Every day, 120,000 people pay for their T transportation with a Charlie ticket. It's a print-on-demand paper ticket, worth up to $100 when you pay in advance at the vending machine.

But our investigation discovered what the T doesn’t tell you when you buy a Charlie ticket: These tickets expire.

T Rider "I didn't know that."

T Rider "I had no idea!"

Yup. If you've purchased a Charlie ticket for a rainy day, or gave one to your kids to use in an emergency, or tucked one into your wallet for later, after 18 months, that ticket will be worthless!

But we found: Buy a ticket, and there's no warning anywhere that it expires. Not on the first screen of the vending machine, not on the middle ones, not on the final one. It's not disclosed on the outside of the machines. It's not on the receipt and not even on the ticket itself.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“Why not tell customers when they buy the ticket, this is going to expire? Nowhere does it say that!”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “Well, we could do a better job advertising that to the customer.”

Money obviously doesn't expire. But these tickets do. And after 18 months, you've paid for rides you're not gonna get.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“Why have a ticket expire?

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM "Well, it expires based on, it's an industry standard based on the shelf life of the ticket."

You heard right, it's because they say paper tickets are too flimsy to last any longer than that. And every time a card expires, the T gets to keep the leftover money.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“How much money as been left on unexpired tickets?”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “That's an unknown amount.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“So you don't know?”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “We don't know.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“Why?”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “Ah, the system is incapable of providing that information.”

T officials insisted customers who get the expired "buzz" can go to the Downtown Crossing station and get a refund. But we found that info is not posted anywhere. We tried the machine: It just says ticket no longer valid. At the gate it just says: Expired. We looked on line — It doesn't say anything about refunds at all.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“How would a rider know to bring a ticket to Downtown Crossing?”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “They could ask any one of our customer service representatives.”

But we'd already tried that. We called the T’s customer service again and again and we were told:

*We don't give refunds

*We can't reissue the balance

*The money is gone if you don't use it

*There’s nothing we can do

*That's just the policy

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“Not one customer service person got it right.”

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “Well, we certainly will look into that and change the information that they have.”

The good news: If you still have your expired tickets, now you know how to get a refund. The bad news: What if you don’t have them anymore?

Hank Phillippi Ryan, 7NEWS“If somebody has unused value on a ticket, it expired, and they threw it away, that's money they lose and the keeps.

Joe Kelley, MBTA Deputy GM “In that scenario, that would be correct.”

But now, because of our investigation, the T will print expiration dates on every Charlie ticket. It's also updating its website and has already sent a notice to its customer service team reminding them of the refund rules.

(Copyright (c) 2010 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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