An UP Express employee - wearing an orange ribbon - helps customers aboard a train.

A first in Canada as transit customers can tap on with debit as part of PRESTO contactless payment pilot on UP Express

Customers can now use a physical debit card or a debit card added to a mobile wallet to travel on the UP Express. Combined with credit card payment, customers have more contactless options than ever when it comes to paying for their ride. Here’s why it’s a first.

Hear that sound? It’s the sweet beep of transit history being made.

That sound is of course the beep of contactless debit payments taking place on the UP Express, a first for transit in Canada.

Back in March, PRESTO began piloting new contactless payment options on UP Express, that started with credit cards and mobile wallets as a form of payment. Now, as a part of that same pilot, debit is being introduced as a payment option for customers on UP Express – the rail link that connects Union Station with Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Customers can now tap on and off using Interac® Debit, and internationally-issued Visa Debit and Debit Mastercard, or by adding these cards enabled with these payment methods to their mobile wallet and tapping with their phone or smart watch.

This not only means more choice and convenience for UP customers, it also marks the first time a transit agency in Canada is offering a Canadian contactless debit option as a way to pay.

woman taping her debit card on a PRESTO machine
To avoid card clash, make sure to tap one card at a time, for instance by taking your debit card out of your phone case. (Metrolinx photo)

Customers can continue to use their Visa, Mastercard or American Express credit cards (physical or digital version in their mobile wallet) to pay, as well as more traditional options like a PRESTO card and e-tickets.

How does it work?

Using debit to pay for a transit trip works much like a credit card. Here’s a refresher.

Just like with other contactless payment systems across the world, customers should tap only their preferred payment method onto a PRESTO device to pay.

For example, if tapping with a phone, make sure there’s no contactless cards inside its case. This avoids a situation called ‘card clash’ and ensures the correct payment method is charged.  When using a phone to pay, you should also make sure you’ve set the desired default payment card in your mobile wallet. You can always manually select any card in your mobile wallet when making a payment, but having the preferred default set always helps.

Customers still need to tap on and off in the same way. If a rider taps on with a debit card, they must tap off with the same debit card. 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.

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.

An UP Express train is seen on tracks, near the airport.
An UP Express train makes its way across an elevated guideway at Pearson Airport.

This amount may be held by their bank until PRESTO calculates the actual fare for the trip and charges the customer’s bank account. Final charges should typically appear – and any unneeded funds should be released – within 24 hours.  Like with any transaction, bank account transaction fees may also apply.

If you’ve tapped with your Interac debit card, you’ll have to review your bank account to see your charges.

What’s next?

PRESTO is testing these new contactless payment options with UP Express customers to further enhance the payment experience and to help with a rollout across the region.

Following the UP Express pilot, PRESTO will be rolling out payment by credit, debit, and mobile wallets to more transit agencies across the region and bringing customers even more options to make their journey easy and seamless.

Stay tuned to Metrolinx News for more information on when these new payment options are available on PRESTO.

In the meantime, to learn more about contactless payment, click here.