As the MTA forges ahead with plans to bring next-generation fare payment technology to the subways, Visa announced yesterday that its users can pay for their transit fares with both the payWave contactless technology and a new mobile application. While Visa’s payWave joins MasterCard’s PayPass trial, the ability to pay for transit fares with a mobile phone application at stations along the East Side IRT and on select bus routes forges new ground for the MTA.
“Transit agencies the world over have one primary goal – to get their customers to where they need to go quickly and efficiently. What transit agencies and riders recognize is that using Visa on buses, subways and trains is the logical evolution in terms of improved speed, security and convenience,” Jim McCarthy, a Visa executive, said in a statement. “For commuters, paying with Visa means no more fumbling for change or worrying about lost transit cards. For transit authorities, accepting Visa means better customer service, integrated collections and the potential for increased ridership.”
Visa explains that the New York pilot uses a small electronic chip embedded in either a mobile phone or payment card that communicates with the contactless readers at the fare gates. Simply by holding payWave-enabled cards or phones near the designated reader will deduct a fare from the chip, and open the gate. Visa has also issued a payWave-enabled commuter benefits card called the TransitChek QuickPay Card. This card allows those participating in the trial to pay their fares using the so-called “tax-advantaged flexible spending accounts.”
According to BankTech, iPhone users who opt in to the Visa payWave trial can’t use only their phones to pay. Because iPhone technology doesn’t include a memory card slot, iPhone users will have to keep a MicroSD chip in their cases. Other smartphone users should be able to install the proper chip into the memory card slot.
For the MTA, bringing Visa on board for the last few months of this six-month trial represents the next step in the hunt for the future. By allowing smartphone payments, the MTA is trying to skip what is, in essence, already preexisting fare payment technology. Various transit agencies throughout the world have used RFID-enabled contactless cards for years, and one of the MTA’s goal in searching for the MetroCard replacement involves finding something not already obsolete. I’ll have more on that aspect of this fare payment trial tomorrow.