UP Express riders can use their debit cards to “tap-in” to the system

Oct. 22, 2021
In a move aimed at expanding contactless fare options, UP Express is the first system in Canada to offer contactless debit payments to riders.

As contactless payments grow in prevalence among systems in North America, Canada is marking a first for a transit system in the country with the expansion of contactless debit payments on UP Express.

A pilot project encompassing contactless payment options started on UP Express in March 2021 and the pilot has expanded to include debit options, offering customers more choices in how they pay for transit rides.

Riders on UP Express, an airport link between Toronto Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto, can use their Interac Debit, Visa debit and debit Mastercard to pay their fares by tapping the actual cards or by adding the cards to their mobile wallet and tapping using a phone or smartwatch.

Metrolinx explains whatever option is used to tap-in to the system must be the same method to tap out.

“If they tap on with a phone or watch, they must tap off with the same phone or watch using the same card set up in their mobile wallet,” Metrolinx included in an Oct. 21 blog. “Before you go tapping away, it’s worth mentioning that when a customer taps an Interac debit card at the beginning of a trip, a temporary $15 pre-authorization may be placed on that card, even if the actual fare is less.”

Canadian transit riders are ready to go contactless

According to Interac, 94 percent of Canadian adults have a debit card. A survey conducted by the company before the onset of the pandemic found most Canadians surveyed would use an open-loop payments system and more than half of the riders surveyed said they are ready for a “new way to pay for their rides.” Additionally, the survey found two-thirds of respondents believe paying for transit should be as easy as paying for groceries.

The PRESTO contactless payment options pilot will continue on the UP Express as Metrolinx works to enhance the payment experience for customers.

Following the pilot on the UP Express, more transit agencies across the region can expect to see PRESTO contactless options rolled out.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.