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Go Card San Francisco

A Skeptic's Look at the Discount Attraction Card

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Go Card San Francisco

Go San Francisco Card

Courtesy of Smart Destinations. Used by Permission.

The claims seem too good to believe: "Save 40%!", "Over 45 attractions!" Does the Go San Francisco Card really deliver? We wanted to know - and we're guessing you do, too.

We clicked, ticked off the attractions, got out the calculator and squinted at the fine print. The analysis is over and we're here to share our findings with you.

On this page, you'll discover:

  • What the Go San Francisco Card is
  • How it works
  • How to figure out if it can save you money
  • How to get a Go San Francisco Card

Go San Francisco Card: What Is It?

Go Cards are sometimes called multi-attraction discount cards. The company works with popular attractions to get discounts, packages them up in a card-based format and passes the savings along to you.

The Go San Francisco Card comes in two types:

  • The basic card is good for a maximum number of days that you choose: 1,2,3,5 or 7, with prices increasing with number of days. You pay a fixed price and can get into all the covered attractions with it.
     
  • Go Select lets you pick only what you want to do. It's a good way to be selective, prioritize and decide when you've spent enough. Savings (on a percentage basis) go up the more you select - and it's good for 30 days after the first time you use it.

How the Go San Francisco Card Works

It's easy to use the Go Card. Just take it to the box office or ticket window at any included San Francisco attraction, any time before 5:30 p.m. That's it.

After you use the card the first time, you can use it for the number of days you chose. Those days have to be consecutive. That means if you skip one, you don't get any money back - or an extension.

Unless an attraction offers a multi-day pass as part of the card, you can only visit each attraction once.

Will the Go San Francisco Card Save You Money?

The short answer: Most likely. However, when they say "up to" a percentage, that's a maximum that most people are unlikely to manage.

The only way to know for sure: Be critical. Compare prices on the things you really want to do and be realistic about how many days it will take you to do them. A quick way to get all the prices you need for that is to use the Go Select page, where they show current prices.

A quick answer that's correct most of the time: You'll save by using the Go San Francisco Card if you:

Buy a 3-day or 5-day card and do most of the more expensive activities (Academy of Sciences, bay cruise, city tour, cable car ride) OR visit about 3 to 4 of the less-expensive attractions per day.

Be realistic about how much you can do. According to the Go Card website: "people tend to visit fewer attractions each day than they expect." Because of San Francisco's small size compared to other California cities, it's easier to fit several activities into a day, but if you overestimate your endurance and do less than you thought, your expected savings could evaporate.

Group Go Card activities into the fewest days: If you move fast and eat lunch on the go, you could stuff all the Go Card activities in the Top Things to Do in San Francisco into three days and save about 25%. If you choose to do them in five days instead, savings are much more modest.

Choose the Go Select option. For all the Go Card activities on our Top Things to Do in San Francisco, we estimate 20% savings. It saves money, but also allows a more leisurely pace because it's good for 30 days.

If you're prone to losing things (or forgetting to take them on a trip), the Go Card may not be for you. They can't replace or give you a refund for a lost card.

Inside Look at the Included Attractions

In terms of geographical size, San Francisco is California's smallest tourist destination and many of its most famous things to do are accessible without a fee. You could easily have a good time just walking around, seeing things and checking out a few attractions with lower entrance fees and in that case, you might not need the card at all. These are a few more things to think about when evaluating your purchase:

Some attractions offered may not interest you. A dozen attractions are museums, which may not appeal to you. Another three or four are guided tours, also not on everyone's list of favorite activities. If the list of things you want to do becomes too small, the card might not help you keep costs down. On the flip side, some people say it introduced them to enjoyable activities they might not have found on their own. And once you break even, you'll save on every little thing you do after that.

Alcatraz is not included in the list of covered attractions. It's run by the National Park Service and no one gets discounts on the ferry ride out to it. They do offer an Alcatraz option on their website, but it carries so many restrictions that it's probably easier to buy your Alcatraz tickets separately. Find out how here.

Take a closer look at that long list: Some attractions are not in San Francisco, but in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz or across the Bay in Berkeley and Oakland, places you may or may not plan to visit.

After all that, a museum-hating, guide-tour-avoiding vacationer who isn't going to leave San Francisco is left with a little over a dozen attractions to choose from. And anyone who wants to visit Alcatraz will still have to pay full price for that.

Some require reservations: After you buy the card, some activities and tours require reservations. Make sure you know if that's true for anything you want to do.

How to Get a Go San Francisco Card

Attraction ticket booths don't sell Go Cards, so you'll need to plan ahead. But not too far. Cards expire on December 31 of the year following their purchase, whether they were used or not. You can return unused cards for a full refund for a year after purchase, but it's easier to wait until you're sure about your trip dates.

If your trip is at least 2 weeks away: Buy online and they'll mail the cards to you. You'll pay a small shipping fee and can request expedited or international shipping - for a higher cost.

If your trip is less than 2 weeks away - or you don't want to pay the shipping fees: Buy your Go San Francisco Card from Kijubi.com (where you can also plan more things to do that Go Card doesn't include). You'll get a voucher to print at home. When you get to San Francisco, you can take to a Go Card redemption center, which are listed here.

You'll find more multi-attraction passes in San Francisco than you will cable car lines. Before you buy a CityPASS, you may want to also check them out:

More Ways to Save Money: San Francisco on a Budget: 8 Things You May Not Know | Find the Best Place to Stay | Things to Do for Free

More Go Cards: Go Card San Diego | Go Card Los Angeles

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