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Australian Commuters Could Soon Use Credit Cards To Pay For Bus, Train And Ferry Rides

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It's out with the "old new" and in with the "new new" in New South Wales, as public transport could soon shift to an open payment system using credit cards instead of Opal cards.

The new system is set to be tested out next year and will have commuters disregarding their current Opal cards in exchange for their credit or debit cards if the trial is successful.

Announced by Transport Minister Andrew Constance during the Future Transport summit, the credit card trials will use existing Opal card readers in certain parts of Sydney next year to "tap on and off buses, ferries, light rail or trains."

Constance says this next step is made possible through the system overhaul ushered in by the Opal system. Commuters have also realized the efficiency of smart cards and a credit card system would even add more convenience to their daily commutes.

"Contactless payment with credit and debit cards would offer customers another easy-to-use and convenient option for traveling," Constance adds.

The move will certainly help people consider public transportation more and help ease up road congestion made by private commutes.

The transportation upgrade is inspired from London's public transport system, which has been using credit cards as a substitute for Oyster cards since 2014. MasterCard, one of the technology's collaborators, estimates about 350 million rides in London have been using contactless technology.

MasterCard is keen on adapting the technology in New South Wales since Sydney is the nation's destination hub for both tourists and local businesses. The credit card system would mean that "commuters in NSW will no longer have to worry about topping up their fare accounts, and overseas travelers will find navigating the city as easy as tap and go," increasing tourism rates.

The trial runs will determine the feasibility and costs it would take to run the system as Constance warns that such an upgrade is not that easy. Despite early foresight during Opal's implementation in 2010 to allow an easier upgrade to the credit card system, other steps have to be considered before the project can even begin trials.

"Finalizing partnerships, working with the finance and contactless payments sector and developing the software" are some of the obstacles NSW transportation needs to face, Constance says. Alongside these initial steps are security measures that have to be implemented and monitored to ensure commuters' credit cards aren't skimmed as they head toward their destinations.

Photo: Beau Giles | Flickr

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