Clipper promotes digital transit card adoption as plastic card costs rise

Man using Clipper digital transit card in San Francisco Bay Area
CHIP SHORTAGE: The US$3 transit card fee is being waived to encourage users to opt for the digital version

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in the San Francisco Bay Area in the USA are rewarding passengers for opting for the digital version of the Clipper stored-value transit card “because global supply chain issues have depleted the inventory of plastic cards”, the MTC says.

The two transit agencies are waiving the standard US$3 fee charged to users when buying a new card as long as they opt for the digital version that enables them to pay their bus, rail, ferry and train fares with a card stored in Apple Pay or Google Pay.

BART has also based an outreach team at San Francisco International Airport to encourage visitors to the city to download a digital Clipper card onto their Android or iOS device, according to a report by local media outlet SFGate.

“In early May, Clipper Card manufacturer Paragon ID alerted MTC and BART that the shipment of new plastic cards would be delayed,” SFGate says.

“Thierry Burgess, CEO of Paragon ID US, said that plastic wasn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the semiconductors used inside the card. He told SFGate that the supply issue is due to a lack of wafer fabrication factories, which produce the chips, and require billions of dollars to open.”

“I’ve been in the business for 20 years and there is a cycle. But I’ve never seen something as severe as right now,” Burgess told SFGate.

“I’m surprised at the extent of the downturn. I’ve gone through similar cycles in the past, it’s almost predictable, but it’s now impacted by Covid and climate change.”

Passengers who purchase a physical Clipper card will continue to be charged the US$3 new card fee.

The digital Clipper card rolled out for Apple users in April 2021 and for Android users in May 2021.

US research firm Nilson Report predicted earlier this month that disruptions in the global supply chain for contactless chips will result in the overall cost to card issuers for finished first-use plastic cards rising by between 5% and 20% during 2021.

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