Shanghai Public Transportation Card

Shanghai Public Transportation Card

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Traveling around in Shanghai is fairly convenient if you know what you are doing. The types of transport services that you can use are quite diverse and there are a fair number of options that you can choose from. Whether it is the metro service, the bus service, taxis, or anything else, your options are quite plenty. To take these rides, you have two options to choose from; cash or ticket. Depending on the type of transport you will use, you have to make the correct choice. For example, in the case of metro and maglev, you can only get a ticket. For buses, you can pay in cash as well if you want to. The same is the case for taxis as well. However, there is also a product that you can use in multiple scenarios and that is the Shanghai Public Transportation Card.

This is one of the most comprehensive ways to pay for your journeys in Shanghai. Let us take a look at how it works, what options you have, and if there are other similar applications as well.

Shanghai Public Transportation Card

We will talk primarily about this particular card as it is the only thing that you need to use any of the public transport systems in Shanghai. The Shanghai Public Transportation Card is a comprehensive payment tool that works for metros, maglev, buses, taxis, and even ferries. Ask any local and they will immediately tell you to go for this card to fulfill all your transportation needs.

Benefits of Shanghai Public Transportation Card

You could use the traditional methods like cash for buses and taxis, or the Shanghai metro pass for the metro. However, choosing any of those options usually means standing in lines to buy the ticket. Such activity means you lose a lot of valuable time which you can easily save with an Shanghai Public Transportation Card. This is especially important for tourists who are visiting Shanghai for a short time. Why spend time waiting in long queues when you could simply grab a ride directly. With a single deposit, you could easily cover the expenses for your whole trip to Shanghai.

For metro, buying a Shanghai metro pass is your only other option and that involves standing in queues, while there is generally a line at almost every station, the queues are especially longer at popular tourist spots. You can often end up missing multiple trains just because of the waiting time to get your ticket. Whether you go for a ticket counter or the ticket machine, the issue will be the same.

For buses, the biggest concern is that the conductors often do not know how to speak in English. For people with zero understanding of the Chinese language, that can quickly become overwhelming. However, with a Shanghai Public Transportation Card, they can avoid the hassle altogether and simply remember the name of their destination. The scanner at the bus will automatically deduct the amount of money they owe when they reach their destination.

Taxis are another avenue where dealing in cash can be an issue. Sometimes drivers try to take advantage of customers due to their lack of understanding of the language. They often end up charging a lot more than the owed amount and make you miserable. When a driver sees a customer is using an Shanghai Public Transportation Card to pay for their ride, they avoid the trouble as they know they won’t get any cash.

Last but not least, ferries are a very popular tourist transport service. And with people constantly taking trips, getting tickets can be quite a hassle. The best way to avoid that is by using the Shanghai Public Transportation Card which automatically pays the standard fare.

Types of Shanghai Public Transportation Card

Overall there are three different types of Shanghai Public Transportation Cards that you can buy.

The first one is the standard card which is the most common type. It does not have anything special about it and most people use this regularly.

The second type of card is the souvenir card which has special events marked on it like the national events, cultural events, festivals and many other symbols of Chinese heritage and culture. These cards do not cost any extra money but are of more importance for tourists who want to keep a souvenir of their travel on Shanghai’s public transport.

The last type is the transformed cards that are a bit different from the usual cards. These are made in many different ways, mostly to turn them into gifts. Some of the popular styles include mini cards, lover cards, special event cards, constellation cards, etc. A particularly special style is when the card is placed inside a stylish looking card and can be used from there directly.

Where to Buy and Top up Shanghai Public Transportation Card?

The Shanghai Public Transportation Card is fairly easy to buy, no matter where you are in the city. There are more than 2000 different locations where you can buy these cards. This includes all metro stations, Shanghai Public Transportation Card service centers, airports, and several different banks as well.

The basic card price is CNY 20 which is usable as fare, making the card itself free of cost. The amount you have can be increased while buying the card in multiples of 10. The maximum amount you can carry in your card at a time is CNY 1000.

The card allows an overdraft of CNY 8, no matter where you are using it. However, if you start your journey with zero money, your card will not work and you will need to recharge it.

You can easily top up the card at service booth or top-up machines inside any metro station in Shanghai. Many shops and banks also offer top-up services.


A huge benefit of using an Shanghai Public Transportation Card is that you get to enjoy discounts as well on your usage. If a person uses more than CNY 70 on their card in a single month, their following transportation gets a discount of 10%. This is one of the biggest reasons why frequent travelers use Shanghai Public Transportation Card exclusively, along with all the other benefits.

Another discount that you can get is when you are traveling on the bus. If a passenger uses more than one bus within 90 minutes, their second trip gets a discount of CNY 1. However, this discount applies to limited routes and not all.

If a person traveling on a CNY 5 journey were to get a discount off both usage and interchange, their final fare would be CNY 3.5. The first CNY 0.5 discount would be the 10% discount. And the CNY 1 would then be added, bringing the total discount amount to CNY 1.5.

Value Transfer and Refunds

A key feature that the Shanghai Public Transportation Card allows is the transfer of balance from one card to another. This is possible for any card that you buy and all your balance is transferable. For ordinary cards, you can transfer all the money including the deposit amount and return the card to the Shanghai Public Transportation Card service center or other agencies. However, if you buy a transformed or souvenir card, the deposit will stay in the card and only the remaining balance can be transferred. It can be done easily without any additional charges as long as the value is under CNY 1000.

If you want to get a refund on your card, you will have to return the card to one of the places where they sell it. If the balance is below CNY 10, you will get a refund immediately. However, if the balance is more than CNY 10 and less than CNY 2000, you will need to provide the invoice with it and then you will get the refund after a deduction of 5% processing fee. If your balance is more than CNY 2000 you will also need to provide your ID card along with the invoice and you will get your refund after three working days. The processing fee of 5% will be applicable here as well.

You can get Value Transfer and Refunds at below locations.

AgencyAddressBusiness Hours
Shanghai Public Transportation Card Service CenterNo. 609, Jiujiang Road (near the intersection with Zhejiang Road)09:30-18:30 (Monday-Friday); 09:30-16:30 (Saturday, Sunday)
Some metro stationsLine 1 – Hanzhong Rd., Hengshan Rd., Jinjiang Park;
Line 2 – Jiangsu Rd., East Nanjing Rd., Century Park, Songhong Rd.;
Line 3 – Dongbaoxing Rd., Zhenping Rd., Caoxi Rd., North Jiangyang Rd.;
Line 4 – Yangshupu Rd.
Shanghai Branch, Shanghai Pudong Development BankNo. 588, South Pudong Road, Pudong New Areaaccording to the hours of the bank
Shanghai Branch, Bank of CommunicationsNo. 99, South Zhongshan Road09:00-11:30, 13:00-16:00 from Monday to Friday except public holidays

Shanghai Metro Pass

If you do not want to get a Shanghai Public Transportation Card, the alternative option for traveling on the metro is the Shanghai Metro Pass. There is a complete range of cards that you can use to travel via the Shanghai metro system. The names of these cards, apart from Shanghai Public Transportation Card, are given below:

  1. Single Journey: used for a single side trip, has to be returned after use
  2. Souvenir Ticket: can be kept by the passenger after use
  3. One-day Pass: unlimited use for 24 hours
  4. Three-Day Pass: unlimited user for 72 hours
  5. Maglev & Metro Pass: 1 one-way or round-trip on maglev and 24-hour unlimited use on the metro.

Read Complete Detail about Shanghai Metro and Metro Passes

Always be Prepared

The card system in Shanghai is quite good and well-established. With millions of people using the system every day, the chances of running into problems are extremely minimal. Always follow the rules for each type of travel and make sure you keep yourself fully informed about every aspect of your travel. You may find the option of using other methods of payment as well like credit cards in taxis but try to opt for local methods as that is the preferred way. You can also use mobile payment options like WeChat and Alipay as they are quickly becoming popular as well and support most transportation modes. We hope you have a great time in Shanghai.