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By Nick Mackie, Global Head of Urban Mobility, Visa

Urban mobility is a great example, relevant in every country, of how removing friction from payments can realise the full potential of a customer experience and encourage more people to take advantage of public transit. A recent survey from Visa found that globally, nearly one in three (32%) riders cite contactless payments as a top feature that would entice them to use public transit, with nearly all riders (91%) expecting contactless payment options to be available on public transit. The economic, ecological and social importance of public transit are well-known to public transit stakeholders, and while open loop, contactless payments may be a convenient, secure and seamless way for riders to pay their transit fares, it’s important to note that transit operators similarly benefit.

We know that urban mobility operators who offer digital fare payments enjoy overall cost savings of up to 30%, increased ridership, time savings, enhanced risk management, and much more. One example of the importance of saving time at the point of payment is, of course, keeping schedules running to time, and keeping dwell times minimal. If a rider pays with a contactless card or contactless payment-enabled device, it’s likely that they’ll spend less time getting onboard, looking through their pockets for change, a ticket or travel card. Studies show that 84% of travelers in major U.S. cities were frustrated by customers ahead of them taking a long time to purchase a ticket, and 67% report missing a train due to long ticket lines. Digital payments can improve customer throughput and increase efficiency. Forty three percent of riders rank faster journey times as a top motivator that would encourage them to use transit more often.

But crucially, open-loop contactless fare payments, based on an EMV technology stack, can serve as a foundation for innovation that will foster inclusivity and equity, and enhance the overall experience for all those living, working, and visiting the city. Many examples will come to fruition in the coming years of transport operators migrating legacy ticketing and smart card technologies to EMV-based technologies to ensure that all transport use cases, and all customer segments, are well served. There will be a proliferation of fare capping to ensure passengers pay the fairest fare for their journeys without needing to decide which ticket to buy in advance (fare capping limits how much a rider pays for their total rides in a day, week, or month, eliminating the need to tie up funds on a monthly pass or transit-dedicated card). And digital ID technologies will be used to verify concessionary riders and allow them to use their own bank card to travel at discounted rates.

Open loop payments are an opportunity to give unbanked and underbanked individuals a tremendous lift, and to begin participating in the broader financial system. Urban mobility will serve as a catalyst for this.

Ensuring transit services meet the needs of residents and visitors alike is a goal for all cities seeking to optimize their networks and improve overall urban health. Transit systems help city residents sustain their livelihoods, connect to services, and pursue activities that create a vibrant city life. When global transit operators can draw in more passengers and improve the overall experience, everyone wins.


[1] Visa’s “Future of Urban Mobility” survey: May 2022 (conducted by Wakefield Research among 11,550 adults who take public transportation in 14 markets: U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, U.K., South Africa, UAE, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Egypt
[2] Microsoft, Digital transformation in public transportation: How governments can better meet travelers needs
[3] Visa’s “Future of Urban Mobility” survey
[4] Visa: “Cashless Cities: Realizing the Benefits of Digital Payments” Online at:
[5] Visa: “Transforming Urban Mobility: Online at
[6] Visa: “Transforming Urban Mobility
[7] Visa’s “Future of Urban Mobility” survey