How-to: Paying with Contactless Bankcards



Ventra is built on open payment standards, which means you can use third-party bankcards and devices to pay your fare. If you have a contactless card from your bank, you can use it directly with Ventra instead of needing to get a card or ticket from us.


Just look for the contactless (wave) symbol on your bankcards: Contactless_Symbol_Ventra_Blue

There are two primary ways to use your contactless bankcard to pay for rides on the CTA and Pace:

  • Pay-as-you-go (PAYG): Just take out your bankcard and tap it on the center of the card reader. These are automatically processed as “credit”-type transactions, just like if you swipe or tap your card on  a retail payment terminal.
    Note that your credit or debit card will be authorized for up to $5.00 when you first touch it to a card reader, even though the actual fare is less. This is a pre-authorization process, and you will only be charged the actual fare once it hits your account. The amount of time it takes for the final charge to appear on your account may vary depending on your bank.
  • Add passes and transit value: Take advantage of CTA and Pace multi-day passes, as well as transfer discounts, by adding passes and transit value to a transit account linked to your bankcard at Ventra Vending Machines at CTA rail stations and participating Ventra Retail Locations.

    You'll need to have used your card at least once at a turnstile or on a bus (which automatically creates an empty transit account for you), and then you can load value or passes at Ventra vending machines or at Ventra retailers just like you would with a Ventra Card.

    Coming soon, you’ll also be able to register a Ventra Transit Account to your bankcard to add passes and transit value online or by phone, protect your balance if the card is lost or stolen and manage your account online. When this feature becomes available, you’ll even be able to set up autoload for your transit value balance or passes.

Authorizations and transactions with contactless bankcards

Ventra, like many merchants who process payments through bank credit networks, will speed up transactions by pre-authorizing up to a certain amount and then finish its processing and reconcile the precise amount later—this is common with restaurants, vending machines, gas station pumps, etc. When you touch a bankcard to the reader, Ventra does a temporary, pre-authorization hold of $5, to more quickly verify you have sufficient funds to cover your fare.

Once your fare is calculated (the system considers things like free, out-of-system transfers and special fares, like the O’Hare fare) and posted to your account, which usually happens by the end of the business day, the amount actually charged to your account will be the actual fare charged. If two PAYG fares are charged in a short period, you may even see them grouped into one charge.

If paying with transit value or a pass, the hold will simply disappear from your account once your fares are calculated and covered by your transit account.

Tips for using your contactless bankcard

Take your card out when you use it: Since Ventra can also accept multiple contactless payment methods for payment, take your bankcard out of your wallet to avoid “card clash” and to be sure the card you intend to use is the one that’s seen and charged by the reader.

Touch your card directly to the reader: Touch your bankcard flat against the yellow target on buses and at train stations for a reliable read, every time. You can remove your card once you hear the first beep.

Pay for others traveling with you: You can pay for up to six other people traveling with you with your contactless bankcard—they can join you at any point along the way and Ventra will figure out their fares, automatically. Note that additional riders are always covered as individual fares and cannot be covered by a pass—whether you’ve loaded passes or value at a machine, make sure you’ve got enough transit value to cover them. Otherwise, additional riders are covered by a PAYG fare, per ride.