T money card in Korea: What is it and what does it do?

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Travelling around a new country can seem complicated, especially if it’s a completely new transport system to deal with.

In Korea, the best way to navigate the transportation systems around the country is by using some helpful apps as well as a T Money (transportation) card.

I’ll be honest when I first moved to Korea on a working holiday visa, I was nervous as I didn’t speak a word of Korean and didn’t think I’d be able to find my way around very easily. Luckily I was made aware of the T Money card which helped make paying for each journey as seamless as possible.

Now, I’m paying it forward as I want to help you all in the same way.

I’ll be covering what exactly a T Money card is, why they’re useful, how they’re used, and anything else that might help you travel around Korea!

If you arrive in Korea on a working visa, check out this post on how to get yourself set up as an expat.

Country:South Korea (Republic of Korea)
Currency:South Korean Won / KRW
Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?Check here

Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.

When you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and make exchanging foreign funds easy. I’ve been using them since 2015.


My T Money card & my Cash Bee card

What is a transportation card in Korea?

T Money & Cash bee are brands of transportation cards. They’re small, plastic and roughly the size of a bank card that allows you to top up cash and use it for travel around metropolitan areas.

In large cities like Seoul and Busan, these cards can be used for the underground metro, overground trains as well as buses. They can be used in most large cities in the country which means you don’t have to get a new card for each destination you visit. This is convenient for tourists and those on work visas who don’t yet have an ARC or Korean bank account.

Locals with a bank here have the option to pay for their journeys using their bank card (similar to the TFL system in London). However, at the time of writing, foreign bank cards do not allow you to tap in and out on the subway machines.


Where to get a T Money card in Korea?

It’s very easy to get a T money or transportation card in South Korea and you have multiple places to choose from. One place to get these cards is using a subway station card machine.

The other option is to head over to one of the many convenience stores in the cities and purchase one there.

Some typical stores to find these cards are: 7-Eleven, Daiso, CU, Ministop and GS25 to name just a few.

These cards are normally purchased at a cost of 2,500 won at the counter which is roughly £1.60. Simply ask the staff and they will get one for you. If the store carries different types of cards you’ll be able to choose which one you like best (more on the different picture cards later!)


T Money recharge machine in the subway

How to top up your Korea T Money Card?

There are two main ways to top up (ie add money to) your T Money card in Korea,

  • Top it up in a convenience store
  • Top it up using the machines in the subway

To top up your T Money card in convenience stores, it’s just as easy as speaking to the checkout staff and letting them know the amount you’d like to add.

Simply give them your card (they will place it on a small square block next to the till), then hand them the money you want on your card. It is completed pretty much instantly so you can use your card straight away afterwards.


To top up your card yourself in the subway, you can use the T Money machines. These machines are found in every subway station so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one. They always have multiple languages to choose from so you shouldn’t have any trouble using them if you can’t read Korean. Simply click the “English” button in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

You can even check your balance using the “Transit Card Balance” app which is one of the most useful apps in Korea to have. Download it on Android below:

Apple devices can’t use this app, but a great alternative is: BucaCheck-Korea Transit Card

To make sure you can use the apps throughout your trip, consider getting an eSIM with a data plan. These SIMS can be downloaded directly onto your device and used almost instantly.


How do T Money cards work?

To put it simply, as you travel using public transportation in the cities of Korea, you will need to tap your card on the card readers to activate your journey.

The general rule is you must tap in with your T Money transportation card when entering each subway in Korea and also tap out when leaving. This shouldn’t be hard to remember as the barriers will stop you from walking through the station if you haven’t tapped in.

When you tap in, a small screen on top of the barrier will beep and show you the cost of the open “ticket”. When you finish your journey and tap out the other side, you will see the total cost of the whole journey you have taken as well as the total balance remaining on your card.

It is also slightly cheaper to transfer from one transport type to another on the same journey – but only if the transfers are within 30 minutes of each other. The only exception to the discount is if you leave the station and reenter the same one.

When using the bus, you need to tap when you get on, and you only need to tap off if you plan on transferring.

To learn about the most accurate costs relating to transport fares with (or without a card) check out this link which will take you to the T Money transport website.


Where can you use T Money Transportation card in Korea?

So we’ve already spoken about how they are used in most metropolitan areas, but let’s get more specific before your trip. That way, you’ll know ahead of time if a T Money card will actually be suitable for your trip to Korea.

In alphabetical order I have listed the cities below and where they accept the T Money cards for payment:

Train

  • Busan (Lines 1-4, Busan-Gimhae Light Rail & the Donghaenambu Line)
  • Daegu (Lines 1-3)
  • Daejeon (Line 1)
  • Gwangju (Line 1)
  • Incheon (Lines 1-2)
  • Seoul & Gyeonggi-do (Lines 1-9, Airport Railroad, Shinbundang Line,
    Uijeongbu LRT, Suin-Bundang Line, Gyeongchun Line,
    Gyeongui-Jungang Line, Yongin EverLine, Ui-Sinseol Line, Maglev Line,
    Seohae Line, Gimpo Goldline and lastly the Silim Line)

Bus Regions that accept T Money cards

Chungju, Yeongdong, Cheongju, Okcheon, Danyang,
Jecheon, Jincheon, Goesan, Boeun, Eumseong, Jeungpyeong

Cheonan, Asan, Hongseong, Gongju, Nonsan,
Cheongyang, Boryeong, Yeongi, Yesan, Geumsan, Buyeo, Taean, Seosan,
Seocheon, Dangjin, Gyeryong

All areas available by bus

Pohang, Yeongju, Mungyeong, Sangju, Andong, Gumi, Gyeongju, Gimcheon, Uljin, Uiseong, Gyeongsan, Yecheon, Ulleung,
Chilgok, Yeongcheon, Cheongdo, Seongju, Goryeong

Tongyeong, Geoje, Changwon, Yangsan, Haman,
Miryang, Sacheon, Sancheong, Hadong, Changnyeong, Hamyang, Jinju,
Goseong, Geochang, Namhae, Hapcheon, Gimhae, Uiryeong

Daejeon (BRT), Daegu, Ulsan, Gwangju, Busan, Sejong (BRT)

All areas available by bus

Gunsan, Wanju, Sunchang, Jeonju, Gimje, Imsil, Iksan, Jinan, Gochang, Jeongeup, Buan, Namwon, Muju, Jangsu

Yeosu, Mokpo, Gwangyang, Naju, Hwasun, Haenam,
Jangseong, Muan, Hampyeong, Damyang, Gurye, Gangjin, Goheung,
Boseong, Yeongam, Suncheon, Gokseong, Jangheung, Yeonggwang

All areas available by bus


My friend’s T Money card with a printed image of K Pop band “Seventeen”

What else can T money cards be used for?

Not only can these cards in Korea be used for transportation, but they can also be used for making small purchases in convenience stores.

For convenience (get it?) you can buy bottles of water or small snacks using the existing balance of your T money card instead of having to carry cash around with you.

This is helpful if you need to buy something small but forgot to take your wallet or if you get stuck without your bank card.

You can only make purchases in this way if you see the T money symbol. If this symbol is not shown at the point of purchase, you won’t be able to pay this way.


Different versions of transportation cards in Korea

Typically, T Money and Cash Bee cards in Korea only have their logo on the front and are of a simple design. From time to time, these cards will have different designs on them to advertise an upcoming event or just add a little bit of colour to an otherwise simple card.

As a lover of all things bright, I love cute cartoon character designs better than the originals.

Some themes and examples of popular T Money cards are below:

  • Little Muzi
  • Cony Toys
  • K-Pop band Seventeen
  • BT21 cartoon designs
  • BTS photo cards

And more!

Note: Not every style of card will be available at every convenience store. I’ve been to many 7-11s and only found the black cards, yet my friends had different experiences.

Occasionally there are even machines that allow you to upload your own image to have printed onto the cards, however, many of these machines are hiding (I haven’t spotted one in a while at any subway stations so keep an eye out).


What T Money card will you choose?

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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