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Less than Half of U.S. Mass Transit Riders Pay Electronically, According to New ACI Worldwide Data on Mass Transit Payments

Riders prefer using cash—costing mass transit agencies twice as much in overhead as non-cash payments

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

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NAPLES, FLA—December 7, 2016—Cash is the most prevalent method of payment for mass transit riders across the U.S.—and is viewed as the most secure payment method, according to new data from ACI Worldwide (NASDAQ: ACIW). ACI’s 2016 Mass Transit Payments Survey data*, based on 2,006 riders from the nine largest metropolitan transportation systems in the U.S., shows that there is high consumer demand for alternate payment types, but non-cash payment methods are perceived as less secure than cash. 

Principal findings of the survey include:

  • Cash is king for mass transit riders: surprisingly, the most popular method of payment for mass transit is cash (51 percent) followed by credit/debit card (30 percent) and mobile app payments (12 percent).
    • When asked to rank current perception of the security of individual payment types, riders viewed cash as the most secure payment method.
    • Among non-cash payments, all types of credit/debit card payments are considered the most secure, with 29 percent of riders viewing credit/debit card payment at a physical location as very secure. Using a mobile app for payment is deemed as secure by 38 percent of respondents.
    • Trust in security—up to a point
      • Although 78 percent of mass transit riders currently trust that the payment process is secure, if their payment data was compromised by data breach or fraud, nine out of ten riders would likely revert to using cash for mass transit payments.
      • Most riders pay on a ride-by-ride basis: although the majority of mass transit riders surveyed take mass transit on a daily or weekly basis (62 percent), only 43 percent pay for their fare with a monthly or annual transit pass, and only 51 percent preload a transit card or pass.

“Cash, which mass transit riders vastly prefer over other payment types, typically costs mass transit agencies twice as much in overhead as non-cash payments,” said Mike Braatz, chief product officer, ACI Worldwide. “Our new findings highlight that security and convenience of payments are important to transit riders. Mass transit authorities must increase the variety of payment types and acceptance channels—including mobile-branded apps or wallets and self-serve kiosks—to drive down operating costs associated with cash and improve customer satisfaction.”

  • Trust in public transportation payments security varies by city
    • Of the cities surveyed, the city with the highest rider trust in payments security is New York (85%) and the cities with the least trust in payments security are San Francisco (70%), Miami (70%) and Washington, DC (69%).
    • Payment habits vary by city
      • New York mass transit riders use cash the least (42%), while Philadelphia mass transit riders use cash the most (75%).

* Methodology and Demographics:

This survey was conducted via mobile app polling, targeting active mass transit riders in the nine largest transit markets in the United States: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Mass transit transportation categories included subway/light rail, train, bus, boat, car share, bike share and other. 

In total, 2,006 respondents completed the survey, with a median age bracket of 25-43 years old. Just over half (52%) of the respondents were male. 40 percent of respondents rely on mass transit in their city on a daily basis. 

To learn more about the evolution of mass transit payments and how ACI’s UP Merchant Payments for Transportation solution can help mass transit authorities recognize more value from payments, please visit:

About ACI Worldwide

ACI Worldwide, the Universal Payments (UP) company, powers electronic payments for more than 5,100 organizations around the world. More than 1,000 of the largest financial institutions and intermediaries, as well as thousands of global merchants, rely on ACI to execute $14 trillion each day in payments and securities. In addition, myriad organizations utilize our electronic bill presentment and payment services. Through our comprehensive suite of software solutions delivered on customers’ premises or through ACI’s private cloud, we provide real-time, immediate payments capabilities and enable the industry’s most complete omni-channel payments experience. To learn more about ACI, please visit You can also find us on Twitter @ACI_Worldwide.

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