It’s called Ventra and it’s going to allow Chicago commuters to make tap-and-go contactless card payments throughout the city’s transit system next summer.

Last June, the Pace bus service—which provides transportation to suburban neighborhoods and connections to the Chicago Transit Authority’s service area—joined with the CTA in signing a contract with Cubic Transportation Systems to further set the stage for an open-loop fare-collection system in the city.

The CTA officially revealed the Ventra contactless cards—credit, debit and a reloadable MasterCard-branded prepaid card—that riders will be able to use to pay fares, essentially replacing a current closed-loop contactless system.

“Chicago will become the first major U.S. city to adopt an open-fare system for transit,” CTA president Forrest Claypool stated in a press release on Sept. 28.

The system will initially allow riders to make contactless payments on all CTA trains and buses, as well as Pace buses. But the Ventra website indicates plans are moving forward to eventually include near field communication technology so riders with NFC-enabled phones can pay with a tap of their smartphone.

Ventra cardholders can load the cards to pay for individual rides for a 30-day period, a seven-day period or as one-day passes. Users also have the option to active a prepaid debit account on the card, which they could then use for in-store or online retail purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted, or to get cash from an ATM.

Iowa-based MetaBank, a prepaid card issuer, will serve as the Ventra issuer, the CTA said.

Cardholders can automatically load money to their Ventra transit account directly from their bank accounts or other credit cards when the account falls below a certain amount.

The contactless card readers at CTA stations will also accept contactless open-loop cards from all brands, including Visa payWave, MasterCard PayPass and American Express’ ExpressPay cards.

The CTA plans to issue contactless tickets that operate in the same manner as a magnetic-stripe card to riders to use for single-rider or one-day passes.

During 2013, the CTA will accept all other current contactless transit cards, called the Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus. By 2014, all current transit cards will be replaced with Ventra cards, though Chicago buses will continue to accept cash payments as well, the Ventra website stated.

Riders will pay $5 for their first Ventra card, but that money will be applied to their transit account when the card is registered for use, Ventra said. The card does not affect CTA fares, Ventra added.

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