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February 19, 2021

SEPTA to debut smartphone payment for purchasing, reloading Key cards

Tap-and-go entry at turnstiles and fare boxes is still in the works amid pandemic delays

Public Transit SEPTA
SEPTA Key Smartphone Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

SEPTA will allow Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay users to purchase and reload SEPTA Key cards at kiosks and sales offices starting Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. The transit authority is still implementing a larger hardware upgrade to enable smartphones to validate payment at turnstiles and fare boxes.

SEPTA riders will have a simpler way to reload and purchase Key cards beginning on Monday when the transit authority debuts Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay at station kiosks and fare offices.

As of Feb. 22, SEPTA customers can use these smartphone payment methods to make in-person purchases of Key cards and add Travel Wallet funds.

Fare kiosks are located at all Market-Frankford and Broad Street Line stations, Center City Regional Rail stations and at major bus loops.

Kiosks and sales offices will continue to accept cash, credit and debit cards as well.

The rollout of smartphone fare features is part of SEPTA's broader plan to enable tap-and-go functionality across all of its turnstiles and fare boxes. SEPTA customers eventually will be able to simply swipe their smartphones or an enabled payment or ID card in lieu of using the SEPTA Key Card.

That initiative was supposed to debut last year, but delays brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and technical implementation have slowed down the timelines, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said Friday.

"It's a little behind our original estimates," Busch said. "This is a step in the right direction."

Upgrading fare boxes and turnstiles with smartphone-compatible hardware requires SEPTA to replace all of its SEPTA Key validtors on buses, trolleys, turnstiles and station platforms — more than 4,200 of them. 

The project will cost $4.3 million as part of SEPTA's contract with Conduent, the company that manages the SEPTA Key Fare system.

Apple Pay and Google Pay have already been introduced to public transit in New York City, Washington, D.C., and London. Several other cities are expected to join Philadelphia in enabling these payment methods.

Busch could not give an exact timeline for these payment features to be introduced, but said SEPTA is hopeful it can move forward with pilot testing and an early rollout phase some time later in 2021.