Moving to CTA Ventra card: What you need to know

The rollout for the CTA’s new Ventra card fare-payment system begins in earnest this month. Here’s what you need to know and do to get on board.

  • Beginning Sept. 9, you can get a Ventra card free – $5 fee waived – either online at, by calling (877) NOW VENTRA (877.669.8368) or in person at the Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson St., next to CTA headquarters.
  • Also starting Sept. 9, you can buy a Ventra card from rail station vending machines or at hundreds of Ventra retail locations. If you register the card online or by phone (see above), the $5 fee will be immediately refunded as stored transit value on the card.
  • Spend down the balance on your current fare cards. And the CTA will help customers transfer value to their new Ventra card from a number of fare media at many locations starting Sept. 17. See the end of this release for dates and locations.

Here are some other important dates to plan your own transition to Ventra.

Sept. 9:

  • Ventra is available to all CTA and Pace customers.
  • This is the last date that Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus and magnetic stripe fare cards will be sold online via CTA’s website.

Oct. 7

  • Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus will no longer be able to have value loaded on to them, either online or at CTA rail station vending machines.
  • Rail station vending machines will no longer sell magnetic striped stored value cards or period passes.
  • Pace offers a new 30-day premium pass for customers using Ventra.

During September and October

  • Transition to Ventra cards continues for transit benefits customers.

Nov. 15

  • Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus will no longer be accepted on CTA buses and trains, nor on Pace buses.
  • Customers will no longer be able to add value to stored value magnetic stripe cards. They will need to spend down balances or transfer their existing balances to Ventra cards.
  • CTA and Pace will no longer sell magnetic stripe period passes. Customers need to use up existing passes by Dec. 15.

Dec. 15

  • The CTA and Pace will no longer accept any magnetic stripe fare cards.
  • Ventra replaces all CTA and Pace existing fare media.

As I’ve noted before, there will be glitches. Why? Because human beings created this new system and humans make mistakes. Be patient. Report problems right away to the CTA (1.888.968.7282).


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  • An important note: If you have any magnetic stripe 1/3/7/30-day passes, they will NOT be transferred to Ventra cards and will not be accepted after 12/15/13, regardless of expiration date.

    Use it or lose it.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    That sounds like a lawsuit against the CTA.

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    So when does the 33% fare increase/penalty for non-Ventra users kick in?

  • In reply to Joseph Finn:

    You will always be able to board a CTA bus by paying $2.25 in cash (no transfers) just like today.

    At a train station, if you refuse to get a Ventra card or use your own compatible bank card, you can keep paying $2.25 as long as you have a Transit Card with sufficient balance or can find a Transit Card vending machine, but not later than 12/15/13. You can continue paying $2.25 if you have a Chicago Card with sufficient balance, but not later than 11/15/13.

    At train stations, once you use up your Transit Card or Chicago Card (or the 12/15 and 11/15 deadlines pass) and you can no longer recharge them, you can pay $2.25 with a Ventra Card or compatible personal bank card or buy a disposable ticket for $3, your choice.

  • In reply to Olaf1:

    Except, from the debate on, it isn't clear with which you get transfers and which you don't. Some say the pay as you go with a compatible bank card doesn't get you transfers.

    If it turns out that way, CTA has committed a deceptive practice, unless it fully discloses the consequences of the use of any medium at the point of payment.

  • In reply to jack:

    The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

  • In reply to Petrd1:

    Essentially the debate noted above.

    This is just supposed to be tap your card and get a ride, not one of those commercials on TUFF TV with type that can barely be seen on a 51 inch TV about were are only a call center, not lawyers, with regard to suing about some birth control pill named after Carl Yazstremski.

  • Just a few months ago they made me renew my Chicago Card, so I did. It's supposedly good through 2015! That's what it says when I hold it up to the reader in the stations.

    Even though I know (and they know) they have my mailing address and my e-mail address, I haven't received anything from them about switching to a Ventra card. I did get some fluff PR mailing last week touting what they are doing to various Red Line stations. But nothing about the switch to Ventra.

    So, what should I expect to have happen next--and when will it happen? Will they send me a card? Or an application to apply for an application to be told how I can apply to get one? Or what?

    And, to anticipate what some of you might say, why in the world should it be on me to chase them down if they fail to act? If I have to do that, I will expect to be paid a substantial hourly rate for doing their employees' job.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    CC, you should have gotten an email telling you to go the Chicago Card site and update your contact info. I would go there and do it. At least indicate that the info is correct if it hasn't changed.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    This is beginning to sound like Looking-Glass Land.

    Maybe I "should have" received an e-mail from them, but I didn't. Receiving is something the recipient can't do without the sender sending. So maybe what should have happened is they should have sent it.

    My guess is that they didn't because I renewed my Chicago Card so recently they know very well my info doesn't need updating. In the process of the recent unnecessary Chicago Card renewal they had occasion to contact me by e-mail and then snail-mail the card. This was just a few months ago.

    Ball's in their court. I will send Mr. Claypool a bill for my time if I end up having to re-initiate contact.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    The Mr. Emanuel will step in front of a mumbling Mr. Claypool and say that the city is too broke to pay you. I assume that you don't have a "clout."

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I also renewed my Chicago Card Plus in recent months, but I have received Ventra-related e-mails including the one on confirming one's postal address.

  • Of course I don't have "clout." The point will be to embarrass them for not having their act together, whether it be in the plans or just the communication of the plans.

    Is it really too much to ask that they give a better explanation of what to expect than the following? And I quote...

    "Some customers, including U-Pass holders and Chicago Card Plus and registered Chicago Card holders, have already started receiving their Ventra cards as part of a phased distribution."

    So, if some have started receiving, what about the others? And what is the difference between the some and the others? How is the phasing being phased? Am I supposed to just wait? And if so, how long? If not, why the heck not, and what exactly is it they expect of me then? And if I've done everything I was told, why is that not good enough? How am I supposed to know what to do when they won't tell me? And why do I even have to ask these questions?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Animal Farm, Emanuel style, although I suppose it doesn't feature "the other white meat."

  • In reply to jack:

    I must be a goat, then, because I can read. Not that it helps, when those running things can't or won't write.

  • I purchase a Metra monthly pass and the CTA link-up card. How will the link-up pass work when Ventra is up and running?


    Just saw this on NBC News because there is soooooooooooo much confusion. But from now on, I'll remember to remove my credit card because I usually just "touch" my small wallet on the touchpad.

    This problem with the RFID chip needs to be explained to the CTA Customer Reps who are standing around helping people learn how to use that new machine.

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