Two fees that were originally proposed as part of the Chicago Transit Authority's new Ventra card system did not make it into the final product, but experts still warn against using the cards for their secondary purpose as a vehicle for debit card transactions.
CTA officials say passengers won't have to pay $2.95 to reload their card online or the $10-per-hour fee for "account research" when protesting a bill. These fees had caused considerible outrage from among riders, but it turns out the fees -- which were part of a 2011 contract proposal -- were never included by decision makers.
But there are other fees associated with the card that should give riders pause.
A spokeswoman for NerdWallet.com, a web site that rates and analyzes debit and credit card products, said the fees associated with the prepaid debit MasterCard account tied to Ventra -- such as a card replacement fee, a fee to speak with a customer service representative and ATM owner surcharge fees -- could still cost customers about $15 per month.
"Don't use it as a debit card," said Anisha Sekar Vice President of Credit and Debit Products for Nerdwallet. "We recommend using a traditional checking account."
Officials with the city are enamored of the benefits of Ventra as a management system.
CTA officials say it will allow for more flexible and convenient payment options because only a single Ventra card will be used. Passengers can load money onto the card at rail stations or select retail locations.
The cost remains the same -- $2 for the bus and $2.25 for the train -- but if you buy a single-ride disposable card with cash, expect to pay an additional 75 cents.
The CTA says the fee is meant to cover the cost of the disposable cards (with an embedded chip), and maintains that the additional fee is directed toward infrequent riders and tourists who are more likely to not have a Ventra card.
The Ventra card rolls out in Chicago this summer.