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Prepaid parking cardImagine yourself landing the perfect parking space only to realize you’re totally out of quarters.

If you live in San Francisco, you can finally stop digging for change every time you park. Instead of coins, you can buy prepaid parking tickets that work in just about every single meter in the city.

Simply slip the card in, wait for the meter to reach your desired parking time, remove the card, and on you go.

So how do you get one? They’re strangely not well-advertised, but you can buy them online or check out the official list of vendors.

Other cities such as New York and San Diego have similar cards as well. I suspect more metropolitan areas will follow soon.

Does your city have them yet?

Thanks to Robin for sending this my way.


  • jcl

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    7:04 am

    Cool. We have been using this kind of card for years in Paris.

  • Fourbin

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    8:25 am

    Same thing here in Philadelphia. The Smart Card. You can purchase it at any downtown convenience store, newstand, etc. Come in several dominations. The only problem is they aren’t rechargeable, you have to go and purchase a new card every time.

  • Katy

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    9:22 am

    I’m not sure about parking cards here in the UK but most of the modern meters allow you to pay via SMS message which I think is pretty cool

  • Chanpory

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    9:41 am

    jcl and Katy,

    I wish the US would adopt little technologies like these at a faster rate. You guys have us beat! I had not heard of paying parking meters via SMS. It sounds great, especially if you can pay the meter from far away.

  • Maaike

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    11:56 am

    In many cities here in The Netherlands you can pay by telephone. You have to dial a certain number when you park your car and dial it again when you leave. Very convenient :-)

  • Jason

    gravatarMay 10, 2007
    4:04 pm

    In Portland, Oregon you can just pay with a credit card, which I prefer since I don’t really want to add another card to my wallet to carry around, or have to deal with credits when I’m not using it very often. The downside to this is that the meter prints out a small piece of paper you stick to your window which says when your time expires. It’s incredibly wasteful, leaves nasty residue on your window if you use them daily, creates garbage in your car when you’re done with them, and makes you walk from your car to the one “meter” per block, stand in the rain while it prints your slip, then walk back to your car to put it in the window. Usually only takes about 60 seconds round trip, but for the disabled, this would be a huge inconvenience. Also, this is Oregon, where it rains 9 months of the year, so it can get annoying standing in the rain longer than necessary. HOWEVER, we can pay with credit cards, which means I never have to worry about coins at all…

  • jim

    gravatarMay 15, 2007
    8:29 am

    west palm beach has parking cards, even available for business to custom imprint. BUT more importantly, the city rolled out a new program where you pay for your parking meters via cell phone. Yup, just dial the number on the meter, follow the prompts, and it shows up on your cell phone bill.

    doesn’t get easier than that!

  • lgbtech

    gravatarMay 15, 2007
    9:32 am

    I live in Albany, NY. We have something similar to the parking card, called a CaskKey. It is shaped like a key so you can hang it on you keyring with your car key. You insert the key in a special slot on the meter to pay for your parking. There are some downsides to it. It is not a “smart” key. You have to decide in advance how much time you want to pay for, rather than starting the meter when you park and stopping it when you return. It is refillable, but you have to go to the City’s parking authority office to refill it which is a pain (although you can pay for your refill on their website, which does make things go more quickly).

  • DKF

    gravatarMay 16, 2007
    12:57 pm

    We have a system in DC similar to the one in Portland. Not sure if you use a credit card to pay. It is in the downtown area and there seems to be one pay machine per block. How I found out was someone was coming out of a parking space and had time on their slip and they gave their slip to me to place in my window. (Ours does not stick to the window just set it on the dash.) When I left out I gave it to the next person to use. I thought that was really nice.

  • clover

    gravatarMay 20, 2007
    3:15 pm

    Like Portland, Seattle went one better and just made the parking meters credit card-friendly.

  • Paulius

    gravatarMay 27, 2007
    9:11 am

    Hihi all Europe is using that type of cards for many years including Public Phone. I have a feeling Americans discover this new technology just now :-)

  • Steven

    gravatarOct 13, 2007
    4:36 pm

    My city (Pittsburgh, PA) also has credit-card readers available on the machines — very convenient!

  • luciano

    gravatarMay 14, 2008
    1:11 pm

    each time I need to park outside my blu lines I pay with money … (torino, italy) … no cards here

  • BertandErnie

    gravatarJul 13, 2009
    12:25 pm

    This card is great!!! I found other great parking tips at http://www.findingthesweetspot.com Little known stuff that the Department of parking Traffic Knows and you may not. Like when you can park in white-zones, yellow zones…how to find parking when nobody else can. Totally cool.