A SEPTA bus passing through the intersection of 17th Street and JFK Boulevard

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You can now use your cell phone to pay for your SEPTA ride — and for the rides of any friends you have with you.

Called “SEPTA Key Tix,” the mobile payment option is now available to anyone who downloads the beta version of the transit authority’s Apple or Android app. The QR code fares currently work on all transit modes except for Regional Rail, which SEPTA says is coming sometime next year.

To buy the passes, you also need to have a credit or debit card, plus an online SEPTA Key account (which is free to create on the app).

Like a regular SEPTA Key tap, the $2 mobile passes include one free transfer within two hours.

Unlike a Key card, however, the QR code lets you swipe through multiple people at once. Just enter the number of people going for a ride — up to five at once — and buy the pass. It’s good for the bus, trolley, Broad Street Line, Market-Frankford Line, or Norristown High Speed Line.

The idea isn’t to replace Key cards for regular riders, per the agency. Rather, it’s “a simple solution for occasional riders who want to enjoy the same benefits as cardholders.”

In a press release, SEPTA general manager and CEO Leslie Richards touted it as a good option for group travel during the holidays.

Eventually, the Philly transit authority plans to catch up with several other urban transit systems and accept contactless payments like Apple and Google Pay and tap-to-pay credit cards — but that’s still several months down the line. More information about that is expected “soon.”

SEPTA has previously teased mobile ticketing and multiple-rider access, and the agency held a closed pilot for SEPTA Key Tix earlier this year. Over 1,200 people tested the app; not everyone was thrilled with the experience, The Inquirer reported last month.

How to buy and use mobile tickets

Want to try it out for yourself? Here’s what SEPTA says to do.

Android users have to first download the SEPTA app. Once that’s done, you can visit the Google Play store and follow SEPTA’s instructions for finding the beta version.

If you have an iPhone, you’ll have to download the app TestFlight, and then follow SEPTA’s instructions to get the beta version of the SEPTA app.

Once you’ve gotten the test version of the app (which, at least on iPhone, is a bit sleeker-looking than the regular version), you can buy mobile tickets by making or logging into your SEPTA Key account and tapping “Buy or Manage Key Tix,” located right at the top of the app.

From there, you can select the number of tickets you want — you can get up to 10 at once.

If you have a credit or debit card saved to your SEPTA Key account already, you can use that to pay. If you don’t, you can type in information for a new payment method. You can’t use existing funds in your travel wallet to buy a pass.

To actually use the tickets, you have to activate one per rider — up to five at a time — from the “Purchased” tab within the Key Tix menu, and then pull up the QR code from the “Ready to Use” tab to scan it at a station turnstile or vehicle’s fare card reader.

You’ll need to have your phone screen “facing upward at the bottom of the bus or gate validator.” If you’ve activated tickets for more than one person, you should only have to scan the code once.

Tickets stay activated for 2 hours, and unactivated passes expire 6 months after you buy them.

If you have a problem with the app, you can submit it to SEPTA at their mobile ticketing issue report form.

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Asha Prihar

Asha Prihar is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She has previously written for several daily newspapers across the Midwest, and she covered Pennsylvania state government and politics for The...