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The National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) was launched in 2019 as a common payment mechanism for metro travel and other payments. One of the advertised features of NCMC is ‘One Nation One Card’ which essentially means that an NCMC card can be used for payment at any NCMC-enabled metro station, bus terminal and other venues, anywhere in India. For example, HDFC Bank NCMC card issued in any metro station at Pune can be used in any station of Delhi Metro, and vice versa.

However, due to the recent restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PBBL) users have been facing issues when recharging their NCMC cards offline even though their NCMC card is not issued by PBBL.

“I have the State Bank of India (SBI) NCMC card issued from a Metro station on the red line of Mumbai Metro. This NCMC card is used by me frequently on the Mumbai Metro Line 1 (Blue line) for travelling to my workplace as this line runs from Versova to Ghatkopar. However, the card cannot be recharged in any of the Metro stations other than the stations falling on the red or yellow line. I was told by the customer support of Mumbai Metro Line 1 (blue line) that the specific card (SBI NCMC) that I have cannot be recharged by them. I can however use my SBI NCMC card in the blue and other line(s),” said Murchana Borthakur, a daily passenger in Mumbai Metro Line-1 to ET Wealth Online.

Why can’t metro networks with Paytm NCMC terminals recharge other bank’s NCMC?

There are two ways to recharge an NCMC card – online and offline. Online can mean using the metro network’s app or the NCMC issuing bank’s app. Offline recharge means recharging at the metro station. Experts say that to enable the recharge of an NCMC card at metro stations, an arrangement with the issuing bank is required.

“If an individual is recharging their NCMC card offline, a third-party service provider (TSP) partner at the metro station’s terminal should have a revenue-sharing arrangement with the respective issuing Bank. That’s why acceptance of other bank’s NCMC cards is becoming an issue at Mumbai Metro Line-1. The NCMC cards issued by SBI cannot be recharged at Mumbai Metro Line-1 because the former’s NCMC partner was Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PBBL). The issue with Mumbai Metro Line-1 is that they don’t have any active terminal at this point in time which would allow them to recharge Mumbai Metro 2A line (yellow), Metro 7-line (red) and other NCMC cards,” says Rahul Jain, CFO, NTT DATA Payment Services, a payment company which has worked in several NCMC projects in India.

An official spokesperson from Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL), the operator of Mumbai Metro Line-1 (blue Line) told ET Wealth Online, “Due to recent restrictions by RBI on Paytm (our earlier NCMC partner), recharging of NCMCards is temporarily not available. However, we have made necessary arrangements for acceptance of all NCMCards for travel. One can travel in Mumbai Metro Line-1 using any NCMCard.”

While there may be a problem with the recharge facility, however, when it comes to its usage, banking experts confirm that NCMC cards will work anywhere in India as long as it is used on any NCMC-enabled terminals. According to Chitrabhanu K G, Senior Vice President & Country Head – Retail Assets & Cards, Federal Bank, “NCMC enabled RuPay cards will work in all offline NCMC enabled terminals. This is accepted across all open loop Metro terminals like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and others.”

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What can Paytm-partnered metro stations do now to help commuters?

Paytm Payments Bank was the official NCMC partner bank for several metro networks including Mumbai Metro Line-1 (blue line). However, now that the RBI has put restrictions upon PBBL, experts say metro network operators should collaborate with other banks. “A potential solution to this challenge would be for Mumbai Metro Line-1 to collaborate directly with the NCMC issuing Bank which is SBI in Mumbai’s case. By doing so, SBI NCMC cards could then be recharged at Metro Line-1,” says Jain.

To collaborate with other banks for NCMC recharge, necessary certifications must be taken. “In case of offline recharge at metro stations, the respective metro station must partner with the bank and get the necessary certifications to recharge NCMC cards issued by various banks. If the offline recharge service provider (TSP) is enabled to accept NCMC cards, then they can accept any card, but they do not earn revenue on other Bank’s NCMC card recharge,” says Jain.

Until the time this collaboration is initiated and finalised, what an individual travelling in Mumbai Metro Line-1 can do is recharge their NCMC card online using the SBI website or MMRDA metro stations in line 2A (yellow) or 7 (red). According to the SBI website as of April 1, 2024, “You can top-up/recharge your card by paying in cash or by using a debit/credit card at any of the MMRDA Metro Lines 2A or 7 Stations. You can also top-up your card online by visiting the customer portal at”

Experts highlight that even though NCMC cards are interoperable the respective merchant must be NCMC-enabled to offer recharge services of any NCMC card. “Metro stations with recharge facilities can cater to all NCMC cards, emphasising the system’s universal applicability rather than the issuing bank. However, the merchants should be NCMC enabled to offer recharge services of interoperable issued NCMC cards,” says Sameer Singh Jaini, Founder & CEO, The Digital Fifth, a fintech consulting firm.

What have metro station operators done to solve the recharge problem due to restrictions on Paytm?

According to Jain, Mumbai Metro Line-1 has started issuing a closed-loop prepaid metro card system for hassle free recharge of its commuters and they have updated their ticket terminals to accept any NCMC card.

“The Closed loop metro card issued by Metro One earlier, has been upgraded to use at other routes of the metro network like line 2A and 7. This has relieved the need to carry multiple cards. However, recharge of the old metro cards will be feasible at Metro One terminals only as of now,” said Vikrant Kulkarni, a frequent traveller of Mumbai Metro to ET Wealth Online.

“They have enabled tap-in and tap-out to accept payments from other NCMC cards but not recharge them. However, this will change soon once Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) takes ownership of Mumbai Metro Line -1. It is expected that the acquisition by MMRDA will happen by September, and when this happens, the payment mode will remain the same across all the lines of Mumbai Metro,” says Jain.

  • Published On Apr 2, 2024 at 02:15 PM IST

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