Questions about using Clipper® on Caltrain

How does Clipper calculate the appropriate fare?

When you tag on, the maximum one way fare is deducted from your card. When you tag off, the system will calculate your actual fare based on the zones traveled. If you are paying with cash, you will be refunded any difference. If you are paying with a Caltrain Monthly Pass or 8-ride ticket, the entire cash amount will be refunded and your monthly pass or 8-ride ticket will be used as fare payment. If you do not tag off, you will be charged the highest cash fare from your point of origin. Caltrain riders must always have at least $1.25 in cash on their card at all times, even if they're using a Caltrain Monthly Pass or an 8-ride ticket.

If I have Autoload, when will my next 8-ride Ticket load?

Signing up for Autoload is a great way to not be caught without a ticket for your set zones. When you reach three rides on your ticket (within the validation period), another 8-ride Ticket will load. A new 8-ride Ticket will also load when you tag for the first time after an 8-ride Ticket expires. Reminder: an 8-ride Ticket expires 30 days from when the ticket is loaded.

Why do I need to have $1.25 on my card if I'm paying with a monthly pass or 8-ride ticket?

Since Caltrain is a zone-based system, you must tag at the beginning and end of your ride in order for the system to calculate your fare; otherwise, it will charge you the maximum possible cash fare. The current maximum one-way fare on Caltrain is $12.50. The Clipper system will allow a negative balance of up to -$11.25 for one ride before additional value must be added to the card. In order to ensure that you have enough value to pay the maximum fare, you are required to have an additional $1.25 on your card.

What if I want to ride beyond the zones on my Monthly Pass or 8-ride Ticket?

With a Monthly Pass, you need to purchase a paper Zone Upgrade ticket from the Caltrain ticket vending machine. If you decide not to purchase a Zone Upgrade ticket, you can also pay using the card's stored cash by tagging on when you board and tagging off when exiting. Clipper will deduct the cost of the one-way trip between the zones of the ride. Zone upgrades are not available for 8-ride tickets.

Do I have to tag a card reader every time I ride?

Caltrain Monthly Pass holders must tag on and off during their first ride of the month in order to ensure the zones traveled match the zones purchased for the pass. Tagging your card also loads the new pass to your card once the previous pass has expired. PLEASE NOTE: There is no grace period for a monthly pass on Clipper.

If you are using cash or 8-ride tickets, you will need to tag on and tag off every time you ride. The only exception is when you are transferring to a connecting train in the same direction. Tagging your Clipper card at the beginning and end of every ride will ensure that you are charged the correct amount and prevent you from getting a citation during fare inspection.

Why do I have to tag off?

Since Caltrain is a zone-based system, you must tag your card when you enter and exit the station so that the Clipper system can calculate the appropriate fare for each ride. Caltrain Monthly Pass holders only need to tag on and off for their first ride of the month to verify the zones on their pass.

I forgot to tag off - what happens now?

If you do not tag off, you will be charged the maximum one-way fare from your starting point. This amount will be deducted from your cash balance, even if you have a monthly pass or 8-ride ticket on your card. If this causes your cash balance to go below $1.25, then you will need to add cash value to your card before you can ride again.

How does the conductor know I've paid my fare?

Caltrain conductors carry hand held card readers (HCR) that can read your Clipper card and confirm that you tagged your card at the station or that a Monthly Pass exists on your card. Please show your Clipper card to the conductor when asked for proof of payment.

I accidentally tagged my card twice. Was I charged twice?

If the second tag was done at the same station within 15 minutes of the first tag, the second tag cancelled your ride. A message will be displayed on the screen that your initial tag was refunded. If you want to ride the train, you will need to tag on again. If your second tag was done after 15 minutes, you will be charged the maximum one-way fare.

Can I get the transfer fare credit on VTA with Clipper?

Yes, customers who have a monthly pass loaded on their Clipper cards (valid for two or more zones for Adult and Youth, or one zone for Senior/Disabled/Medicare passengers) receive local fare credit on all VTA Local and Limited Stop Buses, Light Rail and Historic Trolley routes. Customers with an adult monthly pass will need to pay a fare upgrade on Express routes with cash value on their Clipper card. Fare upgrades cannot be paid to the driver. If you do not have enough cash value on your Clipper card to pay the upgrade fee, you will be required to pay the entire cost of the ride with cash.

Questions about adding value

How can I add value to my Clipper card?

You can add value online, over the phone by calling customer service or at a participating transit agency ticket office or retail location. Please go to for a full list of locations. You can also add value by setting up Autoload, which is the easiest way to ensure you always have value on your card.

What happens if my card's cash value falls below zero?

If a ride costs more than the cash balance on your Clipper card, you can complete your trip even if the fare exceeds the card's remaining balance. However, you will be unable to ride again until you add value to the card. The negative value is deducted from the card balance when new value is added. To ensure that you never run out of cash, set up an Autoload to add value each time your cash falls below $10. Note: To use Clipper on Caltrain, a minimum cash balance of $1.25 must be present on the card at all times. If a customer does not have the required amount of cash on their card, value must be added to the card in order to take any subsequent trips (including transfers).

What is the maximum cash value my card can have?

The maximum amount of cash that a Clipper card can hold is $300.

Can I add value to my Clipper card at a Ticket Vending Machine?

Caltrain Ticket Vending Machines are not able to load value to Clipper cards. The easiest way to add value is to set up Autoload to add value automatically when your pass expires or your balance gets low. You can also add value through the website, by calling the Clipper Customer Service Center, or visiting a participating transit agency ticket office or retailer displaying the Clipper logo.

How do I obtain a Monthly Parking Permit?

Customers with a valid Monthly Pass or 8-ride Ticket loaded on their Clipper card can purchase one monthly parking permit per month at any Caltrain station ticket vending machine. After selecting Clipper Monthly Parking from the Ticket Type Screen, you will enter your 10-digit Clipper card number, located on the lower-left back of the card. The TVM will then verify that you have the correct product on the card. You can pay for your parking permit with cash or credit/debit cards. (TVMs do not accept Transit Benefit cards due to a change in the Internal Revenue Service law. The Transit Benefit cards may used at Caltrain headquarters). Please allow two days between purchasing a Monthly Pass or 8-ride Ticket from a retailer or ticket machine and purchasing a monthly parking permit from a Caltrain ticket vending machine. The vending equipment used by retailers does not report the sale of the Caltrain pass or ride book in real time, but provides it once daily to the Caltrain ticket vending machines.

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