Have you decided to get for yourselves of your kids Hop Card with hopes of saving some money on Auckland buses and also not to worry about having cash on you all the time? That may sound reasonable, but be aware; there are quite a few pitfalls on the road ahead of you! We also thought that getting a Hop Card for our child was a good idea, but after 6 months of its use, we discovered that we paid more than we would have had by using simple cash. Additionally, it costs us a lot of nerves and stress dealing with their inflexible, rigid and nonsensical processes. So, what are the things that do not work that well and you should be aware of before hoping on the Hop Card wagon?
Issue #1: Make sure to tag off every time you complete your journey
When using Hop Card you have to tag your card at the bus card reader twice. First time when you enter the bus and second time when you exit. The system will then automatically calculate the correct amount for your journey. The theory is nice, but reality a bit different. If you forget to tag off then the system applies a charge for the entire bus route journey. So, if you travelled a segment with applicable fare let’s say $1.50 and forget to tag off, this journey may cost you $3, $4 or even $8, depending on how far your bus travels.
You say “Well, then make sure you don’t forget. It’s your responsibility to tag off”. Yes, that’s true, but let’s be honest. Forgetting is a human nature. You can be distracted by something, have other thoughts in your head or there are many other reasons you simply forget. If you forget only once per fortnight, all your savings from using Hop Card may be gone and perhaps you may end up paying even more. There are also other reasons when tagging off may fail, for example, you tag off, but the reader won’t pick it up. This is what happened to us many times. You need carefully listen for that little “beep”. In some noisy surroundings that may be quite hard and it’s very easy to overhear it.
Also, keep remembering that Hop cards are mostly used by kids for their journeys from school home. And you know how the kids are – they can be distracted very easily and sometime they forget, no matter how much you keep reminding them. And if they do from time to time, you will end up paying fare for the entire bus route.
Issue #2 Inability to top up your Hop Card online
Yes, you hear right! All other businesses like banks, mobile phone operators and even calling card companies enable you these days to do almost everything online. But not Hop Card! If you want to top up your card then you have to physically visit your local dairy or Hop Card service centre. And yes, it’s not free! Each top up will cost you $0.25. Not a fortune, but over time it will add up. The most annoying things is when your child’s card runs out of credit and in the morning’s hurry you have to search for a nearest place where you can go and top it up.
Perhaps the only positive thing about Hop Card is that they let you fill out and submit your child’s card concession online. I am really surprised that they do and won’t require you to print out the form and send it by snail mail. What a progress for a Hop Card!
Issue #3: Extremely illogical and nonsensical processes for getting replacement or refund for your faulty card
If your card becomes faulty and stops working, you can either buy new one for $10 or get a replacement. If it was not your fault that the card stopped working then why would you pay another $10, most people would ask for replacement. So did we and now we regret it. If we know what will follow then perhaps we would have just bought a new card for $10. I have a suspicion that the Hop Card has done the whole process for replacing a faulty card that unfriendly intentionally, so that people just simply buy new card – that’s extra revenue for them.
OK, so what actually happened? We called Hop Card and asked them to send us replacement card.
Hops, not so easy!
They don’t send you a replacement, you have to go to their centre at Britomart (Central Auckland) and get it. Well, but what if you live in South Auckland 40 km away. Should you travel 80 km to get replacement? Just the petrol would cost more than $10 for buying a new card from your local dairy. “Fortunately” they offered us an alternative – we can also get it from i-site in Pukekohe. That’s great, now it’s only 40 km for a return trip. If I drive smoothly, the petrol this time may be less than $10. So ok, let’s go to Pukekohe…
In Pukekohe it took about 1 hour to get it sorted. Local staff (who is not Hop Card employees, but contracting for Hop Card) didn’t really know what to do and spent about 50 minutes on phone calling Hop Card call centre which also were not very knowledgeable. The Pukekohe i-site person was put through to 3 or 4 different people at Hop Card centre needing to explain all over again what is needed. After 1 hour I finally got new card and the balance from old card transferred.
Is this the happy end of the story? Not, not yet, the hurdles continue.
If you get a replacement card for your child’s faulty card then the next thing you need to do is to fill out the concession for your child all over again. We didn’t know that and no one told us – not Hop Card call centre, not the Pukekohe i-site staff. Our child continued to use the new card happily for about the next 2 months. Then we discovered that our new Hop Card was charging adult fare. After this discovery we called them again and asked for a refund. And surprise, surprise, we got it!
Hops, not so easy once again!
To get the refund it took about a week, but after a week of waiting, we finally got it. The problem is that we have to travel to Britomart from South Auckland. They were so nice that they offered a free return bus fare. Isn’t that amazing? Traveling from South Auckland to Britomart by bus to get $15 refund – I will probably need to take half a day off from work (maybe even full day)!
It again seems like they are intentionally making this whole process so difficult and painful and hope that people just won’t bother and forgo what there are entitled for. I can’t believe that in the information age of 21st century, the only way to get the refund credited to my child’s Hop Card is to travel 80 km and physically hand over the card. Can’t they just simply apply the credit to the card directly? They have access to their own systems so why they can’t make it? (perhaps aren’t willing to).
Before you make your decision to get a Hop Card for you or your child, think carefully! They offer some small discount (10-20%) for your bus fare if you start using it, but be aware of the many problems and pitfalls that lie ahead. Your decision to use Hop Card may at the end prove more costly than simply using your cash and also it can mean a lot of hassles, stress and annoyance dealing with them if any issues arise.