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CTA says it's "waiving" $5 Ventra purchase fee -- but there's a hook

CTA officials Friday announced a “waiver” of a $5 one-time Ventra card purchase fee through the end of the year, but conceded customers would have to fork over at least $1 to $5 — and a bunch of personal information — to get it.

A CTA news release announced that: “The CTA and Pace are waiving the $5 one-time card purchase fee through the end of the year either online at ventrachicago.com, by calling (877) NOW VENTRA (1.877.669.8368) or in person at the Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson St., Chicago, next to CTA headquarters. ”

What the news release didn’t say, but CTA officials conceded by email, is that to get their $5 purchase fee “waived,’’ callers or online visitors will be required to provide $5 by credit or debit card, which will be converted into stored transit credit.

Visitors to the Jefferson address can get by with as little as a $1 cash upfront payment in stored Ventra credit to win a $5 purchase fee “waiver.’’

All three groups of would-be Ventra users also must provide their names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and email addresses, CTA officials said by email.

The so-called “waiver” is the latest wrinkle in the rollout of Ventra, a new payment system for CTA and Pace riders that will be available systemwide Sep. 9. Select customers started trying out Ventra this month.

The system is keyed to a special radio-frequency chip located in plastic Ventra cards and some credit and debit cards. The chip allows card-holders to merely tap their cards on fare readers to register payment.

Also Friday, the CTA revealed that transfers of balances from magnetic striped cards, reduced fare cards and Chicago Cards will only be accepted if they total a minimum $5. Only a maximum five cards can be combined at one time into a balance transfer.

Passes for specific time periods, reduced fare passes, passes sold in bulk and expired fare cards are not eligible for balance transfers.A long list of locations and dates were announced for CTA riders interested in transferring their old balances.

The CTA news release, with balance transfer locations and dates, is below.

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For immediate release August 30, 2013

CTA & Pace Announce Steps to Ease Customers’ Transition to Ventra™

Agencies to provide opportunities for customers to transfer balances to Ventra cards; offer more details on fall transition dates to allow customers to plan ahead

As part of the ongoing rollout of the new Ventra fare payment system for both Chicago Transit Authority and Pace customers, the agencies today announced more information that will allow customers to easily prepare for the transition to Ventra.

Select customers began using Ventra in early August in a gradual rollout of the new Ventra fare payment system. On September 9, Ventra will be available to all CTA and Pace customers, beginning a transition to replace a nearly 20-year-old fare-payment system and offering transit customers the convenience and flexibility of using one card for all transit needs with faster boarding, easy account management and balance protection.

To make the transition simpler and to give customers plenty of time to plan for the conversion to Ventra, the following was announced today:

Multiple ways to get a new Ventra Card

All customers will be able to obtain Ventra cards as of September 9. The CTA and Pace are waiving the $5 one-time card purchase fee through the end of the year either online at ventrachicago.com, by calling (877) NOW VENTRA (1.877.669.8368) or in person at the Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson St., Chicago, next to CTA headquarters. Customers who obtain a new Ventra card from Ventra vending machines at CTA rail stations or at hundreds of Ventra retail locations can easily have the one-time $5 fee immediately refunded as stored transit value on their card by taking a few minutes to register it online or by phone.

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. Chicago Public School students received their student Ventra cards on the first day of school, which was Monday, August 26. 2

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) will issue new Reduced Fare and Ride Free permits starting in mid-September. Chicago Card Plus and Chicago Card customers participating in the Transit Benefits program will begin to transition to Ventra starting in mid-September through the fall.

Balance transfers to Ventra

The CTA and Pace encourage customers to spend down their balances on current fare cards, which will be phased out this fall.

As a convenience to customers who want to transfer their balances from current CTA and Pace fare media, the agencies today announced 27 dates (see below) starting in mid-September through December 15, 2013 at multiple locations throughout the region to allow customers to have balances transferred from legacy fare media to Ventra cards, free of charge. Eligible fare media include stored value magnetic stripe full fare and reduced fare cards, and Chicago Cards. Period passes, reduced fare passes, and passes sold in bulk or any expired fare media cannot be transferred.

Balance transfers will be automatically loaded onto registered Ventra cards, which will be provided to customers at no cost. Customers must also complete a Ventra transit account registration form, which will be available on site or can be obtained from the Ventra Customer Service Center or downloaded from ventrachicago.com, starting September 9.

Customers may bring a maximum of five eligible fare media cards at a time with a combined minimum of five dollars in transit value on the cards to transfer to a registered Ventra card.

Customers who do not need to do a balance transfer and would like to obtain a Ventra Card with the $5 purchase fee waived can order a Ventra Card online at www.ventrachicago.com or at the Ventra Customer Service Center or by calling (877) NOW VENTRA prior to December 15.

No period passes (1-,3-,7-, or 30-day) will be transferred. These passes should be used prior to December 15, 2013. Balances on expired fare cards will not be transferred

From January through March 2014, customers who still wish to transfer their balances to their registered Ventra card will be able to do so by mailing in their old fare cards to the Ventra Customer Service Center. There are no limitations on the number of cards or value amount for the mail-in option.

Milestone dates for current CTA and Pace fare media products

The CTA and Pace provided the following key transition dates to help customers plan for their transition to Ventra:

September 9

 Ventra is available to all CTA and Pace customers.

 Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus and magnetic stripe fare cards will no longer be sold online via CTA’s website

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October 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.

November 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 December 15.

December 15

 The CTA and Pace will no longer accept any magnetic stripe fare cards.

 Ventra replaces all CTA and Pace existing fare media.

For more information about Ventra and to obtain a Ventra Card, visit ventrachicago.com or call (877) NOW VENTRA (669-8368). Customers can also visit the Ventra Customer Service Center at 165 N. Jefferson St., Chicago, IL 60661 to learn more about Ventra. Sales of Ventra cards at that location begin September 9.

List of balance transfer locations:

SeptemberGage Park2411 W. 55th St., Chicago 60629 Tuesday9/175pm-8:30pmGompersPark4222 W. Foster Ave., Chicago 60630 Thursday9/195pm -8:30pmMcKinleyPark2210 W. Pershing Rd., Chicago 60609 Saturday9/2110am-4pmFoscoPark1312 S. Racine Ave., Chicago 60608 Monday9/236pm-8:30pmCarverPark939 E. 132nd St., Chicago 60627 Tuesday9/245pm-8:30pmColumbusPark500 S Central Ave., Chicago 60644 Wednesday9/256pm-8:30pmEugene Field Park5100 N. Ridgeway Ave., Chicago 60625 Thursday9/265pm -8:30pmWarren ParkArlington Heights 6601 N. Western Ave., Chicago 60645Pace HQ, 550 W. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights 60005SaturdayMonday9/289/309am-2:00pm4-7pmOctoberLindblomPark6054 S. Damen Ave., Chicago 60636 Tuesday10/15pm-8pmForest ParkHoward Mohr Center, 7640 Jackson Blvd., Forest Park 60130Wednesday10/24pm-7pmHamlin Park3035 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago 60618 Thursday10/35pm -8:30pmMarquette Park6743 S. Kedzie Ave., Chicago 60629 Saturday10/512pm-4pmHarveyTransit Center, 154th St & Park Ave, HarveyMonday10/74pm – 7pmPortage Park4100 N. Long Ave., Chicago 60641 Tuesday10/85pm-8:30pmGarfield Park100 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago 60624 Wednesday10/96pm-8:30pmNorwood Park5801 N. Natoma Ave., Chicago 60631Tuesday10/155pm-8:30pmDouglas Park1401 S. Sacramento Dr., Chicago 60623 Wednesday10/166pm-8:30pmRosemontCTA Rosemont Blue Line stationThursday10/174-7pmOgden Park6500 S. Racine Ave., Chicago 60636 Saturday10/1912pm-4pmWashington Park5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr. Chicago 60637Saturday10/199am-12pmHumboldt Park1440 N. Humboldt Dr., Chicago 60622 Saturday10/269am-4pmNovemberClarendon Park4501 N. Clarendon Ave., Chicago 60640Saturday11/29am-5pmOwens Park8800 S. Clyde Ave., Chicago 60617 Friday11/86pm-8pmFoster Park1440 W. 84th St., Chicago 60620 Saturday11/1612pm-4pmUnion Park1501 W. Randolph St., Chicago 60606Saturday11/3010am-4pmTuley Park501 E. 90th Pl., Chicago 60619 Friday12/136pm-8pm

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