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Wringing extra life from a dying Chicago Card/Plus

ChicagoCardPlus_press My Chicago Card Plus was on death's door. I could see a hairline crack in it, and it stalled in registering at the reader. But I was going out of town for a few days and knew I wouldn't be using the card and could have a new sent, so I wanted to wring another day or two of life out of the card.

That's when I remembered this tip from Windy City Mike via the LiveJournal El Community:

"One of the CTA folks at the Lake station showed me a nice trick last night. You hold the upper righthand corner (if you're looking at it from the back) up to the very top of the circle (where it lights up). That way you're putting the transmitter within the card nearly directly adjacent to the receiver within the turnstile."

And yes, it does work -- for awhile at least. Eventually it will totally give up the ghost. I will say that the card had actually lasted me for more than two years -- the longest ever. So that was a plus.

And the morning I was leaving town I ordered a new Chicago Card Plus at the CTA Web site. They say it will take 5-7 business days to arrive by mail. But mine got to me in four business days, amazingly enough.

One other thing I found on these card -- keep them away from other similar cards, such as an ID to gain you entrance to lock doors at work. I used to keep them together, but my Chicago Card Plus failed very quickly. I've kept them separate since and have been happy I did.

Do you folks have any other tips, tricks or quips about the cards? And how about that blast from the past? Thanks to the Tribune for the photo of former CTA President Frank Kruesi at a press conference.


I just got my ccplus in the mail. Now it says efficient in addition to it's older claims of being safe, on time, etc. I thought that was funny for some reason

My first CC+ broke in my hands, and it made me so mad I swore off of them for about 6 months. Then I got my second one, because I got sick of taking my wallet out and swiping the regular passes.

This one has worked fine, it never leaves my wallet, and I never EVER sit on it. NEVER SIT ON IT. I think that's part of what did my first one in.

I don't believe the whole "don't put it by a credit card" thing, even though the customer service rep told me to, but I keep them separate anyway. Because I'm 5 years old, and have to have my wallet chained to me, I keep the CC+ behind my ID, and I can just put the side where it is up to the touch pad and voila! no problems. :D

I can attest to the tip of not putting your Chicago Card Plus anywhere near similar cards/items. I accidentally got it too close to the little shoe dongle they gave us for the Shamrock Shuffle (and other races) to track your time. Damn thing killed my card instantly.

Interesting...I have had my card for at least 4 years, probably 5. I keep it inside my purse and don't even take it out to use it (I just hold that side of the bag up to the reader) --which is probably the best way to keep it pristine. You could probably accomplish the same thing by keeping it in a wallet with an outer sleeve.

"efficient" -- sorta like taking 3years to fix the blue line

A few months ago there was a CCP-related thread and I posted about my CCP losing its mojo. No visible cracks, it was just being pesky when I'd wave it by the RFID reader. Soon after I talked about it, it stopped misbehaving. I advocate publicly exposing your card's malfeasance to force it to behave. But seriously.... I'm on my second card (got it Feb, 2006). I put the first in my back pocket and sat on it a little too often and then it cracked in half on a really cold day. I make sure never to sit on the new one. I have a particular place for it in my backpack and every purse I own to make sure it's protected from bending and other cards.

Good to see Uncle Frank. Scattered pictures of the way we were and all that.


If your card is actually that old, it will be expiring. They only are good for 4 years I believe. You might want to look into that.

I've been using the same CCPlus for 3 years. Admittedly, it doesn't get used half the year when I ride my bike, but when I used to commute to work, it got a workout.

I made a little holder for it, and keep it away from everything else card like. Really, the only problem I've ever had with the card is in the cold, when I have to rub it to warm it before it will work.

I keep my work ID card on the left side of my wallet and my CC+ card on the right. I'm able to open doors at work with my wallet closed, but to pay CTA fares I just open it up so only the right side touches the turnstile.

Anyone ever seen the watches that Londoners make out of their Oyster cards?

I have came across three buses in the just in this week where the CC reader didn't work. It had nothing to do with the card the reader just didn't work and the bus operator just waived folks by that had a card. This royally annoys me as I buy the monthly pass and want to record my usage. Also people are literally riding for free. I guess the CTA doesn't need this cash since they send buses out of the garage without a working transmitter. I either fix it or leave it in the garage. No way should we be letting people ride for free with the precarious financial sitiuation of the CTA.

I concur with the advice to keep you CC seperate from other cards. Also keep it warm in the cold and becareful not to hit it twice. I see people lean up against it on accident all the time.

For anyone who wants to dismantle their CC, here is the video on how to put it on your watch. Pretty ingenius and I don't know of any laws preventing you from doing it here in Chicago.


In this age of no privacy, every entity already knows where everyone goes and what anyone does, so I'm willing to be practical and have a chip implanted in my wrist that will contain: an RTA universal fare card that will also work on the MTA, WMATA, MARTA, SEPTA, MBTA, and perhaps the Stratford, Ontario bus lines; my medical history and insurance info; my credit/debit cards; my driver's license; my I-Go card; my work ID since we have to punch a timeclock here at the brain factory; maybe even my Art Institute member id so I could wave my wrist for admittance into the Member's Lounge to enjoy some free coffee. It would make my life a hell of a lot easier.

Don't keep Chicago Cards around a lot of loose change, the metal interferes with the antenna and the card will burn out rather quickly I've learned.

Also if you frequently flush the toilet in the vicinity of your CCP, it will burn out quicker. So watch out for that as well!

is there any way to protect your CCP from the toilets?

I hope you are kidding, Stephen.

Don't flush, or do your business someplace other than a toilet.

"I guess the CTA doesn't need this cash since they send buses out of the garage without a working transmitter. I either fix it or leave it in the garage. No way should we be letting people ride for free with the precarious financial sitiuation of the CTA."

I wonder how much you'd complain about being put off the bus because your card doesn't work or say, waiting 30 minutes for a working bus to come along?

The bus didn't leave the yard broken. Something happened on the way. Just be happy you got a ride and take it upon yourself to remember you rode once more than you've tracked. Is it that impossible for you to act like an f'ing adult and quit crying like a little girl?

Dave Z, is that true in both hemispheres or just the Northern?

Bob S,

Actually, I heard a rumor that it is only true for people who ride the brown line on a regular basis.

I've heard that hoping your CCP doesn't wear out actually causes it to wear out more quickly.

Am I the only one for whom the card just works? I've had mine for more than three years now, in my wallet, next to my Zipcard, and it's never failed to register. Even on New Year's Eve when I forgot about the free rides and the person standing there to remind us didn't...

I don't even remember when I got my CC+ card. It's been at least 3 years. Got it during the introduction when there was extra fee. It's been kept in my wallet squeezed in between credit cards, except when being removed to use. Still the original card.

I keep my card in a plastic holder along with a university ID. No problem with dueling chips and my card is almost 4 years old (expires in July).

BTW, can I expect CTA to automatically mail me a new CCP (I recently updated my mailing address on the web)or will additional action on my part be needed?

Has anybody had issues recently with passback usage on a 30-day CC+? The last couple of times I tried to use it for a friend at the train station, I get the message "1 use only". Not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I have pretax dollars put on the card, but that shouldn't matter since passback fares are paid by credit card anyhow.

I used to keep my CCP back to back in the same plastic holder on a lanyard as my work id - but when we got new work IDs a few years ago, the ccp stopped registering at the CTA turnstyles - the newer work ID was interfering. I now carry the ccp in the same type of plastic holder by itself, affixed right to my backpack and just swing it in front of the reader - viola! I am on my 2nd one, the 1st was automatically replaced when it hit expiration but was otherwise still working. The biggest problem I had was that the replacement was lost in the mail, I asked for a new one to be sent, I got that one and then a few days later, got the original replacement (I could tell by the serial numbers).

OK - not true - the biggest problem I had was that when they sent me the replacement, they started applying my transit benefit deposits to my wife's card rather than mine - that took about 14 phone calls to get right.

[Not sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I have pretax dollars put on the card, but that shouldn't matter since passback fares are paid by credit card anyhow.]

Any chance that you were still in the 2-hour transfer window when you tried to pass your friend in?

For example, if you use your card for yourself, go to a destination where your friend is waiting, and then try to pass through your friend (within 2 hours of your original use), it won't work.

If these things break so often, why on earth are you all ponying up $5 a pop for them?

With as fragile as the cards are, there's no reason to even use them when the formerly substantial fare incentive has been totally eliminated. Better to just have something that can be serviced in every station with a vending machine, namely, the good old farecards, even if it marginally slows you down on entering a bus.

Now, if we had Oyster, like London -- or for that matter, Washington DC's SmarTrip system, which will soon marry Chicago-type Cubic technology with Oyster-style automated discounting -- I'd go for it. But not without either an incentive or a means for resolving problems on the spot at the station.

I canceled my chicago plus card and received an email that it is no longer usable, but I've been using it all day! Will I just get billed for the usage?

Good question ChicagoNole. I'm thinking yes.

I used to have one ages ago. What I did was make a "wallet" just for it with duct tape and two pieces of sheet metal. The sheet metal was for preventing triggering the fare pay thing by accident because you stand too close to the reader. I saw one day a lady who had it in a purse and accidentally set it off. The sheet metal was stiff enough to prevent bending as well as serve as a faraday cage.

A similar holder for Ventra and RFID enabled credit cards is good to avoid identity theft. (and accidental overcharging of fares)

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