Here is what I learned in my quest to deal with the 20 or so Metrocards I found around my house when I moved.
1. You can use up the small amount of a Metrocard on a bus and make up the balance with change. However, you won’t be able to use the card for a transfer if you do this.
2. If your Metrocard is not expired, you can bring it to any attended station booth and ask them to consolidate multiple cards or add the remaining balance to a different card.
3. You can choose to add money to the card at a Metrocard Vending Machine. However, if it is a month or less until expiration of the card, the machine will ask you if you want to transfer it to a new card.
4. If the Metrocard is expired, but expired less than two years ago, ask the station booth attendant for the form (with the accompanying addressed, stamped envelope) to send in with your expired Metrocard to get the balance from your old Metrocard sent to you on a new card, with a new expiration date. Then, you can consolidate, as explained in item 2. Warning: the MTA told me they were “three months behind” in processing these, when I spoke to them in March, 2012.
5. If your Metrocard’s expiration date was more than two years ago, forget it, you’re S.O.L., baby. Throw it away.
6. No, you can’t check your Metrocard balance online. Yes, you should be able to, given today’s technology, but you can’t. You can check it at a Metrocard reader in a station, though.
7. You can check your balance by phone IF you are enrolled in EasyPay. If you have read this far into this post, you are not enrolled in EasyPay. Forget it.