Auckland Transport AT HOP card users have paid $910,000 in “penalty fares” since the public transport card was introduced 18 months ago.

The “penalty fares” are a combination of overpaid fares and improperly recorded fully paid fares. These occur when users fail to either “tag on” or “tag off” correctly.

How does it happen?

When you tag on at the beginning of your journey your card is charged the full set fare for the route. Most Auckland around-town buses have a four-stage fare of $5.04. When you tag off it calculates how many stages you’ve travelled and if it’s less than four stages you’re “refunded” the unused portion.

But if you get off earlier than four stages and forget to tag off (or forget to tag on but remember to tag off), you won't get that “refund”. And if you travel the full four stages and forget to tag off, you’re charged the correct fare but the system doesn’t know where you got off and records the tag off as “missing”.

Auckland Transport’s chief operations officer Greg Edmonds has said users’ tagging failure rate is only 3 percent of all transactions and has fluctuated as new services and groups of commuters have joined the system.

One of our members contacted us after three instances where his AT HOP card didn’t record him as tagging on, and so he overpaid. Fortunately his card was registered and he was able to claim a refund from Auckland Transport for two of his overpayments. If your card isn’t registered you can’t ask for a refund for any missed tags. Auckland Transport says that just over half of the nearly 250,000 users of AT HOP cards have registered their card.

When Wellington bus users first got Snapper cards there were similar tag failures. Snapper said its failure rate was 1 percent and 57 percent of active cardholders had registered their cards.

Tag failures aren’t only the fault of the users. The machine may be faulty. In Auckland drivers sometimes have turned off the readers early, ahead of their next route, meaning passengers weren’t able to tag off.

Our advice

  • Register your AT HOP card – it also protects your balance if it’s lost or stolen.
  • Pay close attention when you’re tagging on or off to check it’s happened. Look for the green light and listen for the “ping”.
  • Keep an eye on your transactions. You can access them at ticket and top-up machines, AT customer service centres, AT HOP card retailers, or online if you register your AT HOP card.
  • If you have problems with your card contact AT HOP.