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Some bank customers complain of being charged CTA fares

A Ventrtransit card reader.

A Ventra transit card reader.

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Updated: December 17, 2013 6:11AM



Chicago’s largest bank — JPMorgan Chase — Friday warned customers to take their Ventra cards out of their wallets before tapping them on payment readers after receiving somewhere between 100 and 1,000 complaints that Chase cards were accidentally charged CTA fares.

Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas cautioned that a Ventra fare reader will charge the “contactless” card closest to it, so tapping a wallet against a Ventra reader might not produce the intended result for those with more than one “contactless” card.

“People need to know that with this technology, this is one of the issues,’’ Holevas said. “It’s like any new technology. You have to learn the benefits and you have to learn the issues.’’

The CTA’s new payment system allows payment by any card — issued by Ventra or a bank — that features a “contactless” radio frequency identification chip, or RFID chip. The “contactless” feature was one element required by legislation mandating that the CTA, Pace and Metra develop a “regional fare payment system” by Jan. 1, 2015.

Previously, CTA riders were able to safely tap entire wallets containing Chicago Cards or Chicago Card Plus cards on old readers because the chips in those cards were proprietary, a CTA spokeswoman said. However, those chips are considered “old technology” and are no longer being manufactured, CTA officials have said.

Many Chase debit cards and some Chase credit cards have the new RFID chips, Holevas said. The bank has received more than 100 but less than 1,000 complaints of Chase cards being charged Ventra fares, she said. Customers who notice the problem should call the Chase telephone banking number at 800-935-9935 to seek reversal of the charges, she said. At this time, Holevas said, Chase is absorbing the loss.

“Our branch staffs are aware of the RFID issue and our advice to customers is to keep their Ventra cards and other RFID cards separate to avoid unwanted charges,” Holevas said.

Since the advent of the new “contactless” Ventra cards, some CTA bus drivers have complained that they have accidentally triggered charges to their own contactless cards merely by rubbing up against Ventra readers while exiting or entering buses during work. Some say they have even observed Ventra bus readers register a “Go,” and thus a fare charge, as customers — particularly women with purses — brush by readers on their way out the door.

CTA officials say the contactless cards must be within 1 3/4 inches of a Ventra reader, and at just the right angle, to trigger a charged fare.

The Chase warning comes after Ventra readers malfunctioned at 60 rail stations during Wednesday’s evening rush hour, allowing an estimated 15,000 El riders to pour through turnstiles for free. The CTA blamed the glitch on a “back-office service failure” and said the agency’s $454 million Ventra contractor, Cubic Transportation Systems, fixed it within 90 minutes with a “software patch.’’

Complaints of long customer service hold times, cards that never appeared in the mail, double billing and other problems prompted CTA President Forrest Claypool last week to restore old fare payment options until Cubic meets three performance benchmarks. Even so, eight aldermen are seeking a City Countil Transportation Committee hearing on Ventra.

Email rrossi@suntimes.com

Twitter @rosalind rossi



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