Only 16 of NYC Subway’s stations are now set up for the future contactless system of paying by phone or credit card. Few people have contactless credit cards (I got my first replacement card with that feature only a week ago), and the stations that offer the system are only on two lines. So Mastercard was brought onboard to offer “free” rides on those lines thru those enabled stations on Fridays this summer.
This article focuses on the economic cost to Mastercard and the system of providing this freebie and also discusses how much behavior change can be anticipated. Someone was pretty creative. A shame, for me, that it’s on the other side of Manhattan.
Just how many tourists, Brooklynites, bankers and media executives ride the New York City subway on Fridays during summer? While it sounds like banal cocktail party fodder, it’s actually key to knowing how many free subway rides Mastercard is giving to riders when they tap their phones or cards at a turnstile.
The credit card company has launched a promotion to pay for New Yorker’s subway trips if they use a Mastercard to tap into the system. Riders can use a physical card that has an RFID chip or a virtual one loaded onto their phone’s digital wallet app.
Currently, most of the New York Subway turnstiles only accept the MetroCard a thin, single-purpose, magnetic-striped piece of plastic. However, there are now 16 stations that accept contactless payment. The system is called OMNY, and is in place along some stations along the 4, 5, and 6 lines. Since June 7, card holders who used a Mastercard to tap in at these stations will be reimbursed up to $5.50 every Friday in June and July—the equivalent of two rides.
So what’s the bottom line of this stunt?
The company’s hope is to get customers used to tapping for payments versus swiping. “The promotion is more for behavior change than anything else,” said Mastercard spokesperson, Chaiti Sen. Switching consumers to contactless payments is good business. A study out of the International Journal of Economic Sciences showed that such technologies led to 8%-10% greater spending among debit and credit cardholders.