Myki myths 3: credit expires after 90 days – no it doesn’t

The short version

  • Myki credit, once on your card, does not expire after 90 days of not getting used.
  • Nor does your card expire after 90 days of not getting used.
  • If you top-up your Myki via online or phone (NOT over-the-counter or at a vending machine) but then you don’t use the card within 90 days, then you may have some issues.

The full version

One persistent myth of Myki is that the money you put onto it expires after 90 days. This popped up last week in a letter to the Bayside Weekly, and also more notably ABC radio’s Jon Faine put it to Public Transport Victoria boss Ian Dobbs, who unfortunately failed to deny it. (PTV doesn’t actually have responsibility for Myki yet.)

Here’s some of the original incorrect text from the accompanying ABC Online story:

The Transport Ticketing Authority may extend the time people have to
use their Myki credit.

Currently credit on a Myki card expires after three months, which has
provoked anger from occasional users.

To their credit, the ABC have now corrected the text.

PTV Myki hub, Southern Cross Station

What some people think happens (but doesn’t)

You load credit (“Myki Money”) onto the card. If you don’t use it within 90 days, it disappears. This is not true.

What actually happens

Myki Money does not expire. But there is a limitation with off-system topups.

Some context: It’s important to understand that the Myki system, and other public transport smartcard systems, hold your card balance on the card itself. This means each transaction is (theoretically) relatively quick, and does not rely on a network connection back to a central server to verify the card’s balance and determine if the card is valid for travel.

When you topup your card on the system, that is, over the counter at a retailer or — eventually — a railway station, or at a vending machine, your card is presented and the new balance is updated straight away, without delay.

When you topup your card off the system, that is, by phone or from the web site, the transaction is sent from the central computers to every Myki device (readers, vending machines) in the state, to await the presentation of your card. When your card is presented (such as putting it on a vending machine to check the balance, or touching-on) the transaction is transferred onto the card, updating it. It’s then removed from all the devices.

Following so far? Okay.

The limitation of 90 days is that if you do the phone/web site topup, but don’t present your card anywhere on the system for 90 days, then the system “archives” the transaction – takes it back off all the Myki devices and puts it back in the central computer, presumably so as not to clog up all those devices with too many unactioned transactions.

If/when you eventually show up with your card on the system, it “re-activates” the transaction… but because the communication is not realtime, it might take a few hours (up to 24, they say) for the transaction to be ready again for transfer onto the card.

Myki reader, Mckinnon station

So in summary…

So in summary: the balance, once on your card, does not expire after 90 days of not getting used.

Nor does your card expire after 90 days of not getting used.

What does happen is that online/phone transactions get “archived” if you don’t complete them within 90 days.

How do other systems do it?

Queensland’s Go Card has a similar timeout, also 90 days, but if you don’t complete the transaction the money goes back to your bank account:

Travel credit will be available on your go card within 48 hours. It’ll appear on your transaction history next time you touch your go card to a card reader. If you don’t do this within 90 days, the money will be returned to your credit card.

London’s Oyster card has much greater limitations. Topups can’t be “collected” onto your card on buses; you have to nominate a specific station to collect it. And there is a much shorter timeout for online transactions:

If you don’t collect your online renewal, your order will be cancelled and you will get a refund:

  • If you ordered a Travelcard, your order will be cancelled two days after your chosen start date
  • If you topped up the pay as you go credit on your Oyster card, your order will be cancelled seven days after your collection date

Refunds will not be processed until at least four days after the date your order was cancelled.

Note that it also appears you have to nominate the start date of a Travelcard/Pass (with Myki Pass it activates on the first day you travel in the zones it applies to).

How could Myki handle this better?

Obviously they could bump out the 90 days to something longer, if it didn’t cause other problems. It’s unclear if this is viable.

They could send the transaction all the way back to your bank account, as with Go Card. Then at least people wouldn’t feel as if Myki had “stolen” the money. They might also notice it on their bank statement — a reminder that it hadn’t been completed.

Myki could also make this limitation more widely known, particularly on the web site when people go to do an online topup, in big bold bright letters.

Finally, for some crazy reason the Myki Check (blue) devices seen in some stations do not process topups. They’re not even hooked up to the network. All they can do is look at what’s on the card. This is counter-intuitive, and appallingly bad design. Ensuring these devices can process topups would help people bypass queues for vending machines in order to verify their topup has arrived correctly.

One last tip

Note that at a railway station, apart from checking via a vending machine, you also can touch-on to verify if your topup has arrived and complete the transaction. Remember to hold the card to the reader for as long as you need to see what’s on the screen.

If you don’t want to travel, simply wait 30 seconds (the timeout to prevent accidental double-touches) and touch-off. The “Change of mind” feature means if this happens within 15 minutes, you don’t get charged; nor does any dormant Pass activate.

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36 thoughts on “Myki myths 3: credit expires after 90 days – no it doesn’t

  1. Awesome blog – I’m going back to read your other ones now.

    I am organising a panel discussion between some people who can influence the PR decisions for our PT network, I’d love for your input in planning and organizing the event, If you are interested, please email me damien@rebase.com.au

  2. Wouldn’t it be good if we could use a card scanner built into our computers (such as the mysterious smart card slots in some keyboards here at work, which have no function as far as I can tell) to update the card when we make the transaction. I wonder if that would be possible.

    As it is, the process seems quite reasonable.

    PS. Looking at current touch-on/off speeds Imagine how long touch-on and touch-off would take if the readers were actually transferring data to/from the network in realtime!

  3. I went to the football at Etihad on Saturday. At the Bourke St end of Southern Cross, at least two of the Miki only readers were not working and the others were taking between 5 & 7 seconds to validate a ‘Touch off’. After the game its like Metro just give up because all the gates were open. Although that possibly is a calculated measure based on the Saturday costs, that most people would have already paid the maximum or close to it.

  4. Very applicable for my niece. We have her Myki card and she will possibly not use it for more than ninety days at times and I have been confused about the process. Effectively if you go over the ninety days, you can’t use your card immediately for travel as it will take time to reactivate, that is the balance to get back to the card? Also doing a ‘change of mind’ at a station, say every sixty days, won’t keep it active? If both are correct, it is a problem.

  5. Oh Andrew, I fear you’ve misunderstood. Please read it again. The card balance does NOT expire or get archived. Nor does the card.

  6. I’m with Andrew on this one. Daniel, you wrote:

    “… if you do the phone/web site topup, but don’t present your card anywhere on the system for 90 days, then the system “archives” the transaction… If/when you eventually show up with your card on the system, it “re-activates” the transaction… but … it might take a few hours (up to 24, they say) for the transaction to be ready again for transfer onto the card.”

    As far as I can see, you and Andrew are saying exactly the same thing: if you don’t use the card for 90 days, you have to do something or other (what, I wonder?) to the card the day before you need to use it.

    This is so grotesquely impractical I’m surprised your usually unruffled tone hasn’t been ruffled just a little! ;)

  7. “does not rely on a network connection back to a central server ”

    I had always assumed a network connection was the reason it was so slow to respond.
    Have Myki provided a reason why the technology seems so slow? Or why the card reader seems so sensitive to a moving card. I wonder if someone with Parkinson’s disease would get the reader to work.

  8. @Roy

    The software for myki has been written by a bunch of hacks? Honestly, Myki cards and Myki readers are all pretty stock standard hardware. Myki operates on a more sophisticated piece of hardware than London’s Oyster Card (although they’re migrating to the hardware myki operates on now), or Perth’s Smartrider yet the readers are painfully slow. The only explanation is that they’re running poorly written and bloated code.

    I recently had trouble with a myki reader and when I wrote to them the response I got was that Myki had not been designed to operate from inside a wallet.

    “Please be advised myki has not been designed to be recognised when presented to a device from inside a wallet or item of clothing.”

    That certainly seemed strange to me as I remember the Transport Minister pre Kosky (who was he again?) on TV harping on about how you’ll just be able to wave your wallet over the reader and the gate will already be open. Then I did a bit of hunting and found one of The Transport Ticketing Authority media release titled ‘Victoria attracts global players in Smartcard ticketing’ with this tid-bit:

    “The Smartcard is a durable plastic card, which can store value – similar to a pre-paid phone card, only more flexible, smarter and re-loadable. Smartcard only needs to be scanned for less than half a second and can be used from inside a wallet or handbag.”

  9. @Rick, no, I said the transaction gets archived. Not the card.

    You can happily use the card occasionally, including leaving it dormant for 90+ days, without problems.

    It is only off-system (online/phone) topup transactions that have not been completed that are affected.

    The whole point of this blog post was to clarify this issue… I’m not sure it’s worked!

  10. I think this is the simplest way to put it.

    If you top-up online, then you have 90 days to touch the card on the system somewhere, bus, tram, train station, vending machine. Once you’re top-up has been “activated” its not going anywhere and you’re free to have 3+ months between trips.

  11. Got it now I hope. Essentially, to save yourself hassles, don’t top up your card online and then not use if for 90 days. So, I don’t imagine it will be a problem for my niece, well us actually, or too many other people either. I wonder how a Myki Mate would go explaining this!

  12. I wish I knew where the delays in using the system were. I thought they were caused by the stored-value nature of having to update the card, rather than a database – it’s the only explanation I could think of for why it takes so long. Otherwise surely they could just buffer the touch-on/touch-offs to send as a batch if there’s a connectivity issue. The only reason I could see to not do that is the apparently horrific idea that someone may get on a tram or bus and travel with a negative $3 balance for a single trip. I’m sure people could deal with the machine not showing a current balance if it meant that the touch was instant every time.

    But now @Julian says that the same hardware is used elsewhere and is fast, so perhaps that’s not it.

    I must say that it’s not just the card handling parts that are slow. Topping up at a vending machine can be EXCRUCIATING. And seriously, could they not be (for example) printing the receipts in parallel with writing the card? And why is it that when I pay for parking at the Airport I can put my credit card in the machine and have it come back as fast as if it had bounced off a wall and yet the Myki machines are even slower than the Metcard ones?

    Anyway, I think I’ve drifted far enough of-topic in this rant.

    Oh, nice to see there are 2 machines at McKinnon now :)

  13. There is one expiry date to be aware of: the card automatically stops working after its pre-programmed life of 4 years. The expiry date can be looked up on vending machines. I assume they will allow people to transfer their balance of dollars or days to a new card but haven’t seen any confirmation. I wonder whether this will cost $9.80, a form to fill and two weeks without your myki?

  14. Re card expiry dates, someone online said that nothing actually happens when he card expires. They reckon you could keep using it, the only difference being that they don’t guarantee it to work after four years. No idea if that’s true or not. There seems to be zero information about it on the myki website, or in the Fares and Ticketing Manual.

    Re topping up at a vending machine, I filmed myself doing an EFT topup. It took me about a minute. An EFT topup with myki is kind of like juggling, because you’ve got two cards to worry about. But once you learn how to do it, it becomes second nature.

  15. @Nathan, aside from the fact that if you’re over 6′ doing an EFT topup, you can’t actually see the EFT screen when you’re in position to manage the main screen.
    Why they’re not integrated is beyond me.
    I hear the newer myki machines have had some adjustments, I guess some of the feedback finally made it through.

  16. Why does the card need to hold the value (rather than a central db)? The reason “so it works off-line” doesn’t wash, you could store the on-off transactions and send them to the db when its back online (the model airlines use with their portable credit card terminals (I think they are offline anyway)) That way the card is just a GUID

  17. @Anon, there is no $9.80 fee for any Myki transaction anymore. At worst it’d be a $6 fee for a new card, though I would hope they’d replace it for free. I guess we’ll know in the next 12 months, as the first cards went into use in late-2008/early-2009.

    @Meski, if you made the central computer hold the master record, there would be no way for a cardholder to know their up-to-date balance at the time of travel. For any user not making use of online access, this would mean they’d never see it. It would also be impossible to reject entry at a fare gate if there was no money left on the card, as you wouldn’t know if there was or not. Authorised Officers (Inspectors) would be unable to tell if you had any balance on your card or not.

    Does any public transport ticketing system in the world work like this?

    By the way, transaction records do get transmitted from the readers back to base; but not in realtime, eg a bus or tram doesn’t have network connectivity all the time, nor does a portable reader held by an AO or a V/Line conductor (the latter will use them to set the default fare, for instance to override the normal 2-zone train default fare where the train might be travelling through several dozen zones).

  18. “@Meski, if you made the central computer hold the master record, there would be no way for a cardholder to know their up-to-date balance at the time of travel. ”

    Quite so, but it means that there is no way for the cardholder to know what value is on their card BEFORE they travel. Computer can’t tell you, and staring at the card can’t tell you either.

  19. @Dave, I’m 6’3″. I have to stoop slightly but it’s no major issue. I agree though the entire thing could work better than it does, but i think for the foreseeable future, at least, we’re stuck with it.

  20. You all know that myki is a flawed ticketing system that should be scrap right now, I want to put everyone attention towards myki customer service side of it that is currently being managed by Aegis.

    If you experience poor customer service since the roll out, you won’t be surprised what it’s liket to work as a myki specialist which they aren’t really because I used to work for them and I must say it’s terrible job to be in at the moment particularly with the senior staff who is fed up of how things are running at Aegis at the moment. Unforunately it won’t going improve at all.

    The one person who should be responisble for it is this David ——-. He is a absolute joke. He is a such a bastard, that dickhead deserve no respect from every worker from Aegis and myki customers for making such an hussle for communters to travel and as he treats Aegis staff members who works for the Myki contract like dogs.

    If you want hany Myki issues or complaints, directed them both to the media or if you wanted to talk to him just ring up the Myki phone number and asked for the operations manager and mentions his name.

    I’ve edited out the surname. -Daniel

  21. What I am getting sick of is the constant bashing of myki, especially in the media. I was listening to 774 Mornings during the interview and attempted to call in to make the point that what was being said was wrong. Yet, now thousands more people have what they think is another problem with myki which doesn’t actually exist.

    I do not work for the government or TTA or PTV or anything like that, but I want to defend myki. The constant media bashing is totally uncalled-for and they only run the stories because they know it will create a huge public response. It is unfortunate Ian Dobbs could not shut down this rumour, but again he is NOT in charge of myki yet. It is a pity that 774 advertised all morning the Ian would be there to discuss myki and public transport. Ian has no control over myki yet and is obviously not fully briefed on the functionality and issues like this to correctly address them. He should have discussed public transport only and 774 should have got Bernie Carolan in to discuss myki and ticketing if that is what Jon Faine and the Producers wanted to discuss.

    I am not defending the current or previous government on the ridiculous amount of money spent on the system, but people need to stop calling for it to be scrapped every time there is a minor issue, or in this case, not actually an issue at all. Having spend over $1.5 billion dollars plus more, to scrap it now and subsequently spend many more millions on starting the process again is stupid. myki is actually a fairly good system. It generally has good functionality and really, it is the management of the building and rollout of the system that has failed. To say myki is at fault for the barrier issues in the city loop is frankly ridiculous. The TTA should have installed more myki only barriers instead of trying to retrofit barriers that have 15 year old technology. Awarding KAMCO the contract for the building of the system was obviously a mistake and the contract should have been revoked years ago and re tendered to a new company.

    myki is now working at a much better level than it was 2-3 years ago. Yes, it is not perfect, and it still needs refinement, but it is not as simple as going in, changing a couple of lines of code and moving on. Doing this on such a large, complex system takes a long time to make sure that change does not cause the entire system to crash, which would be a catastrophe.

    The media need to STOP bashing myki over minor issues, issues that are a management mistake rather than a software or hardware problem, or issues that do not exist need to stop. Public perception needs to change to that, yes it has problems, but as Daniel pointed out above, Oyster also still has what we would call flaws if they were in myki and oyster is highly successful in london.

    Come on people, grow up!

  22. Daniel – I have a scenario to propose.

    1. I top up online/over the phone (no top up transferred to card – yet)
    2. I visit my local shopping centre 10 days later (by car, unfortunately) and walk past a “myki machine”
    3. I place card on the “myki machine” cradle to check my balance

    I would be of the understanding at that point the transaction would transfer to the card and new balance would be stored on the card – without having a need to travel?

    Is that correct?

  23. The requirement to specify a Travelcard start date on Oyster is more to do with how anything but single-use Travelcards work anyway. You always did specify the start date even if purchasing paper passes for a week, month or longer.

  24. When you topup your card on the system, that is, over the counter at a retailer or — eventually — a railway station, or at a vending machine, your card is presented and the new balance is updated straight away, without delay.

    No its not.
    The claim from Myki themselves, is that ‘depending on the type of card, it can take up to 3 days for credit to appear, if it is a credit card or visa/mastercard debit it will appear instantly, a regular bankcard will take longer’

    In my case, it didnt appear immediately, it didnt appear after 3 days. And it still hadnt appear when i contacted them after attempting to register the card so i could find out why it hadnt happened.

    It turns out that the numbers i was reading off the back of the card i physically had in my hand…. had been registered by someone else…. at a station.

    Due to ‘Privacy laws’ because i could not provide the details of the person who the numbers that i had on the card in my hand, they could not say if the card had even topped up. So my card, was effectively useless and unregisterable… and the money i had topped it up with, by using the machine at the station (i was able to provide exact time and date) had presumably either never appeared or been added to someone elses card (unsure how that works… the card was in the cradle as instructed) and yet my bank account WAS billed.

    The claim was that they couldnt fix this right away and it would take 10 days to investigate the matter, and that in the meantime, i would either A) have to go and buy another card (unacceptable, as i had added $17.50 to the card in my hand that was now useless) B) Have no access to public transport for 10 days or C) Run the risk of being fined for having no valid myki, as they would not even consider sending an email confirming there was an issue with my card that i could show to an inspector.

    In my case i immediately threatened them with the Ombudsman, and the media and was promised a call back first thing the next day.
    That call never happened, so i called back and told them i would speak to only a supervisor, and i would keep requesting people higher up the chain, until such time as someone would give me a definant no, in which case it would be Ombudsman time, or they agree to send me a brand new card, loaded with the credit that i had paid into it.

    After reminding them of the laws of “Obtaining money by deception, and Fraud” and the fact that at NO stage during all of this, did i swear, get aggressive, ask for anything for free, or threaten them with anything other than the law, they finally agreed to “Do me a favour” (I responded you are NOT doing me any favours, you are doing the RIGHT thing by a customer after YOUR system had failed) and a brand new card was posted to me via express post, loaded with $17.50

    The system is shit, and the excuses used are designed to make people with little patience seethe so much that they eventually snap and swear at which stage the call will be terminated, or to just give up and accept whatever they are being told.

    Being calm and calculating about dealing with the issue, and reminding them of their obligations under both state and federal laws, will resolve the issue far quicker than any of the crap solutions they will try claim are the only solutions.

    Tl;dr i won.

  25. @Chris, regardless of the issues you’ve had, I can’t help feeling you’ve mixed up the online (24 hours to several days, depending on payment type) and on-system (instant) topup times.

    As the Myki web site says: “Top ups made at a myki machine, retail outlet or via the bus driver are instantly added to your myki card.” — http://www.myki.com.au/How-to-use/Topping-up

  26. That certainly explains my issues…..
    1/ Obtain myki and top up online, stick it in the drawr until needed. (Card 1)
    2/ months later need to go to the city and use myki, it fails. Buy a new card. (Card 2)
    3/ months later try and use card 1 again.. and fails, so use a machine to top up card 2. And use the internet to add more money to card 1 later that night.
    4/ months later card 1 still fails to work….. Complete puzzle as I put $60 on card 1 7 months ago, and $30 some months before that… how long can it take……

    Would love to see it documented better by myki itself, however your write up has helped me understand how to work around this issue. Thanks.

  27. Actually, it appears the article is not 100% correct.
    “…If/when you eventually show up with your card on the system, it “re-activates” the transaction…”

    The transaction is only re-activated on a succesfuly transaction. So, if like me, there is a current negative balance, and $60 in archived credit, I need to add more money to the card at a machine, then touch on, touch off. That will re-activate the transaction. Then 24hours (or so) later, touch on again to get the transaction loaded on to my card…. Confused much??

    The archived transaction is only re-queued to the machines when you succesfully use the card, as opposed to simply scanning the card and being declined.

    Cheers.

  28. This thread seems to have a life of it’s own. But anyway, comment 30 (Shannon’s) would constitute a bug.

    I wonder if it’s still applicable if you run your card up against a CVM (Myki Machine), with a negative balance – I thought that would be enough to unarchive the top-up, but you need to come back after 24 hours and do ‘something’ again.

  29. I purchased a Pass, last Sunday and then used the card on Tues/Wed.Thurs/Fri and yet still the Pass does not show on the card and it has used all my Money instead. Some very expensive trips !!

  30. @Shannon, very interesting, thanks for the extra info.

    @PaulK, did you buy online, or at the machine? If at the machine, the Pass should start straight away. Could be a delay if online, though in theory it should be no more than 24 hours. Can you see the Pass on the card if you check it at a vending machine or Myki Check?

  31. Daniel, I purchased online, so I expected approx 24hr delay, but as of this morning still no show. The card is used on bus and tram, so there are no vending or check machine on the route normally used.

  32. Just after that last post I purchased some Myki Money online and this morning the Money is showing as a pending topup when I check on the web. That seems logical to me, so I’m OK with that bit, but still no sign of my Myki Pass. Now, the card in question is actually used my son to go to Uni, so I’m reluctant to call Mki, cos I’m sure their response will be “send us the card”. If I do that, what is my son supposed to do for travel. I live on a pension and don’t have spare money sitting around to buy another Myki and then purchase another Pass, just because their system doesn’t work.

  33. I contacted MyKi and wouldn’t you know it, I put the Pass on the wrong card.
    Now I accept that this is my fault and I can/will jump through a few hoops to get the Pass converted. However the web site is a little counter intuitive on this point.
    When doing a topup, after selecting the card, there are two links that say ‘topup, The one at the bottom of the page takes you to a topup for the selected card, but the other (more obvious) link takes you to a topup for the default card on the account.

    I also have to say, the Myki consultant was very helpful and just nice to speak to.

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