Launched by Horizons Regional Council, the new Bee Card aims to make bus travel easier, in turn raising the profile of public transport.
"This will make it easy, really easy," said chairwoman of the Horizons Regional Council, Rachel Keedwell. "Because one of the problems with the current system is that you can only top up with cash, and if you haven't got cash and your card runs out what do you do?"
"With this you can be on your phone, you can do it at home, on your computer, you can set it up, you can manage your kids' cards, if you lose the card you can get a new one, you can get the balance transferred across - there are so many more easy features about it."
The card is a combined initiative by nine councils around the country to improve bus ticketing systems, with the economies of scale saving money for ratepayers. But it will take time to get everyone on board.
"People say 'why should I pay for the buses if I don't catch them?' said Keedwell. "Well actually, I think that's just fair."
"If everybody took their cars and not the bus, the traffic would be worse so you're actually making your life easier by subsidising the bus."
Whanganui is the first in the Manawatū-Whanganui region to get the card and just the second in the country after Whangārei.
Eventually the Bee Card will give users access to bus services across the country, and council hopes it will make people think about catching a bus.
"This is a real shot in the arm for public transport for the city, for the region," said Horizons' transport manager, Phil Hindrup. "I think there is an opportunity to keep building on what we've already done."
"It is our role to make it more visible, a better product, which we are keen to do and the cards are a massive part of that. A lot of hard work has gone into it over the last eight years and we just glad it's here."
With more than 400 registrations in Whanganui on the first day, there'll be more people using the buses which may lead to improved infrastructure and town planning.
"Probably the most exciting thing is that we get data, so we know where people are getting on and getting off and we can use that to build a better bus system," Hindrup said.
"We think we know where people are getting on and off, but the data will actually pinpoint where they are getting on and off. So for example, if they are getting on at a particular bus stop and there's a high number, then we can go 'okay well that's a focal point for people so we need to do a better job there' and perhaps build a bus shelter and provide a better destination or origin for them."
Currently, the highest users of buses are Gold Card holders and students. But Horizons would like to get everyone using them, saying the more people that take a bus, the better the bus service will get.