, I had received a credit from PRESTO. Because I had not tapped my card, the load had never been finalized, and they refunded my purchase.

I didn’t know that until I got my credit card bill. In fact, I nearly missed a train because of it. When I did go to catch a GO train over a month after I had paid to re-load my PRESTO card, after I paid my fare the device informed me I only had $0.06 remaining on my card — not the $50.06 I had thought would be on my card.

I quickly re-loaded my card when I arrived at my destination before leaving the transit station. But if I had not had just enough left on my card, I would have had to miss my train to line up to add cash to it.

So be careful to tap fairly soon after you make an online PRESTO purchase!

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