A single ration is a single disbursement, usually of preserved food, but also of clothing, medical supplies, or other common needs from a person's individual or family allotment of goods. The standard allotment is listed on the card so users can see exactly what's remaining for the week, month, or year.
Special "gold cards" are available for members of the Four Families and are sometimes awarded to MPD guards for outstanding service. A gold card allows the user to make a request for a luxury item, usually a rare food item, liquor, or tobacco product.
Most rations are disbursed at the Summerland settlement on a scheduled basis. At the Rock and Tombstone and other guard posts, guards are fed in a group in mess halls, doing away with the need for ration cards.
Ration cards are not meant to be traded or exchanged, though this practice sometimes happens. Guards caught using someone else's ration card face punishment, including loss of rations or explusion from the MPD. The disbursed rations, however, are often traded among guards, citizens, and sometimes even scavengers, though this last practice is illegal.