How to make your CTA smart card last at least four years

I asked for your tips on how you keep your Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus working for the full four years before it expires. And you responded big time with great ideas.

The common thread is keeping the card in some kind of protective case. Also, check out this post from a year ago: Wringing extra life from a dying Chicago Card/Plus.

Phyllis: My Chicago Card Plus was in perfect shape and would have lasted well past its expiration last year. I keep it in a leather card case and rarely take it out — the readers can scan it through several layers of material. In fact, most of the time I keep the case in an outer pocket of my purse and just hold the purse up to the reader.

Rhoticity: Mine is going on four years old and is still almost at 100%, though sometimes it needs a little coercing when it’s cold and the bus reader is quirky.

CCWriter: Mine expires in September. It’s still in pretty good shape. I keep it in a cardholder with a clear plastic front and a cord that’s physically attached to my bag, so it’s not as easy to lose as if it were kicking around loose. It usually reads OK, and when it doesn’t, it may be more related to the temperature or the sensitivities of their equipment. (See more tips in the continuation.)
(CCWriter continued:) For instance, there was a day when the machine could read it just fine
to take my money and add it to the card balance, but then when I took it
to the turnstile I had trouble getting it recognized. I was told the
other day by some guy repairing a subway turnstile that I shouldn’t keep
it in the holder. I replied that it’s more important to me to reduce
the risk of losing it…. Idea: could they punch a hole in the card (or
let us do it) for attachment of a chain or string?

does not keep it in a special holder: I’m on my second — when my
first was due to expire, I received the email from the CTA. It was
about four years old, and I didn’t do anything special. Kept it in my
jacket pocket if I was wearing one or my shirt or front pants/jeans
pocket otherwise. This one isn’t that old, but thanks to Martha’s
, I’ll check its expiration when I get to work tomorrow.
Thanks for taking the bullet for us, Martha.

Add mine to the list of cards that is still going strong. My expiration
is this August, but I’ve never had a problem with it…and believe me
when I say I’ve abused it through the years. It has never been kept in a
wallet or protective sleeve, it is generally in my pocket with about 10
other cards (loose, mind you) and has even been through the washer once
(luckily, it didn’t make it to the drier). My last card (one of the
first ChicagoCards, if I’m remembering correctly) didn’t last too long. I
kept it in a wallet and treated it well and it still stopped working
within a year or two. So I take this as irrefutable proof that
ChicagoCards like to be abused. 🙂

Alyx (via email): My Chicago
Card is at least 4 years old! I got it in early 2006 and it’s still
working fine. I keep it in a key chain/card holder so I rarely touch it
– I just touch the card holder to the reader and through the turnstiles
I go.

Cheryl: I think this is my 9th CCP. I get it through the
transit benefit at work and I know we were guinea pigs for the CTA, so
the first few
cracking weren’t a terrible surprise. Also, the Post Office lost a
replacement card on me once. I have held on to the current one the
longest because I use a holder that’s designed to keep my work ID from
getting messed up due to static. It seems to have worked.

(via email):
Two things…

My card has survived for almost four years so far 🙂 As to how I do it,
I just keep it in my wallet in its own slot and not near any other RFID
cards (my iGo card is on the other side of the wallet). When boarding,
I usually just open up my wallet and hold it to the reader (the card is
in the front pocket), so I rarely have to take it out. Although it
should be noted that I use my card 5-6 times a week, not daily, since
Metra doesn’t take the Chicago card 😛

Second thing, is something that you may wish to point out to your
readers. If you have a existing Chicago Card Plus and you add your card
to a transit benefit program, it will reset the expiration date of your
existing card as if it was a brand new card. My almost four year old
card, which I added to my company’s transit benefit program last year is
showing an expiration date of February 2013! I called up the CTA
customer service line about it, and was told that because the computer
system says the expiration date is 2013 they can only replace it via the
phone if I play the new card fee. They said however, if I go in person
to the CTA headquarters and explain it, that I can get a replacement
card without a fee. We shall see if this holds true (I’ll update you
after I go there on Friday), but still a heads up you might want to give
your readers, that the expiration date in the system gets bumped up if
you add your CCP to transit benefits.

Leave a comment