CASH Cards and Cellphone Train Tickets [en]

[fr] En Suisse, on a la carte CASH (avec laquelle je paie parcomètres, billets de bus, et parkings souterrains), le numéro court 222/999 pour recevoir les horaires de train par SMS, et maintenant les billets de train par MMS (pour certains trajets, commandables en ligne ou par téléphone).

Near the end of the latest Cranky Geeks episode there is some talk about paying things through cellphones, general lack of quarters (change) in the world, and concert ticket barcodes sent by MMS.

Here are some of the things we already have in sometimes-backward Switzerland.

First, the CASH Card. It’s basically a chip which is added to nearly all the current debit cards banks provide their customers (people here use debit — Maestro — much more than credit). It’s specifically designed for the payment of small amounts. You “put cash” on your card at the ATM through your debit account (30-300CHF). Then, off you go, your pockets full of virtual change.

I use CASH to pay my bus fares, feed the parking meter, underground parking, payphones, and even small purchases in kiosks or the baker’s. It’s cheaper for the vendor than either debit or credit, and doesn’t require an authentification code. It’s fast.

Second, train tickets on your mobile. For certain trips, you can order the ticket online or by phone (I called them to make sure I’d understood things right, as the web page is a bit confusing), and receive the barcode for this ticket by MMS. This does require going through a somewhat cumbersome sign-up process, but hey, you only need to do it once (and I did manage to follow through to the end).

One very useful thing the SBB/CFF have been doing for sometime now is they allow you to query the train timetables by SMS. Send “Lausanne Geneva” (without quotes) to 222 or 999 (depends on carrier) and they’ll give you the timetable of the three next trains for that trip. It gets smarter, too: “Lausanne Geneva 1500” gives you the first three trains after 3pm, and “Lausanne Geneva” the three last trains to arrive before 6pm. If you want platform information, try “Lausanne Geneva 1700 g”. You can also ask for trains departing in 2 hours, for example: “Lausanne Morges 2”.

I’m waiting to see a merge between these two last services: ask for timetables via SMS, and then order the MMS ticket directly for that trip (when those will be available for all trips). But actually, it’s not too bad as it is: you can order your MMS ticket by calling the free number 0800222211. They answer fast and are friendly (I called them three times with nasty questions as I was writing this post).

When I was in Lisbon, I was totally impressed by the little black box that my host had under his windscreen, and which let him in and out of paid parkings, sending him a bill at the end of the month. That would be fun and practical to have.

What useful mobile/card services does your country have?

8 thoughts on “CASH Cards and Cellphone Train Tickets [en]

  1. In France, we have a quite similar system as CASH, called Moneo. The problem is it’s expensive, you pay a commission to add money on the chip AND shopkeepers pay another commission each time a customer buy something using his Moneo card. Dumb. On the other hand, Frenches are used to pay by checks. I hate these, I always forget to sign them. Grrr… 🙁

  2. I think the whole point of CASH is that it hardly costs anything. I don’t pay to charge my card or use it, and I don’t think the vendors pay much to accept it (less than credit/debit, in any case).

  3. Ride Aircoach in Ireland after receiving a scannable image on your mobile phone. You have to use the web interface to buy the ticket unless you have a very robust web browser on your mobile phone.

  4. The parking aide “little black box” you saw in Lisbon has a Swiss little white brother: Hisa Allpark ( is a personal horodator. Launched in our dearest town Lausanne mid-February, you can now use it in 18 Swiss cities that have joined the system so far. Disclaimer: I have no whatsoever interest in the company, nor the system, since I’m a happy two-wheeler and parking is (still) free for us.

  5. It’s a great idea.. I would like to see it work.. I could see it even someday being tied into a satelite linked system…

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