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What is PRESTO?

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Image of the PRESTO fare card used in the GTA

The PRESTO card is a wallet-sized fare card which can be used on multiple transit systems in Ontario.

Marilyn Campbell
Question: What is PRESTO?
You may have seen green PRESTO card readers on your local buses or inside various transit stations in Southern Ontario. So just what is the PRESTO system all about?
Answer: The PRESTO Card is a plastic, wallet-sized smartcard which can be loaded with a cash value of anywhere from $10 to $1000, then used to pay fares on any of several public transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton and - coming in 2012 - Ottawa.

The card is tapped against a PRESTO card reader, and the appropriate fare is deducted from the total value on the card. PRESTO is a Government of Ontario initiative which is designed to encourage public transit use with a more convenient way to pay fares and an easier way to use multiple transit systems.

Where is PRESTO Accepted?

Public transit providers which accept the PRESTO Card on all routes include:

The PRESTO Card is accepted in a limited capacity* on:

*Current as of July 2012. Visit individual transit provider websites for updates.

The PRESTO Card system is scheduled to begin appearing on OC Transpo (Ottawa) in summer 2012.

The Benefits of PRESTO

One of the intended benefits of the PRESTO Card is that it eliminates the need to keep track of tickets or tokens, or to ensure you have exact change. The value of this feature should increase with the number of transit systems you tend to use.

However because the PRESTO system is still new, not all fare discounts may be available. For example, some transit providers offer discounts on PRESTO fares depending on how many trips you take in a month, but other systems don't account for this (the TTC for example, currently deducts the cost of a token no matter how many trips you take in a month, which may prove more expensive for Metropass users, and especially for Metropass Discount Plan subscribers). Also, PRESTO is not available for all routes in all regions.

To determine if PRESTO is right for you, visit the websites of all the transit providers you anticipate using for both your regular commute and for occasional travel, and read the PRESTO related information carefully. If the PRESTO Card fare system does not yet meet your needs, be sure to check back for updates.

How to Get a PRESTO Card

In municipalities which are using the PRESTO system, there are generally several outlets where the card can be purchased and loaded (as of July 2012, the TTC does not yet offer any PRESTO sales or services). Visit one of the individual transit provider websites listed above for details if you'd like to get your PRESTO Card in person.

Another option however is to buy your PRESTO Card online at www.prestocard.ca. You can also use the website to add money to your account and to register your card (which is optional).

Note that except during special promotions, no matter what method you use to purchase your new PRESTO Card there is a $6 card issuance fee and a minimum of $10 must be loaded.

The Benefits of Registration

While you may simply purchase and load a PRESTO Card anonymously, there are benefits to registering your card. Registered PRESTO Card users can:
  • Claim the Federal Public Transit Tax Credit (if you take enough trips in certain amount of time)
  • Use a credit card to set up an auto-reload for when the account balance drops below a chosen dollar amount.
  • Block the use of the card and transfer the remaining balance to a new card, if the registered card is lost or stolen (see contract for details).
If you decide to register your card, you may do so on the PRESTO website. If you got your card in-person at a customer service desk, you'll need to wait around 24 hours before you can register via the website.

Learn More About PRESTO

PRESTO is an exciting development for transit users (or would-be transit users) in Southern Ontario, but it is also a system that is still in development. There are many specifics you should understand before using PRESTO, so visit www.prestocard.ca for full details on how to purchase and use the PRESTO Card.

You can also:

  1. About.com
  2. Travel
  3. Toronto
  4. Getting Around Town
  5. GTA Transportation
  6. What is PRESTO? - Ontario's Public Transit Card

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