Late on Sunday, the Commonwealth Bank announced a nice bonus: anyone using their credit card, debit card or mobile phone to pay for trains, ferries or the light rail around Sydney would get the same weekly travel rewards, travel caps and transfer discounts as Opal card users.
In short, if you were paying for your regular train fare with your phone, you were paying a fraction more per trip, and the transport network wouldn’t cap your maximum daily, weekly or Sunday fare. From today, that disparity finally ends.
I’ve been using contactless payments on the train network for the last month or so. It originally began just out of curiosity. I’d lost an Opal card, and since I’m never catching the train without my card or my phone, I wanted to use the latter to help track how much I’d been spending.
It seemed like a bargain at first. In the Google Pay app, which I setup so I could link my card to the Opal app, each tap is registered as a single dollar:
The actual amount charged, mind you, is much more than that. The official Transport NSW info page says that users “pay an Adult fare when you tap on and tap off consistently” with the same card or phone. In practice, that amount is about what you’d pay for a single Adult single trip ticket fare. According to my bank statements, NSW Transport bills me $4.48 for a one way journey, the standard fare for a peak-hour fare between 10 and 20 kilometres on the train network.
The kicker is that, as per Opal’s normal rules, users aren’t supposed to be charged more than $16.10 a day for adults. So while you’re not being charged extra if you just took a single return trip every day, you wouldn’t get the 30 percent discount for off-peak fares. Your daily and weekly expenses also weren’t capped, so if you took a second trip you’d be giving slightly more money to the state government than you should.
Simple example from a couple of weeks ago. I took my regular train rides to and from work on a Monday, but I also took an extra couple of train rides that day. The two other rides were about the same length (with one slightly longer), so I ended up giving the fine state of NSW $2.49 more than even they asked for.
Most people won’t take four or more 15+ minute trips during a day, however, so it’s rare that you’ll actually come up against the daily cap. Where it’ll kick in frequently is if you’re travelling two hours or more (from the Central Coast or the Blue Mountains every day).
The biggest benefit from today’s change, however, is the extension of half-price fares after 8 trips (which covers your Friday and Saturday travel if you use the train every day for work) and off-peak discounts for people paying with their phone.
The changes to contactless payments are active across the NSW transport network from today, with them also being extended to the Sydney bus network “in a staged roll-out over the coming months,” according to a media release from the Commonwealth Bank on Sunday.