2017-06-08 / Front Page

Bridge Accepting Credit Cards Now

By Kevin R. Hess

The Mackinac Bridge Authority began accepting credit and debit cards Tuesday, May 23, but did not announce the service until testing had been completed. From Tuesday, May 23, through Memorial Day May 29, the bridge processed 2,000 credit and debit card transactions, including 500 on Memorial Day alone.

The MBA had been testing the software with its own staff since April. A problem arose during that round of testing that forced curtailment of the project. During the testing, the MBA could not back out of or cancel transactions. The vendor was able to fix that problem with a software patch, but it created more problems in the process.

“It fixed one problem, but created about eight more,” said Bob Sweeney, executive secretary of the Authority.

Once all the problems were fixed, the MBA entered a second round of testing in early May. Satisfied with the results, it began accepting credit cards from the public May 23. Only one minor issue surfaced when, one evening, the credit card processor’s server was down for three hours, causing the MBA to use portable credit card readers. Once the server was back up and running, there haven’t been any other issues.

“We found that the processing was moving rather fast,” said Mr. Sweeney.

Although they have been satisfied with the early returns, Mr. Sweeney says that they may experiment during peak traffic times to see if there is much time difference between processing cards and taking cash. The MBA anticipates moving credit card customers to one lane during certain times of peak traffic, such as the St. Ignace Car Show in June. They will use the lighted message boards to direct credit and debit card customers to the far right lane.

Purple commuter-only lanes will still only process the commuter cards, but any permanent open lane can now process credit cards. Customers will not have to sign for the transactions, but if they want a receipt, they will have to get it from the bridge office.

This project has been in the works for the better part of two years. It was delayed multiple times owing to issues with the software and the need to alter the conditions of the contract with the vendor who will be processing the credit cards. The goal in January was to have all the problems resolved by Memorial Day so that drivers traveling to the U.P. this summer would be able to use credit cards. With more people traveling with less cash and relying on their credit or debit cards, the change should be a welcome one for many motorists.

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