Littlepay’s role in modernising the concessionary fare
The Cal-ITP Benefits Program: Littlepay’s role in modernising the concessionary fare
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The Cal-ITP Benefits Program: Littlepay’s role in modernising the concessionary fare

  • Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) enables veterans to access concession fares using their bank-issued contactless cards
  • The revolutionary CAL-ITP Benefits Tool was first introduced last year on MST’s network of buses, giving seniors in California the ability to access benefits using their bank cards. 

Until now, public transportation agencies relied on manual applications, photo IDs and closed loop cards to enable them to discount fares for rider groups like seniors, veterans or students. That dependency ended last year with the introduction of a system that links a rider’s benefits eligibility to their bank-issued credit or debit card.

Offering fare discounts to different eligibility groups is a requirement for public transit operators who receive federal funding, so as agencies in the U.S. roll out open loop payment solutions, it’s critical to find a way for EMV to support concessions. This is exactly what Littlepay and its partners have achieved with the Cal-ITP Benefits program.

Last September, the State of California launched Cal-ITP Benefits, the first online tool for transit riders to quickly and securely verify their identity and benefit eligibility. Riders enter their details online at a registration portal, their eligibility is verified against centralised government data and that eligibility is then linked to their bank card.

A digital, friction-free, self-service fare concession program

The launch of this pioneering service breaks down one of the most persistent arguments against phasing out closed loop transit cards. Public transit operators have long viewed their closed loop schemes as the only method to facilitate concession programs. This project brings additional choice and, in so doing, gives them a route to radically reduce costs.

When riders use bank cards that have been registered for discounts, their proof of eligibility and the discounted payment are combined in a single tap. This removes the need for riders to appear in person at a transit agency to apply for discount-fare benefits – saving time, money, and paper. It also saves on the huge cost of issuing photo ID or agency-branded transit cards, which is incurred by the closed loop approach. Boarding a vehicle is faster, with no driver interaction. The whole process becomes a seamless, self-service, digital experience.

“MST is the first transit operator in the world to offer contactless fare collection for discount-eligible groups. Working collaboratively with partners at Cal-ITP, the California Department of Technology (CDT), the Veterans Administration (VA) Lighthouse Program, and Littlepay, we are able to provide the veteran community with a simple, secure option to enjoy a discounted bus fare”

stated MST General Manager/CEO, Carl Sedoryk

How Cal-ITP Benefits works

Cal-ITP Benefits is the product of a collaboration between Cal-ITP and the Digital Identity team at the California Department of Technology (CDT),, Littlepay and  It leverages CDT’s expertise from researching the development of a Digital ID system to be used across all state departments, transitioning state forms to be processed electronically. The payment processing and discount groups are handled by Littlepay’s cloud-based back office, while the web app was designed and developed by software consultancy A user visits the Cal-ITP Benefits web app, directly or linked from a transit agency. They then verify their identity via, and the app links the customer’s fare discount benefit to the contactless Visa or Mastercard debit, or credit card of the user’s choosing. 

Focused on a simple user experience

The system in California is proof of a concept we’ve been developing at Littlepay for a couple of years. We’ve created the visual below to show the building blocks needed to deliver a simple user experience. Alongside contactless fare capping, the key to giving low income riders PAYG access to transit and automatic value, we believe that this model for EMV concessionary fares will further embed the industry’s goals of fare equity and inclusion into open loop payments.

The solution was successfully piloted for senior citizen travel with Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) buses. This solution proves that discounts and concessions are achievable for open loop fare collection systems, while providing a modern and secure alternative to the existing manual eligibility verification process.

In the initial roll-out, the portal used as a secure digital identity service to verify a transit customer’s age for a “senior fare” discount. However, the concept is now being extended to veterans. 

The Cal-ITP Benefits program allows veterans living in California to sign up for concessionary fares via their online portal. The system lets the veterans verify their eligibility through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once the process is completed their card will be linked to the corresponding discount.

“MST, Cal-ITP and Littlepay have been working together to extend more rider benefits into contactless pay-as-you-go fare collections for over a year now. All of us at Littlepay are proud to empower transit riders with better, safer, more accessible mobility payment options – and we are especially proud to be honoring America’s veterans beside MST and Cal-ITP by enabling greater access to transit benefits on this Veterans Day!”

said Littlepay Business Development Manager, Brad Cecil

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