The Go San Francisco Card: Can It Save You Money?

San Francisco

Getty Images

The Go San Francisco card is a discount pass that claims to help visitors save money on their trip to San Francisco. It features reduced prices on attractions and tours, and front of the line access to some of them. You can check the included attractions and card prices at the Go San Francisco card website.

They claim that you can save up to 60 percent on those attractions compared to buying tickets separately. But is that true? Here are the facts:

How the Go San Francisco Card Works

The Go San Francisco card company works with popular attractions to get discounts and packages them in a pass-based format.

It's easy to use a Go San Francisco card. Take your printed or mobile pass to the box office or ticket window at any included attraction. If you install the Go City mobile app, you can download your pass onto your phone. You can also choose to print it at home from your confirmation email.

What to Do Before Buying a Go San Francisco Card

Don't just go out and buy it because the website says you can save a lot of money. That's true if you do and see everything they offer, but you need to look deeper, or you could actually end up spending more money, not less.

These are a few things you should keep in mind when deciding whether the Go San Francisco card is right for you for you:

  • Some top San Francisco attractions are free. Take a look at the list of things to do for free in San Francisco, like seeing the Golden Gate Bridge or taking a walk at Fisherman's Wharf. They might be enough to keep you engaged without spending a single penny.
  • Some attractions may not interest you. You may not want to tour the baseball park, explore a battleship, or spend time in a museum.
  • Some attractions aren't included. In particular, the National Park Service runs Alcatraz Island, and they don't give discounts on admission.
  • Some attractions are not in San Francisco. Instead, they are in Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, or in Berkeley and Oakland. If you don't plan to leave the city, it doesn't matter how much you could save.
  • Some attractions require reservations. You'll need to do that after you've purchased the pass. Reserve at least two weeks in advance to secure a spot.
  • Know your limits. People tend to visit fewer attractions each day than they expect to. If you overestimate your endurance and do less than you thought, your expected savings could evaporate.
  • Be critical, and compare prices. Using the guidelines above, look at the list of attractions offered on the all-inclusive card. How many of those do you really want to see or do? Use their Build Your Own page and add up the cost of those if you paid full price. If the card comes out cheaper, buy it. Otherwise, do the same process for the choose your own option.
  • Don't buy too many days. The all-inclusive option is priced by the day. If you move fast and eat lunch on the go, you could stuff all the paid activities on the list of top things to do in San Francisco into three days. If you choose to do them in five days instead, your savings will be much more modest.

How to Buy the Go San Francisco Card

The number of options for your card can be enough to give you a headache, and their names change faster than you can say "San Fran," but keep in mind these simple categories:

All-inclusive card: The all-inclusive pass offers a higher percentage of savings. It's easy because you don't have to think much. Choose it if you want to see lots of things that are included.

The pass is sold by the number of days you can use it. It activates when you enter your first attraction, and you have to use it on consecutive days. If you skip a day, you won't get a refund or an extension.

Choose your own card: You can get more modest savings if you choose only the attractions you want to see. You can select a set number of them or put together something totally custom. Pick the things you want to do, prioritize, and decide when you've spent enough. Savings go up the more options you select. You have 30 days to visit everything after the first time you use it.

If you decide to buy, you can get the card at the Go San Francisco website. That's the easiest way to get it, and you can take advantage of online discounts. You can also buy a pass in person at these locations in San Francisco. You have one year from the purchase date to activate your pass.

Other Ways to Save on Your Bay Area Vacation

A Go San Francisco card is one way to save money in San Francisco, but you'll find more multi-attraction passes to try than there are flavors of chocolate at Ghirardelli. Before you buy a pass, you may also want to review the San Francisco CityPASS, the Pier 39 Pass, and the Fisherman's Wharf Pass.

You'll find more ideas for saving money in the guide to San Francisco on a budget, which includes planning ahead to save on accommodations and travel costs. Taking a vacation to San Francisco during the slower spring and fall months is also a great way to score discount tickets on airfare and hotels, and an excellent time to use the Go San Francisco card since area attractions will be less crowded.

Was this page helpful?