Why smart cards are the traveller’s friend and we need more of them

Why smart cards are the traveller’s friend and we need more of them

Although there are projects underway in Melbourne (myki) and Brisbane, and an endlessly stalled attempt in Sydney, Perth is currently the only Australian capital to have a proper city-wide transport smart card (SmartRider) that lets you pay for any form of transport without ever needing cash on hand, simply by swiping a card on a reader. This is, to be honest, a great pity.
As travellers to London (Oyster) and Hong Kong (Octopus) will attest, smart cards make travelling a breeze, eliminating the need to scrabble for change or work out unfamiliar systems, and improving security (you can scan your whole wallet rather than fiddling to take the card out). If you’re visiting anywhere that has a smart card travel system for more than a day or so, ditch the paper tickets and get a smart card: even if you have to pay a deposit to get the card, the convenience is worth it, and in many places (Perth included) you get a discount on travel that’ll quick eat up the cost anyway.


  • Somebody must have forgot to tell my my go card (Brisbane Smartcard), is still underway, because its been out for a few months so far. Sure there are still some teething issues left like dealing with the fact our transport system reaches in to NSW, and therefore two timezones, and the differrent price of the aiport line, but yes much more convenient

  • I live in Perth and the SmartRider has been fantastic. You can set it up to automatically add more money to the card when it reaches a trigger low amount (say, $5) as well. The system was a bit glitchy at first, but has settled in well.

  • When I was in Brisbane in mid-May I didn’t see any of the gates in operation, so I presumed the teething problems were more extensive than they appear. Go Brisbane!

  • Automatic trigger amount is great. You get a 25% discount on rides this way as well. If you “top-up” the card at one of the machines or in a Transperth office, the discount is 15%.

  • I’ve been putting off using the Brisbane Go-card. In terms of convenience the 10-trip saver was just as easy for me and didn’t require me to touch on and off -if the card doesn’t touch off properly you have to pay $5 for what would be a $1.20 trip.

  • I’m completely baffled why each city has to create their own system more or less from scratch. Melbourne’s (like Sydney’s now scrapped system) is late and well over budget, as the govt (and some entrepreneuring company) though they could do a new one on the cheap. Now they’ll end up paying more.

    And for what it’s worth, I can think of so many better things that money could be spent on. Don’t get me wrong; I lived in London and lover the oyster card and wish they were everywhere, but lets get the priorities right – first fix the trains up. _And_ for the $1 billion plus the Melbourne system will end up costing, you could make public transport free, or employ a couple of thousand station attendants and tram conductors for 10 years.

  • Are these cards anonymous cards that just act as cash-storage mechanisms? Or are they linked to individuals in some distinct way? (Such as a particular card’s serial number being linked to you in the database, or bank accounts being automatically linked to the card)

  • In most places, the card can be anonymous, or you can choose to register it, or you can choose to link it to a bank account for automatic top-ups. In Perth, that option gets you even cheaper fares. Registering a card with a significant amount of stored value makes sense as you can then get it reissued if lost or stolen. But if you’re paranoid, you can buy one, put a minimal amount of credit on it and have no link to it whatsoever. I assume the linkage happens at network level, not card level (that is, your card itself doesn’t store any bank details; those are stored with your account information at network level).

  • An interesting idea. Perhaps part of the way towards an electronic “cash” card? The anonymity of cash combined with the ease of electronic finance.

    Doubt the government would ever go for it, they’re not big fans of anonymous citizens, but if it’s true that the transit card can be completely anonymous than at least it’s a proof of concept.

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