Your guide to using a Public Transportation Card

How to use Jiaotong ka to get around Shanghai

Time Out walk you through the basics of using the city's ubiquitous public transportation system to get around Shanghai. 

What does a Public Transportation Card do?

A Shanghai Public Transportation Card (SPTC), aka jiaotong ka, allows you to use the city's public transportation - including subways, buses, ferries and airport maglev trains - without the hassle of buying single tickets. The fare, which depends on the distance of your journey, will be deducted from the money you put onto your cardFares are usually the same as an individual ticket, but if you spend more than 70RMB on the metro in a month you will get a 10 per cent discount on your trips for the rest of that month.

You can also use the card to pay for a taxi - but be sure to tell the driver before they flip the meter - parking lots, petrol stations, tolls and even some auto repair stores.

How to get one

You can get a Public Transportation Card at any of the service booths that appear in every metro station, or at a number of banks and convenience stores you’ll be able to tell which ones offer the service because they will display the SPTC lightning-bolt style logo (seen prominently on the card) in their window.

The stations often have English-speaking staff, but bringing along a Mandarin-speaking friend might be a good idea. In any case, all you have to do is hand over some money – 20RMB as a refundable deposit and up to 1,000RMB for credit to put onto the card. Your card will then be handed back with the credit on it.

How to top up your card

Your credit can go down surprisingly quickly if you’re commuting often. Luckily, you're allowed to go into negative credit one time. It’s a good idea to make sure you always have sufficient credit on your card though. You will be able to see how much you have left on the screen every time you swipe it to pass through the gate in a metro station.

Topping up at a metro station is easy. Just go to a service booth, hand over your card and some money, and they will top it up for you – you won’t normally need to speak any Mandarin to do this. It’s a similar process at the many shops and banks that can recharge cards for you.

You might find it more convenient to use one of the top-up machines found in metro stations around the city. At these machines you can only top up in multiples of 50RMB, but they are easy to use – simply insert your card, follow the on-screen instructions (you can change the language to English) and insert your bank notes.