Don’t Link Chicago’s Public Transit to Fee-Ridden Debit Card

Target: Illinois lawmakers

Goal: Eliminate regular monthly fees for the prepaid debit card that will soon be used to pay for public transportation in Chicago

In just a few months, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will roll out a brand new system of payment for public transportation, replacing the longstanding Chicago Card. The system, which has been dubbed Ventra, will allow riders to pay for train and bus trips with a prepaid debit card that can also be used at retailers around the city. While the CTA has claimed that Ventra will help low-income riders who may not have bank accounts or credit cards, the card comes riddled with excessive fees that may hurt residents more than it helps them.

According to analysis performed by the highly rated credit card comparison website, the Ventra card will cost users $188 in fees every year. ATM withdrawals will cost $1.50 per transaction plus any additional fees issued by the owner of the machine, while the CTA will charge a $2 monthly fee for inactivity. If cardholders do not ride a train or bus in a given month, the CTA will charge them a $5 dormancy fee.

These fees arrive on top of a 33 percent increase of single-ride tickets from $2.25 to $3 that will affect all riders who purchase paper tickets in cash. This fee hike serves only to drive more riders toward obtaining a Ventra card despite the numerous fees and disadvantages that accompany this new system. Rather than accommodate low-income riders, the CTA seems intent on milking as much income from them as possible.

Hitting public transportation riders with numerous excessive fees is no way to run a fair, accessible transit system. Urge Illinois lawmakers to put pressure on the CTA to remove these fees from the Ventra card.


Dear Illinois lawmakers,

The Chicago Transit Authority will soon make a case to you about the effectiveness of the upcoming Ventra system of transport payment. While billed as a streamlined payment method both on the CTA and around the city, Ventra might actually hurt riders more than it helps them.

The prepaid MasterCard account that can be activated from any transit card comes laden with numerous fees expected to total $188 a year. The CTA will charge users fees for failing to ride a bus or a train in any given month, and additional fees for using the card at any ATM. Users will also be charged $2 monthly for failing to use the card at retail stores during an 18-month period.

Many low-income residents of Chicago who do not have bank accounts or credit cards will likely be using Ventra as an alternate means of payment. But the card’s excessive fees make the card a poor option for residents of any income bracket. It’s not right for the CTA to prey upon Chicago’s most vulnerable citizens by offering them a debit card loaded with secret fees. In your upcoming hearing, pressure the CTA to reconfigure the upcoming Ventra system to be fairer and more transparent to riders of Chicago’s public transportation.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Mike Miley via Flickr

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