03/26/2013 02:40 pm ET

Ventra Drops Fees: 2 Charges Nixed From CTA's New Payment Plan But Poor Riders Still Feel Pinch

The Chicago Transit Authority announced Monday it was scrapping two fees from some of the Ventra payment plans expected to go into effect this summer.

The Tribune reports agency officials opted to drop a $2.95 charge to reload the Ventra prepaid debit account online using a personal credit card as well as the $10-per-hour charge for "account research" should customers call with questions over billing issues.

Both services will now be provided for free.

Even with a reduction in fees, WGN notes the Ventra system still remains a pricey option with nearly a dozen other convenience fees still in place, including "a $2 charge if you want to speak to a human being if you contact customer service" and a $1.50 withdrawal fee for using the Ventra debit card at any ATM, regardless of other fees the bank may already levy.

The Sun-Times also notes alleviating some of the service fees won't make much of an impact for lower-income riders who opt to pay per-ride in cash and are less likely to use debit cards.

Under the new system, a single-ride rail fare paid in cash will cost $3.

The Tribune also tapped Anisha Sekarat, vice president of credit and debit products, to analyze Ventra's fees. Sekar said the Ventra debit card could cost consumers who use the account about $188 a year in various fees.

Crain's Chicago Business has slammed the CTA over its apparent entry (for all intents and purposes) into the banking business via the Ventra debit card option.

The Ventra payment plan has been met with plenty of criticism concerning the questionable fees, confusing setup and negative impact on low-income riders. On Monday, the Tribune reported CTA rider Ankit Patel launched an online petition drive opposing the new system.

While the agency is opting out of the two fees for the time being, the Tribune notes they could technically still be reinstated per the CTA's contract with Ventra.



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