Today is the last day of February, and you know what that means? Fare hike time! Yup, your daily commute is about to get a little more expensive—so you might want to catch up on your new world order. You've still got until Sunday, March 3rd to absorb the fact that the MTA's base fare is now $2.50. And don't you start moaning about how the MTA sucks for doing this—we didn't see you at any of the fare hike hearings last year! (Not that it would have made a difference anyway.)

So what's the deal? Here are the important things to remember about the new fares:

  • The base fare is now $2.50, not $2.25 a ride. If you buy a single ride ticket, however, it will cost you $2.75.

  • The pay-per-ride bonus discount will now be 5% instead of 7% (but it starts to kick in at $5, instead of $10).

  • A 30-day unlimited MetroCard will now cost $112 (up from $104). The 7-day unlimited card will cost you $30 (up from $29). And a 7-day express bus plus MetroCard will cost $55 (up from $50).

  • A $1 fee will be charged for each new MetroCard you buy. If you want to avoid the fee, simply turn in your expired or damaged card and you'll get a new one gratis.

Got all that? Good. Because there is one other big change to remember! You no longer need to keep an unlimited and a pay-per-ride MetroCard if you only use the latter for those days when your unlimited has run out. Instead you can just put it all on one card and when your unlimited time runs out, your regular fares will kick in.

Not that complicated, right? So now you are probably wondering about the magic pay-per-ride numbers you want to use so that you don't have any extra change left over on your card. Not to mention the number of rides you need to take to make an unlimited worthwhile. So let's answer the latter first: You must ride the subway 13 times (two rides per workday and three on the weekend) to make a 7-day MetroCard worthwhile and you must ride the subway 48 times (two rides per workday and eight on the weekend) to make a 30-day unlimited MetroCard worthwhile.

As for the number to rule them all, $50 is your new magic number. If you have a card with zero balance on it and add $50 and you'll get a $2.50 bonus, making the card good for exactly 21 rides. And if you can't afford to put $50 on your card, just make sure you refill with amounts like $10 or $25 so you'll eventually even out to $50 (and that sweet, sweet zero balance).

Oh, and there is one other thing! All you smart asses who were planning on stocking up on unlimited MetroCards before the fare hike better think again. Unlimited MetroCards purchased on or before March 2 must be activated by Monday, March 11 to obtain their full value. Those activated after that date will allow travel through April 9 for 30-day cards and March 17 for 7-day cards.