Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > America - USA > Midwest
Reload this Page >

Ventra card options in Chicago

Ventra card options in Chicago

Old Nov 27, 19, 4:49 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, IHG Gold, Raddison Gold
Posts: 3,286
Ventra card options in Chicago

It has been over a decade since my I've taken the CTA and I am confused by my options from ORD.

I need to go from ORD downtown to the Navy Pier area (requiring one bus transfer} then return on Sunday.

I am trying to understand my options
1. Buy single ride Ventra ticket for $5 which includes the bus transfer, then buy another ticket with transfer ($2.50 cash only?) on the bus back? I'm not clear what I can but from the driver and my options to pay
2. Buy Ventra card for $5, load $2.50. Can I register immediately to use the $5? Then save the 2.50 for the return? I could of course load $5, register later, but the I'll have a $2.50 balance and probably lose that due to inactivity
3. Pay with phone costing $12 (5+2.25+2.25+2.50)
4. Buy card with app somehow?
eng3 is offline  
Old Nov 27, 19, 8:10 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 125
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
1. Buy single ride Ventra ticket for $5 which includes the bus transfer, then buy another ticket with transfer ($2.50 cash only?) on the bus back? I'm not clear what I can but from the driver and my options to pay
You're correct on the $5 from O'Hare. If you want to use a Ventra ticket on the way back, I'm pretty sure you have to buy it from a ticket vending machine in a station as I don't believe drivers sell any kind of fare media (and incidentally the cost is $3, since there is an additional $0.50 premium for use of these disposable tickets). You can pay with cash on the bus, but this doesn't entitle you to any transfers so you'll have to pay again at the L station, i.e. not a good idea. Total: $8.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
2. Buy Ventra card for $5, load $2.50. Can I register immediately to use the $5? Then save the 2.50 for the return? I could of course load $5, register later, but the I'll have a $2.50 balance and probably lose that due to inactivity
It has been a while since I've done this, but IIRC the $5 balance does become immediately available for use if you register. (But I can't promise, because it's been a while!) Otherwise your understanding of this situation seems to be correct. Total: $7.50 assuming your credit becomes immediately available.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
3. Pay with phone costing $12 (5+2.25+2.25+2.50)
I don't think this is correct (now) -- the CTA and Ventra pages on paying via phone now indicate that transfers are included when paying with "pay as you go" credit, so your total cost should be the same as if you were paying with a Ventra card, i.e. $7.50 ($5 for the trip from O'Hare, then $2.25 + $0.25 for the return trip).

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
4. Buy card with app somehow?
I don't think this is possible.

All in all, if you are an infrequent visitor to Chicago it seems like paying with your phone is the most convenient/economical option. (I like collecting these kinds of cards myself so I'd probably get the card, which also has the advantage of recording your transit history.)
andrewesque is offline  
Old Nov 29, 19, 11:31 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 17
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
4. Buy card with app somehow?
You can order a card in the app, but I don't recommend it. It takes Ventra 7-10 business days to send a card, and they ship only to U.S. addresses. If you want a card, it's faster to buy it at one of the vending machines.
PaxSicagia is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 11:20 am
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, IHG Gold, Raddison Gold
Posts: 3,286
Originally Posted by andrewesque View Post
...I don't think this is correct (now) -- the CTA and Ventra pages on paying via phone now indicate that transfers are included when paying with "pay as you go" credit, so your total cost should be the same as if you were paying with a Ventra card, i.e. $7.50 ($5 for the trip from O'Hare, then $2.25 + $0.25 for the return trip).
...
All in all, if you are an infrequent visitor to Chicago it seems like paying with your phone is the most convenient/economical option. (I like collecting these kinds of cards myself so I'd probably get the card, which also has the advantage of recording your transit history.)
You are correct, I was reading old information. It appears now, its the same rate. I used NFC, cost $5 from O'hare on the L and $0.25 for the bus. I thought the $5 would include a transfer but I guess not. If it is the same rate, I'm not sure why anyone would ever buy a card anymore if using NFC (Phone or wireless card) costs the same or less). My plans ended up changing for my return and I didnt use CTA.

I too like collecting these kinds of cards myself though, usually from other countries though.
eng3 is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 3:29 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 125
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
If it is the same rate, I'm not sure why anyone would ever buy a card anymore if using NFC (Phone or wireless card) costs the same or less).
I think the biggest reason would be that phone or contactless bank cards only (currently) permit pay-as-you-go fares. If you want to get any of the passes (for unlimited rides in 1/3/7/30 days), which often make sense if you're staying in Chicago for any extended period of time without a car or plan to be riding a lot within a short period of time, then you need to load those passes onto a Ventra card.

If London-style capping ever gets implemented then it would seem to be a no-brainer, but for now I'd imagine that's the biggest reason why.
Yoshi212 likes this.

Last edited by andrewesque; Dec 2, 19 at 3:29 pm Reason: Corrected incorrect terminology
andrewesque is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 3:53 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 17
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
I'm not sure why anyone would ever buy a card anymore if using NFC (Phone or wireless card) costs the same or less).
None of these apply to me personally, but here are some potential reasons:
  • They don't have a different card they can use.
  • They don't have a phone with working NFC.
  • They don't want to enable NFC for security reasons.
  • They're having trouble with the app. (Ventra app is buggy.)
  • They don't trust the security of the app.
  • They want to buy the card anonymously using cash.
  • They're not very technical and feel buying a card is simpler.
  • They collect these type of cards.
  • They want a backup plan, in case their phone dies.
  • Before departing, they plan to give the card away.
PaxSicagia is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 6:35 pm
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, IHG Gold, Raddison Gold
Posts: 3,286
Originally Posted by PaxSicagia View Post
None of these apply to me personally, but here are some potential reasons:
  • They don't have a different card they can use.
  • They don't have a phone with working NFC.
  • They don't want to enable NFC for security reasons.
  • They're having trouble with the app. (Ventra app is buggy.)
  • They don't trust the security of the app.
  • They want to buy the card anonymously using cash.
  • They're not very technical and feel buying a card is simpler.
  • They collect these type of cards.
  • They want a backup plan, in case their phone dies.
  • Before departing, they plan to give the card away.
Sure, some people don't have NFC cards or phones that support NFC and some people may feel it is a security risk.
But, you do not require the app to use NFC payment. You do not even need a phone if you have a NFC credit card. I'd say the card is basically the backup for the phone failing. Though dropping a ventra card means you lose whatever value is on it, dropping a credit card has no liability but certainly some headache and I suppose there may be an increase chance of someone stealing the number depending on how you hold the card. I'd say using a NFC credit card is the same level of difficult as using a ventra card except you already have credit card and never need to reload it. I do like collecting these types of cards so I do understand wanting to get one in some cases.
eng3 is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:12 pm
  #8  
glg
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Chicago, IL, US
Posts: 2,188
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
I'm not sure why anyone would ever buy a card anymore if using NFC
Originally Posted by PaxSicagia View Post
None of these apply to me personally, but here are some potential reasons:
  • They don't have a different card they can use.
  • They don't have a phone with working NFC.
  • They don't want to enable NFC for security reasons.
  • They're having trouble with the app. (Ventra app is buggy.)
  • They don't trust the security of the app.
  • They want to buy the card anonymously using cash.
  • They're not very technical and feel buying a card is simpler.
  • They collect these type of cards.
  • They want a backup plan, in case their phone dies.
  • Before departing, they plan to give the card away.
A clarification and an addition.
Clarification: You cannot pay via NFC with a Ventra card or the Ventra app. You can only use NFC with a credit/debit card. You can buy a Metra ticket via the app, but that's the only way you can board/enter/pay directly via the app.
Addition: you've missed 2 common reasons why people would use a physical card:
  • Weekly/Monthly Passes. You can load one onto a card, but most people don't, they use a Ventra card.
  • You usually must use a Ventra card to use a transportation spending account. Some plans may give you a credit card, but YMMV on getting it working.
Personally, the latter is why I use a Ventra card. It's the easiest way to use my transportation spending account. The money just shows up once a month in my account.
glg is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:17 pm
  #9  
glg
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Chicago, IL, US
Posts: 2,188
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Though dropping a ventra card means you lose whatever value is on it
Not true if you register the card. You can report it lost/stolen and get the value on a new card.
glg is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:19 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 17
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Though dropping a ventra card means you lose whatever value is on it, dropping a credit card has no liability but certainly some headache and I suppose there may be an increase chance of someone stealing the number depending on how you hold the card.
I suggest registering Ventra cards. The $5 card purchase fee will be refunded as transit value upon registration. Also, in the case of lost, stolen, or damaged cards, a replacement can be requested, if the card was registered. That will deactivate the old card, and the balance will be transferred to the new card upon activation. There is, however, a $5 replacement fee, unless the card had a defect that wasn't the owner's fault.

I'd say using a NFC credit card is the same level of difficult as using a ventra card except you already have credit card and never need to reload it.
I agree. Other than the annoyance of a temporary $5 pre-authorization and batched charges with the wrong date, it should be about the same. Beyond that, I can only imagine that some people might be worried about limiting their loss to the value on a Ventra card in the case of something like a card skimmer, or a grab and run, even though most credit cards should indemnify the holder against such losses. There may also be cases where people get reduced fares when using a Ventra card.

It's worth mentioning that the Ventra app can be used with all four primary methods of transit that Chicagoland's Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) offers. In addition to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains and buses, that also includes Pace suburban buses and Metra commuter rail; although, you have to use the app for Metra. You can use Ventra card transit value to buy Metra tickets in the app, however.
PaxSicagia is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:22 pm
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, IHG Gold, Raddison Gold
Posts: 3,286
Ah yes, I forgot about registering. In that case, I would think that losing a ventra card is probably less of a headache than losing a credit card or having the number stolen. And I assume ventra has some sort of auto-replenish feature so I guess you don't need to remember to reload.

Yes, I did use the ventra app on Metra and I did find it un-intuitive.
eng3 is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:25 pm
  #12  
glg
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Chicago, IL, US
Posts: 2,188
Originally Posted by PaxSicagia View Post
There may also be cases where people get reduced fares when using a Ventra card.
I forgot about that one. Seniors and Students have to use Ventra to get reduced fares.

Originally Posted by PaxSicagia View Post
It's worth mentioning that the Ventra app can be used with all four primary methods of transit that Chicagoland's Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) offers. In addition to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains and buses, that also includes Pace suburban buses and Metra commuter rail; although, you have to use the app for Metra. You can use Ventra card transit value to buy Metra tickets in the app, however.
The Metra thing is so freaking typical of transit in the Chicago area. Metra was required by law to accept Ventra, so they did it in the most halfassed manner possible.
glg is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:38 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 17
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Ah yes, I forgot about registering. In that case, I would think that losing a ventra card is probably less of a headache than losing a credit card or having the number stolen.
Perhaps; but honestly, I think most people just want their $5 card purchase fee back to use as transit value.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
And I assume ventra has some sort of auto-replenish feature so I guess you don't need to remember to reload.
Yep, they do. That's good for them, because they get to earn interest on that money instead of us. If using a credit card to auto-replenish, it's also easy to forget to update it when you get a new credit card, meaning it's been more than once that I've seen someone frantically fumbling around last minute on Metra, trying to buy their train ticket, as the conductor is standing over them waiting. I usually make sure I have enough loaded before getting on the train, then I only purchase the ticket once actually on the train; although this isn't perfect either (see below.) Nonetheless, I suspect this is a game that some intentionally play, because not only have I seen conductors fail to check tickets period, but I've also seen them say they'll come back to someone having trouble with the app then never do, meaning that person gets a free ride.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Yes, I did use the ventra app on Metra and I did find it un-intuitive.
It's not well designed. In addition to any issues around being unintuitive, it's also buggy. For a long while, the Android version would crash the first time it was opened every day, then it would be fine the second time it was opened. Reinstalling and rebooting didn't resolve the issue. Lots of people had this problem. Didn't get much useful support by contacting Ventra either.
PaxSicagia is offline  
Old Dec 2, 19, 8:48 pm
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: PHL
Programs: UA 1K, Marriott Gold, IHG Gold, Raddison Gold
Posts: 3,286
When I bought my metra ticket, I simply used a credit card saved in the app. Again, I don't see why one would use the ventra balance when you can just charge the card directly but we dont need to get into that.

As for buying the ticket, I noticed that after buying the ticket, you have to "activate" the ticket once you board. I assumed that this was like validating a ticket with other train systems meaning that you are forced to "use" the ticket even if the conductor doesnt check because if he catches you with a ticket that is validated late, you get fined or at least have to pay the on-board ticket buying fee. I guess this isnt the case with metra.

Yes the whole transit system seems to be designed to be more difficult to use that it has to. My father recently had an accident and is now in rehab downtown so my mother is taking metra in as she doesnt like driving downtown. She is a senior but is forced to apply for a senior pass thru RTA which takes 3-4 weeks in order to buy a reduced fare metra ticket when they could just as easily look at ID. My father will only be in rehab for 3-4 weeks so I'm sure it will arrive just in time for her to have no more need for it.
eng3 is offline  
Old Dec 3, 19, 1:56 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Hilton Diamond
Posts: 17
Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
When I bought my metra ticket, I simply used a credit card saved in the app.
Apologies, didn't mean to suggest that using Ventra card transit balance is the only option when using the Ventra app to buy Metra tickets. I also use a credit card to buy Metra tickets in the Ventra app, and I usually buy a 10-Ride ticket, as it's cheaper than buying 10 individual tickets. There's also a Monthly Unlimited Ride Pass, but it only makes sense for daily commuters.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
As for buying the ticket, I noticed that after buying the ticket, you have to "activate" the ticket once you board. I assumed that this was like validating a ticket with other train systems meaning that you are forced to "use" the ticket even if the conductor doesnt check because if he catches you with a ticket that is validated late, you get fined or at least have to pay the on-board ticket buying fee. I guess this isnt the case with metra.
Never seen that happen; but I have often seen people not have their ticket purchased, let alone activated, by the time the conductor arrives. Sometimes the conductor will stand over them until they get it figured out. Other times the conductor will come back (or say they will and then don't.) Sometimes people just give up and pay the conductor cash. It's more expensive to buy a ticket on the train if there was someone at the ticket office; but I've often also seen conductors give people warnings, and tell them to buy at the station next time without charging them the extra amount. As previously mentioned, sometimes the conductors fail to ask someone period. Even after checking your ticket, a different conductor may check your ticket again. Sometimes the same conductor forgets and checks your ticket a second time. The whole process isn't very consistent; and I think they'd do better with a tap on and and tap off system, perhaps with random audits to ensure that people are actually tapping on.

One thing that is particularly annoying is they make announcements to please have the Ventra app open and ticket activated. It usually takes them a while after that to arrive, and by that time people have started using their phones for other things, or the screen has turned off; and the Ventra app doesn't open directly back to the screen with the activated ticket, so the conductor waits for people to click back through and show them the screen.

Originally Posted by eng3 View Post
Yes the whole transit system seems to be designed to be more difficult to use that it has to. My father recently had an accident and is now in rehab downtown so my mother is taking metra in as she doesnt like driving downtown. She is a senior but is forced to apply for a senior pass thru RTA which takes 3-4 weeks in order to buy a reduced fare metra ticket when they could just as easily look at ID. My father will only be in rehab for 3-4 weeks so I'm sure it will arrive just in time for her to have no more need for it.
Sorry to hear that. I have a good friend who rides free due to disability, and I know it's much less convenient than it could be.

The CTA, Metra, and Pace "service boards" are all part of RTA; but RTA itself is interesting. It's a regional transit planning and financial oversight agency for northeast Illinois; but with different board members appointed by the Mayor of the City of Chicago, the President of the Cook County Board, Cook County Board members outside Chicago, and the Chairman of the County Board of each of the five collar counties, it's a very political organization, and there always seem to be a lot of compromises.
PaxSicagia is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread