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.

Single trip Opal tickets

Soon you’ll be able to buy single trip Opal tickets from top up and ticket machines across greater Sydney at a train station, ferry wharf or light rail stop near you

You can use either card or cash to purchase a single trip ticket, or top up your opal card (though the preset amounts remain, you can’t topup your Opal card with four 50c coins for example, it’s still $10, $20 etc)

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Opal card top up and vending machine rollout continues

The new top-up machine (via SMH)
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald back in December 2014 (and hinted in the Opal card Terms of Use since day one), more Opal card machines are being rolled out following the current ‘card only’ top up machine launch several months ago.

There are two Opal card machines that should be revealed in the next few months, one that will remain top up only but will accept cash in addition to cards, and a machine that will also ‘vend’ single use ‘Opal card’ “tickets”.

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ePay: Opal – Fast, Easy & In Demand

(article as featured in ePay World May 2015)

ePay Opal Card

Two and a half million cards issued and rising, 1800 retailers and growing – the signs definitely suggest the public, as well as retailers, have taken to the Opal card in a big way.

That distinctive ‘ding’, as the machine reads the tap on or off of yet another traveller’s Opal card, is becoming a sound as synonymous with Sydney as the squawk of a cockatoo or the honk of horns at rush hour.

It’s now the transport ticket of choice for the majority of Sydneysiders, even surpassing paper tickets – which will eventually be phased out in favour of the Opal card. It’s also just been rolled out across the Sydney Light Rail service, meaning travellers can use their Opal card across the entire public transport network from Bathurst to Bondi and Dungog to Bomaderry.

Former NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian was, not surprisingly, glowing at the uptake of Opal by people in NSW and by travellers to the state.

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“It’s great to see so many customers embracing Opal and enjoying the benefits of cheaper and convenient travel. To be at two million Opal cards at this stage of the rollout is phenomenal,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“From Penrith, Panania, Newcastle and Kiama – no-matter where I go people tell me how much they love Opal.”

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The rollout of the Opal card has also been extended to full time tertiary students, meaning tens of thousands of new customers can now apply for cheaper and more convenient travel.

Seven tertiary institutions have now gone live with the concession Opal card, with eligible students from the University of Sydney, University of NSW, University of Notre Dame, Australian Catholic University, The University of Wollongong, Macquarie University and Navitas English already able to apply for their Opal card.

“Eventually more than 250,000 tertiary students will be able to apply for the Concession Opal card and get a 50 per cent discount on the already cheaper Adult Opal fares for trains, buses, light rail and Sydney Ferries,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Opal sites are prioritised based on location, but if you are interested in becoming a possible future site, you can call customer service on 1300 301 408 or email epaysupport@epayaust.com.au.


Nick Theos Lucky Charm

Nick Theos’ Lucky Charm store is enviably placed when it comes to Opal card retailers. He is situated mere metres from one of the busiest public transport hubs in Sydney – Town Hall Station.

“On average we do an Opal recharge every 30 seconds,” Nick said. “In rush hour, it could be up to three or four a minute, and we can do 500-600 a day.”

Those numbers seem phenomenal, and with a return of 2.5 percent for every transaction, the benefits start to add up.

“It does bring more people to the store and that is an opportunity for us to sell them other things and receive impulse purchase.”

The Lucky Charm store, in the lower ground level of the Queen Victoria Building, was one of the first retailers to be granted the right to sell Opal after being included in an initial trial period over a year ago.


(article as featured in ePay World May 2015)

My Opal becomes the first app to directly read Opal cards

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My Opal‘ by Toastedmint has become the first app (that I know of!) that now actually reads the data directly off an Opal card using NFC

All you need is an Android phone with NFC support, and can be ‘unlocked’ with a 99c in-app purchase.

This isn’t exactly ‘brand new’, the ability to read a balance off a transit card, as it has been previously possible using apps like FareBot for the Clipper, EZ-Link and Suica cards. Or Hong Kong’s Octopus card with NFCard. The ability to read Opal card data is the unique thing here.

While there’s no shortage of ‘Opal’ apps that will scrape your account information and show you your balance and history, there’s a delay of anywhere from 10 minutes, to 1 hour, to even longer in some cases.  This also involves handing over your username and password (which is against the Opal website terms of use)

Due to the stored value nature of the Opal card and the way the system is architected, the card itself stores basic information so that it can operate without a need to ‘phone home’.

Transport officers already do this – the Samsung handheld devices can read the balance and other information off an Opal card (and submit an infringement notice from the same device), so that everything is there and ready to read and access. However, the Samsung devices that Transport Officers have, naturally have ‘officially sanctioned’ apps, including decryption keys to read more information than what My Opal exposes. For example, cards also store their concession/entitlement value, a list of transactions, etc – this isn’t exposed in the unencrypted area that My Opal uses.

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However, now ‘My Opal’ is able to read and decode the information available in the unencrypted area of your Opal card.

You’re able to see your card number, balance, total transactions, the number of journeys you’ve made this week, the last mode you took, whether your journey is in progress, what your previous tap was, and your last transaction (which is currently listed as your last journey date).

This information is considered up to date, as it is the information that the Opal card readers at barriers, stations, wharves and on buses will be using to calculate your fares.

The other benefit over relying on the website is that your last transaction date is listed – the website doesn’t list the tap off time, which can be important when it comes to the 60 minute transfer window. If you tap on at 10:00, tap off at 11:00, the only time shown online would be the tap on time. If you want to then start a new journey, you’ll have to remember exactly when you tapped off, whether it’s 10:57, 11:00, or 11:02. Now, My Opal can tell you.

Use of My Opal could also be a little bit iffy under the Opal terms of use. Use at your own risk, naturally – TfNSW would not be responsible for any loss or issues that occur from use.

My Opal is available on Google Play now.