Pay Your Fare with Plastic

Commuters will be able to pay CTA fares with new credit cards

More and more people are paying for everything with credit or debit cards, and the CTA is planning to cash in on this trend.

In about a year, credit and debit cards embedded with a computer chip and a radio frequency antenna will allow commuters to pay for rides on the CTA, Pace, and other participating transit systems. Unlike current forms of payment—CTA Chicago Card, Card Plus, and magnetic strip transit cards—the "smart" versions will also be standard credit/debit cards that can be used at all businesses where they are currently accepted.

This means that a customer can tap the card against a fare reader, and payment details are transmitted wirelessly to the company that issued the card, e.g., Visa or MasterCard.

"You tap the card against the card reader and get on the CTA. It removes the barrier of having to get our type of fare [card]," CTA President Ron Huberman told the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Transit Authority is emphasizing the convenience this new "smart" card will provide for riders. Ideally, Chicagoans will be able to use one card to cover every expense, from buying lunch to going shopping to riding the train. Also, each fare transaction will take place in less than a second, so no more long lines at turnstiles or bus stops.

Once the new chip-embedded cards are available, they will automatically be sent to current credit/debit-card clients, while other potential customers will be invited to apply for them.

The CTA is hoping to save money with the new "smart" cards, as they will ease the demand for costly fare cards and expensive transit card vending machines.

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