Auckland Transport have finally fixed what was perhaps the biggest issue with HOP, the blacklisting of cards when an auto top-up fails. Below is the email they sent to users of auto top-up on Friday

Great News: We’ve made some changes to improve the Auto Top Up service.

You asked, we listened!

Following customer feedback about the Auto Top Up service, from today, 11 November 2016, the following changes are happening:

1. You’ll still be notified when your Auto Top Up triggers but you’ll also be notified if we’re unable to collect the payment.

2. We’ll try up to 3 times to collect the payment and keep you posted throughout.

3. If we’re unable to collect the payment, your Auto Top Up will be cancelled and the top-up amount (that hasn’t been paid for) will be removed from your AT HOP card, however we will no longer cancel your AT HOP card.

4. If the removal of the unsuccessful top-up amount puts your card into negative balance, the card will need to be topped up to a positive balance again before you can use it for travel. A negative balance can be cleared by topping up your card by $5 (minimum top up) or by the value of the negative balance, whichever is greater.

5. You then have the option to update your payment details and set up a new Auto Top Up.

We hope these changes will enhance your AT HOP experience.

Cancelling the cards of probably some of your most loyal customers, potentially leaving them stranded and forcing them to shell out $10 for a new one had to be one of the worst customer experiences an organisation could come up with. As such this is a huge improvement, it’s just a shame it’s taking this long.

Now let’s hope they can fix some the other user unfriendly features.

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  1. AT HOP is a perfect example of transit agency dog crap: great technology, incredible potential but all with horrendous implementation. Reminds me of the Takanini HOP disaster: all AT had to do was refund all penalties on the network that day (or even reduce them to a fare to/from Takanini) and there’d have been no issues.

  2. will any notice be given when your credit card is about to expire? A nice heads up “hey your card is due to expire here, make sure you update it now ” etc would of saved me a black list.
    the 3 times failed top up system is BS. I had over a weeks credit on my hop card but with the auto topup of $1, when my credit card expired It blacklisted me!
    Also the auto topup system is BS, Auto top up $1 means everytime you use your hop card it puts $1 on. Say you set a min balance (say $20) and set the auto topup to $1, you take a ride for $5 you would think it would top up 5 times to meet you min balance of $1.
    Nope it tops up once at $1 so you have a balance of $16 (20-5+1), next trip you have balance of $12…. so dumb.
    And the system seemed to process the top ups in bunches – i’m pretty sure all my 3 “warnings” happened at 2am on the same day, so boom next time i use it (i.e., 6:30am the next day) i get stranded at the bus stop. EVEN WITH CREDIT ON MY CARD.
    So mad.
    At least now you wont get blacklisted.
    What a joke.

  3. I had the absolute worst customer experience of my life (I’ve only had 2 or 3 bad ones) when my credit card expired and I forgot to change my AT Hop auto-topup (I thought I had set it up with my newer debit card). Without receiving any communication my Hop card was blacklisted, I had to pay cash (luckily I had some) for my bus fare and thankfully had a driver who allowed me to pay what the cost would have been on my Hop card.

    The worst part was going in to the AT kiosk at Britomart expecting to unblock my card and update my credit card details (thus solving the issue) only to find I absolutely 100% had to buy a new card or else I just couldn’t have one, despite still being in possession of my existing card which had nothing wrong with it. The woman at the kiosk was utterly horrible, unable to be reasoned with (I worked in customer service for 10+ years and never talked to someone the way she talked to me), and I left almost in tears. The nice gentleman working alongside her offered to follow up; nice though he was, nothing actually happened. I still get upset thinking about the whole thing, right from the nonsensical policy to the disgusting face-to-face experience. First and only time I’d felt ashamed to be an advocate for public transport (which I use whenever possible despite having the option to drive to work).

    1. Yes, I had a very similar issue when my HOP card missed a couple of tag-offs. They blacklisted the card and refused to unblock it or refund the $70 that I had on the card. They referred me to terms and conditions that had *nothing* to say about the issue I’d experienced.

      1. Sad to hear this has been such a common experience, I’d have felt more solidarity if I’d realised this at the time! (I missed the original transportblog post about it and amazed at how long it went on for).

        I wonder how many have been victims of Horrible Britomart Person and how many hop cards have been wasted due to that policy.

      2. And yeah of course there’s their terms & conditions:

        5.5 tag on at the beginning of your trip and tag off at the end of your trip;


        10. Suspension: We may, in our absolute discretion, suspend any AT HOP card or AT HOP online account (Online Account) if you breach any of these Terms.

        In other words, the typical miserable way of doing business these days. I guess just charging the bus trip until the end of that line is too complicated.

        However, they’d be wrong about failed auto-topups:

        22.2.5 agree that if a direct debit or credit card payment to us is dishonoured, rejected or we are otherwise unable to process the payment for any reason, we will attempt to process the direct debit or credit card payment again on two (2) occasions and if we are unable to process the payment three times, the top-up amount will be removed from your AT HOP card and the auto top-up will be cancelled.

        1. Don’t they still have to adhere to the consumer guarantees act and supply a product that is fit for purpose?
          Can anyone sell cards at $10 and cancel them for no good reason pointing at some rubbish in the terms and conditions?
          Isn’t this like selling a TV and when it breaks down saying that the terms and conditions say it has the right to break down at any time?

  4. Great news, but disappointing that it took so long to happen.

    These are the sort of quick wins that Harriet’s blog posts talk to, in many ways they are more important than some of the large projects that are being proposed.

    1. Indeed, good news, now if AT would open NewMarket platform 2 for Southern to Western train transfers that would prove they continue listening
      ‘You asked, we listened!”

  5. “You asked, we listened” – or is that
    “You asked, you complained, you threatened legal action, we took a crap load of $10 from people, then after about 5 years, we finally made it do what it obviously should have done in the first place”
    Nice one AT

    1. Careful what u wish for. If the stuff ups on Hop are anything to go by noone in their right mine would let their credit card number be known.

  6. I’m glad they have fixed this was a simple fix that improves customer service massively

    On the terms and conditions stuff sure AT may have the right to but that doesn’t mean they should

    Good customer service is about understanding the little things matter and that you don’t need to win a battle because a) you are not at war with the customer and b) on the margins it means zero to you, the world to them

  7. When I first started using a HOP card, I was unaware I had to tag off and back on at an interchange (I know, A bit stupid of me really. I assumed the network was more interconnected; similar as it is now). After a trip to and from the city, my card was blacklisted and I had lost over $50. I was so annoyed when I was told at the Britomart kiosk that there was no way of getting my card unlocked, or credit put on a replacement card. Especially considering she showed me my cards travel and credit history. It really put me off for a while.

    I found no obvious print stating that my entire credit wiped out. People make mistakes, surely they can account for that?

  8. Some good news for the customer then. When this happened to me, the kindly bus driver allowed me to travel to Newmarket, where I observed a sign asking members of the public to be nice to the AT customer service staff – and soon discovered why it was necessary. The trouble with the “we tried three times” line is my credit card had plenty of credit available. My card company has since advised me that sometimes when retailers make that claim, the card company has never actually received a single request to make the charge.

    1. Thats what happened to me multiple times, I had plenty of funds, card not expiring until 2018, yet they claim it “failed” multiple times. What actually failed is probably their payment gateway due to some outage or issue etc and then they blocked my HOP card. One of them was even the limited edition EMU launch day one, which is now completely useless. Disappointing that it has taken this long, probably would still be going on if the media hadn’t got involved.

  9. As a recent start-up user of Public Transport (Train/Bus), I am appalled that this has been going on – and I did not know. So far, I have nothing to complain about in respect of my experience with A.T.

    When I applied for my HOP card – quick and simple I have to say – the person who sorted this for me was very polite and helpful. But when she said it can take about 72 hours to register a top-up for use I balked! That is CRAZY! My facetious remark to her about “transactions being once, twice or thrice removed from the oh-so-simple electronic transfer these days, just to line a few pockets”, was returned with a curt nod and spoken word (cannot disclose).

    My Kiwibank account transfers funds to any other Kiwibank account within the hour. Most of the ‘BIG’ players still use the chequeing and 3-5 day verification nonsense that should have disappeared from our banking system some years past for all electronic transactions. Yes it has improved, but not enough to reflect the true nature of banking today.
    Because this is a MONEY-GAME. Have a guess at how many millions of dollars are held by bank clearing services as “uncleared funds” – every day. Then think what you might do with that ‘fund’ if even half of it was guaranteed to be there – every day.

    So I am truly grateful that at least some changes have been made in this area.

  10. Pretty depressing East-West link meeting tonight, it seems NZTA’s strategy is to collude with the residents association to present similar proposals as if they were polar opposites, then consume all the available oxygen with speaking time overruns and patsy questions. Starting to understand how excluded and ignored a Trump supporter used to feel

  11. Well done AT! Yes it took the media to highlight that this issue had affected 12,000 customers, but they did listen and have taken a giant step towards fixing the issue.

  12. Good little improvement but why FIVE years to fix it?

    What about the three days for online topups to show? Will that be fixed in five years time?

    It sounds like the rude staff at britomart need to find new jobs they are better suited to, like prison guards

  13. I agree. When I purchased an AT Hop card as an early adopter I opted for an Auto Top. My account was always in credit and on one occasion the auto top up failed on three consecutive occasions. My card was black listed and my current credit of $20+ was frozen, they effectively stole it. That was an awful customer experience and the comments from AT were I should have read the fine print. That was how they treated a customer who always paid, had his card in credit and was a frequent user.

  14. I have had experiences with AT on several levels and I have never had a good one. They whole set up seems to have been a disaster from Day 1.

  15. All I can say is yay….always just seemed to me a bad software design that they didn’t want to risk or bother changing without creating more havoc. Hasn’t happened to me & I have several cards setup on auto top-up for my wife & children. Can’t stand the thought even with the old system of mucking around with manual top-ups and risking missing a connection or limited travel because you can’t get to top-up in time. Never had a problem with it except my 2nd card just never ever applied the auto top-up & I know how to make it work, tried several times to reset it up etc. Never got black listed, it’s currently sitting on negative $4.50 which is close to what the card cost at the time so I just have put it in a drawer and won’t use it. I think the way the system seems to store the value on the actual card (due to bus not always able to get a data connection reliably?) AND up in hyperspace somewhere is why the way it works is so weird & they need the delays. The Wellington system (from what I understand) doesn’t have auto-topup probably for this reason. Not quite as easy as a prepay cell phone top-up which is instantly applied etc….this is my educated guess anyway.

    1. It cost$10 because it can go into negative balance. This is important so you don’t get stuck somewhere unable to get home or get to a top up location. If they didn’t charge for the card people could just get new cards every day, drain the negative balance and throw them away. We would lose a lot of money and waste a lot of cards.

      1. The cards are free in Sydney, not sure how they deal with that situation. I think it is reasonable to charge for cards, I just think they should come with that amount pre-loaded.

        1. Sydney cards are free but you must make a minimum $10 top up at the time of purchace. So that would minimize the problem.

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