Almost every Australian capital city now uses travel smart cards as its main ticketing method. Looking to save money while using one of these cards? Check out these tips.
Picture: Getty Images/Lisa Maree Williams
Some of these strategies will only work in specific cities; others have more general applicability. Many simply require you to know the relevant rules that apply to the cards; other are more ethically dubious. The risk is yours to take.
Knowing the basic rules in each city can help you save a lot. We recently rounded up ways to save money on Sydney's Opal card system. Opal is so complicated it needs a more detailed explanation than most other Australian capitals, but every system has its quirks. Here are links to the main transport sites for each capital so you can check the intricate details that apply in those locations (such as Melbourne forcing everyone to buy a smart card, no matter how short their stay):
- Sydney: Opal
- Melbourne: Myki
- Brisbane: Translink
- Perth: Transperth
- Adelaide: Adelaide Metro
- Canberra: Action
- Hobart: Metro
Check for off-peak rules
An obvious one, but still worth mentioning: most transport systems are cheaper if you don't travel during peak hours (typically between 7am and 9am and 4pm to 6pm, though the exact details vary between cities). Find out the rules and stay off the route to save -- plus you're more likely to get a seat.
Cheaper airport travel in Sydney with Opal
Sydney's airport stations require you to pay a gate access fee when you visit. While this is capped at $21 a week if you use Opal, it can still make the journey expensive.
Here's one potential saving trick. If you happen to arrive at the station and the gates aren't working (which happened to a friend of Lifehacker's recently), you'll be advised to ring the Opal helpline so you can be charged correctly. However, if you don't, you'll be charged the maximum ^$8.10 for a day -- which might well be cheaper.
Update: A reader points out this even sneakier trick: buy a $10 Opal card from a retailer, and use that to travel to the airport. The card will have a negative balance after you've made the trip, but that means you can go to the airport for $10 and dump the card altogether.
"Forget" to tag on
If you don't have to get through ticket barriers at either end of your journey, then you can always choose to simply not tag on at all, and take the risk that there won't be an inspector on board at some point during the journey. If one does show up, you can indignantly claim that you did in fact tap on. Obviously, this won't work on buses, and it's unlikely to fly for repeat offenders.
Is this ethical? No. Is it common? Yes. I see this a lot on Melbourne trams -- if a ticket inspector boards, there's always a glut of people who suddenly decide to get off at the next stop.
Have other fare-hacking tips? Share them in the comments.
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