Ventra

A Ventra swipe pad at the Western Avenue Blue Line "L" stop. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune / November 7, 2013)

Angel Calderon, 32, rides a CTA train two to three times a week. He has never had a Ventra card and doesn't plan to get one.

Since October, the Montclare resident has tapped his debit card on Ventra readers to pay for fares. He said he's had little problem getting around Chicago sans Ventra.

"When it first came out, I started hearing all these issues about the Ventra cards," said Calderon, who has used Chicago Card Plus and disposable cards. "I just didn't feel like dealing with all that and having a separate card in my wallet."

Calderon is one of a few CTA riders who have not yet transitioned to Ventra. The new payment system undergoes another milestone Sunday, when Chicago Cards will become defunct, and riders will no longer to be able to load money onto their disposable fare cards. Starting July 1, riders won't be able to use their disposable cards.

For riders who dislike Ventra or carrying an extra card in their wallet, they can use some phones or certain personal bank cards to pay for fares. However, these methods are not fully supported because phone and bank card users cannot register these accounts with Ventra so they are not able to manage and track transactions online. Registration eventually will be available to phone and bank card users, the CTA said.

Ventra is used to pay for 92 percent of CTA rides, according to CTA data as of May 17. It's unclear how many rides are paid for with personal bank cards or phones, which are services that have been offered for months.


Riders with contactless bank cards that have chips that rely on radio frequency can use them to pay for fares. On Chase bank cards, the chip is denoted with the "blink" logo.

RELATED: HOW TO MAKE VENTRA PAYMENTS USING PHONE, BANK CARDS

Some riders may have noticed their personal bank cards can pay for fares by accident when they tapped their wallets on the Ventra reader and their bank cards were charged instead of their Ventra cards. Riders have to talk to their banks about those charges.

Jessica Murphy, of Lincoln Park, said she uses her Ventra card and debit card to commute because of incorrect charges.

Murphy, 23, said she was charged for two 30-day unlimited passes on her Ventra card earlier this year when she only wanted one. As a result, she decided not to allow her Ventra card to autoload a new 30-day pass when the old one runs out.

If she taps her Ventra card and the reader says her pass is expired, she uses her Chase card to pay for fares until she buys a new pass.

When she started using her Chase card, though, she didn't realize that Ventra initially appears as a $5 pre-authorization charge on her bank statement. Hours later, this charge reflects her actual $2.25 ride.

The pre-authorization charge "made me feel awful," Murphy said. "I would never take the bus for $5."

Ventra also accepts fares from phones with near field communication capability, which allows contactless payments. There are dozens of phone models with this technology, but the iPhone 5 and other Apple phones don't have it. It's unclear whether future Apple phones will.

Riders who have phones or bank cards compatible with Ventra are not able to manage their Ventra accounts online, like the 43 percent of Ventra users who have registered their cards, but can manage their fare payments at rail station machines.

At those machines, riders can insert their bank cards or tap their phones to buy transit passes or set aside money in a purse. If they don't set aside funds for fares, they will pay full price per ride, instead of transfer prices.

Bank card and phone registration "is not yet available but the vendor is working on it," CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said.

Meanwhile, the CTA is scheduled to complete its full transition to Ventra on July 1—after pushing back that deadline last year because of faults with the Ventra system, which the CTA said Ventra vendor Cubic Transportation Systems has now fixed.

tswartz@tribune.com  |  @tracyswartz