Ventra swipe

Riders who use personal contactless cards as Ventra cards can't register their cards until the fall. (September 16, 2013)

CTA riders trying to use their personal debit and credit cards as fare cards won't be able to register their cards until sometime this fall, the agency said Monday.

That means these riders can't manage their accounts online and need to stay vigilant about their balances so they're not charged full fares instead of getting transfer prices. Unlike Chicago Card Plus, the transit balances on personal bank cards will not replenish when riders spend down the balances.

"We’re still in the process of transitioning over to Ventra," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said in an e-mail. All CTA riders had the option to start using Ventra, the CTA's new fare payment system, last week.

As part of the rollout of Ventra, riders can obtain a Ventra card that can used as an unlimited pass or a pay-per-ride card.

Riders can also use their personal contactless cards, such as Chase cards, to pay for fares.

A rider can bring his or her personal contactless card to a Ventra machine, available at all rail stations, to put an unlimited pass on the card or set aside money to pay for transit.

But these riders will not be able to check their balances or add additional passes or transit money online. All transactions have to be done at a Ventra machine until the CTA makes registration available online.

Once a rider's balance is spent, though, his or her personal card will convert to full fare, pay-per-ride cards. In that case the rider might end up paying more than he or she needs to. 

CTA riders don't have to have a transit balance on their personal cards, but they will pay full fares each time they swipe, not transfer prices.

The first transfer is supposed to be 25 cents and the second transfer is supposed to be free if all transfers are completed within two hours.

For example, a rider who takes a bus to train pays $2 for the bus ride and 25 cents for a transfer, resulting in a $2.25 ride.

A CTA rider using a personal debit card without a transit balance as a fare card would pay $2.25 for the bus ride and $2.25, resulting in a $4.50 ride.

The charges show up on bank statements initially as $5 swipes but eventually reflect the actual fare ($2.25 for rail rides, $2 for bus rides).

"The time it takes for pre-authorization depends on an individual’s bank—but is typically complete within 24 hours," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.

Ventra this year will replace Chicago Cards and disposable magnetic stripe cards. Cash is still accepted on buses.

Since CTA riders have started receiving their cards last month, they have reported a variety of glitches from faulty balances to their personal cards being scanned instead of their Ventra cards when waving their wallets in front of the reader.

CTA president Forrest Claypool said last week that glitches were expected in initial rollout.