Many of us already use some form of smartcard to catch the bus or train – such as Opal (NSW), Myki (VIC) and Go (QLD) cards – but it looks like we’ll soon be able to use our bank cards instead.
At Sydney’s Future Transport Summit, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced that from 2017, Sydney’s transport system will trial contactless payments with credit and debit cards.
The trial will be modelled on the system adopted in London where currently around 25 per cent of passengers (more than a million people a day) tap on and off transport with their credit or debit cards.
This system saves London locals and tourists from having to worry about topping up or buying ‘Oyster’ cards. It can be a great relief, particularly when running late during rush hour.
A “convenient option for travelling”
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said contactless payment with credit and debit cards would offer customers an easy to use and convenient option for travelling.
“The easier we can make it to hop on a train, ferry, bus or light rail, the more people we will get out of their cars congesting our roads,” Mr Constance said.
“Only a few major mass transit systems, similar in scale and complexity to Sydney’s, have introduced contactless payments. London’s Oyster card system is a well-known example, where they only finalised their rollout in late 2014.
“For too long, NSW has lagged behind the world when it comes to transport – but that’s changing.”
The trial will require the installation of new software into the current Opal system to incorporate credit and debit cards. Such an upgrade is expected to be expensive, with the 2014 upgrade in London costing around £70 million ($130 million).
“We want to use the technology behind Opal to further enhance the system,” Mr Constance said.
“A lot of critical work needs to be undertaken in the first stage of this project, such as finalising partnerships, working with the finance and contactless payments sector, developing the software and then, in 2017, undertaking a customer trial.”
Implications – pros and cons
With people utilising contactless payment for most of their everyday purchases, it makes sense to incorporate that system onto buses and trains. After all, it’s the same idea as tapping a transport smartcard, except the money is coming straight out of a bank account. However, as with any new system, there are some things we can feel apprehensive about.
Below is an outline of some possible pros and cons of using your bank card to catch public transport.
- More rewards points/cashback: People who have a rewards or cashback program on their credit/debit cards can get more points or cash by using them to pay for everyday transport.
- One less card to carry around: Allowing payment with a credit or debit card means a transport smartcard (such as the Opal card) doesn’t need to be carried everywhere anymore.
- Saves time for infrequent users: For those that don’t have a smartcard because they only use public transport every now and then, this will save them having to buy a ticket from a machine or office beforehand.
- Saves time for visitors/tourists: Likewise, people from out-of-town can simply use their bank card to get around with the same efficiency as a smartcard.
- Security threats: Could open up more opportunities for thieves to set up scanners that swipe banking details.
- Rack up more debt on credit card: For those using credit cards, transport costs could be another source of debt.
- Overdrawn fees: For those using debit cards, there’s a potential for them to overdraw their balance and be charged overdrawn account fees and interest on the overdrawn amount.
- Overseas transaction fees for visitors: Visitors from overseas are likely to incur an overseas transaction fee from their bank for using their credit/debit cards to catch public transport.