As of January 1, 2022, Seoul’s buses have gone cashless. You are now going to need a transportation card to take Seoul’s public buses. The most common form of transportation card in Seoul is a T-money card. Not only can it be used for nearly all forms of transportation – subways, buses, and taxis, but it can also be used as a debit card at several shops.
Buying a T-Money Card
T-Money cards can be purchased at any convenience store. When you first arrive in Korea, there are several convenience stores located in the airport. I suggest purchasing one as soon as you arrive.
T-Money cards make great souvenirs. There are many themed cards with images of Korea’s landmarks, popular characters, and of course – Kpop idols! If you are living in Korea, you can also opt to add a T-Money feature to your domestic bank card or student ID.
The price of a T-Money card is 2,500 won. However, the 2,500 won is just for the card itself with no balance. You need to charge your T-Money card before you can use it. Even if you leave Korea, you will not be able to return your T-Money card in exchange for a refund.
When you need to recharge your card you can go to any chain convenience store that accepts T-Money or go to any subway station. At every subway station, you can find a recharging machine, this is the best option if your Korean is limited. Every kiosk has foreign language options available so you can recharge your card with ease.
Using T-Money Cards for transportation
You can use a T-Money card to pay for public transportation in nearly every city in Korea.
To use your T-Money card while riding public buses, place your T-Money card on the card reader located at the front of the bus near the driver as you enter. When you leave the bus, you can find another scanner next to the rear doors. You must scan your card again when you leave the bus. You can also get a transfer discount when you go from one bus to another, or transfer to the subway within 30 minutes of scanning your card as you exit the bus.
For subways, you have to place your card on the card reader at the entry gates in order to enter down into the station. When you leave the subway, you will have to do the same. Occasionally, for lines that have both all-stop and fast trains, such as the airport line, you may have to scan your card while transferring. If you are entering the subway with luggage, it is important to keep it in front of you while scanning your card. Otherwise, your luggage may become trapped on the other side of the security gate.
You can also pay for taxis using your T-Money card. Most taxis will have a tap card reader located between the front seats. Once you have arrived at your destination, you can tap your card on the pad and exit the car.
Shopping with T-Money
You can use your T-Money card as a debit card at most chain convenience stores in Korea (7-Eleven, GS25, CU, Emart 24, etc). You can also use T-Money cards in many of Korea’s supermarkets (Home Plus, Emart, etc). Additionally, many chain restaurants also accept T-Money such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Ediya Coffee, and Paris Baguette.
For travelers, this is particularly useful. Many establishments, including Starbucks Korea, are cashless and many international cards are not accepted in Korea. However, I only recommend using T-Money cards for small purchases as reloading it can be a hassle.
Getting Your Money Back
At the end of your time in Korea, you might have some money left over on your card. If you don’t return to Korea within 5 years, the balance remaining on your card will expire. But not to worry, there is a way to get your money back in cash.
You can get a refund using the same method as recharging your card. Both participating convenience stores and subway station kiosks can refund balances up to 20,000 won. You’ll get your remaining balance back, minus a 500 won service charge.
If your balance is higher than 20,000 won, you’ll need to go to the T-Money headquarters. Remember, you can also use the T-Money card for shopping for goods in a convenience store so you can use the extra balance to buy some last-minute souvenirs.
The address for the T-Money headquarters is: 1st Floor. T-money Town, Seoul City Tower Building, Namdaemun-ro 5-Ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
T-Money Headquarters Address: 581 Namdaemunno 5(o)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul Balance Refund Location: T-Money Town, Located on the 1st floor. Directions: From Seoul Station take Exit 10. It is the building directly in front of the exit.
If you are going ot be using Korea’s public transportation system, there are also a few apps you are going to need to make your experience more convenient. >>Click Here << to learn more.