Transport NSW introduces contactless payments for light rail, ferry trips in Sydney

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Credit Card Purchases
A shop assistant uses an eftpos system at a Specialty Fashion Group owned Katies store in Sydney December 11, 2012. Reuters/Tim Wimborne

Commuters in Sydney have become the first in the country who are allowed to use their credit cards to tap on and off services across Australia. The "contactless payment scheme" is expected to be rolled out for trains before 2018 ends, after the service was rolled out to light rail and all ferries on Monday.

This means that instead of Opal cards, Sydney passengers are now allowed to “tap on” for single trips with their phones, tablets and smartwatches when travelling on ferries and light rail. Passengers who have linked their Mastercard, Visa or American Express card to their mobile devices can travel for the cost of a single trip. However, they will not get the discounts and caps that come with the Opal card. Paying for travel on light rail or ferries through credit card will not offer the same benefit as with an Opal card, which includes half-price travel after eight trips in a week, or a transfer discount when switching modes of transport.

New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance clarified that the new technology is not meant to replace the Opal system, the backbone of the state's public transport ticketing system. He said it is targeted at people looking for convenience. “We are not replacing the Opal system - the Opal system is here to stay, and of course attached to the Opal system are all the benefits,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Constance said that the feature complements the foundation of Opal. He explained that it is intended to be convenient for tourists as well as for those who might have left their Opal card at home.

MasterCard became the first to offer a tap and go service on the Manly Ferry. The offer has since been expanded to American Express and VISA. Mastercard's Division President for Australasia Richard Wormald said they are looking forward to rolling out similar solutions in other states and making Australian cities more connected.

"After overwhelmingly positive customer feedback, we're adding more services, more modes and more card providers," 9News reports Constance as saying. He added that contactless transport payments make purchasing one-off fares fast, easy and seamless.

The state's Opal system is modelled on London's Oyster card. Transport users in London have been able to use debit and credit cards to pay for buses and trains, including those on the city's underground rail network. Around 40 percent of pay-as-you-go travel in London is now made with contactless methods.