Ventra Balance Transfer Events Exclude Chicago Card Plus

The Ventra mailer. An email with additional, necessary instructions comes separately.

I recently attended a Ventra balance transfer event at Marquette Park. At these community events, CTA staffers are on hand to read the balance on residents’ existing farecards and transfer it to a Ventra card. It was an enlightening experience – but not in a good way. Critical bits of info about the transition process are missing or easy-to-miss on the CTA and Ventra web sites, and the opportunities to use existing fare media continue to dwindle. Yesterday was the last day to buy new reloadable magnetic stripe cards.

Balance transfer events [PDF] are only for plain Chicago Cards (CC) or reloadable magnetic stripe cards, not for Chicago Card Plus (CC+). One of the first steps is scanning your old card on a reader like the ones you see in ‘L’ stations to confirm your current balance. An event staffer records the balance on a form, then sends you to another station to transfer the balance to your new Ventra account. If you haven’t already registered your Ventra card online, the CTA will ask you to complete a registration form first and they’ll register you online. I saw a few cases where cards were unreadable. The guy said “Sorry, if we can’t confirm a balance, we can’t transfer it.”

I was told at the event that the Ventra card the agency mails to you is linked to your CC+ account for the purpose of balance transfer. The CTA has no process in place for doing a balance transfer from CC+ in any other way. Balance transfer is supposed to happen automatically from CC+ to Ventra after you log in to the Ventra site to confirm your account details and make a phone call to activate the card.  The agency won’t let you circumvent the process by buying a Ventra card from a machine or store, then transferring the balance at one of their events. If you have a CC+ balance and you never get your Ventra card in the mail, it looks like you’re out of luck for transferring that balance under current procedures.

What if your CC+ card runs out of money before your Ventra card comes in the mail and is activated and balance transferred, or if your new card doesn’t arrive before the system stops accepting CC+? You may have to buy another Ventra card elsewhere.

Except for a few employees at the event, no one seemed aware of how to distinguish a Chicago Card (two-tone blue, says “Chicago Card”) from a Chicago Card Plus (yellow and blue, says “Chicago Card Plus”) or was aware that they couldn’t scan CC+. It took several conversations with staffers for me to find someone who was aware of the difference. She appeared to be a supervisor.

I suggested to her that the online information should boldly emphasize that CC+ is excluded from these events. It is in the info about balance transfer events, but I missed it. Therefore, this turned out to be a wasted trip, except as a learning experience about the Ventra transition. A guy in line with me also missed the info and wasted a trip all the way from west-suburban Westchester. Employees working there should all understand the visual and functional differences between CC and CC+.

A few days ago I bought a Ventra card from a machine as a backup in case I didn’t get the one the CTA mailed soon enough to have it working before my CC+ either runs out of money or stops being accepted by the system. I’ll either cancel it later or keep it as a spare for guests. Guess what I found in my mailbox when I got home from today’s event!

After doing a bit of searching, I found the email with the user name and temporary password for my Ventra account. I was able to log in, change the password and confirm account details without any difficulty.

The card itself had a sticker on the front giving a toll-free number to call to activate the card and start the process of transferring the balance from CC+ to Ventra. I went through several phone menus and finished the call in less than five minutes. A few hours later, I logged into the account and found that the balance had been transferred. After reading comments on Ventra’s Facebook posts about lost emails, balances that didn’t transfer and other problems, I felt lucky by comparison.

I’d be curious to hear about your experiences with the Ventra transition. Below are upcoming balance transfer events this week.

Harvey
Monday, October 07, 2013
4pm – 7pm
Transit Center
154th St & Park Ave.
Harvey, IL 60426

Portage Park
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
5pm-8:30pm
4100 N. Long Ave.
Chicago, IL 60641

Garfield Park
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
6pm-8:30pm
100 N. Central Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624

  • Tom

    Not to be a contrarian, but my transition has gone flawlessly. Got the email with the credentials about two weeks before the card arrived in the mail. I registered online and my $30 balance transferred from CCP immediately. I swiped the Ventra for the first time this weekend and — GO!

    Now I can’t wait for them to activate other NFC sources so I can just pay by Google Wallet. (Then Google needs to add functionality that requires a PIN for all wallet transactions *except* transit.)

  • Anonymous

    Tomato, Tomato…
    Well, at least I know who gave me the down vote ;)

  • Alfonso

    You can already use google Wallet if you like. But remember that just as with personal credit/debit cards you will get no transfers and pay a higher fare on buses unless you pre-fund a Ventra Transit Account linked to your phone.

    Watch google Wallet in action right here:

  • Anonymous

    There was an event at Eugene Field park, just east of Gompers and a short walk from Foster to the field house of the park.

  • sarah

    I just got my Ventra Card yesterday, followed all the instructions to “activate” my card online and still haven’t gotten my CC+ balance transferred, which is supposed to take 15 minutes. When I call their hotline and go through all the menu options, it rings about 10 times, then hangs up on me. Awesome job Ventra. You’re really killing it.

  • Karen Kaz

    You have to register the card online, but then you have to ALSO call the 888 number that was on the sticker on the card to activate it. Two separate steps, and it’s the latter that triggers the balance transfer. They also say to give 30-60 minutes for the transfer.

    It’s super confusing, but did eventually work for me. Good luck!

  • I got my magic un/pw email from Ventra six days AFTER I had rec’d my Ventra card (and called to register online). totally convenient.

  • Diane Niederman

    I set up my account for auto load and it is not working. I emailed Ventra and also left a number to be called. I have had no response

  • Anne A

    I’ve talked to LOTS of intelligent, educated people (including IT people) who have been confused by this process. Unfortunately, you have lots of company.

  • Kellee Dee

    I activated my Ventra card yesterday and my Chicago card Plus balance has not transferred over. So now I have endured round one of being disconnected after waiting on hold for 15 of the 43 minutes they I would have to wait. Now they are saying 48 minutes.

  • Anonymous

    I got my Seniors Ride Cheap card yesterday, and today I tried the phone number to register it. An option was to leave my number to be called back. I never got the call back.

    Tonight, 10/8 I went to Portage Park to register the card. It said open from 5-8. I got there a few minutes after 5, stood in one line to get the balance transfer and then sent to another line to get the card activated. I haven’t checked to see if it “worked”. I didn’t get out until 6:15.

    They had three tables: one to register, one to transfer, and I don’t know what the 3rd table was for but they had four people sitting there with laptops doing nothing.

    When I got out the line was much shorter. My suggestion (if you to to register or transfer at one of these locations) go later, an hour or two after they open the doors.

  • Anonymous

    i registered online AND called to activate, but i didn’t get my balance xfer’d yet, and that was 2 days ago

  • Anonymous

    It would make more sense if the “Single Ride Ticket” was just called a “2 Hour Pass”, and it could operate like similar passes in other metro areas like Seattle. This would make it clear that the card is not meant for people riding more than once every 2 years.

  • Anonymous

    It is important for people to remember that Activation, Registration, and Account Transfer are 3 separate processes which apply to different card users depending on how they are transitioning.

    Your RTA reduced permit (for seniors, those with disabilities, and other non student/child reduced fare riders) just needs to be activated, because the card that is sent to the recipient is already registered in their name, with their information, and there was no existing online account for RTA permit users, so no need to transfer an account.

    Chicago Card Plus users have an online account, and the new Ventra cards are sent to them, just as the RTA permits are, so the card is already registered to them. This means two things, A) that you can only transfer CC+ accounts to the associated Ventra card, in order to keep your information in your hands and B) that the card must be activated just as the RTA permits require activation.

    Student Reduced Permits must be received through the students school in order to verify whether they get the 24/7 or only during school hours $0.75 reduced fare. If a school does not have the cards, then a parent can request a student permit by filling out this form http://www.transitchicago.com/asset.aspx?AssetId=8039 Once the permit is received it is highly recommended that it be registered, so that A) if the card is lost, the value on the card will not be lost and B) a parent or guardian can manage the account and reload the card remotely for their student. If your child is under the age of 12 they can still ride at a reduced fare using a full fare Ventra Card. Simply ask the bus operator or station attendant to override the fare before tapping the card, so that it only charges $0.75.

    U-Pass must be activated, and riders who use Pace will need to remember to load money onto their card for Pace buses, since they are not part of the U-Pass program.

    Currently, contactless bank cards, google wallet and other RFID compatible systems cannot be registered to the Ventra system. In order to get transfers, you must first load money onto the RFID compatible device or bank card, and use it as a reloadable transit card. I don’t think you can even transfer balances to an unregistered card, since its information isn’t on the Ventra server.
    A misunderstanding of why some cards can be registered, some must be activated and why the account transfer is separate can lead to confusion as to which steps you need to take. I hope I have clarified a bit why these processes need to be separate in order to serve the different types of users.

  • RalphZiggy

    I just want to know whose pockets were lined during this totally needless transition to a new system.

  • RalphZiggy

    I’m suspecting this beyond-last minute cc reload is a scam to get extra money from people and is done on purpose. I have a ventra card and never received an e-mail

  • Anonymous

    I have called and activated my Ventra card about 5 days ago, and the CC+ balance has yet to transfer on over. (Getting the card activated was hard. I had watched my email account very closely over the last month, checking my spam folder every day, and either I never received the password/activation code emails, or they slipped past my vigilance.)

    I, too, bought a backup Ventra card just in case. But alas! I chose to purchase it online. Although the $10 I put on it came out of my card within a day or two, I still haven’t received that card.

    Finally, the website has (or had, as of last Sunday) a tag to “register” a card, but the registration process requires that we disclose what the card’s “nickname” is. That’s a hard thing to do if one hasn’t assigned it a nickname yet.

    For the record, I’m much less inclined to blame Ventra than the CTA and Mr. Claypool and whoever that slick PR guy is from CTA who occasionally shows up on Chicago Tonight. Not that Ventra ought to be off the hook entirely, but the CTA should’ve known better than to have such a narrow conversion window and make all those promises. And that PR guy (whose name escapes me) seems way too dismissive of people’s concerns, taking refuge in the fact that there were similar concerns during the transition to fare cards 20 years ago. He’d be doing his job if CTA were a private, commercial organization, but since CTA is public, or at least is supposed to serve the public, his job is to acknowledge the real problems that are out there.

    Thanks for letting me vent and pontificate!

  • Anonymous

    To be fair, the actual activation wasn’t too hard. I was able to call and automatically have ventra send me another activation code. I emailed ventra about the password problem, and they sent me a temporary password. They didn’t tell me what my username was, but I guessed it as the email address at which I had had my cc+ card. That went relatively smoothly, though it was still not optimal.

  • Evanston_rider

    Got my card last week and activated it today, via the online
    instructions. The process was quick and relatively painless … and a couple of
    hours after activation, my Chicago Card Plus balance transferred over.

    That said: I couldn’t find ANY INFORMATION on Ventra’s
    website about a CC+ card’s balance being automatically transferred over – and
    learned about it through a Google search. Seems like that’s an important fact
    that wasn’t properly communicated in the materials that were enclosed with the
    new cards.

  • E Williams

    Months ago when I had received the email, I simply used up all funds on my Chicago Card Plus card and resorted to the regular pass that I could replenish at the el kiosks. The Ventra card had not come when I “thought” it was supposed to arrive, so I got a Ventra Card at one of the vending machines. I registered the card, added a 7-day pass, and have been functional now for 3 weeks. Leaving money on the CC+ card and hoping to transfer it over to Ventra once that card arrived was a gamble that I refused to take.

  • WmJPate

    Similar to Evanston Rider, my CC+ funds transferred later in the day to the corresponding Ventra Cards. I have 2 cards and the funds transferred as desired, just not immediately as you might expect when registering them.

  • Ventrablooooooows

    Yeah, did both of those, no funds transferred to Ventra from CC+. You can be sure that when I log into CC+ that money is missing though.

  • Ventrabloooooooooooows

    Yup, I’m at 36 hours and no transfer yet.

  • Anne A

    I agree that this part of the process was NOT communicated well.

  • Joshua

    I’m one of those CC+ users who has received many emails with a new user name and password….. and no Ventra card to use it with. Sounds like I am not alone, because today the CTA extended the cutoff days for using magnetic strip cards and also for CC+ cards.
    Since it was Columbus Day, no mail delivery. I’ll check my mailbox tomorrow and see what happens….. Maybe it’s time to get some winter biking gear ready….

  • Alfonso

    Today? Monday October 15th? I’ve checked all the news outlets and the CTA and Ventra web sites and I see no new announcements. Where did you see this?

    Last week they extended the deadlines for buying Transit Cards and reloading CC and CCP cards, but they were still sticking to the November 15 and December 15 deadlines for using them. Where did you see they were extending them? That would be exciting news.

  • Gerald

    When my card got registered the lady said the money from cc+ would be transferred in 16 hours but its been 1 week today and no transfer

  • Erik Swedlund

    Same for me.

  • Rachel

    Mine has been registered AND activated for 2 weeks. 2 emails and multiple phone calls later, the balance still has not transferred. This is ridiculous.

  • AB

    Same here.

  • Alex

    For CC+ users, I registered my Ventra card today, udsed the user name and password provided in the email, called the number on the card. A couple of hours later myCC+ balance was transfered to my new Ventra card.
    It was that easy.

  • CHM

    I called and activated my Ventra card about 15 minutes ago and the balance from my CC+ has already been transferred!! I was pleasantly shocked especially because my CC+ balance > $300 (long story)

  • JVP

    I won’t go into the mess I initially encountered with “The Beast” as I call it however, I just went over my MC statement only to find a $50 charge from Ventra Services on the day I activated my card. The card I have registered is lined to my AmEx not my MC. Tried for 90 mins (was disconnected twice) to reach someone, anyone to help. Finally I was informed that “someone” would call me back. Since I’m not good at holding my breath I have placed this charge in dispute with my MC company. PLEASE check your statements!

  • JVP

    *linked*

  • Disgusted

    First attempt with Ventra call was answered after 45 minutes put on hold by the representative for 15 minutes and told to call back within 2 days to clear issue.
    2nd attempted call lasted 38 minutes and I was switched into call center where I was told someone would get back to me. Received a call back 2 days later and was treated with disrespect and hung up upon. Still don’t have my card. Original email was October 7th.

    I wonder who’s within the City or CTA received kickbacks for Ventra or should I say Cubic Transportation System. What a joke!

  • Linda Nellett

    Will some kind soul please list the 888 number that keeps getting referred to here? After weeks of waiting, I got my Ventra card Oct. 7, the day before I left town for a long vacation. I activated the card before I left town, but in my haste I apparently missed the step about calling a toll free number to transfer the balance from my CCP. I no longer have the sticker on my card, so I can’t call the elusive 888 number, nor can I get through on the Ventra customer service line. Email is getting no response, either. I also can’t figure out how to add any value to my Ventra card using their a website. I work on websites all day long and have a master’s degree, but I can’t figure out Ventra. *shamefaced*

  • Linda Nellett

    Never mind. I did some more searching online and found the number. I’m still screwed because I couldn’t recall my access code, which is necessary to complete the process. Of course when I indicated that I couldn’t remember my access code I was transferred to a customer service number and immediately hung up on. Twice. And I’m locked out of the online account now, too, so I can’t request a new access code that way either. This Ventra transfer process really, really sucks. It’s a good thing I’m not super poor since I may have to just give up on getting my $23 transferred from CCP to Ventra.

  • Noah

    I forgot my access code since I have two cards, you can find it under account settings on the Ventra website, where you can change it as well, was not easy to find…

  • Frank T.

    No card yet in the mail, so can’t transfer CC+ balance. Unable to contact “Customer Service”. Phone calls unanswered, emails ignored, website inquiries equally ignored. This must be the same bunch that are handling the ACA website debacle.

    Simplest answer: cancel the whole Ventra mess. Please.

  • S Man

    Card mailed, no activation code. Called Ventra, waited 25 mins on phone. Password was given and activated card. Tried password, didn’t work. Called back again, another 30 min wait. Ventra said they would move money over from Chicago Card. Transfer was made, but money is no where to be found. Called Ventra back again, and this is day 3 on waiting to hear back what happened. All the while my 30 Day pass is sitting in the queue from Nov 1 and has still not been activated. Called them back again, they said it takes 1-7 days to activate from employer. So currently I’m putting money one day at a time on the card as both Chicago Card and Ventra card has zero balance. TERRIBLE service. I demand a refund from Ventra on every day I ride the train that goes without using my $100 30-Day Pass.

  • So – you can use Google Wallet (I have a Nexus 5) to pay for fare on a Chicago bus? No ventra card needed?

  • Lizabeth0001

    I agree. I am a person who rides the train once or twice a year. I bought 2 Single Ride tickets in the morning…knowing that I would need one coming home later that day too. No where on the vending marchine does it say 2 hours…I scoured that thing after my ticket didn’t work and I had to buy a new one.

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