It's going to be a lot easier for riders on the UP Express to pay for their fare, as they will be able to pay by tapping their credit cards or mobile wallets on fare readers.

Starting Thursday, Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees PRESTO, is launching a contactless payment pilot project that will allow riders to use their physical credit card or their mobile wallet to pay for their fare on UP Express.

Riders using the new feature will be charged the same price as the adult PRESTO fare, and Metrolinx says approved cards include Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, while riders can also tap their phone or watch with a mobile wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Though at this time, debit cards aren't accepted.

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“Our customers have asked for more ways to pay, and we’re so excited to roll out the next stage with PRESTO contactless payment on UP Express,” said Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster. “We are eager to build on this launch and deliver this to our customers around the region.”

Brandon Bernard, Metrolinx communications planning senior advisor, says just like with other contactless payment systems across the world, customers should take the card they want to pay with out of their wallet, purse or phone case when tapping onto a PRESTO device to pay.

"This avoids a situation called “card clash” and ensures the correct payment method is charged," explained Bernard.

Customers must also tap on and off in the same way, meaning, if you tap on with your credit card, you must tap off with the same credit card; and if you tap on with your phone or watch, you must tap off with the same phone or watch using the same card set up in your mobile wallet.

Riders can also pre-set their preferred credit card in a mobile wallet on their phone (or watch) for easy access and use anytime they feel like using credit as a payment method.

Of course, UP Express customers can still continue to use their PRESTO card or e-ticket to pay their fare, the contactless payment is just another measure to help customers travel safely, says Acting Chief of PRESTO, Fawad Ebraemi.

The pilot marks the first phase of Metrolinx's continued rollout to enhance and modernize the payment experience for customers across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In the spring, PRESTO plans to add Interac Debit as an option to pay for travel on UP Express, the first time a transit agency in Canada will offer a Canadian contactless debit option.

 And then, following the UP Express pilot, PRESTO will be rolling out payment by credit, debit, and mobile wallets to more transit agencies across the region in a phased manner. 

However, it will still be years until an open-payment feature like this will be available on Toronto public transit, though a TTC report released last month said the feature could be available by the second half of 2023.