CTA to Reduce Fees for Ventra Debit Card

ventra cta pace fare machine at a train station
Photo: Metropolitan Planning Council.

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.

  • CL

    I’m glad they’ve gotten rid of some of the fees, but it still seems like they are trying to squeeze a few extra dollars out of people at every possible opportunity. A $2 fee to speak to someone? And a statement costs a dollar? The users of the debit part are not going to be people with MacBooks who can easily check online. The fee to add cash at retail outlets also seems steep, and I feel bad for people who don’t live near a train station — these people will depend on retail outlets to load cash so that they can take the bus, and they’re also going to be the people who have to keep loading cash because they can’t afford to put a big chunk of cash on the card all at once to avoid repeated fees. Hopefully people will be educated and avoid the debit side when they have better options, but I’m afraid the result of Ventra is going to be that users who can least afford it will end up paying more total to ride the CTA.

  • CL

    Actually now that I’ve typed this, I think I misunderstood the last part? It costs $5 to put money into your debit account, but you don’t use this for the CTA, you use it for purchases? Will retail outlets load cash for riding the CTA for free?

  • When you get a Ventra card, you can only use it to buy rides on the CTA and Pace.

    Ventra cardholders can choose to activate the debit part of the Ventra system. This creates a second account, that is separated from the transit account. The debit portion can be used to pay for transit, but the transit portion cannot be used to pay for retail purchases.

    Retail outlets will load cash onto the transit account for free but can charge to load cash onto the debit account. You can use direct deposit to transfer cash onto the debit account for free.

    It’s not uncommon for the “big banks” to charge to speak to a customer service representative or to receive a paper statement.

  • The debit account is opt-in. You must choose to have this part of the Ventra system.

  • CL

    Thanks — I’m glad it’s free to add cash to the transit account at retail outlets.

    I must be lucky with my bank, which is one of the big terrible ones but doesn’t charge me these fees — or maybe they don’t charge because they use every conversation to try to get me to open a second credit card.

  • Jacob Peters

    This is unrelated to the option to turn your debit card into a Ventra card, correct?


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Editor’s note: Streetsblog accepts guest posts with viewpoints different than our own. Lynn Stevens is an urban planner, blogger at Peopling Places, and long-time neighborhood booster for Logan Square where she’s been an active participant in Bike/Walk Logan Square, the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, the Logan Square Corridor Development Initiative, and the (now defunct) Zoning Advisory […]