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Ventra users might find wrong card charged

If you're a CTA wallet-slapper, you may want to check your bank account and make sure you've not been double-slapped.

Under the city's new open fare system Ventra, not only are Ventra cards accepted for payment, but so are credit and debit cards that are equipped with RFID, or radio frequency identification, chips.

But for wallet-slappers — people who tap their wallet to the fare reader instead of an individual card — the reader will charge whichever card is "closest" to the reader, according to the CTA.

The fact that either could be charged has caused some commuters to be charged for their rides on credit or debit cards instead of desired Ventra cards. For those who use Ventra's $100 unlimited monthly pass but also have RFID cards in their wallets, this has caused some grief.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Chicago's largest bank, has heard from hundreds of disgruntled commuters with contactless cards who want the CTA charges redacted from their accounts, a spokeswoman said. Other banks, including Citibank, Bank of America and BMO Harris, also offer contactless cards, but they did not return calls for comment.

Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., the California company that developed and is managing Ventra for the CTA under a $454 million contract, and the CTA said the Ventra fare card reader will charge only one card because of software protections. But that card might not be the one the commuter had intended.

To avoid a trip to the bank or a call to customer service to get unwanted charges removed from a debit or credit card, Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas suggested these options:

•Don't tap your wallet on the reader. Take the card out before you scan.

•Keep your Ventra card in a separate case or wallet from your other RFID cards.

•Get a non-contactless card from your bank (one without an RFID chip).

•If you've already accidentally charged a debit or credit card, call a bank representative or walk in to get the charges removed.

Some companies, such as Zappos.com, also sell RFID-blocking wallets. They prevent RFID readers from gathering information from cards inside the wallet, assistant buyer Laurie Bittle said. But you can't choose which cards will be protected and which will not — you'd still have to take your Ventra card out of the wallet to scan it.

Bittle and Holevas said that, while convenient, RFID technology isn't overwhelming popular yet.

"These new technologies, they take some getting used to," Holevas said. "They bring great convenience, but you have to be aware of some of the issues that come along with them."

Tribune reporter Jon Hilkevitch contributed.

ehirst@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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