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MST Tests Innovative
Contactless Payment System

Since May, MST has been testing a contactless payment system that lets riders pay fares with the same card or mobile wallet used for everyday purchases. MST is the first California operator to introduce the simple tap-to-pay option, which could revolutionize public transit systems worldwide.

A New Way to Pay

The contactless fare demonstration is led by the California Integrated Travel Project (Cal-ITP), a Caltrans initiative to simplify transit planning and payments. Cal-ITP organizers chose MST as a partner due to its diverse ridership. That includes students, seniors, ag workers, low-income families, tourists, and other rural and urban passengers.

MST worked with Visa and partners on four continents to address technical challenges and implement the payment system. Teams had to adapt traditional card readers to buses that travel between networks, while guaranteeing quick, consistent transactions for payment-enabled devices, prepaid cards, and contactless debit or credit cards by
Visa or Mastercard.

During the demonstration project’s first six months, the number of MST customers using contactless payments tripled – and it continues to grow. Agencies across the state, nation and the globe have expressed interest in adopting the system, which MST will continue testing through July 2022.


If widely adopted, this technology will save time and resources. Rather than developing and managing their own payment systems, transit agencies can simply adopt this proven, tap-to-pay technology.

The system also simplifies travel for passengers, who enjoy:

  • Faster boarding. No fumbling for cash. Simply tap and ride!
  • Shorter lines. No waiting as riders count coins or feed cash into fareboxes.
  • A streamlined wallet. No more separate cards or apps that only work on transit.
  • More hygienic travel. Ditch shared cash and coins.
  • Simplified fares and travel savings. Tap when boarding and exiting the bus to pay just for the distance traveled.
  • Automatic fare caps. Use the same card or mobile wallet for each ride, and never pay more than MST’s daily, weekly or monthly fare limit ($10/$50/$95).
  • (Available in late 2021) Senior discounts. Riders over age 65 can register their payment card through a California DMV interface that confirms their age and eligibility. Once validated, they’ll enjoy half-price fares whenever they board with that payment card.

Equity for the Unbanked and Underbanked

No bank account? No problem. Individuals who don’t hold accounts at a traditional bank can show California identification to get a separate physical card or mobile account access. These accounts, operated by Square and Visa, function like a personal debit account that can be loaded with cash or funds from paper checks. Once loaded, the cards and mobile payment methods work on MST contactless devices and anywhere that accepts traditional credit or debit cards.

“MST is providing reliable options for low-income households and people who lack access to, or trust in, traditional financial institutions. These personal debit accounts offer all the functionally and benefits of a regular bank account or credit card. And, unbanked individuals can load their paper paychecks directly to their account, rather than paying excessive fees for check-cashing services.”
– Carl Sedoryk, MST General Manager/CEO

Learn More

For more information stop by an MST Customer Service location or visit mst.org/fares/contactless-payment/