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MasterCard to Let NYC Commuters Tap Rather Than Swipe

MasterCard, the MTA, New Jersey Transit and the Port Authority are piloting contactless payments on certain subway and bus routes.

We noticed that new PayPass payment readers had been affixed to the turnstiles of the 23rd Street Lexington Avenue subway station several weeks ago and wondered if contactless payments were in the offing for straphangers (of course, New York City subways don't have straps any more, but we like the word anyway). Today, sure enough, New Jersey and New York transit organizations formally announced their partnership with MasterCard to allow commuters to pay for their rides using contactless cards.

The companies (the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ Transit and MasterCard Worldwide) begin a six-month trial on selected train and bus routes today. MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave cards (starting in August for the Visa cards) will be accepted for fare payments at some subway locations on the Lexington Avenue train line, eight MTA bus routes, 11 PATH stations, and three NJ Transit bus routes. Banks offering PayPass debit cards include Citibank, HSBC, and Key Bank.

This project is said to be the first payment system to link the transit agencies, replacing the need for riders to carry specific fare cards for three separate transit systems. For example, commuters transferring from a PATH train to a New York City subway will need only one type of payment device for each ride.

The trial program is an extension of a contactless payment pilot conducted by the MTA with MasterCard and Citigroup beginning in July 2006 when contactless readers were placed in 80 fare gates at 30 stations on the Lexington Avenue train line. During this new trial, MasterCard PayPass cards and devices will be accepted from any issuing financial institution.

Riders will be able to choose from a prepaid or pay-as-you-go fare option, and on MTA and NJT they will be able to use existing time-based fares, such as one day, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly passes, as well as discounted fares for senior citizens, disabled and student riders. All fares purchased using a PayPass-enabled card or device will be automatically applied to customers' MasterCard credit or debit accounts, eliminating the need to fumble for cash or wait in line at ticket machines and counters. Transit riders can go to www.ridenynj.com for more information on how to participate. The pilot ends November 30.

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