We’ve recently announced that we will fully transition to Ventra™, our new fare payment system, by Tuesday, July 1.
More than 80% of CTA riders, as of March 2014, have already made the switch to Ventra, which is replacing our outdated fare payment products, including all fare magnetic stripe cards, Chicago Card™ and Chicago Card Plus™.
When do you need to make the switch?
For those who still need to make the switch to Ventra, here are key dates you need to know:
- May 1—You can no longer buy magnetic stripe cards or autoload/reload Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus.
- June 1—You can no longer reload magnetic stripe cards or use Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus.
- July 1—You can no longer use magnetic stripe cards. Pace customers paying with cash will no longer be issued a Transfer Card. All customers will be transitioned to Ventra.
Learn all about how to transition from Chicago Cards, Chicago Card Plus, or Transit Card.
Ventra Performance Scorecards
How can you use Ventra?
Ventra is an open fare payment system that accepts multiple forms of payment.
You can easily obtain a Ventra contactless card that can be loaded with money to pay per ride or with unlimited-ride 1-Day, 3-Day, 7-Day and 30-Day Passes—it's your choice.
Or, you can pay by directly touching your personal, contactless bankcard (look for the contactless payment symbol () on the back of your card). Just touch your card and go for point to point rides; or, have your personal bankcard act as your farecard by loading money onto it at vending machines, allowing you to take advantage of passes or discounted transfers when you travel.
Where to get a Ventra card
- Web: Online at ventrachicago.com
- Retailers: More than 1,000 retail locations, including major drugstore and supermarket chains, currency exchanges and small businesses offer the ability to obtain and reload Ventra cards. Locations near you can be found at ventrachicago.com
- Train Stations: Ventra vending machines are available at all 145 CTA 'L' stations. Cash or cards are accepted at every machine.
- Phone: By calling 1-877-NOW-VENTRA (1-877-669-8368).
We and Ventra has hosted numerous customer service/balance transfer events at CTA headquarters and as events in neighborhoods and select rail stations. For the latest list of events, visit ventrachicago.com.
If you're an RTA Reduced Fare or Ride Free customer who is still using old, magnetic stripe cards to ride, you can get more information about how to transition to Ventra from the RTA at rtachicago.com or by calling 1-312-836-7000.
If you're a CTA Transit Benefits (pre-tax transit) customer or a customer who works for an O’Hare-based employer, you can learn more by contacting your HR department.
For more information on the full transition to Ventra by July 1, 2014, see this news release.
For specific details if you're still using Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus or Transit Card, see our Ventra Transition page.
Ventra is our new payment system that'll allow customers to use a single fare card for regional transit throughout the Chicago area. You can pay for CTA and Pace bus and train rides with the following contactless payment methods:
- Ventra Card, a transit and prepaid debit card that can be used for transit and everyday purchases;
- Ventra Tickets, for single-ride and 1-Day passes; and
- Personal, contactless credit or debit cards issued by your own bank.
Simply touch your payment card to the yellow target on the reader at 'L' stations or to board any CTA or Pace bus.
All of our existing special fares and passes, such as Reduced Fare for children or multi-day passes (7-Day, etc.) will continue to be available and we will still accept cash on buses. You'll also, eventually, be able to use compatible mobile phones to pay for rides on CTA and Pace.
Chicago will be the first major U.S. city to adopt an open payment system for transit and speed up boarding.
Ventra will help improve efficiency in several areas of our system. Since nearly all entries to our system will be “tap and go,” that’s less time people will spend waiting in lines at turnstiles and less time buses need to wait while people board and pay. Magnetic cards have helped with this, but still take more time than a contactless transaction does.
Many customers will be able to use personal, contactless bankcards they already have. There is also a significant increase in places (hundreds of retail locations around town) to purchase or add value to Ventra Cards to purchase fares, which will eliminate long lines of people at vending machines.
The new system eliminates the need for multiple magnetic-stripe cards and the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus currently used for fare payments. With Ventra, you can still purchase passes (1-day, 3-Day, 7-Day, 30-Day) and other reduced and free passes. These fare values can be loaded onto Ventra Cards with cash or cards.
For everyday CTA riders:
Ways to pay with Ventra
- Cash can be used on buses (single ride is $2.25 regular fare)
- Cash can be used to purchase and load value on Ventra Cards at rail stations and retail locations at no additional cost.
- Cash can be used to purchase single ride, paper tickets or 1-day unlimited-ride paper tickets at rail stations only.
- Cash can be used at over 2,000 Ventra retailers around town to buy and load value and passes onto Ventra Cards.
- Disposable paper single ride and 1-Day Unlimited-ride tickets can be purchased at rail stations, only.
- Only the paper single ride ticket will cost $3 ($2.25 + 25¢ (full fare w/transfer) + 50¢ limited use fee = $3), except at O'Hare, where a special fare applies.
- There is no added fee for the 1-Day unlimited-ride paper ticket–its price remains $10 for all-day rides.
- Ventra Cards can be purchased at rail stations, ultimately at more than 2,000 retail locations and they can be ordered online or by phone.
- The cards have a $5 one-time fee which is immediately refunded as transit value upon registration. Customers have 90 days to register; registration takes just a couple of minutes.
- You can load any amount of money onto the Ventra Card for no additional fees, either with cash or with credit/debit cards at CTA rail stations, retail locations.
- You can also reload Ventra Cards via an online Ventra account.
- Using Ventra Cards, you can either pay per ride (at no additional cost) or load unlimited-ride passes in 1-Day, 3-Day, 7-Day and 30-Day increments).
- Learn more about how having the Ventra Card improves over old fare media on our Ventra Benefits page.
Contactless Credit/Debit Cards
- Any contactless credit/debit card can be used to directly pay fares at rail station turnstiles and on buses. Your card is contactless if it has the contactless wave symbol:
- You can link a Ventra Transit Account to your personal card and add transit value or purchase unlimited-ride passes (1-Day, 7-Day, 30-Day, etc.) for use with that card.
- A Ventra Transit Account on a personal card can be reloaded with transit value and passes at rail stations, retail locations, online or by phone.
- Using a personal credit or debit card is free – there are no additional fees.
CTA will continue to maintain full control of our fare policy, but without the responsibility of day-to-day maintenance and collection activities.
Pace will also operate on the new open fare system (while retaining control of its fare structure, as well) and customers of both services will easily be able to transfer between CTA and Pace using the same form of payment.
Ventra Registration is fast and easy
Ventra Cards can be registered online at ventrachicago.com or by phone. On registration, the $5 card fee will be refunded as transit value, which can be used for fares or applied toward the purchase of a pass. Registration provides lost and stolen protection of transit value and creates an account which you can monitor online, by phone or through a Ventra mobile app.
Fares are remaining same with Ventra and you can load both passes and value with cash at machines (or over-the-counter at retail locations) at no extra cost.
You can also link your Ventra Card to a credit card, debit card or checking account and make pass purchases online. Passes and transit value can be loaded at all CTA rail stations and hundreds retail locations, too.
(If you have a registered account and haven't used it in a very long time, you'll also be notified if your account is nearing the 18-month dormancy period to avoid any fees. A single use of the Ventra card within 18-months will prevent a $5 monthly dormancy fee.)
Q: When I ride the train, I use cash to buy a Transit Card. Unless I use a credit card, will I have to pay $3 now every time I ride?
A: No. While the disposable, paper, single-ride Ventra Ticket, which includes a $2.25 train fare, $0.25 for a transfer and a $0.50 limited use ticket fee does cost $3, you can still use cash and keep paying what you do today. Here's how:
All you'll need to do is buy a Ventra Card, just once, which you'll be able to do to 24/7 at every CTA station. The cost for the card gets refunded right back to you as transit value, too, if you register within 90 days. (You'll also be able to do this on the spot, too, by calling a toll-free number or going online, if your phone has Internet access.)
Effectively, getting the card, which you only need to do once, doesn't cost you anything and then you'll add value (and even passes) much like you do today, although you'll also be able to add value and passes at over 2,000 retail shops, too.
Q: Will I need to tie a credit card to a Ventra Card like with Chicago Card Plus requires now?
A: Not at all. You can use cash to buy and put value on a Ventra Card at any Ventra vending machine or from what'll be thousands of retailers around town. Even more, you can put transit value for pay-as-you-go use and unlimited ride passes on the very same card. Once you have the card, you'll be able to do everything you do with cash today—and a lot more.
Q: What if I don't have a Ventra Card when I get to the train station. Will I have to buy a $3, disposable Ventra Ticket if I just need one ride?
A: Also, no. If you have a contactless card from your bank, you can create a "Ventra transit account" on the card you already have and start using that.
Further, if you don't have a contactless card and want a Ventra Card, you won't need to go out of your way to get one. The new, reusable, contactless Ventra Card will be available from the vending machines starting to go into stations right now.
It'll cost an initial $5 to buy the card, but you only have to do it once and you get the money back right away as transit value (value for use on buses and trains)—just by simply registering the card within 90 days. You can start using it, with cash, right away and you don't have to do anything in advance to get started.
Q: So how does Ventra work with passes?
A: Unlike old fare media, where there were something like a dozen different kind of cards for various uses, Ventra will simplify everything. For most riders, your one, reusable Ventra Card (or contactless personal bankcard) can be easily used for both pay-per-use riding and as an unlimited ride pass.
For example, if you use a Ventra Card like you might use the regular (blue) Chicago Card or Transit Card today, you'll find that Ventra gives you a lot more options—for example, you can load any pass (like a 7-Day Pass) right onto the card you'll already have in your pocket. No need to get new cards every time and you'll be able to do this at any machine, thousands of retail locations, online or by phone.
Q: I'm a Chicago Card Plus user. Will I need to do anything different?
A: No. When you've switched to Ventra, your Ventra Card can be set up to work just the same.
But that doesn't mean there aren't any new benefits for you—in fact, your new card will give you a slew of new options.
It's all up to you how, when and where you add value or passes and you have more fare options at your disposal. For example, you can just as easily choose to have fare value or a 30-Day Pass automatically load, or switch off Autoload and load 7-Day or a 3-Day Pass at a machine, instead.
Transit & Retail
The Ventra Card has separate transit and retail accounts on one card. Those who choose not to or don't want to use their bank cards, or those who do not have a bank account, can use these new reloadable cards for transit or for any other retail purchase where debit cards are accepted. Cards can be registered online for account management, and quickly accept fund transfers from a bank account to the account on the card. You can also add value for both accounts with cash.
- You can load value for transit at CTA stations and many retail locations around town, as well as online or over the phone.
- Transit value and special fares can be loaded onto cards, using cash and credit cards, at vending machines and at many retail locations.
- You can activate your optional Prepaid Debit Account online or over the phone.
- You can then add value for regular purchases (retail use) online, over the phone or with cash at many retail locations that sell the Ventra Card. You can also transfer funds online directly from a bank account.
- In addition to making purchases, you can load funds via direct deposit, make online bill payments and more with your Prepaid Debit Account.