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Key Takeaway:

One of the largest metro systems in the world, Moscow Metro has been promoting its drive to expand the types of payments customers can use. Besides adding more contactless readers this year, the agency has also rolled out its facial-recognition payments service, “Face Pay,” and also is putting digital versions of its closed-loop Troika card into NFC wallets.

Key Data:

Chart: Moscow Metro shows growth of contactless EMV transactions.

Organizations Mentioned:

Moscow Metro

Moscow Metro said contactless fare payments have doubled this year, as the large transit agency continues to add acceptance points for a range of contactless bank card brands and NFC wallets.

One of the largest metro systems in the world, Moscow Metro has been promoting its drive to expand the types of payments customers can use. Besides adding more contactless readers this year, the agency has also rolled out its facial-recognition payments service, “Face Pay,” and also is putting digital versions of its closed-loop Troika card into NFC wallets.

This week the agency said it now accepts contactless payments at 963 turnstiles on its metro system and will equip 35 more by the end of the year. The agency said it will enable all of its turnstiles by 2022 for contactless payments, though didn’t say how many that would amount to. The metro has at least 240 stations, not counting the Moscow Central Circle line and monorail, which also accept contactless payments, as does the agency’s Moscow Central Diameters rail service.

The metro said the average number of contactless EMV payments going through its turnstiles this year has more than doubled, from 247,000 per day in February to 523,000 in September. That’s still a small percentage of the total daily rides Moscow Metro delivers, which reportedly averaged nearly 7 million per day a couple of years before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ridership has been down substantially because of the pandemic, of course, The metro, however, said last month that more than 80% of passengers had returned to the system, one of the highest recovery rates in the world, it said.

All told, the agency said more than 92 million passengers have passed through its gates this year paying with a contactless EMV cards or credentials in NFC wallets. That has already nearly doubled the contactless ridership of 52 million in 2020, a figure the agency had released earlier. Moscow Metro said it recorded 30 million contactless rides in 2019. (See chart this page.) The agency originally launched contactless payments in 2015.

Moscow Metro accepts contactless cards from four brands, Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay and Mir. The latter is the Russian payments scheme. It also takes open-loop credentials stored at least five NFC wallets, those connected with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Mir Pay and Huawei Pay.

Russia is also one of the last places customers can pay for fares with NFC SIM cards–but how long that lasts remains to be seen. Moscow Metro only a couple of weeks ago, Oct. 31, ended reloads of the “Mobile Ticket” service on SIMs from three major telcos, MTS, Megafon and Beeline. Customers can still use their unexpired funds on these SIMs, as the service phases out. The agency still supports the Mobile Ticket service for telco Tele2, as long as users have the proper SIM cards in their phones.

Overall, the metro is focused now on establishing a variety of payments means for users.

Touting it as the largest rollout of biometric payments in the world, Moscow Metro last month launched its high-profile Face Pay service, as expected, and predicted that 10% to 15% would regularly use the service in the next two to three years.

The service requires customers to register in the Moscow Metro mobile app with their bank cards and closed-loop Troika cards and to upload a photo. Cameras at the turnstile use the photo to compare with the live scan of the customer, though the transit agency said the system only reads key biometric features of the customer’s face, and that the “face image or other personal data of users are not compared.”

The agency followed this launch with a smartphone version of its closed-loop Troika card. The expanded pilot is putting Troika into the Google and Samsung wallets for another 4,000 users, adding to the 1,000 users for a trial announced in August. The agency said it seeks to have a total of 5,000 users testing Troika in the two wallets. And it hinted that it is in discussions to add the digital Troika card to Apple Pay, as well.

That’s in addition to expansion of contactless EMV payments acceptance, with the agency also noting plans to increase the speed of transactions for both open- and closed-loop transactions.

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