Workplace Benefits

How to Use Your Commuter Benefits  

3 min read
Jun 12, 2023

Commuters in the U.S. spend around $8,466 on their commute every year, which is about 19% of their annual income.1 That makes commuter benefits all the more essential.

Some companies offer them as part of their employee benefits package to help their employees save on their commutes. Read on to learn more about these benefits and how they work.

What are commuter benefits?

Commuter benefits — also known as transportation benefits — are perks or compensation offered to employees to help offset the cost of traveling to and from work.

Contributions are transferred from your paycheck and credited to your commuter benefits account with pre-tax dollars. Because you’re not paying taxes on the money you contribute, you’re able to lower your taxable income and have more funds to use on eligible expenses.

How do commuter benefits work?

Generally, you can access the money in your commuter benefits account in a few ways. You can pay directly for expenses with a smart debit card connected your account, directly to providers through an online portal, or out of pocket (to then file a claim for reimbursement later).

Typically, any unused funds left in your account at the end of the year can be carried over to the next plan year — as long as you remain with your current employer. If you change employers, retire, or get terminated, you have a set amount of time after your last day of employment to use the funds before they’re forfeited. Be sure to talk to your employer directly about their policies.

How much can I contribute to my commuter benefits account?

In 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) limits the amount you can contribute to $300 per month, tax-free for transit-related expenses, and up to $300 per month, tax-free for parking expenses. This is a combined amount for both participant and employer contributions.2

Which expenses are eligible for commuter benefits?

Employer-sponsored commuter benefits programs can vary. For example, a company located in a large metropolitan area may provide public transportation benefits — as that may be the primary mode of transportation in a big city. But a company located in a smaller rural area may not offer that benefit if their employees generally drive to work — though they may offer a parking benefit.

Check with your employer to learn what they offer. To get a better idea of potential options, here are some common types of expenses covered under commuter benefits programs.

Mass transit expenses

Fares and passes to ride mass transit vehicles to and from work could be covered. Public transit or mass transit vehicles may include buses, trains, ferries, trolleys, subways, streetcars, and water taxis.

Parking expenses

Some commuter benefits programs may offer reimbursement for parking expenses incurred at or near your place of work or at the location for which you commute to work. Parking expenses could include costs for meters, parking garages, and lots.

Ride-share expenses

Employees who travel to work by way of ride-share services might be able to get reimbursed for these expenses. Some employers provide monthly or annual stipends to help offset these costs. However, there may be specific limitations when using your commuter benefits to pay for ride shares. Consult with your employer to find out what those limitations might be.

Maintenance and repair expenses

Basic maintenance and repairs may be periodically needed on personal vehicles and bikes used for commuting to work. Some employers offer an allowance to help reduce some of these costs.

Learn about MetLife Health Savings & Spending Accounts 

Designed to help you save

1 “The Best and Worst Cities for Commuters in 2022” Clever Real Estate, 2022

2 “Publication 15-B (2023), Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits” IRS, 2023

Nothing in these materials is intended to apply to a particular individual's financial situation.