15-Sep-2016 11:30:00
by James Gooch

What is Account Based Ticketing?

Most traditional transport ticketing systems are ‘Card Centric.’ This means the travel information and the right to travel on public transport is stored on or in the ticket. This is the same for magstripe paper or smartcard ticketing systems.


These ‘Closed-Loop’ systems, where the fare media is supplied by the transport provider, have been around for years and provide a robust solution in which transactions are primarily stored on the card and only secondarily in the readers and then in the local and/or central back-offices.


In recent years, thanks to advances in communications technologies, innovative transport providers have launched new transit ticketing systems that allow passengers to use contactless cards, mobile phones, wearables, or other IDs to travel.


These new technologies allow for ‘Open-Loop’ and ‘Account-Based’ systems. They provide a greater degree of convenience for passengers than ‘closed-loop’ and cash based ticketing systems, while saving transport providers money.


Account Based Ticketing is defined by the Smartcard Alliance as:

“The transit fare collection system architecture that uses the back office system to apply relevant business rules, determine the fare, and settle the transaction.”


Essentially right to travel is managed by the central back office and the ‘ticket’ the passenger has acts as a token or proof of the right to travel and identifier of a customer’s account - hence, Account-Based. The back office issued the ticket/token, stores its usage patterns in the back office and also settles the transaction based on usage. As such, the back office is the primary source of truth, unlike in a Card Centric system where, as described above, it is the card.


Because of this, passengers are able to use what they have in their pocket to travel, be it an EMV contactless bank card, smartcard, phone or a smart wearable and the payment will link with their ‘account’ residing in the back office. Account Based systems are also better placed to take advantage of the advances in technology to run and scale more efficiently, with the back-offices often being managed from the ‘Cloud’.


For the transport provider the benefits are significant. With legacy Card Centric systems, transport providers have to act as a local currency, exchanging cash or card payment for a ticket to travel. These paper or smartcard systems are expensive to install and expensive to operate.


Account Based Ticketing allows transport providers to move to an ‘open loop’ system and away from the cost of issuing physical ticket media and the cost of handling cash.


Mobile ticketing can operate both as a traditional proof of payment style ticket (data on the ticket - suitable for last minute tickets) and also enable Account Based ticketing (static token & data primarily in the back office), allowing you to feed in and experiment with account based products as you move to full Account Based Ticketing.


Because Account Based Ticketing is not yet great at last minute top ups or last minute purchases we encourage transport providers to start with a gradual roll out of account based products, mostly for period passes. You can then move to 100% account based ticketing in the future as and when required.


About Masabi’s JustRide Platform

Masabi’s Justride is a cloud-based fare collection platform unifying account-based and pre-pay ticketing into a single configurable solution. Justride’s SaaS architecture and 'Mobile First' approach allow transport providers of all sizes to deliver innovation quickly, delighting passengers and reducing costs, while increasing efficiency and data insights.



Written by James Gooch

Head of Marketing at Masabi.
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