NSW extends contactless travel to American Express cardholders

Visa and American Express customers can use their card to 'tap on and off' Sydney Ferries and the L1 Dulwich Hill Light Rail in lieu of an Opal card.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The New South Wales government has extended the payment options available to commuters using public transport in Sydney, announcing the acceptance of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express on some services.

Transport for NSW will now allow commuters to "tap on and off" using their Mastercard on all Sydney Ferry and light rail services, while Visa and American Express card or mobile wallet payments will be accepted for travel on the L1 Dulwich Hill Light Rail and on Sydney Ferry services, in lieu of using an Opal card.

The Opal card requires commuters to "tap on" when beginning a trip via bus, train, light rail, and ferry, and "tap off" when they reach their final destination on services operating in Sydney and many of its suburbs.

"In NSW we know transport is no longer just about infrastructure but also about embracing technology to provide the best services possible for our customers," NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said on Monday.

"The integration of contactless transport payments into the Opal ticketing system makes the purchasing of one-off fares quick, easy, and seamless, providing choice and convenience to customers."

Constance signalled in January the government was considering expanding alternate payment methods for Sydneysiders after a successful Opal card trial that began on the Manly ferry services last year.

The trial saw commuters use their Mastercard on the Manly to Circular Quay ferry in Sydney.

According to Mastercard, it facilitated more than 15,000 tap-and-go fare payments for card holders from more than 42 countries during the trial.

"Opal is an enormous success ... but we can now take it to a new level so people have choice," Constance said previously. "So they can use their iPhones, their smartwatches, and of course contactless payment through credit card."

ZDNet revealed in December the initiative was on the cards for launch in early 2018.

American Express was the first card issuer to offer Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay in Australia.

See also: Australian banking cartel loses fight against Apple

"In the last year, American Express mobile wallet transactions have more than doubled and we expect this trend to continue as more places accept American Express contactless payments," American Express Australia and New Zealand VP of Consumer Cards Austin Huntsdale said.

A report published on Monday by market research firm East & Partners has revealed that just 6.6 percent of all payments conducted in 2017 were made with cash, a 56 percent decline from 2012.

Credit card payments at the point of sale have also decreased by nearly 20 percent, East & Partners said, compared to online payments which have surged 184 percent.

Similarly, payments via bank issued debit cards, such as Visa and Mastercard, have increased 78 percent to account for 24 percent of all transactions since 2012.

The East & Partners Australian Merchant Payments Report was compiled following interviews with approximately 2,240 Australian merchants.

"Cash has well and truly lost its mantle as king," East & Partners head of markets analysis Martin Smith said in a statement. "The emergence of contactless, mobile, and wearable payment technology has pushed the preference for debit and credit cards beyond cash usage, as more consumers opt for those for lower value purchases."

In Australia, around 80 percent of face-to-face Mastercard transactions are performed using tap-and-go functionality; it's a similar story where Visa is concerned, with 92 percent of face-to-face transactions on the Visa network utilising the PayWave service.

Although the tap-and-go function is heavily utilised in Australia, less than 1 percent of contactless payments are conducted via mobile or wearable means.

Update 2:57pm AEDT March 12, 2018: Visa added as a payment method on Sydney transport services.


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