Finally! Tap-to-pay is coming to JFK’s AirTrain

5 October 2023

Getting to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) from Manhattan is almost always a trek, but at least there’s one part of the process that’s getting a big upgrade.

Beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 10, the AirTrain will officially begin accepting tap-to-pay payments via the OMNY (One Metro New York) system. This move has been a long time coming and will be slowly phased into all AirTrain turnstiles over the coming months.

At the outset, the tap-to-pay method will be available at select gates in both the Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. By the end of 2024, OMNY contactless readers will be fully integrated into all fare gates.

If you’re not familiar, getting to JFK via the subway or Long Island Rail Road requires a connection at either Jamaica or Howard Beach. There, you can board the AirTrain for the last leg of the journey to JFK.

A ride on the AirTrain costs $8.25 each way, and until now, the only way to pay for the AirTrain has been with a MetroCard. Aside from the fact that every subway and bus in New York already accepts tap-to-pay, this setup is especially frustrating for tourists visiting New York.


Purchasing a MetroCard costs $1 (before any value is loaded onto it), and this step can lead to confusion for first-time visitors to New York.

This often translates to long lines in the train stations as tourists need to figure out how to buy and use a MetroCard. (On a recent trip to JFK, I waited more than 15 minutes at the Jamaica station to purchase a MetroCard.)

With tap-to-pay, visitors and New Yorkers alike won’t need to worry about MetroCards. Just tap your contactless credit card or smartphone with a mobile wallet (such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet), and you’ll be on your way in just seconds. (Alternatively, you can use an OMNY card to pay for your journey.)


If you don’t have an eligible card, you’ll still be able to purchase a MetroCard at nearby vending machines, Hudson News or Metro News.

To underscore how big of a deal this is, the Metropolitan Transit Authority — which oversees the New York transit system — said that riders have already tapped into the transit system over a billion times. Customers have tapped into all 472 subway stations and boarded 204 local bus routes and 31 express buses. OMNY has processed bank cards from each of the 195 countries that issue them.


The addition of contactless payments on the AirTrain pairs well with the recent opening of the new Grand Central Madison train station that offers nonstop Long Island Rail Road service to Jamaica. From there, it’s just a short walk to the AirTrain.

With tap-to-pay technology, getting to JFK should be easier than ever before. Let’s just hope that the AirTrain is waiting for you when you arrive.

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