ALICIA WOOD, The Daily Telegraph, 20th May 2015
Millions of Opal card users are unwittingly contributing to a $10 million state government fund, with the money sitting in their automatic “top-up’’ accounts accruing interest for government coffers.
Opal card users who choose to automatically “top up” their cards are charged as soon as their balance reaches $10 — and with at least half of the state’s two million users choosing the “auto top-up” system — the government is holding on to more than $10 million, on which it earned $176,000 interest in the last financial year.
Opposition transport spokesman Ryan Park said there was no reason commuters should be barred from using all the funds on their card: “Not only is the government pocketing the funds, they are making interest off money that isn’t theirs, it is absolutely outrageous. Opal card users who have activated the ‘auto top up’ option are essentially being charged a hidden $10 fee for the privilege of catching their train, bus or ferry.”
A Transport for NSW spokesman said the $10 amount was chosen because it covers the maximum single adult train fare of $8.30 to the Central Coast, Illawarra and Blue Mountains.
The spokesman said any interest earned on the held funds would pay for the operation of the Opal card system.
“When a customer tops up their Opal card, whether by auto top up or other means, the funds are securely held by the Commonwealth Bank who are part of the consortium working with TfNSW to deliver Opal,” the spokesman said.
“Any interest earned on the funds is used to contribute to the costs of operating Opal.’