A life in transit
Sunday, August 7th, 2022 Alive18,730days
I have a bad habit of holding on to transportation cards; especially if they have leftover money still loaded on them.
The grey Ventra card was the first one. It also functioned as a MasterCard debit card with the idea that it could be of benefit to poor people and the many thousands of Chicagoans who canʼt or donʼt have a bank account. That didn't really work out, and eventually it was migrated into the more common blue transit card.
Amazingly, I was able to use the blue Ventra card on my most recent trip to Chicago. It had about eight dollars on it when I last used it, and 11 years later, that money was still available, and it worked fine. It turns out that it doesnʼt expire for 25 years.
More durable than a card, and you can hang it on a keychain, I got an akbil to get around Istanbul. The akbil system has since transitioned to a boring plastic card like most of the rest of the world, and the money that I had left on this has now expired.
Amtrak (United States)
This was just a rewards card, like a frequent flyer card. I earned quite a few points going back-and-forth between Chicago and Saint Louis; Seattle and Vancouver; Saint Paul and Chicago. But since Amtrak discontinued service to Las Vegas, I stopped using it and the points expired.
I think this is the oldest of the bunch. I have no idea if thereʼs any money left on it.
Orca bills itself as a single payment solution for getting around the entire Puget Sound area. But I seem to recall that it wasn't actually accepted everywhere. That may have been fixed by now, but I seem to recall that when I was using it, it was only valid on ferries, and Sound Transit buses and trains. I remember using paper transfer tickets on Seattle city buses.
I have no idea if thereʼs any money on this one, either.
Do It All (Singapore)
This card is supposed to do it all. I don't know if it did. I only used it on trains, and perhaps a cable car to Sentosa Island.
Thereʼs probably money left on it, if it hasnʼt expired.
Octopus (Hong Kong)
I've noticed that a lot of transit cards are named after sea creatures.
I had money on it, but that was probably forcibly expired as Hong Kong was crushed under the mainlandʼs thumb. At least I still have my Hong Kong money with the image of Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ on it.
A good number of transit cards are also positioned as general-purpose payment cards. My observation was that T-Money achieved this most thoroughly, and early.
It seemed like you could use T-Money anywhere in Seoul. Its acceptance was probably wider than even Visa or MasterCard.
Since T-Money is more like a bank account than a transit card, there's probably money left on it.
Suica is one of two major transportation cards in use in Tokyo, and adjacent areas of Japan. The other one is Pasmo.
How to choose between the two? Easy — Pick the one with the cute penguin on it.
Suica has a unique set-up process, where you can create your account and login at the ticket vending machine, and it prints your name on the back of the card. Pretty nifty.
Thereʼs very likely money on this one, since itʼs not that old.
Zipcard (United States)
When I lived in cities where I didnʼt need a car all the time, I used ZipCar to bring home major purchases that wouldnʼt fit on transit, or to take longer trips.
The interesting thing about the ZipCar process is that you tap the card on the car to unlock it and get the keys.