Long suffering eftpos cardholders still locked out of tap-and-go fares at the ticket gate for the Opal network in NSW will, finally, be afforded the same access as those using Mastercard, Visa and American Express products, the state government has said.
But how soon is still unclear.
More than a year after the Opal network was opened up to accept international card schemes to pass through public transport barriers, a senior Transport for NSW official has confirmed eftpos gate functionality is coming, and it has a go-live date.
But the timing is still not being made public, and nobody involved is saying when that date will be, such is the sensitivity around the issue.
It’s been an all-stations milk run for the plucky domestic payments scheme to gain tap-payments access to the transit network that passengers are increasingly placing at the top of their digital wallets. That's because it’s the defining transaction for people going to and from the workplace.
And consumer choice, increasingly, is coming down to a mix of lazy muscle memory (ie can't be bothered changing cards) and the fact that the bottom is dropping out of high-priced credit cards, especially for younger people.
If you prefer not to have a credit card, or haven’t been offered one, debit payments from the ticket gate in NSW simply default to Mastercard or Visa's more expensive payment rails.
And if you happen to be using a digital wallet, you’re way more likely to just revert to whatever just works, which is where there's a disconnect for eftpos.
For tap transactions, the locally owned debit product works at the counter, but it’s still switched off at ticketing gates, pushing global payments giants rivals to the fore.
Speaking at the AusPayNet Summit in Sydney on Tuesday, Transport for NSW director of digital products Anne Kinsella said that TfNSW was “actively working with all of the schemes that aren't currently engaged.”
“I can't give away any commercial discussions, and I can't talk about anything forward looking, unfortunately, but I would say continue to watch this space,” Kinsella said.
Asked directly if there was now a date, Kinsella said "yes."
The exclusion of eftpos from transit tap-and-go has been a consumer bugbear in the payments industry since Opal opened up its gates in November 2018.
Commercial interests underlying the local alliance between the Commonwealth Bank, Mastercard, Cubic Transportation Systems and Transport for London, dubbed the Pearl Consortium, is widely regarded as one of the biggest impediments to increased functionality.