Chicago Card - Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)



About Chicago Card®
Using a Chicago Card®
Expiring/Expired Cards
Replacing Lost/Stolen/Damaged Cards
Transit Benefit Fare Program





Questions about the Chicago Card Plus? Click on our FAQ's for Answers


About Chicago Card®back to top

What is a Chicago Card?
A Chicago Card is a stored-value card that has an imbedded microchip that can be read to register fares by the fare equipment when touched to the touchpad on the front of rail station turnstiles and bus fareboxes on all CTA routes and Pace buses. You can use your Chicago Card to pay a full fare at any rail station or on any CTA and Pace bus.
What are the benefits of Chicago Card?
Chicago Card offers numerous benefits:

  • Quicker Boarding -To board a bus or enter through a rail station turnstile, simply touch your Chicago Card to the touchpad on the front of rail station turnstiles and bus fareboxes on all CTA and Pace buses.
  • Protected Fares - If a Chicago Card is registered and is lost, stolen or damaged, simply go online or call the CTA to report the problem. A replacement card will be issued and the balance on the card at the time the CTA was notified of the theft or loss will be available to the cardholder. Replacement cards cost $5. A Chicago Card must be registered to receive this valuable benefit.
What is card registration?
Registering a card means designating a PIN (4 letters/numbers) which will identify the customer as the owner of the card. Only registered cards will be replaced with the fare value that was on the card at the time it was reported lost, stolen or damaged, minus a $5 replacement fee. Registration is encouraged at the time of purchase but you are able to register at any time. Unless otherwise indicated by the CTA, the $5 purchase fee for Chicago Card is waived for first-time users who register their cards.  The $5 purchase fee will be charged to customers who elect not to register their cards and for replacement cards.
Where can I find registration forms?
A combined order/registration form is included in the Chicago Card/Chicago Card Plus sales brochure. Brochures are available at CTA rail stations, on CTA buses and at CTA headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street. You may also register your Chicago Card online or print out a form and mail it in. A registration form, which can also be mailed, is included with all Chicago Cards.

Using a Chicago Card®back to top

How and where can I use my Chicago Card?
To board a bus or enter through a rail station turnstile, simply touch your Chicago Card to the touchpad on the front of rail station turnstiles and bus fareboxes on all CTA and Pace buses. Chicago Card is accepted for full-fare payment on all CTA rail and bus routes, and Pace buses. Metra does not accept CTA fare media.
Can Chicago Card be used to pay reduced fares for seniors, customers with disabilities and students?
At this time, reduced fares for seniors, customers with disabilities, and students are not available with Chicago Card.

For more information about reduced fares, see Reduced Fare & Free Ride Programs.

Will my RTA Reduced Fare Permit SmartCard change to Chicago Card?
No. This program will not affect your reduced fare SmartCard. You will continue to use the same card.
What are the minimum and maximum amounts I can reload to my card?
The minimum amount you can add to a card is 5¢ at CTA vending machines and $0.85 at Touch-n-Go locations. The maximum stored value is $300.
How do I put more money on or add value to my card?
Every CTA rail station has a Transit Card Vending Machine where you can add value to your Chicago Card; select off-site locations also have these machines. You can also add value to your Chicago Card at any Touch-n-Go location and at select express farecard vending machines. If you have questions at a rail station, please ask the Customer Assistant on duty for help.
What should I do if my money is not added to my card?
Customers should report the incident to CTA Customer Service at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282) TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Registered cardholders will be asked their name and PIN.
Can more than one person use my Chicago Card at one time?
Just like traditional farecards, passback privileges allow up to seven customers to board the same bus or enter through the same rail station turnstile using one card. Each passback ride has the appropriate fare (full fare or transfer) deducted from the Chicago Card. In rail stations, each customer must touch the card to the touchpad and pass through the turnstile before passing the card back for the next customer to use. On the bus, each customer should touch the touchpad and pass the card back to the next customer. The bus operator will press a button to allow the next customer to board.

All customers using one card must begin their trip at the same origin. If six or fewer customers begin their trip while using one card, and they attempt to transfer to another bus or rail line with customers who were not present at the origin of the trip, within a two hour time period, the card will not be accepted for fare payment for the additional customers.

Can my Chicago Card function as a 30-Day Pass?
Your Chicago Card is a stored-value card that deducts your fare each time it is used. Therefore, 30-Day Passes are not available.
Why is the Chicago Card better than a regular farecard?
A Chicago Card, a plastic card similar to a credit card in size, is easy to use, easy to load and easy to replace. You can register a Chicago Card, which means if your card is lost, stolen or damaged, the remaining value (less applicable fees) will be transferred to your new card.
Will my personal information (given during purchase and registration) be sold to telemarketers?
No. The CTA will not sell or disclose your personal information without your written consent, unless required to do so by law. See CTA's privacy policy.
If I keep my Chicago Card in my wallet next to a credit card, will it get demagnetized?
Your Chicago Card contains no magnetic material and therefore cannot be demagnetized.
If I keep my Chicago Card­ in my wallet next to another SmartCard will it still work?
Often, if there are two or more SmartCards next to one other, neither one can be read. If you have your Chicago Card next to, for example, your work door access card, the turnstile or bus farebox may have trouble reading your Chicago Card. You may need to keep the SmartCards separate from one other for both to function properly.

Expiring/Expired Cardsback to top

When do Chicago Cards expire?
All Chicago Cards have a limited lifespan and expire after four (4) years from date of manufacture. Unless otherwise notified by the CTA, no earlier than 45 days prior to expiration of your Chicago Card, you may obtain a new zero-value Chicago Card.  The expiration date does not appear on the Chicago Card. Therefore, customers must check the expiration date to ensure that their Chicago Card continues to work. Chicago Cards can be replaced no earlier than 45 days preceding their expiration date. However, customers can use their current Chicago Card until the day it expires. The Chicago Card will cease to function upon expiration. Once expired, your current Chicago Card will no longer be valid on CTA or Pace.
Will I lose the balance on my Chicago Card if it expires?
No.  There is a procedure listed below to recover your balance once the card has expired.
How can I check the expiration date of my Chicago Card?

You can check your Chicago Card's expiration date in the following ways:

  • Checking the expiration date of your card and renewing it online.
  • Visiting the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. A Photo ID will be required for this transaction.
  • Calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
I do not know if my Chicago Card is registered, how can I check?
PIN numbers are required at registration.  If you remember creating a PIN number, your Chicago Card is registered.  If you do not remember creating a PIN number, then you can confirm the registration by either:

  1. Calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.    OR
  2. Visiting the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  You will need a Photo ID for this confirmation.

You will need your Chicago Card with you when you choose either option above.

I do not remember my PIN number, what do I do?
PIN numbers can be retrieved by:

  1. Calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.   OR
  2. Visiting the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  You will need your Photo ID for this transaction.

You will need your Chicago Card with you when you choose either option above.

How do I obtain a new Chicago Card to replace the expiring one?
Within 45 days of the expiration of your Chicago Card, you may obtain a new zero-value Chicago Card by:

  • Checking the expiration date of your card and renewing it online.
  • Visiting the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. A Photo ID will be required for this transaction.
  • Calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Can I recover the balance from my expired Chicago Card?
Yes, if for some reason your card expires before you can use up your balance, we offer two methods to recover the balance remaining on your expired Chicago Card.

  • Visit the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  If you have already received a new zero-value Chicago card, please present your expired Chicago Card, along with the new Chicago Card and your balance will be transferred.  If you have not received a new zero-value Chicago Card, you will be given a new Chicago Card with your remaining balance.  Please bring a Photo I.D. with you for this transaction.
  • Call 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.  If you have not already received a new Chicago Card, a Chicago Card with your remaining balance on it will be mailed to you within 5-7 business days.  If you have already received a replacement zero-balance card, and do not wish to visit the CTA Sales center to recover the balance remaining on your expired Chicago Card, a Transit Card with the appropriate adjusted value from your expired Chicago Card will be mailed to you within 5-7 business days.
How do I register my Chicago Card?
Please see the “About Chicago Card” section of the FAQ’s.
Is there a fee to replace an expiring Chicago Card?
There is no fee to replace an expiring Chicago Card.
Can I order a new Chicago Card online to replace the expiring one?
Yes. It is possible to order a new Chicago Card online to replace the Chicago Card that is expiring.  Unless otherwise notified by the CTA, no earlier than 45 days prior to expiration of your Chicago Card, you may obtain a new zero-value Chicago Card.  Customers are encouraged to use the remaining value on their expiring Chicago Card prior to the card’s expiration.  To order online, visit chicago-card.com/cc, click on the Expiring Cards link and follow the directions. A new zero-value Chicago Card will be mailed to you within 5-7 business days.
Can I replace my expiring Chicago Card with a Chicago Card Plus?

Yes. You can upgrade from the Chicago Card to the Chicago Card Plus free of charge. Chicago Card Plus offers the same benefits as the Chicago Card with the added convenience of being able to manage your account online.  Please note that Chicago Card Plus is an account based card and requires a valid email address and credit or debit card. 

If you would like to upgrade there are three convenient ways:

  • Checking the expiration date of your card and renewing it online.
  • Visiting the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. A Photo ID will be required for this transaction.
  • Calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Balances cannot be transferred from a Chicago Card to a Chicago Card Plus when upgrading to a Chicago Card Plus.  Therefore, customers are encouraged to use the remaining value on their expiring Chicago Card prior to the card’s expiration.  If for some reason your card expires before you can use up your balance, we offer two methods to recover the balance remaining on your expired Chicago Card.

  • Visit the CTA Sales Center located on the second floor of CTA's headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.  Please present your expired Chicago Card, along with a Photo I.D. for this transaction.  You will be given a Transit Card with your remaining balance.
  • Call 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.  A Transit Card with the appropriate adjusted value from your expired Chicago Card will be mailed to you within 5-7 business days. 
Is there a fee to upgrade from an expiring Chicago Card to a Chicago Card Plus?
No, the $5.00 replacement fee is waived for customers who upgrade to Chicago Card Plus.

Replacing Lost/Stolen/Damaged Cardsback to top

What if my card is lost, stolen or damaged?
If your Chicago Card is lost, stolen or damaged, you should visit chicago-card.com or contact CTA Customer Service at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Once you notify CTA that your Chicago Card is lost, stolen or damaged, your Chicago Card will be turned off immediately so that it will no longer work.  Once it is turned off, it cannot be reactivated or used again and you will need to obtain a replacement card. If you have registered your card, a replacement card with your remaining balance at the time you notified CTA Customer Service of the loss will be sent to you, minus a $5 replacement fee. You must provide your name and PIN to enable the balance to be transferred to a new card.
What happens if my card doesn't work on the bus or at a rail station?
If your Chicago Card does not work, immediately notify the Customer Assistant at the rail station or the bus operator.  To get a replacement card you should visit chicago-card.com or call CTA Customer Service at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), TTY: 1-888-CTA-TTY1 (1-888-282-8891), Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
How will I receive a replacement card?
Replacement cards can be mailed to your shipping address on file or picked up at CTA headquarters at 567 W. Lake Street, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. When contacting CTA Customer Service to report a lost, stolen or damaged card, let them know which delivery option you prefer. Your request for a replacement card will be processed within 3 business days.
If I find my Chicago Card after reporting it lost or stolen, can it be reactivated?
A Chicago Card will not be reactivated once reported lost or stolen.

Transit Benefit Fare Programback to top

Is Chicago Card offered as a fare payment option in the RTA/CTA Transit Benefit Fare Program?

The standard Chicago Card is not available as a fare payment option in the RTA/CTA Transit Benefit Fare Program. The Chicago Card Monthly Pass is available, however, for $100 per month. Call 312-681-3093 to learn more about this option.






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