New transit cards offer better transport access for foreign nationals in Korea

By Kim Dong-young Posted : May 16, 2024, 15:43 Updated : May 16, 2024, 17:20
Promotion poster of Climate Cards in a subway stationYonhap Photo
This undated photo shows a man using the Climate Card in a subway station in Seoul. Yonhap

SEOUL, May 16 (AJU PRESS) – Foreign nationals in Korea can now utilize buses and subways more affordably and conveniently, as the government has expanded public transportation benefits through various transit cards.

From the nationwide K-pass to the Seoul-focused Climate Card, the programs launched this year offer different levels of benefits based on region, travel frequency, users' age, income level and other conditions.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport inaugurated the K-pass on May 1 as part of efforts to alleviate the burdens of commuters. Foreign nationals possessing foreign residents' registration are eligible for the scheme.

The K-pass offers refunds of varying percentages for transportation fares to users of city buses, subways, as well as wide-area buses linking Seoul and its suburbs and GTX, a high-speed commuter train service across the Seoul metropolitan area.

However, high-speed rail networks connecting Seoul and southern regions, including KTX and SRT, and express buses are not covered by the K-pass program. 
Sample designs for new K-pass cards. Courtesy of Samsung Card
Sample designs for new K-pass cards.  Courtesy of Samsung Card
Regular members receive up to 20 percent back, while younger people aged 19-34 and lower-income earners get 30 percent and 53 percent back, respectively.

To receive the benefits, individuals need to use public transportation at least 15 times a month, with refunds available for a maximum of 60 trips.

The K-pass is available on credit, debit, and prepaid cards, with about 10 card companies, including KB Kookmin, Nonghyup, BC, Samsung, Shinhan, Woori, Hana, and Hyundai, participating in the program.

The K-pass replaces the Alddeul (thrifty) Transportation Card, which was launched in April 2018. Existing users of the Alddeul card can switch their membership to the K-pass through its official website ( and mobile app, while new users can register via the K-pass website ( and app.

“Foreigners can use certain prepaid cards that include K-pass benefits. However, availability for foreigners varies depending on their status, and visitors without foreigner registration are not qualified for K-pass cards,” a ministry official said. 

Special refund rates for low-income earners do not apply to foreign nationals, he said.
A man is using a transit card application to ride a bus
This undated photo shows a man using a transit card app on his mobile phone.  Yonhap
The local governments in Gyeonggi Province and Incheon, both near Seoul, have issued their versions of the K-pass, the Gyeonggi Pass, and I-pass, respectively. These passes are also available for foreigners. 

Both programs, unlike the K-pass, provide refunds for trips exceeding 60 times and extend the 30 percent rate for youth up to 39 years old. Additionally, Incheon’s I-pass applies a 30 percent rate to elders aged 65 and older. Applicants for the K-pass in Gyeonggi and Incheon will automatically be referred to the respective programs.

Meanwhile, the Seoul city government launched the Climate Card, a prepaid transit pass, on Jan. 23 via the major transportation card company T-money. A mobile version was subsequently rolled out on April 24. The transit card is also available to all foreigners. 

With the card, users have unlimited access to buses and subways within the capital and the satellite city of Gimpo, where Gimpo International Airport is located.

The rechargeable transit card costs 63,000 won ($46) per month, and the city's public bikes can be used for a monthly fee of 65,000 won. The pass is available in convenience stores and subway stations and the Mobile T-Money app. 

"All foreigners, including short-term visitors and long-time residents, can freely use the Climate Card," a city official said. "In case of losing cards or refunds, prior T-money registration of the Climate Card is necessary.“

Other transit cards currently available to foreign nationals also include three kinds of T-money cards: Korea Tour Card, Alipay T-money, and AmazingPay T-money. 

The Korea Tour Card, purchasable in convenience stores for 4,000 won, provides various discounts for shopping and cultural activities. The Alipay T-money, costing 23,500 won, caters to Chinese tourists, whereas the AmazingPay T-money, priced at 50,000 won, provides discounts specifically for transportation leading to airports. 

Another transit card, Metropolitan Mpass, grants 20 daily public transport uses within a set validity period. Prices vary depending on the pass’ duration.
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