Chicago Ventra Card

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Is anyone else following the upcoming introduction of Chicago's new transit card, the Ventra Card? It doubles as a prepaid debit card with ATM withdrawal. What makes the card very interesting is the proposed fee structure...unlimited no-fee credit card funding and $1.50 ATM withdrawals.

http://www.transitchicago.com/ventra/
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-0326-ventra-debi...

Am I missing something?

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You might want to wait until some of these things are ironed out and more people get activated. I still haven't gotten ... (more)

dpid (Oct. 08, 2013 @ 1:43p) |

So after like 2+ months of being locked out of my Prepaid account after initial activation, I did a bit of social engine... (more)

BenH (Nov. 20, 2013 @ 10:28a) |

Props to you. I have little patience for these things and gave up since my AMEX card also functions on the system. I d... (more)

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The card is hard to understand and CTA hasn't been too upfront with the fee structure yet, especially with the prepaid card portion.

here's the tribune article from a week ago

Tribune said: ... a Tribune analysis of the more than 1,000-page CTA contract reveals.

But for prospective Ventra customers who are thinking about accepting the offer of a MasterCard prepaid debit account to make retail purchases on the same Ventra card they use for transit fares, it will be vital to closely read the legal jargon in registration documents to avoid costly surprises, consumer experts warn. The Ventra debit card fees have not been previously disclosed by the CTA and Pace.

Probably maximum ATM withdrawal rate of $600. Still worth it at a .75% hit assuming $3 surcharge by the ATM.

The CTA site says "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."

The Tribune graphic says "Reload Ventra prepaid debit card online with a personal credit card: Originally $2.95, now free"

You can also withdraw at a bank branch for $2, which would presumably have a >$600 or unlimited withdrawal limit.

Also I wonder how they will keep track of Ventra card expenditures for transit vs. for other goods or cash withdrawals. This is important since many people fund transit cards with pretax paycheck deductions.

Time to look for a flight to Chicago..


Source: Chicago Tribune
Disclaimer
mybuds said:   The CTA site says "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."

The Tribune graphic says "Reload Ventra prepaid debit card online with a personal credit card: Originally $2.95, now free"

You can also withdraw at a bank branch for $2, which would presumably have a >$600 or unlimited withdrawal limit.


I didn't see that fee on ventrachicago website nor tribune. Where did you see it?

Here's Tribune Graphic. Of course, Ventrachicago has really no info/details except its marketing pitch.

dpid said:   mybuds said:   The CTA site says "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."

The Tribune graphic says "Reload Ventra prepaid debit card online with a personal credit card: Originally $2.95, now free"

You can also withdraw at a bank branch for $2, which would presumably have a >$600 or unlimited withdrawal limit.


I didn't see that fee on ventrachicago website nor tribune. Where did you see it?

Here's Tribune Graphic. Of course, Ventrachicago has really no info/details except its marketing pitch.


A link to the graphic with the $0 funding fee is in my OP. I think it is a recent change in response to criticism over fees. I heard about it this morning on local NPR.

mybuds said:   A link to the graphic with the $0 funding fee is in my OP. I think it is a recent change in response to criticism over fees. I heard about it this morning on local NPR.

My bad, should've looked your graphic first!

Yeah I've been reading all about this... it's a very interesting development on many fronts.

From a FWF perspective - I assume you are looking at the ability to churn CC for miles/points/spending bonuses?

There may be (yet) unadvertised limits to maximums in terms of how much you can put on the card (daily/monthly) and also a limit on how much you can take out of a bank withdrawal.

Let's go with some possibly realistic numbers - which would be say $500 maximum fund/day at a machine - maybe $5000/month. Since all it costs you is a walk to the nearest L stop, it should be a cost effective (free) way to load $5000 up over a month.

Bank withdraws at $2 may be limited to maybe $400/day? If that is the case you would have to spend about $25 to turn over $5000 in CC churn - which at 1 point/dollar per $100 spend isn't too bad. Basically works out to a $25 spend for $50 in CB/5000 points.

Too many variables at this point though to really know. Not only the limits and fees, but which banks will participate?

Also, will CC transaction count as a cash-advance on your card? Or maybe even, possibly, would funding Ventra count as a transportation charge for points multipliers on certain cards???

From a socio-political perspective - I don't really like what they are doing here:

While I think the idea of this technology is great, anything dealing with privatization of big services like this is just going to be bad news. I'm sure anything I might earn from a churn on this I will be paying back in more taxes when this thing bites them in the ass like our parking meter situation. Or, how much more money was spent on red-tape due to the red-light contract investigations?

Also - I honestly think that both the City and Ventra feel they are going to make a crap-ton of money on fees from this card. Not from FWF people like you and me, but from the tens of thousands of lower-income people that rely on the CTA. I believe their advertising is going to be cloudy and many people are going to opt in on this card not understanding the fees. When they realize what is going on and try to dispute it - Bam! another $10/hour to investigate your account!

Just from signing up for the card is $5 unless you register it (and get that $5 towards fares). How many of these people who get it probably don't know how to register a card online - or can't easily because they don't have a computer and/or internet access at home? This is a digital-divide issue and I bet they are also counting on that generating quite a bit of money.

I don't understand most of the uproar however. Apart from the privatization aspect - which has te potential to go extremely awry. Most people are complaining about the fees on the prepaid card. But, you don't need to opt in for that! You can get just a Ventra card for travel and the only fee you need to worry about is the dormancy fee - which you won't be hit with if you use your card like once a year (which pretty much everyone who would get a card will do). I would understand the outrage from activist groups for the socio-economic concerns I listed above, but the outrage from your average joe seems misplaced. What's worse is most of these articles aren't simply stating the obvious - don't get the prepaid card if you don't want it!

We'll see how they handle it in the end, but my gut tells me that it is all going to be pretty underhanded and hurt those who aren't as savvy as people like us.

Apparently that graphic shows they dropped the $10 account research fee. I found the whole article here:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-ventra-debit-dea...

It also talks about how Nerdwallet rated the card poorly and states that it will generate about $188/year in average fees.
Of course, for people that use it smartly that rate my be next to nothing, or only what is paid for strategic ATM/Bank withdrawals.

Those without a lot of money however are often those who don't manage it well - further reinforcing my suspicion that the city is banking on the poorer segments of the community to further drain their wallets.

So, even if this does work out well from a privatization/operational stand point, we will be spending more taxes on welfare and Link cards because these people have less money because they are giving it all to Ventra.

BenH said:   

There may be (yet) unadvertised limits to maximums in terms of how much you can put on the card (daily/monthly) and also a limit on how much you can take out of a bank withdrawal.


Right, although the CTA site says "You can load any amount of money onto the Ventra Card," there may in fact be overall/CC funding and withdrawal limits once more details are revealed.

You raise good issues with your socio-political comments. In my view, if the Ventra Card's fees are fair, it is step in the right direction for Chicago's unbanked.

BenH said:   I don't understand most of the uproar however. Apart from the privatization aspect - which has te potential to go extremely awry. Most people are complaining about the fees on the prepaid card. But, you don't need to opt in for that! You can get just a Ventra card for travel and the only fee you need to worry about is the dormancy fee - which you won't be hit with if you use your card like once a year (which pretty much everyone who would get a card will do). I would understand the outrage from activist groups for the socio-economic concerns I listed above, but the outrage from your average joe seems misplaced. What's worse is most of these articles aren't simply stating the obvious - don't get the prepaid card if you don't want it!

We'll see how they handle it in the end, but my gut tells me that it is all going to be pretty underhanded and hurt those who aren't as savvy as people like us.


What I'm interested in this whole change-over is the ability to use my current (bank) card (that is RFID enabled, but not sure if all banks will participate) to use as fare. Saves me in getting another card and slimming my wallet. Besides the social economic points you bought up (and only applies to the prepaid card), this whole changeover seems lacking in a unified transportation option (it includes CTA and pace... what about Metra?).

Honestly, I don't see the big deal of this card over Chicago Card for using it as transit card.
Great for Chicago in getting cash infusion, great for private company running operations, bad for underserved riders, so-so for regular riders.

dpid said:   What I'm interested in this whole change-over is the ability to use my current (bank) card (that is RFID enabled, but not sure if all banks will participate) to use as fare. Saves me in getting another card and slimming my wallet. Besides the social economic points you bought up (and only applies to the prepaid card), this whole changeover seems lacking in a unified transportation option (it includes CTA and pace... what about Metra?).

Honestly, I don't see the big deal of this card over Chicago Card for using it as transit card.
Great for Chicago in getting cash infusion, great for private company running operations, bad for underserved riders, so-so for regular riders.


I don't have a current RFID bank card (need to see if my bank even offers them). Should the churn on the pre-paid card not be worth the rewards, I definitely agree getting rid of my CTA card and having it on my bank is a nice way to eliminate one from my wallet.

I also agree from a pure transit perspective it really is not an improvement over the Chicago Card. It is almost equal except for the fact that there is a dormancy fee. Perhaps the online and kiosk management will be better - but I have been find with my Chicago Card.

Apparently Metra declined the opportunity to participate. One can only guess they didn't see it as a money making venture - or perhaps they have plans of their own that they believe will make them more.

Personally, I have ridden the Metra once I think in my 10+ years in Chicago - so that doesn't affect me too much - however it would be nice to have the integrated option.

OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.

mybuds said:   Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.


Yeah - at this point the only thing you apparently can't do is buy it outside of Chicago. You have to purchase it either at a CTA location or in a retail location (and likely no one outside of Chicago will carry them).

Unless I am missing something, they haven't yet advertised online purchase.

I do wonder however - it appears the machines at the rail station will actually dispense the actual cards. I wonder if it will be like greendot or something similar where you simply pay $5 for a generic card and then register it online.

I'll start taking orders for people who want me to ship them out

I do think however that you will have issues using it for bank withdraws outside of Chicago...but not sure. I know at Chase bank you can pay your City of Chicago taxes - so they obviously have a relationship with the city. I don't know what would happen if you walked into a Chase branch in NY and asked to pay your Chicago taxes.

mybuds said:   Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.


Do you know if the requirement to get this card is a Chicago (or Illinois) address?

dpid said:   mybuds said:   Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.


Do you know if the requirement to get this card is a Chicago (or Illinois) address?


I would doubt it...we have so many commuters from IN and MN that I can't see them restricting it.

Bank branch withdrawals are the only complication I foresee.

BenH said:   dpid said:   mybuds said:   Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.


Do you know if the requirement to get this card is a Chicago (or Illinois) address?


I would doubt it...we have so many commuters from IN and MN that I can't see them restricting it.

Bank branch withdrawals are the only complication I foresee.


Right. The current Chicago Card Plus does not require a Chicago area address. My guess is the Ventra Card will not either. Also, Chicago Card Plus is available online, so my guess is the Ventra Card eventually will be too.

mybuds said:   Right. The current Chicago Card Plus does not require a Chicago area address. My guess is the Ventra Card will not either. Also, Chicago Card Plus is available online, so my guess is the Ventra Card eventually will be too.

Also, plan to get hit with:
- $5 registration charge which will be credited in the form of rider-fare (worthless if you are not here to use it)
- $5 monthly dormancy fee after 18 months of not riding the L.

I don't see much way around the first - but you could probably cancel your card every 18 months and enroll in a new one within 30-90 days to get around the second.

Windy city here I come!
I go at least once a year so the 18 month fee is not a concern

BenH said:   mybuds said:   Venturion said:   OP, can you put something about Chicago in the subject line?

I updated the subject, although the primary reason FWF would be interested in this card has little to do with Chicago. You can fund online and withdraw at any ATM.


Yeah - at this point the only thing you apparently can't do is buy it outside of Chicago. You have to purchase it either at a CTA location or in a retail location (and likely no one outside of Chicago will carry them).

Unless I am missing something, they haven't yet advertised online purchase.

I do wonder however - it appears the machines at the rail station will actually dispense the actual cards. I wonder if it will be like greendot or something similar where you simply pay $5 for a generic card and then register it online.

I'll start taking orders for people who want me to ship them out

I do think however that you will have issues using it for bank withdraws outside of Chicago...but not sure. I know at Chase bank you can pay your City of Chicago taxes - so they obviously have a relationship with the city. I don't know what would happen if you walked into a Chase branch in NY and asked to pay your Chicago taxes.


I see an opportunity for an enterprising FWF member to be a broker of the card to people outside metro Chicago.

This kind of beans could save a lot of gas.

BenH said:   I'll start taking orders for people who want me to ship them out
I was wondering how long it would take for that cottage industry to spring up.

Put me on your waiting list, please.

dbond79 said:   BenH said:   I'll start taking orders for people who want me to ship them out
I was wondering how long it would take for that cottage industry to spring up.

Put me on your waiting list, please.


"Ventra Cards can be purchased at rail stations, more than 2,000 retail locations and they can be ordered online or by phone."

Even better. Sorry, BenH.

I wonder if this would get 5% back on Citi Forward as a 'commuter expense'

If they can be ordered online I wonder if they come pre registered, and also how often I could cancel and re order

This is great. Now I can recoup a little of the ridiculous taxes/fees/fines I pay to live in this city.

First note that this card hasn't been officially issued yet and that all we know are little bits that have been reported in press releases and on the Ventra web site.

But there is one feature that no one has mentioned: Apparently there will be an online bill pay capability. We can only hope it is like the Blue Bird card. "In addition to making purchases, you can load funds via direct deposit, make online bill payments and more with your Prepaid Debit Account." Of course, no details have been released on how this online bill pay might work (or any possible fees).

BenH said:   
Just from signing up for the card is $5 unless you register it (and get that $5 towards fares). How many of these people who get it probably don't know how to register a card online - or can't easily because they don't have a computer and/or internet access at home? This is a digital-divide issue and I bet they are also counting on that generating quite a bit of money.

That won't be a problem. Check out this page: Common misconceptions about Ventra

It take just a few minutes to call the 800 number, go online or visit the CTA sales center at 567 W. Lake St. Registration involves providing basic info: name, address, phone number, DOB and card number; e-mail address is optional. If a person walks into a retail location to get a Ventra Card, they can call the 800 number or use their smartphone to quickly register the card, then walk outside and board a bus/trainthe value is immediately added.

Now, some self-appointed advocates for the poor are complaining that the very-poor don't own telephones with which to register. But you can call free from any payphone. Yes, working payphones are getting hard to find. But I think that if you are a member of this very-poor group who doesn't have a phone of your own, you know where to find one, even if it isn't easy.

NM

The last thing I would want to do right now, is have any money tied up in the city of chicago.

lastgaspjr said:   Now, some self-appointed advocates for the poor are complaining that the very-poor don't own telephones with which to register. But you can call free from any payphone. Yes, working payphones are getting hard to find. But I think that if you are a member of this very-poor group who doesn't have a phone of your own, you know where to find one, even if it isn't easy.

I'm not really a bleeding-heart on this - but they are clearly targeting the lower-class, under-educated segment. They have claimed already their target are those without banking accounts already - which would be mainly the demographic I mentioned.

These population segments are less likely to research and/or comprehend the fees, or perform the additional follow up actions required. As it is likely the default option will be to opt-in to the card, or else highly aggressive advertising to opt-in - the city is depending on the fees generated from these who can least afford them.

Those who will be paying the largest fees are those who can't afford them, which means more state and federal aid going towards these people as they will have less money.

This means all tax payers will be picking up the bill on these fees in some way, shape, or form.

elektronic said:   The last thing I would want to do right now, is have any money tied up in the city of chicago.

I feel where you're coming from - but we can't have it both ways. You're money isn't actually being tied up by the city - that's the whole point, it is privatized.
And, I suspect if they are indeed going to be offering check-writing capabilities they are going to have some push back if it doesn't become FDIC insured (as BB has become).

New information just arrived.
The debit card will allow an ACH transfer to a personal bank account for a $2.00 fee.
It will allow a teller-assisted cash withdrawal (at banks that issue Mastercard cash advances) for $2.

BenH said:   

I'm not really a bleeding-heart on this - but they are clearly targeting the lower-class, under-educated segment. They have claimed already their target are those without banking accounts already - which would be mainly the demographic I mentioned.

These population segments are less likely to research and/or comprehend the fees, or perform the additional follow up actions required. As it is likely the default option will be to opt-in to the card, or else highly aggressive advertising to opt-in - the city is depending on the fees generated from these who can least afford them.

Those who will be paying the largest fees are those who can't afford them, which means more state and federal aid going towards these people as they will have less money.

This means all tax payers will be picking up the bill on these fees in some way, shape, or form.
The CTA and First Data have been very clear that the debit card will be strictly on an opt-in basis.

Yes, poor people get ripped off when they use prepaid debit cards. Unless they use the Blue Bird card or shop around wisely, which we know they are not apt to do. But will this aggressive advertising to get them to opt-in be any worse than, say, the Kim Kardashian card or the Green Dot cards?

lastgaspjr said:   Yes, poor people get ripped off when they use prepaid debit cards. Unless they use the Blue Bird card or shop around wisely, which we know they are not apt to do. But will this aggressive advertising to get them to opt-in be any worse than, say, the Kim Kardashian card or the Green Dot cards?

You're right - the difference here is that this is being endorsed and pushed by the city. I don't expect the Kardashians to have the moral wherewithal to restrain from this.
I would *hope* that a governmental agency wouldn't behave in this way.

Again - this is Chicago - so I shouldn't expect much

lastgaspjr said:   New information just arrived.
The debit card will allow an ACH transfer to a personal bank account for a $2.00 fee.
It will allow a teller-assisted cash withdrawal (at banks that issue Mastercard cash advances) for $2.


Hmmm, no mention of credit card funding.

Skipping 56 Messages...
BenH said:   So after like 2+ months of being locked out of my Prepaid account after initial activation, I did a bit of social engineering and got in touch with some high level executives over at First Data/Money Network (guys who run the Prepaid side of things). Once I actually made contact with them and explained that their customer service couldn't solve my issues in over 2 months they were extremely professional and accountable and got me fixed up within a week (they needed to meet with some internal IT folks to see what was up with my account).

So, the good news is that my Ventra card and Prepaid side are totally operational.

The bad news is that I don't see anyway to really take advantage of the PrePaid part of the card. I though that I might be able to use VRs, because the newest VRs have the MoneyNetwork logo on them (and this is a MoneyNetwork card). However, the VR loads won't work. The Ventra prepaid site does state that they take GD (doesn't mention VRs) - so likely these don't work on the standard MN network, but have some restrictions as a "partner."

As I know of no places to purchase GD with credit in Chicago, it makes it pretty difficult to do any sort of MS with the card.

Apart from that - I hardly even use CTA anymore, so haven't even gotten a chance to try out the card for transit.


Props to you. I have little patience for these things and gave up since my AMEX card also functions on the system. I don't get transfers though, but then again, I don't use CTA for transfers.




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