MasterCard Survey Finds Commuters Ready to Kick Cash to the Curb in Favor of Contactless Payments

U.S. Transit Riders Estimate Saving an Hour on Weekly Commute with Simple and Convenient Tap & Go ™ Payments

PURCHASE, N.Y.--()--The simple act of paying to board mass transit can add significant stress to the daily commute. A new survey released today by MasterCard Worldwide finds that many of the top frustrations cited by U.S. commuters have to do with how they pay and that a majority recognize the benefits contactless payments can provide to improve the commuting experience.

The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of MasterCard between November 21 and December 6, 2011 among 1607 adults across seven major U.S. cities, evaluated common pain points transit riders have experienced when relying on cash to pay for their trip:

  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. commuters who use cash for mass transit (65 percent) worry about not having enough cash on hand to pay for their trip, while more than one-third (36 percent) have actually been unable to take mass transit because they did not have enough cash on hand.
  • More than two in five U.S. commuters (44 percent) have missed a bus, train or subway while waiting in line to buy or add money onto a fare card.
  • Two-in-five riders who use cash for mass transit (42 percent) say worrying about needing correct change is one of their top frustrations when paying for their commute.

“The grind of the daily commute should not be compounded by the way you pay just to ride mass transit,” said Catherine Murchie, Senior Vice President, MasterCard Worldwide. “From our survey, we know that commuters want a better way to buy their fare and open-loop contactless payment options such as MasterCard PayPass eliminate the need to wait in line, fumble for exact change or carry multiple fare cards so that it easier to board and be on your way.”

When presented with the option to use a contactless payment option instead of cash on their daily commute, riders were clear in their desire for a better way to pay. Of those who take multiple modes of mass transit each day, three-quarters (75 percent) wish there was one payment card that could be used to access all mass transit systems near or within their local city. Two thirds of riders (66 percent) say they would be likely to use a Tap & Go form of payment to pay for mass transit if it were an option to them. Nearly half of all commuters (47 percent) say they would use their mobile phone to pay for mass transit.

Contactless Payments save Riders Time

The MasterCard survey also found that reducing transit travel time is high on U.S. commuters’ wish lists. Today, riders estimate they spend an average of 2.7 hours per work week (32 minutes per day) accessing the mass transit system. Yet, when asked about the benefits of using a Tap & Go form of payment, riders estimated they could shave nearly an hour a week (an average 11 minutes per day) from their commute.

According to the survey, there are a number of payment frustrations that contribute to current, lengthy transit travel times.

  • Nearly one third of commuters (31 percent) say they feel they spend too much time waiting in line to buy or add money to their fare card.
  • Forty-three percent feel the ticketing machines are often slow, out of order or difficult to use.
  • More than a quarter of riders (26 percent) are frustrated by the process they must go through to replace a misplaced fare card.
  • One fifth of commuters (21 percent) have been frustrated by not knowing where or how to pay in unfamiliar mass transit systems

Commuters See Clear Benefits in One, Contactless Way to Pay

Additionally, it is clear that commuters want to consolidate their mass transit tickets into one card that can be used across multiple transit systems.

  • Two-thirds of commuters surveyed (66 percent) travel by more than one mode of mass transit in a typical week and 70 percent have used mass transit in a city other than their own.
  • Nearly as many consider easier transferring between different types of mass transit (64 percent) and easier payments in unfamiliar stations (65 percent) as major benefits to a Tap & Go payment method.
  • More than half of commuters (59 percent) consider reducing lines and accelerating time through transportation centers as major benefits of Tap-&-Go, open-loop payment options.

“Open-loop, contactless payments are ideal for environments, like transit, where speed and convenience are essential,” continued Murchie. “We are working with a number of public transportation agencies across the U.S. and around the globe to improve current ways to pay and riders in many cities, from Chicago to Philadelphia, are already benefiting from the innovation.”

Whether enabled via a mobile phone, card, key fob, or other device, MasterCard PayPass offers commuters a simple, easy and convenient way to pay for their trip. Riders can simply tap their PayPass-enabled MasterCard card, phone or device on a contactless payment accepting reader to make a fare purchase.

For transit agencies, open-loop, contactless payments not only help enhance the customer experience by providing a fast, reliable and convenient payment method, but may help reduce agency operating expenses by making payment collection and back-end operations more efficient.

Survey Methodology

The MasterCard Transit Survey was conducted on behalf of MasterCard by Harris Interactive between November 21 and December 6, 2011 in three countries: United States (n=1607), Singapore (n=503) and South Korea (n=560). The U.S. data was collected among residents of seven U.S. markets: New York City, Washington D.C, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Baltimore. All participants were over the age of 18, employed, student or retired, traveled by mass transit at least 3-4 times per week and own at least one credit or debit card. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About MasterCard

MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a global payments and technology company. It operates the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @mastercardnews, join the conversation on The Heart of Commerce Blog and subscribe for the latest news.


For media inquiries or the full methodology, including weighting variables:
MasterCard Worldwide
Robyn Cottelli, 914-249-1347


For media inquiries or the full methodology, including weighting variables:
MasterCard Worldwide
Robyn Cottelli, 914-249-1347