No, the law doesn’t demand that Myki accept 5 cent coins, or that Metcard machines accept notes

You know in the end the machines will win (1/2)The question seems to keep coming up as to whether it’s legal for Myki machines to not accept 5 cent coins; or indeed whether it’s legal for Metcard machines on trams to only accept coins (not notes).

Some people assume that because it’s all legal tender, it must be against the law to demand specific currency, or otherwise limit the payment options (such as only providing a limited amount of change).

As this page from the Reserve Bank says, legal tender doesn’t mean there’s any obligation to accept it:

It is the Reserve Bank of Australiaโ€™s understanding that, although Australian currency has legal tender status, it does not necessarily have to be used in transactions and that refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.

So you might not like it, but it’s not illegal.

PS. Some people even claim stuff like this that they don’t like is unconstitutional, and someone should be taken to court. Good luck with that.

#Myki myths 4: You have to give them your name and address – No, you don’t

Myki: how to use

Some people seem to be a little paranoid about this:

There is no requirement to provide a name and address to get a Myki card.

You can buy a full fare Myki card from a vending machine. No details given, using cash or credit/debit/EFTPOS card to pay.

You can buy a full fare or concession Myki card from a station booking office or retail outlet, using cash or card to pay. No details given.

You can buy a full fare or concession Myki card online using a card to pay. Obviously they need your details to mail out the card. They then delete those details after the card has been sent. If you don’t trust them on this, use one of the above options.

People can choose to register their name and address to a Myki card. That means if the card is lost, it can be blocked and the balance transferred to a new card. It also means you can view the account online — however you can do online topups even with an anonymous card.

So if you’re concerned about your details and don’t want to give them to the Transport Ticketing Authority, you don’t have to.

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

PTV Myki hub, Southern Cross Station

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

It’s a 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.

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.

So in summary…

Myki reader, Mckinnon stationSo 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.

Myki myths 2: Everybody always has to touch-off, every single time, or they’ll be penalised – Nope.

I know of people saying the only thing they don’t like about Myki is the requirement to touch-off. This is particularly a problem at suburban stations in the evening peak. Some stations end up with queues due to inadequate numbers of readers.

There are three main situations where it doesn’t matter if you don’t touch-off. That is, you will end up paying no more.

1. Myki Pass, on trains, trams or buses, most cases

If you’re on a Myki Pass (eg a weekly or 28-365 day pass, the equivalent of a Monthly or Yearly) and your trip started in a zone covered by the Pass (eg it’s your usual trip), the default fare is $0.00. You’re not going to be charged any additional money if you don’t touch-off.

2. Myki Money, on Metro trains, if your trip was zone 1+2

The default fare (what you get charged if you don’t touch-off) is a Zone 1+2 2-hour. If that’s the appropriate fare, then you’re not going to be charged any additional money if you don’t touch-off.

3. Myki Money, on trams, most cases

This is the one everybody should know about, because it’s been publicised a fair bit, but you still see people needlessly touching-off on trams.

The default fare on trams is a Zone 1, 2-hour fare. This is the appropriate fare for almost all tram trips. You don’t need to touch-off. The only exception is if your trip is within the zone 1/2 overlap (on routes 86, 109 or 75) and you specifically want the cheaper zone 2 fare.

Myki: how to use

The mantra

The mantra is “touch on, touch off” — because that’s the easiest thing to remember. But for regular passengers, if your normal trip falls into one of the above categories, you may be able to save yourself a bit of queuing/hassle.

PS. Note that if you don’t touch-off, it’s at the next touch-on (which might be the next day) when it charges you for the previous trip, and displays that amount. This can confuse people at first.

(I’ve written on this topic before, but arguably that post was too wordy, and right now a lot more people are coming onto Myki, so it’s worth revisiting.)

Source: Myki: Default fares

Myki myths 1: There’s no “unlimited use” option – oh yes there is

Still only one Myki reader on the main platform at MckinnonMetcard weekly and monthly tickets won’t be available for sale from this Sunday (though you’ll still be able to use them if you have them).

Myki’s equivalent to Weekly, Monthly and Yearly Metcard tickets is Myki pass, which gives unlimited travel on the days paid for.

The pricing of a Metcard Weekly is identical to a Myki 7-day Pass.

The pricing for a Monthly or Yearly Metcard is almost identical to a Myki 30-day or 365-day Pass — but with Myki you can choose the number of days, anything from 28 to 365 days, to work around holidays, long weekends and so on. It averages out to about the same amount of money (though since this is a leap year, once could argue there’s no direct equivalent to a Metcard leap-yearly/366 day pass).

(Don’t buy a Yearly/365-day Pass at the retail price. Get it via Commuter Club from your workplace, if offered, or via the PTUA).

There is one significant difference with Myki: if you have a single zone (1 or 2, not both) Pass, you don’t get the bonus weekend travel in the other zone that you did with Metcard. You do get a discount though, of the price of a 2-hour fare in the zone you paid for, and the price is capped at the $3.30 weekend rate. The net result is a Zone 1 Passholder travelling into zone 2 on a weekend pays an extra 2 cents. It’s more for a Zone 2 Passholder going into zone 1, or a Concession fare.

On the up side, the weekend discount applies on public holidays as well as Saturday and Sunday.

Oh, and the big plus to using a Myki Pass is that in most cases you don’t need to bother touching-off… but that’s the subject of a future post.