Retail payment and transit opportunity for US smart cards

Retail payment and transit opportunity for US smart cards

Public transit smart cards may be the catalyst for cross-industry payment opportunities with the US banking sector says the Smart Card Alliance.

Programmes are underway with major transit operators throughout the United States to implement contactless smart card-based fare collection systems. Transit agencies in Boston, New York/New Jersey, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Houston, San Francisco and other urban areas are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a "once in a generation" effort to replace aging automatic fare collection (AFC) systems with chip card technology, says the Smart Card Alliance.

"The infrastructure is going in all across the country, and three years from now millions of public transit riders will be carrying contactless smart cards," says Greg Garback, executive officer, department of finance, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. "That smart cards are the future of public transit in America is not conjecture; it is happening."

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that ridership on US public transport is on the rise, increasing 22% in the last six years, and moving 14 million Americans daily.

At the same time, more than 17 million smart cards have been issued for use as a payment card in the United States, with recent initiatives focusing on loyalty applications and contactless cards in trials. In addition, the industry has quietly enhanced many of its payment transaction processing and card issuance systems to lay the foundation for an evolution to standards-based smart bankcards.

In an effort to document the opportunities for cross-industry collaboration, the Smart Card Alliance invited individuals from 13 public and private sector organisations to contribute to a paper examining the prospects for a common card for both transit and retail payment. The paper identifies and explores the technical and commercial considerations that must be addressed to make this a reality.

Washington MATA's Garback describes the paper as a "baseline for what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue about common payment requirements and solutions."

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