This is a guest post by reader Frith Stalker

Dear AT Hop

I have used Auckland buses for 30 years

I am very smart, very pedantic, very polite and very Rule Abiding

I am your perfect customer.

I always thank the driver.

In days of old – I always had the correct change, now I always have my card.

I am always ready when my stop arrives, and I get off quickly and efficiently.

I give up my seat for the old, the very young, pregnant women and those with disabilities.

I ‘be the bad guy’ when no one will move down the bus, so we can all get on with the journey.

I pick up rubbish and I teach my kids bus etiquette.

I report the dangerous bus drivers, but yes I also commend the good ones.

I study your crazy maps, persist with your: series of bus cards, totally random electronic “real time” (ha ha) boards, user-unfriendly-websites – and log in repeatedly to your user accounts until I get to where I need to go, one way or another.

I have no choice.

I have no car.

Lately I got a Smart Phone. I got your App. I use it – every day – despite the times it monumentally lets me down.

But, you know, when a bus is finally in front of me, and I can’t get on it – despite my monthly pass – that’s when I finally say: ENOUGH.

You want to know why buses have a bad rap? You want to know why lower income users don’t use your AT Hop cards?

I’ve estimated my usage. A monthly pass is worth my while, just, as I spend near that (gulp) but importantly it allows me: jump-on-jump-off without calculating every single fare.

I’ve budgeted. I talked to the hotline to check my facts. I’ve loaded up $140 monthly pass on my card.

It was scary shelling out for that. It’s scary spending that anywhere. (I don’t spend that in one go on groceries for my family of four) It was not easy to put that money aside and spend it in one hit. I waited weeks to have it ready. Now I am off: Unlimited trips within Zone A for 30 days. Right?

  • Day One: Today seems okay. I Tag On/Tag Off and it’s working. It’s a good feeling.
  • Day Two: The morning is fine. The afternoon… I get on an Inner Link and Tag On (Ponsonby Rd). All good. At K’Rd, as I Tag Off, I catch something other than the green light out of the corner of my eye. But it’s too late to read the message – I heard the beep and now I am off the bus. Shrug. Run for the next bus.
  • Next bus, out of breath, I jump on (I am racing to take over childcare). I try to Tag On, but it reads “insufficient funds, please pay the driver”. WTF? $140.00 and now I can’t get on a bus. [In fact I refuse to get off. A lovely (or resigned) man offers to tag me on. The driver gives up, declines his offer and drives off. I’m humiliated. Angry. But at least I am on the way home.]
  • I phone the AT Hop number, they tell me my card has to be in credit (cash credit, over and above my $140 monthly pass) for my pass to function. I am disbelieving. I am also indignant: I did have credit. A few dollars. Otherwise how did my card work on Day One. Right? How can I fix it? Go to Britomart (ok, using my bus card? With my 2 year old? Shall I take time off work to go somewhere not on my way to fix a problem I didn’t create?)

This saga dragged on and my card was useless to me for the next two days. Something had gone wrong on that second tag off – and it wasn’t me. Credit had been removed from my card, and my monthly pass was non-functional until I could top up with more cash. There are two major problems with this, and a third catch:

  • I was not informed, upon purchase of my pass – nor on the Hotline when researching the pass – that a cash balance would be required on top of my $140 top up. Surely this constitutes a breach of good faith between customers and AT Hop?
  • There was cash on my card – entirely coincidentally. It was removed due to an error with AT Hop which they refuse to acknowledge.
  • I’m not due to go past a Top Up point until the day after next – no car, childcare drop off en-route to work. I have to plan my top ups with care…

So how to remedy it overall? Surely, AT Hop say ‘sorry! We messed up’ ‘please accept this credit on your card for the costs when you couldn’t use your card.’ Right?

Wrong. Email exchange with AT Hop: they refuse to refund my fares.  No cash fares refunds – not even with receipts. I suggest they credit me one extra day on my monthly pass. No. What if I spend $16 on my card (once my pass is expired) and they can refund that? No.

Can they explain what happened? No response. How can I be sure it won’t happen again? No response.

The final insult to injury is when the journey becomes visible (or not) on my online account. The story does not add up. At All. My trip from Ponsonby to K’Rd doesn’t even show. There’s one totally bizarre entry for that afternoon: a Tag Off on Customs St (missing Tag On). Now – I was nowhere near Customs St that day – and my email records prove that I was still at work over an hour later. 

My Tag On the Inner Link (around 5.00pm) was just fine – but it wasn’t even on the record. A more paranoid person might think At Hop had altered my record (I had told them in no uncertain terms how far I was willing to go to ensure the issue was not simply brushed under the carpet. It makes you wonder…)

AT Hop Monthly pass fail 700pix

So, I think this sort of issue is a fairly stern deterrent: I fork out 25% of my Gross Weekly earnings for a monthly pass, and five days later I cannot board a bus? Not good enough.

The existence of failures of this sort (technical) are not ideal, but I can understand and accept that they happen. Given they do happen, however, there must be something in place to protect the customer (I suggested pass holders present the receipt for their pass – with valid dates – to the driver for travel if their pass failed… No answer).

If issues like this continue to be swept under the carpet you will not get a culture of faith in the everyday workings of our transport network. When you don’t have a car – and therefore have no other means of transport – this is not just an inconvenience it’s a massive stressor and potentially a barrier to reliably participating in the workforce. Not good enough.

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    1. How about
      “Dear AT
      Based on the documents you have supplied me I can provide definitive proof that you have defrauded me.
      I would like this corrected please since this is my third attempt to have this corrected
      If not I will be lodging a complaint seeking all costs, including additional travel expenses and time lost due to proceedings

  1. ohh that is just terrible and not good enough at all !
    can you take them to the consumers institute or something ?
    I am so very sorry 🙁
    And to think I was feeling annoyed today that I could not top
    up anywhere in my area other than the train station (I was using the bus
    not near the station)
    and thinking how that was a disincentive …..
    please let me know if you have any luck with this and if you need any support

  2. Since we’re sharing anecdotes, I had a very similar experience with my $190 two-zone monthly pass and an error that saw my HOP money balance incorrectly charged into the negatives and my monthly pass renderered inusable. Here’s where our experience differs: I received only the best customer service from AT. The charge was immediately reversed on the phone and when they later discovered an issue with my physical card & account, AT same-day couriered a brand new HOP card to me and loaded the value of the days lost and remaining from my monthly pass. Meanwhile, they organised complimentary train passes waiting for me at Britomart to cover my commute to university while they sorted everything out. I was taken aback by the service from AT, in my situation. I’m surprised that you had such a bad experience with them, but I think it’s unfair to declare a destruction of “faith” in AT.

  3. Maybe the simple answer is to set the penalties to zero for all monthly passes, so they don’t go negative.

    In general though, the HOP system seems to be quick to take money in these situations and not so quick to return it. Tagging on and off is not a 100% proposition but the system acts as if it is.

    1. That makes sense for “all zone” passes, but AT would be afraid of the fraud from buying a 1 zone pass and using it to travel everywhere.

      On the other hand, it should be quite easy to monitor the “average tag failure rate” across the network, and also by bus or route, and take a 2 or 3 standard deviation limit on that to look at cards where the user should be fined or have their card suspended.
      Pretty sure I could write a report for that across their data warehouse in about 15 minutes. (They do have a data warehouse right? Maybe I should wander downstairs and ask customer services)

      And feed it into an automated decision making system fairly easily.

      “hmm, he’s done that 2 months in a row, almost certainly fraud, better send it to someone to follow up”
      “hmm, more than 10% of the passengers on that bus failed to tag off, maybe we better get the equipment checked”

  4. Well done to the writer for going to this effort. Aucklander’s have had to ENDURE years and years of incompetence when it comes to public transport. The fact that anyone in Auckland still uses PT is a testament to the fortitude of the people of this city in the face of what can only be described as borderline contempt on the part of AT.

  5. I had a similar experience a few months ago, tag off not registered and I got pinged a $10 fee ($5 no tag off, and $5 for not tagging on the next bus) yet I had a monthly pass loaded – so who cares how many buses I forgot to tag on/off. AT did.
    Because of the monthly pass, I never had “credit” on my card, so my card was locked until I put credit on it, rendering my $140 monthly pass useless. Logic obviously dosent come into play with AT’s system designers….
    But, I have noticed recently that the system is a little smarter now, if I do somehow miss a tag, the system recognizes I have a pass and ignores the missed tag – no more penalty fees. Also, the processing time of getting a new pass online appears to have sped up – was always warned “allow upto 72hrs” but no seems to be within 24.

    AT system designers really need to be given a card and told to take the bus system for a month so they can see where the flaws are………

    1. Oh hell yes.

      Dear AT.

      Let’s see a simple option for those “fines” you love to impose.

      1. You can tag on/ off on a pass while the balance is > -$20 (not 0)
      2. You have to pay that balance before you can add to the pass.

      Look AT, problem solved for 99.8% of tag issues without p****ng people off.
      I’m leaving 0.2% in there for the problem of fraud that you are afraid of that causes you to do this.

      You might want to look at Bayes Theorem, and evaluate the false positive/negative rates in your current system vs. the loss in productivity/time you get by making people paranoid to use the monthly pass after they have been stung like this.
      Here’s a lovely example explaining with breast cancer.
      I’m sure you can figure out how to replace that with “fraud” and update the percentages accordingly.
      I’d love to see your results.

    2. The $140 monthly pass only covers at best 1/3 of Auckland, depending on which one you have. You have to tag off so it knows you aren’t riding out to Papakura or Swanson, or Albany or wherever else your pass doesn’t cover (and likewise tag on so it knows where you got on).

      If you are not getting charged now, it’s because you are riding a bus or train service that terminates within your zone. If you hop on one that carries on past your zone you’ll get the penalty for not tagging off. The system is already as accommodating as it can be without allowing people to rip it off.

  6. I suggest using legal tender and tell them where they can put their expensive and inconvenient debit card. I mean would you use a card from any other retailer where they make you tag off as you leave their shop otherwise they steal your money?

    1. Using legal tender as you call it means youre actually spending more as they continue to hike up the costs. E.g. ab NEX from constellation station to britomart was just 4.50 before june 2014. It is now November and the charge is a flatout $5 charge.
      From my limited understanding, ATHOP users are getting their fares at a slightly lower charge.

        1. Nah, financially, it still is worth it, usually. I had my auto top-up fail year, and got the card blocked. The bastards at AT brazenly stole my $1.07 of remaining legitimate credit, and I had to buy a new card for $5, although I got free travel vouchers for a few days while trying to sort this out: I actually came out ahead money-wise, although it ate up a lot of my time.

          But even in the absolute worst case where you somehow have this happen once a year, and you don’t get the free tickets to tide you over, you shouldn’t lose more than $10 in credit plus $10 for a new card, plus a day or two of cash fares travelling in the meantime. But HOP is saving you 40c a trip for even a one-zone fare: so that’ll pay for itself in 5 weeks for a regular commuter, and way quicker if you’re travelling more than one zone.

          For an occasional user, you’d need to be making less than a one-zone roundtrip per fortnight not to make your money back within a year. And this is the worst case: you’ll probably lose a lot less than $10 in credit.

        2. Oh, and obviously, this doesn’t apply to monthly passes, where both the benefits and risks are higher.

          It also doesn’t include other ways that you might lose money via HOP, like having the driver clear the trip before you’ve tagged off, but AT do actually refund your money in those other circumstances when they (or operators) screw up. I don’t have figures for how often that happens in general, but it’d have to be happening pretty often to outweigh the benefit you get from the HOP discount.

        3. 25 years ago I stayed in north Paris where I needed to use buses to get to the Metro. A man at the Tabac sold me a Carte Orange. He explained in a mix of English, French and sign language that I should put it through the machines at the Metro station but not in the hole puncher machine on the bus (you just showed the driver). It was integrated ticketing and easy to use and didnt require tagging anything or risking your money to some half arsed bus system. How did we end up with the Hop thing given all the years of study and planning and reports by public servants?

  7. Customer support with HOP is useless. If your using auto topup and your credit card expires you HOP card will be terminated without warning and any money that you have on it will be lost. I complained to the AT staff at Britomart and was treated like an idiot for not knowing that this was in the terms and conditions. Come to think of it I’ve never had a good customer service experience with AT. Like the time my train decided that it wasn’t going to stop at any stations after Panmure without warning, or the three times that I have emailed customer service with various comments or questions without every receiving a response.

    1. I’ve had that experience too, I think many have. My card was cancelled by my bank due to fraud, so I had no chance to change payment details before AT auto topped up and blocked my card. Eventually the refunded money turned up on my new card. I had to pay for a new hop card ($10 in those days) for my troubles. Have turned auto top up off.

      1. I don’t understand why they can’t instead lock the card after a certain number of failed attempts to top up and then send an email to the user letting them know. The current system gives no warning that top ups are failing or that the card has been cancelled. You don’t find out until you go to tag on and it won’t work. It really is truly atrocious service and would never fly with any commercial operation but AT seems to act as if it doesn’t matter.

  8. yeap been there done that exact same thing… Only I had to use my family’s food money to pay for the four days worth of travel from Papakura to Auckland CBD until they sorted out their error (my monthly pass is $190.00). Even when I tried explaining to the customer service person at the Britomart she just looked at me blankly and didn’t care that my kids would now be eating cereal until the next week’s pay comes through… Trying times indeed, I thought very hard (and decided against) calling the police as it seems to be theft in my eyes, pay for a monthly service and being denied due to their own faults…

    Glad to hear xpdnz that they have improved the system somewhat, but it doesn’t change the fact that so many of their staff really do not care (of course there will be many that are great)… As for giving them a card to use the service themselves, well, don’t they prefer private shuttles at our expense?

  9. Yep I had a simular experience; but with auto topups charged my bank over $150 worth of $10 topups after just 3 days of use, then randomly my card was disabled and I was left in helensville with no way to get home as I couldn’t tag on to the last bus back, no cash, nothing. Didn’t even have my phone on me, had to spend $80 (had a credit card at home) on a taxi back home to the city.

    Battled with HOP “customer service” for weeks over the phone and via email (very slow responses) and ended up providing bank statements just be ignored, sent again and still no response. $250 wasted dollars later, I now know not to use these dangerous auto topups and tell others not to either in case this happens to them.

    This happened back when I was a tertiary student on $212 a week, rent was $230 a week, was basically already living off credit, didn’t need to be scammed by AT on top of that. Pretty shocking system, I would have more faith in a loan shark, a am sure they would rip you off less than AT.

  10. Also ticket inspectors threatened to kick my wife off the train despite being tagged on, I told her to stay on and I called the police.

  11. I have constant problems with my “pay as you go” hop card – regularly charged $9.60 for a $4 fare. I do get my money back (eventually) but when you’re on a tight budget for the month it’s very annoying. Have spoken to the head of AT hop and she has no idea why this overcharging happens and therefore can’t do anything about it. For me this (coupled with an unreliable bus service) is making me question my continued use of public transport in this city.

  12. This has happened to me on three separate times.
    Twice because the bus reader incorrectly charged me for being out of zone. (Caught the bus outside MOTAT heading towards the city, the bus machine registered me as getting on in Henderson!!)
    When the tell you to “Go to Britomart” to sort out the issue, it means they are talking from experience that they cannot fix it.

    I’m glad I no longer have to use Auckland Transport in any form and am lucky enough to walk to work.

  13. This breaks the Consumer Guarantees Act – and AT can’t contract out of that no matter what their fine print in their T&C says.

    So take them the to small claims court if they won’t come to the party. If you presented the evidence to the court you have put together then AT wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    At the very least, you are entitled to repair, or replacement, and also compensation for the flow on costs incurred while the problem exists.

    If this was your fridge that broke down, not only are you entitled to have the fridge problem fixed, but the consequential damages are also covered (like loss of food in the faulty fridge) and having to hire a replacement fridge if the problem takes too long to fix.

    Same here – if you buy a monthly pass but can’t use it through no fault of your own and then have to pay more to use the paper tickets (or another HOP card), then AT are responsible for all that.

    If enough people take them to the small claims court, they’ll get the message and smarten their act up.

    AT are no different from any other provider of goods and services in this country and its time they stopped acting like they are above the law.

    I also carry two HOP cards – one with a small balance on it in case of problems with the first. As you found, the bus drivers and AT customer services are poorly trained to handle problems with HOP.

  14. I have to go through this every other month due to getting randomly charged for journeys causing my balance to go negative. I have an A-B zone monthly pass so there are not many places I can go that should cause a fare to be charged but it happens with annoying frequency. I even managed to have two passes start at the same time which meant I lost most of the next months pass. So now I only load the next months pass a few days before I need it and keep a cash balance on my card.

    And don’t get me started on the sorry state of the online refund request system. Only one of my claims has gotten lodge apparently and AT refuse to look into all the cases that did not get lodged. So all up I think I lost $120 in one year.

  15. From a passenger perspective there is no advantage in a smart-card over a magnetic-strip paper-ticket system. If the intent is to purchase unlimited rides within a certain time-period, this does not need a debit card! Paper systems used to provide exactly this in many places for many decades.
    The advantage is all to the operator(s), so that they can greedily charge, apportion, monitor or penalise every single action if they so choose. I fear we have largely been sold a poop with this concept.

    Worst of all is the need to ‘Tag Off’, and the implicit assumption that any failure here is the passenger’s fault and therefore warrants a penalty. The best smart-card systems work on a flat-fare basis where no tagging off is required, but fares must be cheap enough that short rides are not overly penalised. Strangely such systems are to be found in the US, despite their reputation for not being big on public transport. Last time I was in Europe, magnetic cardboard ticktes still seemed to dominate, though this may have changed.

    Seems to me that corporate greed is behind the stingy systems we have in this country. That, and an ideological aversion to funding public transport by the National government. Trouble is, the loss of goodwill and loss of custom due to this miserly policy probably ends up costing us all more.

    1. I get your points Dave B ….It is the tag off that gets me ….and the penalty if I don’t – believe me I have no intention to defraud if I fail to successfully tag off – I simply have 1 or 2 under 5’s with me and I am struggling with small hands, bags and prams, plus people behind me and lining it all up right (or trying to get off the bus as quickly as I can if the trip has been hairy kidwise) ………that and the money takes 3 days to show up if topped up online and there are limited places if you use the bus that are convenient to top up at …all in all after a set of penalties on the snapper system I went back to cash for each journey – though I am using AT Hop again now since they put fares up for cash however I am actually using PT less and less too …for a lot of reasons (kid related too) but this sort of thing all factors into it ….perhaps I shall wean myself off PT one day soon 🙂 kick a 20 odd year habit……

      1. The tag-off system is very important to get the statistics on where people travel (from where to where), so that routes can be set properly and timetables scheduled for set frequencies. Without tagging off that information gets completely lost. I’m not advocating for AT here, just saying that there is a good reason to have tag on/tag off system.

        1. Yeah there is nothing wrong with tagging on and off, just as long as it works. The whole reason we get a HOP discount over cash is for a number of benefits to AT, among some of them is the stats they can gather (rather than stages (i.e. paper tickets) they… usually… when its working… get stop A to stop B level detail) and they also get less delays on there services due to slow cash transactions which in turn could lead to less patronage.

          They just need to fix all the issues, I remember making a bullet point list of problems in word, I think I got to 30 bullet points in just 10 minutes, most of those issues still persist and have had no acknowledgement from AT at all. Also at least half of the problems were not present on Snapper/Purple HOP.

        2. “The tag-off system is very important to get the statistics on where people travel…
          I’m not advocating for AT here, just saying that there is a good reason to have tag on/tag off system”.

          I don’t buy that. Statistics don’t require 100% of individuals to submit data in order to provide sufficient details for modelling/planning.

          Would be far fairer to offer something like ‘tag off discount’ to _encourage_ people to tag off rather than punishing them. Similar to companies that offer prompt payment discount.

          Makes no sense to charge somebody a penalty to failing to tag off services like the City to Devonport ferry when rather obviously, they know!

          You could also add to the data via other existing means, such as surveying users and using AT route planning app/website data, (sometimes more useful to know where the customers to go rather than where they had to get off).

          There are also more passive systems used by research firms such as cameras that count cyclists/cars or pedestrians.

          “Yeah there is nothing wrong with tagging on and off, just as long as it works”

          Actually there are a few issues, even when it is working;
          a) slowing people disembarking – otherwise people just pour out of the bus. Knowing the penalty for not tagging off is more than the cost of most of my trips, I just swipe my wallet when getting on, but make very sure that the tag off works..

          b) slowing people embarking – congestion at the narrow front doors of some buses like the NEX ones, when people getting on are trying to tag off while people are tagging on.

          c) Doubling the amount of readers – doubling the cost of a bus fit out. Doubling the amount of data as well of course

          d) Doubling the complexity. Sounds silly, but from a UX experience, payment when you get on the bus is intuitive, even if you don’t know English or have difficultly reading. You expect to pay when waiting for bus, so have wallet out. Tagging off is not as common or obvious. For instance in my apartment building, work place and gym, all use RFID cards which you swipe to get _in_ but you don’t need a card to get out. Theory of Affordance.

          “The whole reason we get a HOP discount over cash is for a number of benefits to AT, among some of them is the stats they can gather and they also get less delays on there services”
          But the need to collect stats does not (IMHO) justify the issues above and the issue raised in this (now popular) post.

          Basically for AT convenience, they are punishing people.

          If they do retain the need to tag off in the long term, they need to make sure it works perfectly and try and show some compassion.

        3. guilty as charged in being a contributor to a) & b) 🙁 more so with the tag off too ……non peak bus this morning I was on had me with stroller plus Mum/guide dog then lady with large pram got on a stop or so down THEN lady with walker got on a stop or so after that, bus was also full of people too before we got on – even though I folded my stroller up in the end and tried to get out of the way the other pram was too big for lady to fold – major road block – bus drive had to let people on the front to tag on then get them to go in via the back door ……..then to stop and tag off holding folded up stroller baby etc causes another major issue as the walker was in the way of the machine – I was in such a hurry just to clear some of the congestion off the bus and let people out and I had to line up mine (then Mum’s as she can’t see/read that screen etc) properly to ensure we both tagged off right ………..
          to be honest I just wanted to walk home …..
          saving grace – bus driver was just soo nice and polite and friendly and awesome …………

        4. Heres SOME of the issues I’ve reported to AT before regarding AT HOP, mid last year, still the same issues over a year later:

          – Lack of locations to topup, main reason is lack of insentives to retailers, THEY have to pay $1000 a month (from what I’ve been told by a retailer, not sure if this is accurate) and they get nothing out of it apart from increased foot traffic through their stores. Not good enough, they should be the ones getting money for operating it and increasing AT’s profits. This issue also ties in to the two below:
          – No ability to check balance without tagging on/off, going to a ticket machine or ticket booth. Snapper didn’t have this problem if you had an NFC enabled phone (very common, especially now) you could check your EXACT updated balance from anywhere. AT third party Propellorhead could easily implement this with some assitance from Thales for the AT HOP Card. Sure there is the website also, but that takes a very long time (sometimes upto 3 business days) to update
          – No ability to topup without visiting a retailer/machine/booth of which there a very few of compared to Snapper’s amount of locations, sure there is the website but the amount of time it takes to process the transaction its not great unless you wish to pay 1-3 business days in advanced (experiance varys). Snapper didn’t have this problem due to amount of locations and ability to top up from anywhere with a NFC enabled phone (very common, especially now), which I have used, once I topped up just as my bus was arriving at the stop when i had -$3.00 balance, tagged on seconds later and guess what? It was there. AT HOP felt like a step backwards when I found it didn’t have this functionality, but I thought that they would of implemented this by now, Propellorhead could easily implement this from the AT HOP card with assitance from Thales.

          – Ticket machines do not work in way or another half the time; especially in more remote stations, they often run out of paper or money, or they stop accepting eftpos cards (randomly decline wrongfully or just tell you to remove/insert the eftpos card endlessly). This could be fixed by adding more ticket machines to stations for redundancy and ensuring they are working with daily checkups from technicians (on weekends too!), or perhaps adding an option on the screen to report the machine is not working (that goes to a screen to discribe issue with alist of options or etc) so an on-call tech can be alerted and sent out if appears genuine.
          – All ticket macines should have all payment options, for obvious reasons

          – Ticket inspectors should actually let people travel if there is a genuine issue with the ticket machines or tag on posts instead of kicking people off to do it elseware and wait for another train just to become late! Just basic customer service here. Sure I expect them to verify if there is an issue, that can be done without much issue though and ties in to the reporting above.

          – Auto-topup needs to be fixed, overcharging customers and then disabling cards and saying that there is no way to re-enable and ignoring requests to refund the money and then forcing customers to buy a new card or pay cash fares is unacceptable. Disabling HOP Cards for expiring Credit/Debit cards is also unacceptable, although this is not the only reason they disable, sometimes they get disabled just for being overcharged due to a system error as per above. Not good!

          – Multi-tagons with the same card should be more easier (like it was with snappers multi “phase” system) instead of forcing people to buy paper tickets for their friends and paying cash fares with a HOP card

          – Bus drivers should have more training to ensure they reprogram there route before letting people on the newly started service so they dont get charged the wrong journey (happens a lot).

          – Stop charging $5.04 (or $4.80 I believe it may be now) for a penalty fare if the services maximum service length remaining is less than that (e.g. Inner Link, City Link, 104 Loop, 020, 030 and others) or for example if someone jumped on a bus near the end of its journey when their is no chance of it costing more than $1.60 or etc. Also gold card holders should not be charged a penalty at all after 9am, shame on you AT for that one!

  16. Oh, dear. What a sorry tale.Yes, this is a breach of your consumer rights. And as far as public perception of service goes? Epic fail.

    I don’t use monthly passes but my fave is when the card doesn’t work and the machine tells me to pay the bus driver cash. Er…no. I don’t carry cash because I have a HOP card. That’s the point, right?

  17. There’s definitely room for improvement with the Hop System

    I missed tagging off a couple of times (i don’t think i did but whatever) and got the $4.80 penalty fare, but is this a fair charge when the only buses i get are the 020 (terminates at Britomart, i couldn’t possibly travel further than $1.60’s worth) or the Inner Link ($1.60 maximum fare anyway)?

    It all adds up and before you know it you’ve badly tagged off a few times and spent half a weeks travel! Seems like revenue boosting penalties to me!

    On the positive side the AT Hop Call Centre have been very helpful when called.

    1. Good point! Penalty fares are more expensive on longer routes. Even if you’re only taking the bus for short distance… It will be interesting what’s going to happen on the NEX service once it’s going to go from Silverdale… someone forgets to tag off, here’s your penalty fee of $8.40 !!!…

      1. How are penalty fares calculated – I tried checking the terms and conditions ( but this does not provide any info.

        This link doesn’t seem to provide any useful info either –

        I hope AT aren’t charging any more than the cost the ride to the end of the line, otherwise it sounds like what the banks got busted for when they were overcharging penalty fees that exceeded the true cost to the bank –

      2. The penalty fare will always have to be the cost of the largest fare to the end of the line. Anything less and it is a free hand to rip off the system for anyone going to the end.

        1. Is this documented anywhere?

          So what you are saying is that:
          – if I get off a bus at the end of a line (such as Britomart) and don’t tag off, the cost to the end of the line will be an extra $0.00 and so the penalty fare will be $0.00.
          – if I get off the city link bus and don’t tag off, the cost to the end of the line is also extra $0.00 and so the penalty fare will be $0.00.
          – if I get off the inner link bus and don’t tag off, the cost to the end of the line is also extra $0.00 and so the penalty fare will be $0.00.

        2. The penalty is the fare from where you tagged on to the end of the line (if you forget to tag off), or from where the line started to where you tagged off (if you forget to tag on).

          Penalty fare on the inner link is the same as the fare because of the flat fare. Likewise pretty sure the penalty on the City Link is $0 because there is no fare. So on those two you technically don’t need to tag off, even though you are supposed to. If you are going to the end of the line anyway then again you don’t really need to tag off because you are going to be charged the full fare anyway.

          But say you get on a train without tagging on, but do tag off at Britomart, the penalty fare will be the full fare from Pukekohe… because the system doesn’t know where you got on it has to charge the maximum. If less than that, everyone at Pukekohe can just ‘forget’ to tag on all the time and never pay the right fare.

        3. Not quite,
          What Nick is saying that no matter where you tag on, if you fail to tag off, you will be charged the full fare for that leg as if you had gone the full distance.
          Which is the same as tagging on at start of the leg and tagging off at the end of that leg.

          Any other rule will, as Nick says allow people to game the system by not tagging off and thus paying a lower fare than they should have.

        4. Uh that’s not true you get charged $5.04 (or $4.80 now apparently) with an adult consession for failing to tag off on ANY service. Trust me I’ve tried in on all these: city link, inner link and 020 (a 1 stage service). Unless it’s changed recently.

          If you where charged to the end off the line that would mean you get charged the HOP equivalent of an $18 cash fare (pukekohe to waitakere) if you failed to tag off coming from pukekohe.

        5. Actually you are right Peter, I’ve investigated further and what I said above was incorrect. The information I was going of appears to be out of date and probably refers to what they had planned to do, not what they actually do now.

          It seems they have set a single penalty fare equivalent to the maximum of an ‘average’ bus route, I.e. four stages, but for all routes regardless of the length. Unfortunately that’s a big penalty on a route like the inner link, and not enough on long routes over four stages where you can easily get a defacto discount. I take back some of my comments, and agree this is far from ideal.

          Note the rail penalty is a flat $20.

        6. Interested to note your comment about rail penalty Nick R … I wrote to consumer regarding
          penalties last year to see if it was in breach of consumer law – it was about the time that
          an article in the herald came out on penalty fares for not tagging off/on and penalities for evasion …
          the consumer people contacted (and got a reply !) from AT direct – AT said something about the Herald not publishing a correction but that (and this is from memory as the consumer lady called me back) the $20 fare was not entirely right – it was the maximum fare for the trip
          that someone would be charged for not tagging off – the $20 was for not tagging on/off.
          My enquiry to them was Feb 2013 so I guess things might have changed since then ……
          but if it is $20 flat then that might indeed be in breach of consumer rights

          really it needs to be more consistent and transparent what these penalty fees actually are ….

        7. Hmm I failed to tag off on rail also it was $5.04 and that was new lynn to papakura, quite the discount. But maybe that’s changed now.

        8. Is a single penalty fare legal under the common law penalty doctrine? Isn’t there a requirement that penalty fees reflect the actual loss suffered, not the average loss?

          My understanding is that if you don’t tag off the inner link, city link or 020 on it’s last stage, AT have suffered no loss so they can’t charge a penalty fee.

        9. > The information I was going of appears to be out of date and probably refers to what they had planned to do, not what they actually do now.

          Your description is how Snapper works, and thus how the old NZ Bus-only Hop card worked.

          It’s also a far more obvious way to do it, and means that you don’t need to tag off if you’re going the full distance. And it mostly avoids the problem where drivers turn off the route before actually getting to the end of the run, not realising there are still passengers on board.

        10. “Your description is how Snapper works, and thus how the old NZ Bus-only Hop card worked.It’s also a far more obvious way to do it, and means that you don’t need to tag off if you’re going the full distance” – not so with respect to tagging off on Snapper, because the penalty fare is the full cash fare to the end of the line, so if you don’t tag off you lose the smart card discount.

        11. That makes some sense in a world where there is nothing but fares being deducted from an e-cash store.

          Where it entirely falls down is that to take the penalty, you take it as e-cash. But customers don’t need to have e-cash – they can have monthly passes, fixed number of trips or whatever they decide in the future (day passes etc). That is the advantage of stored value cards – you can store things that are not purely e-cash ,including things like Gold card passes for the retired.

          End result – you can have plenty of value in terms of a monthly pass loaded onto your card, but still be left on the side of the road, distressed and embarrassed because AT disable your card for a small penalty. That is not right.

          I also don’t buy into the argument that if they didn’t do this. people will rort the system; the card can be programmed to track number of failed tag offs. Something like 3 failed tag offs in a monthly period for those with a monthly pass could trigger the card to be disabled.. but right now the system is obviously affecting the confidence people have in buying monthly passes (which is surely a negative for AT)

    2. Another one that AT won’t barge on – 881 and 891x services from Newmarket to CBD is actually 2 stages. Their maps or website doesn’t publish that information at all. I heard that when someone complains they tell them that there is a stage boundary at the hospital, and that travel constitutes 2 zones. That might or might not be changed when new integrated zoning will come into force, but for now, they’ve been charged correctly. Also something about that service being designed for North Shore commuters and not short trips. Huh? anyone else heard of AT getting away with this?

  18. To give you an idea of how long this has been going on (since the purple branded Snapper Hop card in fact), this post prompted me to search my Gmail account, and sure enough I found an email I sent * 06 July 2011 *

    Over three years ago!

    So lets compare – and I apologise in advance for the length. I am somebody who wants to see more, and better PT as a way of making Auckland a better place so also forgive this rant – I am not trolling but really at the time it was a fair indication of the frustration I was feeling. Just can’t believe this still has not been resolved YET..

    Contents of an email from 16/07/2011 I sent to transportblog.

    Been reading the ‘transportblog’ for a while now, as for the last 18 months or so been taking public transport most days.. and working in IT (billing systems at the moment) been taking a keen interest in the integrated ticketing system; and I think they have some real issues in the design and implementation of Hop cards..

    Quite frustrated with the Hop card system, so after talking to the hop card call centre (good marks for the centre response) fired off a letter of complaint via the contact form on the Hop card website.

    No response yet, not even an acknowledgement of the issue being submitted to confirm receipt. [update from 2014.. they did get back to me, but responses – like ‘load cash on the card’ were largely not acceptable. Long email exchange until I gave up on the bus when I moved house and brought a bike]

    I wish to raise a complaint about usability issues with the HOP card that meant my 13 yr old daughter would have potentially left stranded today if she had not happened to have cash. There are a number of issues with the system that I believe should be examined:

    1) On release of the HOP cards, I loaded the HOP card up with 10 x 4 stage rides. This transaction is not clear from the website that describes it as ‘Adult 4 Stage MJ‘. i.e. no indication of the actual number of trips purchased or remaining. I regard that as a usability issue.

    2) I haven’t actually used the card – I take the NEX which does not support integrated ticketing. Assume will be resolved later this year [2014 – turns out I was an optimist on this].

    3) My daughter borrowed the card one day (10th June) to get to school when her normal monthly school pass (also not integrated with HOP cards) was mislaid. She travelled from Albany to Smales farm (1 stage?). Going home (Milford to Silverdale leg), apparently when leaving the school bus, the hop card reader wouldn’t respond to the card. We didn’t think anything of it; I assumed the worst that would have happened would have been she had to pay 4 stages or whatever. Only found out today when calling that there is a penalty payment. Seems to be buried in the documentation spouting the advantages.

    4) My wife in the weekend paid $60 to load up 20 rides for the card so my daughter could use it for the last 2 weeks of term. She got no receipt from the diary owner, the rides haven’t shown up 4 days later, and the call centre operator tells me that it would not have been possible to load up 2 blocks of 10 rides if there was the 8 rides remaining on the card!.
    What has happened to our $60? [2014 update – never showed up – money lost and we never got a refund – my daughter never used a Hop card again when she was taking the bus, as she didn’t trust them]
    Why does a modern online system work in batch mode and not update over the weekend?
    Why when I took the card back to an Hop card retailer today, where they not able to tell me the balance? Instead I got a printout showing ‘TERM’ (Terminal?) and that the card had ‘Adult 4 Stage MJ’. It also showed ‘Issued’ 12/05/2011 and ‘Expiry’ – 20/06/2011. What does the expiry refer to?
    Note that the print out doesn’t actually show useful information such as number of trips loaded, number of trips or e-cash remaining. I purchased $10 e-cash and found that I get an EFTPOS receipt, but no receipt showing the transaction applied to the card.

    5) On Monday my daughter went to use the card to get home from school – and it didn’t work. Luckily she had some pocket money spare to pay for a ride, or my child would have been stranded 20km from home. We had (reasonably) assumed that the card had ~28 x 4 stage trips loaded.

    I am told (by the call centre staff – who I can recommend as good/useful), it didn’t work because the card was locked. Locked, without notification or being shown on line, or the retailer mentioning it! Why? Apparently because the failure to not swipe off, over a month ago created a negative balance?. This is my biggest issue with the card.

    The website also has basic usability issues such as showing nothing but $0 e-cash, when the card had over $50 of value loaded in the form of rides. Apparently we have a negative e-cash balance and this is why the card was locked. But users can’t see this, so can’t possibly be aware of the issue.
    This is simply WRONG and I can’t believe (as a person who works on large scale billing systems), a live public site of a multi-million dollar project has this fundamental issue of showing incorrect amounts.

    Why does a transport card that already has value loaded in the form of rides also need a separate pool of e-cash? I saw no requirement to do this at the time I got the card, and I assumed I just need to load a 10 ride concession (though it’s a frustrating limitation not to have a monthly pass).
    I need to load more money, paying fees, just to pay penalties for a bus trip that has no more than 2 stages, then why would you possibly need to charge more than 2 stages if somebody did not swipe off?

    In fact why charge penalty payments this way for failure to tag off? If a point to point route comes to end, or is say 4 stages anyway, then why the requirement to tag off the bus (slowing the disembarkation process) at all? If I don’t tag off, all I expect is that I get charged for the maximum number of stages for the route (4 stages?).

    And still don’t get the sanity of having to load an additional $10 of ‘e-cash’ value just to unlock the ~$100 of value I have already spent on this card!

    [2014 – Part of my work is to always consider the customer and take a compassionate approach to billing. Yes, you have to stop fraud, ensure security and ensure due amounts are collected, but you don’t cut off good customers when they are a dollar under or a day late]

  19. I once had a tag on and tag off counted as two uncompleted tag ons. I wonder if it was due to change in day (I boarded the bus just prior to midnight). AT fixed it up, but it makes you realise that you need to keep an eye on your balance otherwise you are probably being ripped off..

  20. Another one that AT won’t barge on – 881 and 891x services from Newmarket to CBD are actually 2 stages. Their maps or website doesn’t publish that information at all. I heard that when someone complains they tell them that there is a stage boundary at the hospital, and that travel constitutes 2 zones. That might or might not be changed when new integrated zoning will come into force, but for now, they’ve been charged correctly. Also something about that service being designed for North Shore commuters and not short trips. Huh? anyone else heard of AT getting away with this?

  21. I wonder if there should be tag off machines at popular bus stops so you can tag off after getting off the bus?
    There is no tag off concept on London buses, it is a fixed fare no matter how far you go (used to be one pound, not sure how much now). Tagging off makes sense on trains where you tag off after alighting and aren’t holding up the train, but for buses it just doesn’t work that well.

  22. This kind of fiasco sums up why my partner and I gave up on public transport and now use a car 95% of the time.

    1. I find cars aren’t a lot better much of the time. They get stolen, or towed, or crashed into, or things go wrong with them, sometimes while you’re doing 100km/h in the middle of nowhere on SH50.

      Plus, many of the problems with HOP have analogues in parking machines: tickets that charge but don’t print, and surprises when you leave and it turns out to be more than you expect (Wilson Parking, with your $3/half hour on weekends, I’m looking at you. Your ads made it look like it’s $3 for the day, you bastards).

      Bikes, too, get damaged or stolen. If you want a totally reliable method of transport that’ll never screw you over*, your options are pretty much: walking.

      (* well, separately to something that screws over your entire life, independent of transport mode)

  23. I’m wondering just how AT seem to have got such a crap system, when there are many other cities round the world with card access systems, and yet nothing like the amount of bad news stories we see above. Oyster card in London – works fine. HK’s system – smooth sailing. Welington’s snapper – great. Others? Why is Hop so dumb?

    1. Sheer number of different Bus “products” (operators, routes etc) HOP is used with is the main problem.

      Under integrated fares you won’t have such problems, as its all zone based so its not so much where you tag on off as more what zone you tag on and off.

      Agree with comments about having tag off posts near popular stops, the concept of tagging off the bus is only so that AT don’t have to have HOP readers at each bus stop instead, considering the number of buses versus stops this is a economic decision to do that.
      Once you’ve tagged on to the system you have an incentive to tag off. So you will do it (like the train users do) at the “Station” rather than on the train.

      So yes having the ability to tag off to allow the bus to carry on its journey is a good idea.

    2. Mate, you should have read the debacle of Myki in Melbourne, that thing was delivered seven years late and only after they stripped out most of the functionality to stop it constantly failing. HOP is close to perfect compared to that… and Sydney, their first system was scrapped outright and dumped. The new Opal seems to be faring a little better, but very slow roll out…

  24. When the AT HOP card was being progressively rolled out to the bus fleet in 2013 I recall that when it came time to bring on board the Inner and Outer Link buses that AT had to delay the rollout as they’d found some sort of technical issue.

    When AT recommenced the rollout there was still an issue related to the Inner and Outer Link buses and this was picked up by the NZ Herald’s Mathew Dearnaley in an article dated Fri 22-Nov-13 entitled “Transport ticketing system ‘a dog’” ( )

    The article stated in one paragraph:
    Auckland Transport spokesman Wally Thomas said it had identified a technical problem on both Inner Link and Outer Link routes “which may see some customers charged a penalty fare.”

    I got caught by this “technical problem” in Nov-11 and ended up having 2 x 1 stage and 1 x 2 stage fares deducted from the AT HOP balance even though I was on current Zone A to Zone A Monthly Pass. After logging this with AT HOP they quickly replied with an apology and the next day refunded the incorrectly debited fares.

    I thought nothing more of this until earlier this year when I started to get exactly the same issue that Frith outlines in her guest blog post, and so far it has occurred 4 times in the last 4 months. Namely that when looking through my transactions I would come across instances where I apparently had a “Missing Tag On”, and as such I’d been charged the penalty fare, even though I was on a current Zone A to Zone A Monthly Pass. Every time this was on an Outer Link bus, which leads me to believe that the original technical problem on both Inner Link and Outer Link routes has re-appeared. I’ve never had an issue on the other Metrolink bus routes that I regularly use.

    Each time I’ve logged this with AT HOP and within a day or two they’ve acknowledged the problem apologised and refunded the incorrectly debited fare.

    It does seem a little hard to understand that the system knows that you’re Tagging Off when it doesn’t believe you’ve actually Tagged On.

    Since the penalty fare is the maximum fare for that route the Outer Link penalty is a 2 stage fare. So anyone using AT HOP money and travelling 2 stages wouldn’t necessarily pick up that there was an issue since the fare is essentially correct. Only those using AT HOP money and travelling 1 stage, or on a Monthly Pass, would find they’d been overcharged.

    Whilst AT HOP have been unfailingly polite and quick to refund any overcharged fares, they won’t respond when I ask if this is an on-going problem with the Inner and Outer Link buses. As such they won’t also state what plans they have to rectify the issue.

  25. Should you not have any joy about this from AT, from Monday you can contact the PUBLIC TRANSPORT USERS ASSOCIATION (PTUA)

    PTUA will be launched at Britomart Transport Centre on Monday, 8:30am in the cafe area.

      1. Media have been invited and a number confirmed they will be attending.

        At the launch we will be introducing the Chair, Deputy Chair and Coordinator of the PTUA as well as our first campaign.

        PTUA contact details:
        Facebook/ Public Transport Users Association NZ
        Twitter: @ptuaNZ

      2. Josh, who knows? It seems this is a group led by Jon Reeves who are angry with us and CBT for not obsessing full time about minor ex-urban rail projects. Jon regrettably hasn’t even had the courtesy to contact us to explain their plans and ask if can use our space to promote it, as he is above.

        Still, if they do prove to be a useful additional force that works with others, as we do with CBT and Generation Zero, then that could be good. But we will have to wait and see.

  26. Ok just for some sanity here, let’s go over some of the points that’ve been raised :

    – The readers at the rear of the bus only tag off (only NEX services can be boarded at the rear). Hence why you can have “missing tag on”s.
    – Your card does have to be in credit to travel on a monthly pass. It just has to NOT be in negative; i.e. You can travel with a pass if your balance is $0.00. If you’re in negative, the system doesn’t allow you to tag on, pass or not. Computer says no.
    – Gold card users are not charged if they forget to tag off. It just doesn’t happen. The only way would be if they tagged on before 9am and forgot to tag off, as they have to pay for that trip anyways.
    – Regarding the 891 being two stages, this is identified in the journey planner, and if you asked the driver, he would tell you. The fare stage is at Grafton Station. I’ve been caught out myself and it sucks, but you can’t say there’s no way to know. This will be fixed with integrated fares anyway.
    – The penalty fare is four stages regardless of where you tag on, with the except of ferries and the links. The system does not calculate the maximum fare remaining.
    – Emails are sent (and call were made previously) before HOP Cards are blocked. You have three chances to ensure there are enough funds in your account before the card is blocked. It isn’t just done unless the card isn’t registered.
    – Hundreds of thousands of trips are made on the system daily. 99% (at least) are without incident. Occasionally errors occur, and AT does its best to correct these and ensure they get fixed. They’re definitely not trying to rip people off.

    1. You describe here exact arrogant attitude of AT… They don’t treat as as customers, because they’re government and they’re monopoly. AT might know the rules and policies and how system works, but they don’t communicate or inform, and then tell you that you’re to blame!

      in response to your comments:

      > The readers at the rear of the bus only tag off (only NEX…
      AT never communicated that. I found the hard way. Often buses are full in front, people don’t move, there’s plenty of space in the back and… you get missed tag on. d’oh

      > Your card does have to be in credit to travel on a monthly pass…
      That’s stupid and unfair. The article above describes why this is unfair and it happens a lot. It’s especially if you have already paid for a monthly pass already.

      > Gold card users…

      > Regarding the 881 & 891x being two stages, this is identified in the journey planner,
      At Newmarket I don’t look at journey planner, I don’t look at the bus number either, I just look at the sign on the bus and jump on. All the other buses are 1 stage to city, so tell me, how and how are NORMAL people supposed to know this. This is exactly what my point is.

      >and if you asked the driver, he would tell you.
      If you have hop card, you don’t ask, because you can expect you get the best price anyway!

      > The fare stage is at Grafton Station.
      (only for 881 and 891x, but every other route doesn’t have that) – that’s such a broken, fragmented and such user-unfriendly system!

      > This will be fixed with integrated fares anyway.
      Great. I heard that. End of 2015, until then if AT had any customer-service mindset, they should acknowledge the insanely stupid fare stage and refund anyone who at least complains about it as a matter of goodwill.

      > The penalty fare is four stages regardless of where you tag on, with the except of ferries and the links.
      From my experience this isn’t correct, but you seem to know better, so I won’t argue.

      > Emails are sent (and call were made previously) before HOP Cards are blocked.
      To me, the customer, the card is blocked as soon as I can’t use it, thus going into negative includes being blocked! To AT, the monopoly, the card isn’t blocked, it’s just temporarily disabled. Ha!

      > Hundreds of thousands of trips are made on the system daily. 99% (at least) are without incident.
      If 200,000 trips are made 1% becomes 2,000 – that’s still way too many problems for a public system!

      > Occasionally errors occur, and AT does its best to correct these and ensure they get fixed. They’re definitely not trying to rip people off.
      Yes, sometimes AT fix the problem because people serving you use their brain, but as above sometimes AT are very VERY arrogant, and I have experienced that face too. They just point out to you that you are the problem, and tell you to suck it.

      1. I also found out about the rear readers the out the hard way – twice, even, in the space of two minutes:

        Since I’d assumed my HOP balance was in the negative (I couldn’t just check online because the system doesn’t update quick enough, obviously), so I’d boarded a bus using cash, That was fine, but on approach to my stop I instinctively reached for my wallet and, without thinking, tagged “off”. It took me around a minute to realise what I’d done, but thought I’d be able to tag off upon exit in order to minimize the damage my absent-mindedness had caused. Well, no. My two tags had accrued me $9 in penalty fares. Great.

        To AT’s credit, after I provided them with an explanation, and the bus ticket I’d paid for, they did refund me the penalty balance within a week.

    2. I don’t believe we’re getting integrated fares any year soon.

      There is always a reason to put it off another year.

  27. Another problem I have encountered with the Hop Card system is bus drivers either fiddling with the ticket machine during the trip or assuming that there are no passengers left on the bus, so they programme the next trip into the machine. I have had my e-money go into negative balance on the two hourly Sunday bus from Papakura to Pukekohe. Because the driver wiped everything for the trip, my trip was a tag on at Papakura and then another tag on when I got off the bus in Pukekohe. I didn’t realise there was a problem until I tried to tag on for the return trip only to discover my Hop Card was now blocked. I had to go to the ATM to get some cash and then caught the next bus two hours later (no Pukekohe trains on Sunday!). I rang AT Hop call centre and was told that they would investigate the problem and I may be entitled to a refund within 10 working days. “But I did everything correctly, so why am I being penalised?? And what about all the other AT Hop card passengers who were penalised through no fault of their own?” The woman at the AT Hop call centre said that each passenger will need to make their own complaint. The following week, I used my AT Hop card e-money and caught a bus from Westfield Manukau to the Papakura Interchange for a two zone trip. Check the next day to discover that I have been charged for a three zone trip and the records claim that I tagged off at 8 Clevedon Road. Ring AT Hop call centre to discuss a refund for the extra stage. I try to explain that if I get off the bus at the Papakura Interchange, I can’t also get off on Clevedon Road two minutes later. Also there is the small problem – there is no bus stop at 8 Clevedon Road!! Finally got a refund after 10 working days. A fortnight later, I decided to buy a second AT Hop Card and load it with a $190 A/B Monthly pass. I naively thought that I would have less problems with a monthly AT Hop card. On a Saturday, after shopping at Westfield Manukau, I tagged on a bus bound for the Manukau Supa Centre and tagged off when I alighted the bus. Later I tried to tag onto a bus bound for Westfield Manukau only to discover that my monthly pass has been blocked. Luckily, I had a credit balance on my other AT Hop (e-money) card so I could get home. I checked my transactions the next day and discovered that the driver on the bus from Westfield Manukau reprogrammed the trip after leaving and wiped the trip. Again, I had a trip that showed tagging on at Westfield Manukau and then tagging on again when I got off the bus at Manukau Supa Centre. Monday morning, I took a $9 taxi to the Papakura Service Centre to get my monthly AT Hop Card unblocked. Can’t catch the 7:10am or 7:30am Express Bus as the Service Centre doesn’t open until 7:30am. Arrive at Britomart, out of pocket and over an hour later than usual. I keep hearing about the plans for Auckland to have a ‘world class’ public transport system – I just want to be able to use the value on my AT Hop card and trust that I am not going to be overcharged and/or blocked. I am not being unreasonable!

    1. Yeah happens all the time with drivers on the 479 to Waiuku, I always just end up getting charged a penalty fair. NZBus needs to train there drivers better.

  28. I think AT want to charge more money not just $140 for a zone and $190 for two zones, so AT disable your card force you to top up at least $10 into card, if you don’t care they will eat all that money. So for monthly pass user actually could pay a lot more than what price should be, Also for normal work only need ride bus on work days, no point to spend a lot money on monthly pass for cover public holidays but we do not have any choice! Either monthly pass or stage fare, no more day pass, weekly pass (Northern Pass).

  29. I always ask this question. We have a world class metro card system in Christchurch. Two operators, flat fare, tag on, no worries. Daily cap, otherwise free transfers for 2 hours. Why the hell did Auckland go with Thales? Why not use the system that already works in Christchurch???? We’ve had this system for over 9 years! Integrated ticketing! Buses and a ferry!

    1. Flat fare is far easier to do, doubt the Christchurch card could handle what HOP does in Auckland (whether it should have all that complexity is a different matter).

      1. Why not? Because Auckland Transport are taking forever to level out the complexity. They’re waiting for everything else to be ‘finished’ before this starts. At this rate, I expect it will happen late in the decade.

        I suspect that half their problem is that they want to maintain high fares. Elsewhere, these systems work because the zones are cheap enough that you don’t create huge problems for users by imposing them.

        1. If by “they” who want to maintain high fares, you mean the bus operators, I think you are right, they do want to make as much money as possible and AT has decades of entrenched special cases in the fare and route structures to unwind with PTOM which is taking longer than planned.

          To return to the original topic, it would not matter what the fares were, these problems would still occur with any system like HOP because of failures of the system helped along by bus drivers in some cases, resetting or changing their settings after the fact, to correctly capture tag on and tag offs reliably for all journeys.

          Even if we had integrated fares and zones, you’d still get pinged for being out of your zone if the tag on and offs are not captured properly by the system and thn reliably delivered to the HOP processing centre for processing.

          However, I think if you have a valid pass and tag on or off in the zone, then the balance on your hop card should not be relevant (good bad or indifferent).
          Who cares if you have a negative balance and valid day or month pass – the valid pass should take precedence over the balance.
          Only time if shouldn’t is when you are out of zone.

    1. Who, specifically are the AT apologists?

      For the most past this site is very critical of AT, their handling of HOP and their general communication with the public. The ‘admin’s posted this article too, so you are probably reading a bit much into things.

      I assume most regular commentors are avoiding this thread because there are some upset people who are clearly very anti-HOP and are just looking to avoid a bunch of pointless arguments that have been hashed out several times before (I can summarise ‘our’ side and save some time: no we’re not going back to paper tickets, HOP is here to stay, yes it is better in the long run, no, just because x works in city a doesn’t mean you can just pick it up and put it here with no work or complication).

      The vast majority of people manage this fine, bad things happen. It highlights that there is room for improvement in AT’s communication and handling of cock-ups and no one is going to disagree with that. Your’s truly, just another AT-shill.

    2. Christopher I would comment if i could help, but this is just not my area- I just don’t have the answers. I have however sent an email both to the head of HOP implementation and to their communications managers saying they really ought to respond to these issues…. who knows if they will; perhaps they have no answers either!? I suspect they may not wish to give our space the credibility of entering it… Just like Kiwi Rail who refuse to acknowledge any view except their own.

      I might add that I spent no small amount of time encouraging Fritha to write this post and allow us to run it- it really is funny that we might be accused of being AT apologists. But then as AT deal with us through gritted teeth I guess we must be getting the balance dead right as we seem to be keeping everyone disappointed.

  30. Another great feature of the HOP system is how it’ll allow you to load a Day Pass onto a card with a negative balance (you just pay cash or card to bypass the top-up stage), but it won’t let you tag on with it. Now, this would be fine if the ticket machines would at least warn you of the fact that the pass will not become active until you top up the card, but of course, they don’t. Transaction accepted – now go make an arse of yourself.

  31. I am not disputing other people’s experiences, but I have been using the Hop card since day one it was available, preloaded a credit card, set up an auto top up – and never had any problems.

    Not sure why I have had such a great experience but zero problems for me from day one.

    1. My experience is that it all goes perfectly until it goes badly, and then it’s impossible to fix.

      Luckily for me I’ve only had one bad experience – somehow the reader managed to tag me off and then immediately back on again. Had no luck trying to get a refund, gave up.

      Otherwise it’s been all plain sailing though, and a lot easier than cash.

  32. The HOP system is hopelessly old fashioned and out of date and one can only assume it was purchased from some overseas transport authority who had found it failing and found someone in the antipodes to flog it off to the AT, at a handsome return no doubt.
    Public transport anywhere in the world is expensive to operate and can only work if the public stops using their cars and at the moment travel by private car is the preferred and cheaper option. If AT continues with this arrogant attitude towards it patrons then AT is doomed.

  33. If it’s possible to get on without tagging on, and get off without tagging off, then if you really wanted to rip the system off you would just do both.

  34. I haven’t read all the comments as there are So Many. But wanted to say that this happened to me too!! I have 3 occurrences where it had a missing tag on or tag off, and AT threatened to cancel my account. But in all of those cases I had without a doubt scanned my card.
    Except for one, the night of a rugby game where all the trains terminated at Morningside (from west) and there was a power cut so we couldn’t tag off.
    What is even more annoying is that I talked to AT about this and they were uninterested in my case, even refusing to acknowledge the power cut that put their machines out of order. They even had staff on site that night??
    So I’m left with permanent ‘fare evasion’ on my card. It made me really mad.

    1. Disgusting. I actually hadn’t encountered too many issues with the system until recently, so I’d assumed it’d gotten over whatever “teething problems” it initially had. This article (and its responses) has been quite the eye opener.

  35. I have a long well documented dispute with AT. Twice auto top up has charged me $30 twice but only credited my card once.
    Took a month or two for them to admit fault.
    Now six months later they still haven’t refunded my money.

    1. Yep they admitted it to me and then said they can’t (which means wont) do anything. Mine was with $150 overcharge ($15×10) just for the card to be blocked for “failure to pay”! Like whaaat? Haha. Provided them bank statements and they ignored me.

  36. I use an A zone pass and I’ve been bitten by problems twice. Once was clearly AT’s fault and quickly acknowledged. Once was a more normal screw up partly the machine’s fault and partly mine, sent for review and eventually refunded (with an unnecessarily snotty letter about how to tag on). In both cases, applying a penalty fare and locking my pass was stupid, since it would have been physically impossible for me to have gone outside zone A in the time between tags.

    My take-out for myself is to ALWAYS pay attention to the machine particularly when it does weird stuff. You shouldn’t have to, but you do have to. And when you have a problem, get a full print of your tags (AT has it before you can get it). You can usually work out what happened from that.

    Take-out for AT, it’s obvious that the people in charge of the penalty design were not thinking about zone passes. Some good ideas for reform already mentioned. Pass holder double tag offs or double tag ons should really be ignored if within, say, half an hour of each other.

    The front line staff at Britomart (and the other offices), on the other hand, are not paid NEARLY enough as they are the only interface between the flawed rules and the furious customers. There ought to be several more places to get this service, but I bet it’s hard to get people to staff them. Phone doesn’t seem to work for this.

  37. ARRRRRRGGGHH! this is me in some version or anther three times.
    This is why I don’t use a HOP card. I simply can’t afford their weird eff ups.
    I have had this story almost exactly the same. I documented this for them to no avail.
    I had non tag offs with the old purple card system even though I knew and was watching out for this. Also documented (i’m learning)

    But the best one was have two bags, stroller and a toddler in the rain, non peak, telling the driver…”I’m just putting my child outside in the stroller and then I’ll come back to grab my bags”, toddler plus stroller heavy so used two hands, took mere seconds to flick out stroller and put her in the chair , turned around to grab bags and the bus closed the door and drove off. Driver ignored my banging. Driver ignored other passengers pointing me out. Card ever tagged off. I rang immediately, not only did i lose my bags (never turned up to lost and found) but they refused to refund the penalty charge as it was my “responsibility”.
    I’ll be the first to rage if they bring in card only fares. Unless they finally sort this.

    Interestingly I have a colleague doing a videoed tagging project, visually documented, with written on the spot logs and compared to online data. three months in, so far three major errors.

    1. That’s an awful story …. driver should have waited ….and your bag should have been returned …and you would have thought a bit more sympathy from AT would have been warranted too ….tag off is definitely not a selling point when little ones are in tow …just another thing to do …though I get they want the stats ……for a long time my main commuter bus had a regular driver – and regular passengers too – and they were so awesome and would watch out for me and my little guys ……..those drivers are like gold though to find …..

      When it was snapper HOP I did ask them if they could do it by proximity to the machine – but they said they could not – even though then walking out of bus might be enough to tag off – as they said it makes issues with a too sensitive machine ….I also asked about having two either side of entrance that might detect the on off without the need for tag – but that may not work – and would cost ……

      1. and what if you had multiple cards? what if you were boarding to ask the driver if it goes to X; you would get charged? sorry but rfid/nfc technology just doesn’t work like that.

        a system could work how you describe with bluetooth-low-energy-enabled plastic cards (battery in a card as thick as a visa/mastercard could last upto a year) that communicate with the bus/train/ferry automatically, but this type of system will be the first of its kind and very expensive to implement. Just replace it every year (expires), to avoid people running out of battery. and those with smartphones could just use that instead via an application

    1. Snapper/purple hop nfc credit card topups were instant and from anywhere, just needed a phone with nfc, which most have now.

      No reason AT HOP can’t have this implemented, in fact it was advertised upon launch of AT HOP but with no mention of it since.

      1. It only ever worked with official Snapper approved phones – not just any phone with NFC. And unfortunately most of the Snapper phone list weren’t ones I’d ever have wanted to have.

        1. Most decent phones are supported, any particular phone with nfc not supported that you are referring to?

        2. Read/topup works on near everything with nfc and doesn’t require a 2 degrees Sim. Only the tag on with phone requires particular phones and the Sim.

  38. A friend has funds on his non registered AT hop card of $50 odd dollars, I have his AT hop card in my possession, the card is blocked due to his forgeting to tag off a few times.

    Thought I could request this amount to be transferred to my registered card but AT hop cards has declined my request indicating terms and conditions:

    clause 19. Transfer of Products for Non-functioning or Lost or Stolen AT HOP cards: If you hold a Registered Card that is non-functioning or has been lost or stolen, you may request the transfer of any residual HOP Money and unused Products from that AT HOP card to a replacement AT HOP card. You must go in person to an AT Customer Service Centre to obtain a replacement AT HOP card and transfer of Products.

    clause 20: Registered AT HOP cards only: You acknowledge and agree that the transfer option set out in section 19 is available only for Registered AT HOP cards. If your AT HOP card is not registered, then no Products can be transferred or refunded to you if your AT HOP card is lost, stolen or rendered non-functioning for any reason.

    AT hop card has had these funds for the last approx 9 mths.

    I wonder how many hundreds of dollars AT hop cards is keeping due to indicating clause 19 & 20 of non registered cards.

    Any comments would be appreciated.

    1. The point of this is to stop people stealing hop cards to cash in for money, or to steal them and transfer the credit to another card. If they let you do that with any anonymous card it would be open season.

      If you think about it, you are saying “I’ve got this random, untraceable, anonymous card and I want to take the money off it and put it on mine”.

      Just register your card so you can prove its yours and block/transfer/cash out as you wish.

  39. interesting perspective from a friend the other day whose child catches bus to school. the kids have to use hop card and penalty is $3 for a failure to tag off. After a few penalties my friend determined that her child was not forgetting to tag off but failing to line things up correctly for a successful tag-off ….since this was a child who was just 5 it was understandable that these things can be tricky (I know I find it tricky with my hands full of bags and kids and I am MUCH older). Anyway my friend wrote to AT to say could the bus driver help ensure kids tag off correctly given their age etc. Response it is the bus patrons responsibility to ensure they tag-off ……..really disappointing …surely given the fact these kids are not that old and parents are not on the school bus with them surely some strategy can be put in place ???? Now I see from the recent post that if you have too many fails the card is locked – so that must mean there are a number of parents out there with kids whose cards have been locked and I assume they then have to go through the same process as commentator above ??????
    Perhaps there should be a strategy in place for school bus runs that take into account the clientele are a lot younger ???

  40. One of the great things with the trains vs the bus is the tag on/off stations are fixed, hence less likely to overcharge or forget you tagged on/off, which seems more common than correct charging on the buses. Also frequent on buses are situations where for no reason it decides you tagged on and off in places you never were (most often a few stops after you got off, but sometimes completely unknown stops). However, when there are power cuts, they’re more than happy to let you tag on at the station if there is power there, but no power at your destination and so you can’t tag off? Well, too bad, go file a case and we’ll eventually decide if you get your money back or not. They have portable hop readers for the rail buses, why can they not roll them out in case of power-out?
    Buggy system, but on the positive it is quicker than the average cash payment

  41. I am a hop card user at Auckland.

    As Aucklander, we have no choice but to use the transport system offered by the Auckland Transport, I use monthly pass that cost me $195 ( from zone A to zone B)

    Under the Key government, we expect to be enjoying a fair, cost efficient and transparent system for the transport service.

    Under the instruction of buying the monthly pass, I read:
    “We suggest that in addition to your monthly pass you maintain a small HOP money balance as if there are insufficient funds in your AT HOP account to cover your out of zone travel” (

    As I believe I would not be traveling elsewhere other than zone A to B ( and vice versa) I do not think it is necessary to put in any money on top of the monthly pass which would reasonably cover my fare.

    I took a bus from Zone B to Zone A yesterday, when I hopped on, green light was turned on, and it showed ‘ your monthly pass expires on (such and such date)’ , however, when I hop off from the bus, red light was turned on, and the ‘insufficient funds’ was shown on the displayed. I was curious as I was only using monthly pass for 11 days. As a result, I could not use the monthly pass when I got home.

    When I went to one of the service centers to sort things out, they told me I have insufficient funds ( e.g., my monthly pass is disabled) because I did not hop on properly the day before. The system charged me for $4.5 for my “wrong”.

    There is no way customers could argue that was not the case because they insisted on they saw on computer system as determinative, regardless of what I have told them.

    I believe I am not the only one who was overcharged wrongly, same complaints by other customers can be found on ( I do not think this is purely a mechanical/system error

  42. Both my children have AT Hop cards to get to school and back. These cards have been the bane of my life and AT Hop are unflexible and arrogant even when they are in the wrong. The thing I find most offensive though is their outright theft of your money when they deem to block one of the cards and will not transfer the funds to yet another card. Why you have to go and purchase a new card when you already have one that is perfectly functional is ludicrous. They would get my vote as the worst customer service organisation in New Zealand – and thats quite an achievement when you consider the competition. I will vote for any mayor that would fix this problem.

    1. My friend his card blocked to the tune of $53.00 odd dollars and they sighted clause whatever in the terms and conditions which annoyed me. Can you imagine the thousands of dollars of blocked cards they have? Great way for them to have another area of revenue.

  43. I am in exactly the same position – even down to the system showing me logging off where I didn’t. But there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do. That’s the most frustrating part of it. The guy who sold me my replacement pass understood as do the bus drivers I have to explain to every day. Yet AT does nothing about fixing its system.

  44. I too, like many other Aucklanders, have suffered at the hands of AT and this ridiculous Hop card system. Up until the end of last year my children had to use Hop cards on their school bus (we have since moved, so no buses for us THANK GOD!). This was a SCHOOL BUS. It was not a public bus. It did not have any route other than picking the children up from our suburb and delivering them to school. They had no option but to get off at the school and could not go any further. So why bother having a tag on/off system? I had SO many issues with my sons card not reading tag on/off’s correctly, with each time charging the penalty, making a .90c fare almost $3 odd dollars (I can’t recall now). My son was adamant he was tagging on/off correctly (gave AT the benefit of the doubt initially, as he’s a kid after all), but no, this happened over months and cost me a lot of money. It would also sometimes show him as having tagged off or on in different stops to his (I know he didn’t, as he wouldn’t have had time to walk home from the stops it said he got off at). I took the missing tag on/offs up with AT so many times, but as others have encountered, they are arrogant and unhelpful and put the blame squarely back on the user. I even asked them WHY do they have this system on a school bus, where there are no stops/stages?! I asked that it be sent to management for a response. No response of course. It is a complete rort and a farce and Aucklanders are being ripped off. As at March 2014 Aucklanders had already paid out over $1mil in penalties for missing tags. That was only 16mths after it was introduced. 2+yrs onwards, I imagine they have quite a hefty sum in there. And now they want more money from ratepayers to pay to paint the buses? What a friggin joke!$1m

  45. I am just adding my frustration to this thread about HOPCARDS, even though the last post was 6 months ago. I just complained because everything takes so long to happen at hopcard. If you top up your card in the weekend, the money doesn’t go into “pending” until Monday night, so you don’t get it until Tuesday morning. Yes, and this is only goes into a holding account. The money does not go into your card until you tag on/off at some stage, and if you are not a frequent user and don’t tag on until after 60 days, it will stay in pending forever, unless you realize at some stage and let them know. Even, when you let them know, it takes up to another 10 days for them to make this pending money (which came off your account ages ago) active again. If you ring and complain about this, you might be lucky and they will escalate I, but an escalation will still take up to 5 days – so don’t hold your breath.

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