QR Codes and Credit Cards Now Accepted on Some Bangkok Buses

A file photo of new BMTA buses.
A file photo of new BMTA buses.

BANGKOK — Commuters can now pluck out their smartphones or contactless credit cards to pay for fares on more than 3,000 state-owned buses, the city transportation authority announced on Tuesday.

Following the successful test runs on airport lines, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) yesterday extended the system to all of its bus lines, which can be identified by the color schemes of cream-red for non-air conditioned buses, and cream-blue, orange, and light blue for air conditioned buses.

Simply use the smartphone application of your regular bank to pay for fares by scanning QR code on the conductor’s swipe machine. For contactless credit or debit card users, distinguished by Wi-Fi-like symbol, present the card to the conductor. Fares will be collected by the distance as usual.

Only Thai bank-issued applications can be used, but credit or debit cards issued by overseas banks are also compatible, a BMTA representative said over the phone.

The state-owned operator also rolled out its own stored value cards, which can only be used to pay for BMTA bus fares. They are sold for 50 baht each and would come with 50 baht value. Users can top up the card using their mobile applications or at the ATMs.

BMTA director Surachai Eamvachirasakul said the system will run for one year to get commuters familiarized with the cashless payment. The operator plans to phase out conductors in three years’ time.

“The cashless system is safe and efficient,” Surachai said. “Commuters are no longer needed to carry coins or feel frustrated when they find themselves having only large bills.”

Until now, there is no plan to extend the system to privately-owned buses. Surachai said it is possible if private operators express their desires to upgrade.