OK class, here's today's lesson: Do not swipe your Clipper card.
The system and hardware was never made to be "swiped." Many people complain the card readers or the cards itself are broken when you get the red light with three beeping tones telling you to try again. I'll just say it this way, it's your own fault (I can see grins on your faces).
Yes, I'll say it again, it's your own fault if you cannot use the card properly. Don't put the blame on Clipper. Stop thinking of the card like your credit card where you have to swipe the card's magnetic stripe to the reader to let it identify your card number.
How do I properly tag my card?
It's quite simple, and once you get the hang of it, it's a breeze. Just hold your card to the reader sensor and hold it steady. Once the reader gives the green light and single beep, just proceed on through. If you get the green and yellow lights with two beeps, it's OK to board, but remember to replenish the card's e-cash value. The entire process takes one second or less.
Become a 'pro' at it! You don't have to stop your stride, especially if you don't care what the reader's screen says; when boarding, stick your arm forward towards the reader, hold the card at the reader while continuing to walk or climb stairs, get confirmation, and remove card from reader.
Since the previous generation of cards (TransLink) has been upgraded to quicker responding Clipper cards, the procedure for properly tagging the card has not changed.
Ways you will fail and cause embarrassment with passengers staring at you (assuming you have a valid pass or enough e-cash):
- Swiping the card.
- Moving the card around the sensor while it's scanning.
- Quickly tapping the card.
- Removing the card prior to the reader giving the one beep and green light confirmation.
Update: I should have mentioned about BART gates as they operate differently. The process is, place the card at the sensor, do not move the card, and once the gate opens, remove the card from the sensor. If the gate is still open when attempting to tag, only enter the gate once the screen says "OK" as it indicates a successful transaction.
Update #2: The new Muni gates are similar to BART as well, but the sensor area is a round circle to the right side of the gate and above the paper pass swipe reader. Hold the card steady and only remove the card once the gate opens. When exiting, just walk towards the gate and it will open automatically (no tagging card).
Update #3: Keep all other RFID cards away from your Clipper card when it's being scanned at a gate, platform reader, or vehicle. Your card might not be read (signal is scrambled) or you may cause the card reader to panic.