When we enter a bus, for payment, we frequently use a traffic card or compass card (e.g., in San Diego or Vancouver).

So we must attach the card to the sensor around cost box so that some money is out in my card.

Instead of “attach”, what is a better expression?

(A similar activity happens when someone enters some building or dormitory.  To enter, we use an id card at the entrance.)

[Add] In my question, if we attach a wallet containing the card to the sensor without a gap (no dragging; simply attaching), then the sensor can read the card.  The time of attaching is not longer than 2 seconds.

I will introduce similar situation: Nowadays smart phone is touch phone, since if we touch icon in monitor of phone, then the application works.

Two things are similar situation. But there is a difference: In the first, as much as small width of leather of wallet, it can be allowed. But in second, we must attach finger to the phone.

So I decide to choose swipe:

(1) Swipe = hit

Example: The car swiped the side of the garage as he pulled out.

(2) Drag

to move something by pulling it along a surface, usually the ground.

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    Is the card contactless or does it have to be inserted into or dragged through a slot in the reader? The best word may well depend on how the card is read. – BoldBen Feb 20 '18 at 7:59
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    With all due respect, based on your description, I believe that you have chosen the wrong word. This YouTube video and this one show what “swiping” a card means.  See also Learn Real English – How to pay with debit or credit cards. – Scott Feb 20 '18 at 19:45
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    SDMTS uses tap: sdmts.com/rider-info/how-ride – Jim Feb 20 '18 at 21:35
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    In the Vancouver public transit system, riders used prepaid cards, branded as "Compass Cards" to gain access to busses and trains. As one passes through a gate one "taps" a small plate about the size of a Mac track pad and one's account is debited the fare. Tap is the commonly used verb in Vancouver, just as one can tap a credit card on some devices. The card is neither inserted nor swiped. – Al Maki Feb 21 '18 at 2:48
  • @Al Maki : Yes. by Scott's answer with an picture, I can conculde that tap is suitable. – Hee Kwon Lee Feb 21 '18 at 4:47

"Compass card" is not a common expression in the US. I gather you are describing what we know as a "pass" or "transfer". If I get the sense of your question, the activity you describe is "scanning" or "swiping" the card. ("Swipe" is a term I personally detest, when used in this sense, but it's become idiomatic in the US.)


Cause (a surface, object, or part of the body) to be traversed by a detector or an electromagnetic beam.


Pass (a swipe card) through an electronic device designed to read and process the information encoded on it.

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A general word is present:

Show or offer (something) for others to scrutinize or consider.
‘he stopped and presented his passport’
Source: Oxford Dictionaries

But, given the context, I believe that the most appropriate word is tap:


  1. to strike lightly especially with a slight sound
  2. to give a light blow with
    • tap a pencil on the table

Oxford Dictionaries:

  • Strike (someone or something) with a quick light blow or blows.
    ‘one of my staff tapped me on the shoulder’
  • Strike (something) against something else with a quick light blow or blows.
    ‘Gloria was tapping her feet in time to the music’

The meaning of tap that is specific to your question doesn’t seem to have appeared in the major dictionaries yet.  However, I offer the following evidence that it is the correct word:

  1. YouTube video Tapping your Compass Card.
  2. YouTube video How everything works: Tap And Pay (you only need to watch the first ten seconds).
  3. YouTube video Visa Debit – Using Contactless Payments (you only need to watch the first eight seconds).
  4. YouTube video Contactless US – Paying Contactless doesn’t have any narration, and it doesn’t use the word “tap” in its caption text, but here are a couple of screenshots from it:

      point-of-sale terminal (card reader) with options “Insert”, “Tap” and “Swipe” displayed

    The above clearly shows the words “Insert”, “Tap” and “Swipe” displayed on the point-of-sale terminal (card reader), and the below shows the user performing an action similar to the one described in the question.

      point-of-sale terminal (card reader) with user presenting credit/debit card

    IMHO, this action is neither “Insert” nor “Swipe”, so it must be “Tap”.

  5. Wikipedia’s article on “Contactless payment” says
    … The user can make a payment by tapping the device to an enabled point of sale, …
    (emphasis added).
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    The poster is talking about an card with an RFID chip being read by a scanner. You would 'present' a card to a person, but usually not to a machine. – swbarnes2 Feb 20 '18 at 18:50
  • @swbarnes2: Thank you for posting your opinion.  Do you have any evidence or facts, references, or specific expertise to support it? – Scott Feb 20 '18 at 19:45
  • The expertise of using San Diego Compass cards? Yes, and the expertise of using rfid cards in other transit systems, and at my workplace daily. This is hardly esoteric knowledge. – swbarnes2 Feb 20 '18 at 21:25

"Touch" is probably the best term, and it's the one used by some transit companies. Even though the contact takes a longer than a glancing touch.

"Attach" is wrong, it implies physically connecting the items, like with a cord, or some kind of clasp which is not what's happening.

"Swipe" has many meanings; "hit" is not at all the primary meaning. The primary use is more like swipe a countertop with a rag to clean it. "Swiping" a car simply means that the one car didn't stop when it hit the other, it was a glancing blow, and the car continued moving in the same direction after contact.

You swipe a card with a magnetic strip through the reader...but that's not the technology you are talking about.

"Swipe" is also slang for "steal".

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