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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CTA lowers Ventra card fees

The Chicago Transit Authority apparently listened to criticism of its upcoming MasterCard Worldwide-branded, general-purpose reloadable (GPR), contactless-enabled transit card and eliminated fees on the card. In a study of the changes to the card, banking product comparison site Nerdwallet.com found that the CTA had eliminated withdrawal and live customer service fees.

In April 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported on an April 1 hearing at the state legislator where CTA President Forrest Claypool was grilled about concerns that the Ventra card would charge cardholders excessive fees and that the program would be used as a revenue generator for the CTA rather than a low-cost service for Chicago mass transit users.

According to a May 24, 2013, Nerdwallet.com blog, the CTA eliminated withdrawal fees for Ventra card users who use domestic, in-network, Allpoint-branded ATMs, which number around 1,000 in the Chicago area and over 40,000 nationwide. The CTA also eliminated the $2 live customer service fee.

Additionally, the comparison site reported that the CTA lowered the paper statement and check refund fees by $1 each and waived the $5 purchase fee on the card, but for 2103 only. Nerdwallet said the purchase fee will start to be assessed in 2014 and "will be applied toward future transit service if the owner registers the card."

The blog noted that the elimination and reduction in fees wipes out over $500,000 in fees the CTA would have been able to collect yearly. "Still, the CTA will receive revenue from Ventra-related advertising and from tax savings," the blog post said.

The card is expected to be rolled out in the summer of 2013 and to be used on CTA and Pace trains and buses. The card will be available for purchase and reload at CTA rail stations, participating retail locations, online and by phone.

In April 2013, the CTA eliminated a $10 "research" fee that was to be charged certain cardholders for making customer service calls, as well as a $2.95 fee to reload the card online using a bankcard.

In comparison to the features offered by other GPR cards, however, the Ventra card does not stack up, Nerdwallet found. The Ventra card does not offer mobile check deposit and sub accounts (unlike the American Express Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. co-branded Bluebird product) and it does not offer free paper statements (as does the Chase Liquid card issued by JPMorgan Chase & Co.)

Based on the Ventra card's new fee schedule, Nerdwallet gave the product its qualified approval. However, unbanked transit users in Chicago, who may more often rely on carrying cash than other transit users, might take heed from Nerdwallet's final opinion: "Still – the new Ventra card is not bad at all. If you don't load with cash, it's a solid choice." Nerdwallet was referring to the Ventra card's cash reload fee of up to $4.95, which remains unchanged from the CTA's previous fee schedule. end of article

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