Electronic Smart Benefits assigned to VRE must be used in the month
they are applied for, or they will be lost. There is no rollover and
no account services with most VRE Vendor locations, benefits assigned
are on a strict "Use it or lose it" basis.
Benefits assigned to Goldline (VRE Union Station), Old Town Transit (Alexandria),
Springfield Commuter Store (Springfield), Coffee Club Cafe (VRE Woodbridge or VRE Quantico), Don's
Depot (VRE Broad Run), Seven Eleven (VRE Leeland Road) and Seven Eleven
(VRE Fredericksburg) are all "Use it or lose" on a monthly basis. There
are no exceptions to this rule at these vendor locations, and there will
be no refunds of unused benefits.
Please make your decision on which VRE vendor to apply your benefits
with this in mind.
What are Transit Benefits?
Transit benefits are issued by an employer to their employees
to assist them in purchasing transit fares for commuting purposes.
Transit benefits come in a variety of forms depending on how the
employer wishes to handle them. They can be checks,
electronic SmartBenefits, debit cards and can be employee funded
(pre-tax or post-tax) or employer-funded.
To see what Transit Benefits your employer offers, speak with
your Human Resources (or equivalent) department at your place of
How Do I Get These Benefits?
Most employers will assist you in arranging your transit benefits
as part of the hiring process. Only your employer can tell you what
benefit options they offer, how they are managed/issued, and how to
sign up for them.
What are Smart Benefits?
SmartBenefits® is the region's most common form of transit benefit.
It is a program managed and operated by the Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority, or WMATA
better known as the operator of Metrorail and Metrobus. SmartBenefits®
can be used towards a variety of transit fares, but is most easily used
within the Metrorail system. SmartBenefits can be downloaded directly
onto a SmarTrip card to be used on Metrorail or select bus systems.
SmartBenefits can also exist as a virtual account which allows you to
use the funds on systems that do not accept SmarTrip cards, like VRE.
Who Accepts Electronic Smart Benefits for VRE tickets?
Currently, Electronic SmartBenefits can be assigned to the following VRE
Arlington Commuter Direct (Mail Order and Internet Sales)
The Crystal City Commuter Store (near the Crystal City VRE Station)
Old Town Transit Shop (Across from King Street Metro Station)
The Springfield Commuter Store (located in the Metro portion of the
Coffee Club Cafe (located at the Woodbridge VRE Station)
Coffee Club Cafe (located at the Quantico VRE Station)
Don's Depot (located at the Broad Run VRE Station)
7-11 (Leeland Road)
Gray Line Tour Bus (First level parking garage area at Union Station)
For details on the above, please visit our
Vendor Loacations Page
Are There Differences between the VRE Vendors That I Should be Aware of?
Yes, currently there are.
Arlington Commuter Direct and their sister store, the Crystal City Commuter
Store, have been accepting Electronic Smart Benefits for some time, and have
different policies than the other VRE vendor locations. They also have a staff
of customer service support to help you in creating your WMATA account and
assigning your benefits to their locations. Finally, Commuter Direct offers
an account service for your benefits, so once assigned, if you do not use
them all, you can retain the unused portion for later use (see question 7).
Please contact Commuter Direct at 703-228-RIDE (7433) for additional details.
The Springfield Commuter Store and Old Town Transit Shop, in Alexandria,
both manage electronic SmartBenefits internally. Passengers who wish to use
their benefits at these two locations should contact them directly for
instructions. Springfield Commuter Store can be reached at (703) 339-7200 and
Old Town Transit Shop can be reached at (703) 299-6227 for more details.
The other VRE Vendor options do not offer this added service. Passengers
for those locations will need to handle assignment of benefit themselves
(With help from the WMATA help line as needed at 202-962-1326, option 3),
and must use their entire benefit amount at their time of purchase, or lose
any unspent value.
Another difference is how the Vendors are listed in the WMATA Website.
Since Commuter Direct, the Crystal City Commuter Store and Springfield
Commuter Store handle fares for a number of different transit agencies,
they are listed in the WMATA System under their own names. All other VRE
vendor locations are listed in the WMATA System as "Virginia Railway Express
- STATION", where Station is the name of the Station that vendor serves.
"Virginia Railway Express - Woodbridge" is Coffee Club Cafe at Woodbridge
Station, "Virginia Railway Express - Broad Run" is Don's Depot at Broad
What Do I Need to Do to Use SmartBenefits to Purchase VRE Tickets?
- Purchase a SmarTrip card. While electronic
benefits used outside of the Metro system cannot be downloaded onto the
SmarTrip card, the card represents a unique ID number that is linked
directly to your account.
Register your SmarTrip card
Create an account with WMATA or contact Commuter Direct (see question 5).
That account then is used to receive and manage your benefits each month.
Do not download any funds to your SmarTrip card if you plan to use your
SmartBenefits to purchase VRE tickets.
- Assign your benefits to an Electronic SmartBenefits vendor
(For a list of VRE Electronic Smart Benefits vendors, and their
differences, please see question #6 and #7 below).
- Once assigned, the amount of benefits you have assigned will
be issued to VRE on the first of the month, for use that month.
- Go to the VRE vendor you assigned your benefits
to, and purchase VRE tickets up to the amount you have assigned.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
For the most part, benefits assigned to a VRE vendor can only be used
to buy VRE tickets, no change can be given for purchases that do not use
up your entire benefits amount, and benefits are non-transferable.
Passengers simply go to their vendor location, show a photo ID and their
SmarTrip card for identification, and let the vendor know they assigned
their Electronic SmartBenefits to them. The Vendor will look them up on
their list of benefits recipients, and proceed to make the sale as normal.
Each month, your benefits will then be automatically assigned to the
same vendor, unless you choose to change it (by making a change in your
account on the WMATA website). Once the benefits have been assigned,
and the change-date has passed (the 20th of the previous month, for the
next month, i.e. June 20th for July Benefits), the assigned benefits
become locked, and cannot be removed or changed. Once this occurs,
there is nothing VRE can do to change or refund these benefits, either
to you (the passenger) or your employer. You can use them to purchase
tickets at that vendor, but no other benefits refunds can be provided.
Who Do I Talk to If I Have Problems with My SmartBenefits?
Since Electronic SmartBenefits are a WMATA managed system, VRE is limited
in our ability to assist with your account. If you have questions regarding
how to sign up for an account, how to assign benefits to selected vendors or
to use your SmarTrip card (for non VRE use), or any other detail related to
account use, WMATA is your best source for information. For a more detailed
FAQ on WMATA SmartBenefits and how they work, please see their
Page or call WMATA's SmartBenefits Help Line at 202-962-1326, option 3.
For a detailed guide on how to allocate your benefits, please see the
following WMATA guides:
CommuterDirect and the Crystal City Commuter Store
All other VRE Electronic SmartBenefits Accepting Vendors
In addition, if you are a Commuter Direct or Crystal City Commuter Store
user, those vendors can help you with all stages of signup and benefits
assignment as part of the services they provide. They can be reached at the
Commuter Page or by phone at
703-228-RIDE (7433), Option 1.
For questions relating to VRE Vendors or use of assigned benefits at VRE
Vendors, please feel free to contact the VRE offices at 703-684-1001 or
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are There Other Options? Who Do I Talk to About Those?
There are many other Transit Benefit Options that VRE accepts, from
pre-paid debit cards of many different types/issuers, to transit checks
such as TransBen Checks or Commuter Check.
If your employer uses these options, please feel free to contact the
VRE office at 703-684-1001 to inquire whether VRE accepts that form of
payment, and we'll be happy to assist you.
What is VRE Doing to Simplify the Process?
We know this is a highly complex method of handling what should be
a simple process. Unfortunately a feasible solution has not been found
that will allow the use of SmarTrip cards at VRE ticket vending machines.
We continue to work with WMATA and our fare collection equipment vendor
to identify a solution. In the meantime, VRE is moving forward with
planning for a new fare collection system that will allow the use of smart
card technology at station ticket vending machines. Until then, we will
need to continue to use this method that WMATA has set up for our customers.
What's happening to the paper "SmartBenefits Vouchers?
Paper SmartBenefit Vouchers have been ended by WMATA.