Why doesn’t Opal auto top up work at the airport?

Have you ever tried to catch a train from one of Sydney Airport’s train stations, and encountered a ‘balance too low’ error despite having auto top up enabled on your card?

The Airport stations are one of the ‘quirks’ when it comes to Opal.

Auto top up is triggered when balance drops below $10; the default fare is taken when you tap on and amended at tap off.

For example, if your current balance is $14 on the card, and you tapped on at Central, it’d drop your balance by $8.40, bringing it to $5.60 and triggering an auto top up with the balance being under $10.

Of course, you need the minimum balance to tap on in the first place, which is minimum fare (+airport fee at airport), or $13.40+3.38=$16.78.

If you arrive at the airport and attempt to catch the train home with a balance of $14, literally tapping on anywhere else on the network would trigger auto top up, but because you don’t have the minimum to tap on at the airport, it won’t let you through and so can’t trigger the automatic top up.

Luckily, there’s plenty of Opal top up machines at the airport and you’ll be on your way in no time.

How do I check my Opal card balance?

If you would like to check the balance on your Opal Card, there are several ways to do so.

Whenever you tap off (or when you tap on when catching the Manly ferry) at an Opal card reader, you’ll see the remaining balance shown on the reader display.

There are also some other options;

  • Online
  • By calling 13 67 25 (13 OPAL)
  • Visit an Opal card retailer and ask to check your balance
  • Tap your card at an Opal card top up/vending machine
  • If you have an Android phone with NFC, you can also use the Opal Travel app