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Beyond the Transaction: Every Transaction Has a Story

Arriving Soon on the New York Subway: Pay as You Go with your Mastercard

As a frequent visitor to New York, there is no better way for me to get across the city than on the subway. And very soon, there will be no faster way to get on the subway than by tapping my Mastercard contactless card or device on the turnstile. Mastercard Sydney Ferries_web

New York’s iconic MetroCard has served the city well for almost 30 years – but technology has clearly moved on since it was first introduced.

So I was very excited to hear yesterday that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has asked our long-standing partners Cubic Transportation Systems to implement a new fare payment system across the city’s entire subway (and bus) system. Starting in 2019, the new system will enable riders to tap a contactless payment device to unlock the turnstiles. Customers of Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road will also be able to merge their tickets into one integrated form of payment.

Having seen the impact of similar programs in cities around the world, notably in my home city London, I can attest that this decision means it is a great day for New York.

Put simply, people will no longer have to wait in line at a ticket machine, fumble for cash, or get stuck behind someone having to swipe their card multiple times. With this new system, people no longer need to pre-pay for rides. They can pay a fare directly just by tapping a contactless payment device – hence the phrase “pay as you go” – and the fare will be debited directly from the underlying account in the background. The technology will also enable new fare policies such as fare capping.

I was fortunate to work closely with Transport for London (TfL) on introducing contactless payments across the city’s Oyster ticketing system in 2014. Introducing this form of fare payment delivered real benefits to riders:

  • Londoners could avoid getting caught unaware when their prepaid Oyster account balance ran out – an event which in some parts of the suburbs could mean a long walk of half a mile or more to the nearest reload outlet;
  • Visitors to the city could use the contactless payment device they already had to enter and exit the transport system – no need to figure out how & where to get an Oyster card first, nor how to put money onto it before travel;
  • And everyone could benefit from a tangible reduction in crowding in stations, as people who previously were forced to queue for ticket machines instead proceeded quickly and directly to the gate-lines;
  • Through daily capping with contactless, customers have saved a total of over £123 million. A further £50 million has also been saved in total thanks to weekly capping.

The take-up of contactless payments in London speaks for itself:

  • Almost half of all pay-as-you-go journeys on the city’s underground, buses and commuter railway are now paid this way. And this share continues to grow steadily;
  • Visitors from more than 100 countries have now used contactless payment cards and mobile devices to make journeys on London’s public transport network;
  • Londoners seem increasingly inclined to pay with contactless-enabled mobile devices, which are now making up almost one in ten of all contactless journeys. Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay can all be used to tap the Oyster readers, and more than 31 million journeys have been made using mobile phones in London in the last 12 months.

In enabling this simple pay-as-you-go way to pay fares, New York joins other world cities like London, Chicago, Singapore and Sydney that have done the same. The world’s cities are steadily becoming more and more connected – I look forward to a future where all you need to ride on their transport systems is the Mastercard contactless card, phone or wearable that you habitually have on your person, whether you live there or are just visiting.