Chicago Cards

chicago public transportation cards

If you are a Chicago resident who takes public transportation on any kind of regular basis, it’s worth your while to invest in a Chicago Card. Chicago Cards are smart cards with an embedded microchip that is read by the touchpad at the front of L turnstile stations and bus fare boxes. Cards can be purchased through the CTA and have different features based on which one you choose. You can order the cards online, by mail, by phone, at CTA headquarters, and at select Dominicks, Jewel, Osco, and Currency Exchange locations. The cards are free unless you choose not to register your card. Without registration the card costs $5. I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t register your card (please let me know if anyone thinks of a good reason); if you do, and your card is lost or stolen, you can report it to the CTA and they will provide you with a replacement card with your remaining balance on it minus a $5 replacement fee. When you register your card, you get a PIN number which identifies you as the card owner. Best of all, the cards allow for faster boarding. Just touch the card to the touchpad on the front of each L turnstile or bus fare box and you’re in.

Here’s the rundown of your card options:

Chicago Card: A Chicago Card is loaded with cash or by credit card at Vending Machines or off-site touch-n-go devices. The minimum amount you can add to a card is $.05 at CTA vending machines and $0.85 at Touch-n-Go-Locations. The maximum is $300. It is a pay-per-use card, and you can check the balance at CTA vending machines or touch-n-go stations. Just keep this card in your wallet, but away from other cards with embedded microchips (such as apartment building entry cards) to prevent deactivation.

Chicago Card Plus: A Chicago Card Plus automatically reloads with your debit/credit card or through the CTA Transit Benefit Fare Program. Your card is linked to a Chicago Card online account, and you can check your balance online or by calling CTA Customer Service. To get a card you must register your email address and credit card. Every time a Chicago Card Plus cardholder’s card balance reaches $10 the card will be reloaded with the preselected amount you choose. CTA will email you each time your card is reloaded. You can also use the card as a 30-pass, enabling you unlimited rides for 30 consecutive days, beginning on the first day of use. A valid credit card and email address are required to start your account.

I-Go Card: The new I-GO card began in January 2009. It is a car-sharing program that allows members a 24-hour access to I-GO cars in reserved parking spaces located throughout the city and suburbs. The I-Go Chicago Card is the first in the nation to combine a transit and car-sharing program. You can rent different kinds of cars to fit your needs (they offer Toyota Prius cars as well as a variety of Hondas). They even pick up the tab for gas, premium insurance, maintenance, reserved parking, and 24-hour assistance. Pretty awesome. The program is still in its early stages and the card is only available to new I-Go card applicants. Existing Chicago Card Plus members can obtain one by first establishing an I-Go member account.

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Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.

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