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CTA to Reduce Fees for Ventra Debit Card

ventra cta pace fare machine at a train station

The Chicago Transit Authority announced this morning that some of the fees associated with using the optional debit account on a Ventra transit card will be eliminated or reduced.

There were never fees associated with using Ventra to ride transit. But there are fees associated with the Ventra-linked retail debit account that card holders can open, one of the more heavily-criticized aspects of the new system.

A rundown of the fees eliminated and reduced:

    • No more $1.50 ATM withdrawal fee if used at ATMs in the Allpoint network (there are 1,000 in the Chicago region). The CTA is negotiating with the other operators of ATMs whose machines sit in train stations.
    • There will no longer be a $2 fee to speak to someone about the retail debit account.
    • The $6.00 fee for closing out the debit balance will be reduced to $5.00.
    • If you want a paper statement, the fee is now $1 instead of $2.

Two other fees had already been eliminated, the Tribune reports:

    • A $2.95 fee to add money to the debit account using a personal credit card.
    • A $10 per hour fee for “account research’’ to resolve account discrepancies.

Ventra cards will be distributed for free "at neighborhood festivals and community events," according to the Tribune starting in June.

In the first paragraph of its coverage today, the Sun-Times mistakenly wrote that there is a fee for talking to a "public transit customer service" operator. But the CTA has never charged a fee to speak to customer service, whether by phone or in person at the service office in their headquarters, nor did they propose to. The fee, which was eliminated, was to speak to customer service regarding the retail debit account.

Additionally, the article uses "credit" in a way that makes it seem like cardholders can get cash advances ("they can withdraw cash against that credit"), which typically come with enormous interest rates that start accruing interest the moment you make that transaction. What the Sun-Times should have reported is that Ventra card holders can withdraw cash at an ATM the way you normally do with your existing bank's ATM or debit card.

A major fee remains, though:

Still a concern, Marzahl said [negotiator representing Chicago’s Center for Economic Progress], is the fee of up to $4.95 that CTA retail outlets will be allowed to charge Ventra card holders to load cash on the debit sides of their cards.

CTA spokesperson Brian Steele said that that fee is decided on by the individual retail outlets.

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