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Compass fare product priority

Compass Points the Way

Welcome back to the Compass classroom!

This week’s topic: deciding what comes first on your Compass Card. Did you know there’s a priority to Compass fare products?

Get in line

One of the handy things about Compass is that you can load multiple types of passes on your Compass Card, so they’re ready when you need them. If you have more than one fare product on a Compass Card, the Compass system will select a fare product to use in the following order when you tap in and tap out:

1. Any active pass – the system will look for an active Monthly Pass, Program Pass (i.e. BC Bus Pass), or DayPass first to use for travel.

2. Inactive but valid Monthly Pass or Program Pass – when there isn’t any active pass found on the card, the system will look for an inactive Monthly Pass or Program Pass to activate for travel.

3. Inactive but valid DayPass or WCE Return Trip – when there isn’t any active pass or inactive Monthly or Program passes on the card, the system will look for an inactive DayPass or WCE Return Trip to activate for travel.

4. Stored Value – when there isn’t any active or inactive passes found on the card, the system will use Stored Value.

*Please note that this only applies to Compass Cards, not Compass tickets.

Active or not? 

So what’s the difference between an active pass and a pass?

Well, for example, an active Monthly Pass is one you’ve purchased and is in use at the point of tap in and tap out (meaning you’ve already activated it for travel). An inactive but valid Monthly Pass is one you’ve purchased and loaded on your Compass Card for the current month, but hasn’t been activated. (A Monthly Pass only gets activated on your Compass Card once you’ve tapped your card in for the desired month.)

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Compass points the way to a more convenient, easy to use, and safe and secure transit system.


  • By dan t, March 11, 2014 @ 10:39 am

    The priorities seem reasonable to me. Ideally there would be a method of selecting between daypasses and stored value, but I can see that being too complicated for some customers. One thing sticks out though:

    Why is there a distinction between active and inactive passes for monthly/program passes? Is this so that customers can get refunded for unused passes after the month has started, but before the customer has used it?

    And a hypothetical question for you: What would occur in the scenario that a customer did not “activate” their monthly pass during the entire month? Is the customer entitled to a refund?

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 11, 2014 @ 11:33 am

    @Dan t, great questions! The reason for the distinction between active and inactive passes is so that you can pre-purchase your monthly pass in the preceding month. To give you an example, without the distinction, a pass loaded onto a Compass Card on February 28 and subsequently tapped for travel on that day will be a February pass, even though you are likely intending it to be a March pass. Luckily,under the current design, the pass loaded on February 28 remains inactive until March, allowing you to use your Compass Card without risk of using the monthly pass as a February pass. In addition, the distinction helps us with pass priority and the system won’t be confused as to which pass to use in the middle of a trip. For example, if you have already used a monthly pass to start a journey, the system won’t use a new pass (perhaps a DayPass) when you make a transfer. Does this make sense?
    On to your hypothetical question, according to the Terms and Conditions of Use document, (page 3)Period Passes are refundable when the Generic Compass Card is registered and travel has not been initiated on the Period Pass. Requests for refunds of Period Passes must be made within 60 days of the date of purchase of the Period Pass.
    TransLink reserves the right to restrict the number of refunds for Period Passes to any individual in any calendar year.
    Hope this helps, let me know if you have further questions.

  • By David M, March 11, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

    So if I have a daypass on my compass card, and then tap in for a ride, I assume it will then activate the daypass. But what if I only make one trip that day? Has the syatem now used my daypass, or will it revert to the stored value and charge me for only one trip?

    This requiring of buying and loading passes on seems cumbersome. This is how it works in New York and I don’t like it. It’s overlay complicated. Why not just have a system that charges stored value to a maximum of a day pass for one day travel, and a maximum of a monthly pass for monthly travel? That way you pay as you go but don’t get charged more than a day pass if you travel a lot in the day, or more than a monthly pass if you travel a lot in a month.

    That’s the way it works in London, UK and seems more reasonable and simpler.

  • By Ric, March 11, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

    How can we load a compass card with more then one product? What about upasses?

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 11, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

    @David M, if you’ve tapped in to activate your DayPass for travel, it will expire by end of service which is 4am of next day regardless how many times you’ve used it.
    I do hear your point on having a flat fare when reaching certain amount of trips per day and we are aware of other fare structures out there. This is exactly why the Compass system will be very helpful in providing TransLink the data it needs to make more customer-focused and informed decisions about potential future features of Compass, such as a different fare structure, as you suggested.

    @Ric, you can load more than one fare product on your Compass Card through Compass vending machines, calling customer service, going to walk-in centre, and purchasing online. As for U-Pass, it is a fare product you can load onto a regular adult Compass Card, as long as you’re an eligible student. A simple and easy-to-use website will be available for students to load their U-Pass BC onto their Compass Cards. Students will need to log in, check their eligibility and request their U-Pass BC. You’ll be able to request your current and next month’s pass, and requesting your next month’s pass can be done as early as the 16th of the current month. You’ll also be able to sign up for alerts on this U-Pass BC website to remind you when it’s time to request your pass!

  • By Amy, March 11, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

    You havn’t answered Davis M’s question, and I have the same one.

    What you’ve outlined is that the system will first take from my Inactive but valid day passes, even if I plan to only take one trip that day.

    If I’m only taking one trip, or even if I’m taking three one-way, one zone tips, I want that taken from stored value, not a $9.75 day pass. I want the system to ONLY use the (inactive but valid) daypass on the days I take 4 or more one zone trips.

    What that means, is that I should ONLY buy a day pass the night before I’m going to use it the next day? I’m sure that’s not what you mean!

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 11, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

    @Amy, thanks for the question. The intention of this blog is to educate customers on fare product priority so you can make the “right” choice when purchasing a fare product. If you have an inactive but valid DayPass and no Monthly or Program passes on your card, the system will validate your DayPass before Stored Values. You DayPass will expire at 4am the next day regardless how many trips you make that day. Therefore, you are right, we do ask our customers to only purchase a DayPass right before using it (unless there are other fare products on your card with higher priority). I hope this helps. If you have further questions, please email

  • By Jasper, March 11, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

    Reading the above, it seems that passengers can no longer pre-purchase DayPasses. I can see this being a problem for example when a passenger purchases a DayPass at a ticket machine when going home from work because he wants to use it the next day for a day-off trip to White Rock! The passenger has to make sure not to accidentally activate the DayPass the evening before his trip to White Rock, or he will lose money and the DayPass!

    He can not purchase the DayPass right before using it on the morning of his day-off trip to White Rock from a ticket machine because he has to take a bus (buses can’t load Compasses) for his first trip so the stored value on his Compass Card would be used.

    Unless the Compass system will remove previous charges on the same day when a DayPass is purchased later in the day at a ticket machine, this will be a problem. Not sure if the Compass system will?

  • By Cliff, March 11, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    This will cause daypass sales to plummet, by the looks of it, putting what appeared to be an increasingly popular option for occasional travel by residents back into the realm of tourists only.

    The only way around it would be to personally keep a second Comapss card solely for daypasses… better yet, a seperate Compass card for each fare product to prevent activating a fare product you don’t intend on using by accident.

    That seems a bit contrary to what Compass is all about.

  • By Tone1point1, March 11, 2014 @ 11:54 pm

    My husband and I have always been ticket hoarders, we like to be prepared. We are not captive users, if we do not make transit as convenient as possible for ourselves we’ll just drive and that isn’t green and is often more expensive, not to mention stressful compared to a relaxing bus or train ride. Our kitchen drawer always has a couple of books of 1 and 2 zone faresavers, and at least several day passes too. We buy day passes ten at a time to have on hand.

    I agree with Cliff, the solution will just be to have stored value cards that replace faresavers and then a couple of cards dedicated for day passes. We still intend to hoard, we’ll just be doing it a bit differently.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 12, 2014 @ 9:39 am

    @ Jasper, when you’ve tapped in with Stored Value to travel home from work, the fare product (Stored Value) is active and has the highest priority to any other fare products you have on your Compass Card. Therefore as long as you are still within your trip “transfer time” (see, the system will only validate your active fare product. Thus, in your example, after you’ve tap out of the SkyTrain fare gate you can go ahead and purchase a DayPass from a Compass vending machine for your trip to White Rock tomorrow, even if you are continuing your journey on a bus after. Please also note that you can also purchase a DayPass through calling customer service or online. You can easily do that from home or on the go so that you won’t have to worry about your bus transfer the next morning.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 12, 2014 @ 9:53 am

    @Cliff @ Tone1point1, it sounds like you guys are totally on top of it. The purpose of this blog is to help you make informed decisions when purchasing fare products. Please keep in mind that in today’s world, when you purchase a DayPass from a vending machine, it is activated at the point of purchase and only valid till 4am the next day, but in Compass world, when you purchase a DayPass from vending machine, it will NOT be activated until you tap it in the system, which could be the next day or next week. That being said, I think it’s still a good idea to have a separate Compass Card just for DayPasses if you ONLY use DayPasses and Stored Value to travel to avoid confusion. Furthermore, you can still purchase several one DayPasses and load them on your Compass Card if all you will use is DayPasses. You can do so via online, customer service, walk in center or Compass vending machines. Thank you both as always for your support.

  • By Deano, March 12, 2014 @ 11:16 pm

    The problem regarding purchasing a separate Compass card for daypass use only – something I intend doing, by the way – is that each such card will cost $6. And yes, I know, we get the $6 back in the end. I think Translink has dropped the ball on this one; the system needs to be programmed to recognize a daily AND monthly fare cap for each user (adult, senior, etc).

  • By Cliff, March 13, 2014 @ 4:40 am

    The logic with the priority isn’t terrible, it’s just the daypass thing that seems rather silly in the whole scheme of things.

    Now, if price capping were in place, this would be a non-issue… Daypasses would only activate when you exceed the cost in stored value fares (returning the difference to stored value), and in turn stored value tickets would only be used if no active pass (Monthly, U-Pass, BC Government, or otherwise) is loaded on the card. With some work, this could work for WCE one way and even WCE return tickets too.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 13, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    @Deano @Cliff, great comments! As I said to Ric, I do hear your point on having a flat fare when reaching certain amount of trips per day or per month and we are aware of other fare structures out there. This is exactly why the Compass system will be very helpful in providing TransLink the data it needs to make more customer-focused and informed decisions about potential future features of Compass, such as a different fare structure, as you suggested. :)

  • By Bryan, March 14, 2014 @ 11:00 am

    I think what they’re trying to say is that, in terms of fare payments on a Compass Card. There’s a type of hierarchy system.

    Active Pass : Monthly Pass -> Program Pass -> Day Pass

    Just based on what you have loaded on the card, and when you first tap in.

    Followed by Inactive Valid Passes: Monthly Pass -> Program Pass

    Then: Inactive Valid Day Pass or West Coast Express Return Ticket

    Lastly: Stored Value

    Honestly, this all makes sense to me. I can see people getting confused about loading different fare types. But its why you guys are taking your time, so people have time to understand this. Instead of the usual, knee-jerk reaction.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 14, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

    @Bryan, you got it! Thanks for your support:)

  • By Eugene Wong, March 20, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    @ Translink

    You are so rude and offensive. I can’t believe that you chose a system like this. We will have to get our day passes at the last minute or a separate card. Don’t you see anything wrong in that? You didn’t even consult us [as far as I know…].

    Currently, I have to buy my day passes from Safeway, so the new system will be a step back. I can’t buy well in advance. You say that you are aware of other fare structures, which it makes it all the more offensive. Having your rules makes it so much more cumbersome. It’s as if you did the worst system on purpose. You could have asked us, or even got a professional planner to explain it, but you disrespect us.

    If we intend to take 3 1-zone trips, then the day pass could activate as the second or third.

    You talk as if 4AM has anything to do with this.

    You obviously see this as your system, and we have to earn the right to have convenient transportation. I can’t believe how cheated I feel.

    @ Bryan

    You don’t have to summarize. People are complaining obviously because they understand what Translink is saying.

  • By Amy, March 20, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

    So again, where do we complain about the “logic” of this system? I sent in a complaint via the Customer Feeback part of the site and have not heard back. Sounds like there is lots of feedback already about the inconvenience of this system, and it would be nice to feel heard and have these concerns acknowledged and addressed.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, March 21, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

    Eugene: While we always appreciate your feedback, please let me remind you that our aim with the blog is to be productive.

    I’ll let Julia get into the specifics about the Compass. What I can tell you is that changing to a new system will take some getting used to. Unfortunately, all the fare structures we have today can’t be carried over to the new system for a number of reasons which include technology and cost. What I can tell you is that the purpose of posts like this is to help riders understand the system better before it starts. TransLink has met with other transit authorities who have similar systems and we’ve learned from their experiences. We also did extensive beta testing. What is fantastic about this new system is that it will provide the data that can change fare structures in the future. This is something we haven’t been able to do in the past. With more info on how people use the system, we’ll be able to build a case for possible changes to fare structures that could be more fair and equal to all of our users.

  • By Julia Ren - Buzzer Contributor, March 21, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

    @Amy. I am sorry that you have not gotten a reply. If you want to email your comments to I will personally handle it and make sure to forward it to the right department. Thank you!

  • By Jordan, March 23, 2014 @ 8:24 pm

    I completely agree with everyone’s comments on how weird the daypass thing is. It would be so much simpler to have a daily max. I’m baffled why Translink wouldn’t do this. My only though would be a money grab; firstly, it’s cumbersome to pre-load your card just before you need it so people won’t be able to take advantage of it, and secondly, I can see a lot of people accidentally activating it when they don’t need it.

    And all this talk about about gathering data seems a bit like a smoke screen. I can’t see any downfall for having a daily cap other than wanting to keep more fare revenue from frequent daily trip users. And if that is the case, I’d rather Translink be more upfront about it.

    I should follow up that this is one of the few faults I see with the Compass card, but I’m a bit annoyed as it seems to have such an easy fix. Otherwise I think it will be an excellent way of taking transit.

  • By Eugene Wong, March 23, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

    @ Robert

    Yes, I want to be productive, too, but speaking nicely to one another really undermines how serious this situation is. [note: content removed by editor of blog]…

    The bottom line is that doing the right thing is always difficult, and you have yet to provide a legitimate reason for why you avoided the better fare system.

    This current system is different, indeed, but the new system according to our preference would have matched our expectations of what we want. We have never expected the system to use a day pass, when we wanted a 1 zone fare saver. Somebody all ready said that that they have many fare savers and passes ready to go so that they can have convenience.

    Yes, your new system is different, but every new system is different. Why couldn’t we use the different system that we preferred?

    Your refusal to explain why our preferred system is undesirable shows that you aren’t listening. When I speak harshly, your feelings are hurt. When you make bad decisions, my wallet gets hurt. I think that the worst pain that you feel is nothing compared to when I lose a penny due to corporate stubbornness.

    You could avoid all of this, but you refuse to go back to the drawing board to find a way to give us what we want, while still collecting data. Translink should collect data, whether it does things our way or your way.

    @ Jordan

    Don’t forget the extra case of expecting to use 3 1-zone fares [or something similar], and then finding out too late that you will need more than a daypass’s worth of fare. If you had known ahead of time, then you could have used a day pass, but now Translink will charge you more than a daypass’s worth.

    Instead of using the system as a fare management system for the transit users, Translink is using it as a gate to filter out as much money as possible.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, March 24, 2014 @ 11:09 am

    Eugene: I understand your frustration. However, I had to edit out a portion of your first paragraph for violating our participation guidelines. If you’d like to discuss this further, please send me an email to and we can chat.

    OK, let’s start again. We are listening. The Compass team collects all Compass related comments on the blog like they collected all the feedback received during beta testing.

    As a frequent transit user myself who used transit in Metro Vancouver before working at TransLink, I can see this fare selection hierarchy as noted above as a big change in how users use transit. I totally agree with the arguments for a flat fair system, just like I see the arguments made for a distance based fare structure. Personally, I would vote for both if such a vote existed. I can tell you that both these ideas as well as others made on this blog are items the Compass team and TransLink will seriously be considering once Compass is rolled out to all users.

    Because changing our system to a gated smart card system is such a huge task with so many variables at play, the Compass team has decided to roll out the card and gates first before making changes to how the vendor has designed the technology. This is no easy task considering the change in behaviour this requires of users as well as many other firsts that implementing Compass requires. Once the system is working well and any adjustments have been made, the plan is to look at flat rates, distance based fares and make changes then. The data that is collected by using the Compass card will help us make these changes and probably do it quicker than our data collection methods we have now.

    I agree that it would be better if there was a way to not have day passes activated the first time you use your card after you buy the passed (if you indeed have no other stored value on your card). However, as mentioned by Cliff and Tone1point1 there is way around this which is to get another Compass card with just day passes on it. Yes it will take some getting used to. And yes like transfers from buses to SkyTrain – some decisions have been made that were difficult but necessary.

    Like the difference in opinion on this blog post, some people can work with these changes and others might take a longer time or never agree with them. I can tell you that we are collecting your feedback and will continue to do so. And when Compass rolls out and users have questions/concerns with the card I’m told that Transit Police and security will be flexible and helpful and will help get what they need to travel quickly and efficiently.

    As usual, everyone is free to comment on whatever they like on the blog. Myself and I believe Julie have reached the end of information we can provide on the hierarchy system as it pertains to day passes. If there is any new info, we’ll certainly be updating everyone.


  • By Eugene Wong, April 22, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

    @ Robert

    1) Are you telling me that the settings of the machines are not being changed?

    2) Are you saying that the software/firmware/whatever in the machines required no configuration all?

    I find it difficult to believe that there was no configuring at all. It would be strange that a machine comes aware of inactive monthly passes, but no awareness of inactive day passes. You keep mentioning that you don’t want us to be confused, but the lack of inactiveness for day passes is inexcusable.

    I could imagine a situation where somebody might buy a month pass on Feb. 27, and then want to use it in Apr. That would be really weird, but why not?

    The advantage of a paying system, is that Translink can get the system to look back in hindsight to figure out what the customer wants. For example, it could realize that the customer has used up enough to qualify for a day pass, and then just stop charging. For example, it could realize that a customer has used up enough to qualify for a month pass, and then just stop charging.

    The fares should be focused on giving the customer the lowest possible price to get the job done.

    If you need more money, then try capturing some revenue where there are sunk costs. In other words, you are all ready sending out empty buses on rarely used routes. Try getting people to use those routes more.

    You mention the police. I think that that is a concern of some people, but I don’t think that that is the major issue here.

    @ Julia and Robert

    You keep mentioning flat fares and distance based fares. They might have been brought up, but it seems that it has never been brought up in this discussion by the customers. It is your interpretation of the message, that has lead you to believe that we are discussing it.

    Any fare system that adjusts to the customer’s usage of the system isn’t flat. Flat systems, according to my understanding, are systems that charge everybody the same rate, whether they consume a little or a lot. Our suggestion isn’t like that.

    Our suggestion isn’t based on distance either.

    Our suggestion is abstract enough that it is compatible with flat fares, distance fares, and hybrids. Our suggestion is an automated time based fare.

    You say that you are listening, but I can only assume that it isn’t true. You haven’t even tested your new system for bias.

    Did you ask anybody what they thought you would believe is the most user friendly system to use first? Did you say to anybody, “Because changing our system to a gated smart card system is such a huge task with so many variables at play, the Compass team has decided to roll out the card and gates first before making changes to how the vendor has designed the technology. What do you think that the system will look like?”? Why not?

    If you asked that question, and then you got a response that matches what you want to do [i.e.: they described your system before you told them what your system is], then the system will be just what people expect. However, if they don’t describe your system without help from you, then you’ve obviously assumed with listening. In other words, you dictated.

    In that case, we have every right to be made and harsh with our words, since you are mucking about with our freedom, money, and time.

    I find this very discouraging.

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