Issuers And Networks Line up for New York’s Contactless Mass-Transit System

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Starting May 31, the MTA will accept general-purpose contactless cards at 16 subway stations and on all Staten Island buses in a program set to unfold throughout the system over the next 19 months. Major issuers are eager to make sure cardholders in the New York metro area can participate. Some have already geared up national rollouts of tap-and-go products.

An American Express Co. spokesperson tells Digital Transactions Newsthat the company now “offers contactless functionality on almost all of our consumer cards in the U.S,” without stating a number. AmEx has issued 38 million proprietary U.S. consumer cards, according to its first-quarter earnings report. That number excludes cards issued by bank partners, such as Wells Fargo & Co. “Some” of these non-proprietary cards are also equipped for contactless, the spokesperson says, including the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card.

For its part, JPMorgan Chase & Co. indicated earlier this week it has already issued 20 million contactless Visa credit cards as part of a rollout that began earlier this year. Tap-and-go debit cards from Chase are coming later in the year, the bank says. Visa confirms these cards operate on the newer EMV contactless standard, which replaces an older contactless specification based on mag-stripe cards. Visa last month began enforcing the new standard.

Issuers and card networks are eager to have contactless cards ready for the new transit system in New York, called OMNY, because of the habit-forming power repeated daily use by as many as 8 million users can exert.

While the program starts at the end of the month, the MTA’s timeline calls for all stations and bus routes to have OMNY readers working by December 2020. The authority will follow up with an OMNY card in February 2021. The card, which replaces the system’s older Metro Card, will be sold via local retailers and vending machines installed in transit stations. The MetroCard will then be shelved in 2023.

The architect of the new system is Cubic Transportation Systems, the San Diego-based transit-payments company well known for a transit program in London based on the contactless Oyster card.

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