CBA to enable contactless ‘tap & pay’ across Vic’s transport network

Tap and Pay Victoria

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has been selected by Victoria’s Transport and Planning department (DTP) to serve as its merchant acquirer for the state’s public transportation ticketing system, which, for the first time, will enable tram, bus and train commuters to tap on and off using either their credit card, debit card or smart device.

Under a staged upgrade to the existing myki system, commuters (including those accessing the regional V/line network, concession holders, as well as international and interstate visitors) will soon be able to pay to access the state’s public transport network using a digital wallet on their smartphone or smartwatch – and, importantly, be able to choose from multiple contactless credit and debit card payment options, effectively making the system ‘open loop’.

CBA confirmed that existing myki cardholders will also be able to continue using their physical myki card on the upgraded system.

While the Victorian Government introduced a ‘mobile myki’ system in 2019, enabling tap and pay access to the transport network using an NFC-connected smart device, this was limited to Android devices using the Google Wallet app. As such, the upgrade excluded the more than 3.2 million Australians who use ApplePay.

Unlike many other public transport ticketing systems which accept credit cards and tap-to-pay-enabled phones and watches when boarding, the myki system is still largely dependent on a physical myki card. A full fare card costs $6 upfront ($3 for concession holders) and must be pre-loaded with credit before a trip is made.

The CBA partnership is part of a major upgrade to the myki system, with the US-based digital platforms developer Conduent awarded a $1.7 billion, 15-year contract to upgrade and run the state’s ticketing system. Conduent takes over from NTT Data, who in 2010 rolled out the original myki system.

The state Government plans to have the new ticketing system ready to accept multi-card payments by the end of this year, and rolled out in full over the next two years. This means that myki will effectively transition from a card-based to an account-based system.

As merchant acquirer, CBA will process credit and debit card transactions (and linked smart devices) made on the network.

“With the Victorian Government’s announcement of planned improvements to the myki system, Victorians, international and interstate visitors alike, will enjoy the simple, frictionless experience that contactless payments provide public transport users,” said CBA’s group executive institutional banking & markets, Andrew Hinchliff.

“We are excited to work with the Department of Transport and Planning to bring contactless payments to the state. Public transport is an integral part of daily life for many Victorians, so we are proud to play a part in improving the commuter experience.”

Hinchliff added: “We have a longstanding commitment to innovation in public transport infrastructure, with CBA’s digital transit ticketing capability now underpinning every open loop contactless payment option used by public transport in Australia and New Zealand.”

Often compared to other ticketing systems in Australia, including NSW’s Opal card network, which since 2018 has enabled tap-and-go payments using multiple credit or debit card networks, Victorians have long awaited a similar ‘open loop’ contactless payment system for their transport network.

The existing myki system has also been beset by technical problems – including slow card reader response times, slow credit top-up times, sometimes up to 24 hours before it reaches the card, systems glitches, and questions over the accuracy of data for measuring patronage – and cost-overruns (running $500 million over budget).

CBA notes that its work with DTP builds on the bank’s appointment to the Victorian Government Banking Panel in 2021.