The Myki 90 day myth reborn

Remember back in the early days of Myki when the rumour spread that if you didn’t use your card for 90 days, your credit would vanish?

It wasn’t true. A number of people including me tried to hose it down (not very successfully) but eventually people found via experience that it wasn’t the case.

My Myki card and Mobile Myki
My Myki card and Mobile Myki – Pic: Channel 9

Fast forward to 2020. PTV’s “bible” the Fares And Ticketing Manual was revised this year, splitting the weighty tome into two separate documents:

  • Victorian Fares and Ticketing Conditions 2020 – the legalese and fine detail that almost nobody except me wants to read
  • Public Transport Ticketing Customer Guide 2020 – a (slightly) more readable document that humans can interpret

I took a skim through these, and was equal parts amused and aghast to find this section of text in the Customer Guide:

myki not used for 90 days

If a myki is not used within 90 days, any value loaded on it will be sent to archive.

To retrieve funds from archive, the customer must:
• for a myki Smartcard, touch on or top up at a myki machine, retailer or myki enabled railway station.
• for a Mobile myki, touch on.

Archived funds will take 24 hours to be reallocated to the myki.

Argh. This is completely wrong.

Whoever re-wrote this section clearly had no idea how the system works, and it appears copy/pasted some of the old text in such a way that it resurrects the old myth.

I mean really.

I flagged it with PTV. They accepted it was in error, and quickly had that section reworded. They also replaced the term “archived” with possibly clearer term “dormancy”.

myki not used for 90 days

If a myki is not used within 90 days of topping up online or via the call centre, the top up will be removed from the myki equipment and placed into dormancy.

To retrieve the top up from dormancy, the customer must:
• for a myki Smartcard, touch on or top up at a myki machine, retailer or myki enabled railway station.
• for a Mobile myki, touch on.

Top ups in dormancy will take 24 hours to be available on the myki equipment again.

(Bold/italics added to emphasise the important context.)

I suspect the heading is still problematic.

But in any case, thankfully it’s now corrected, and hopefully nobody actually read the incorrect version and got the wrong idea.

Update: This still seems to be causing confusion, so let me summarise it from a different perspective, and trying to avoid jargon:

If you top-up online or by phone, you need to use the Myki card within 90 days, otherwise that top-up may not be completed.

It doesn’t affect top-ups at machines or railway stations. It doesn’t affect your card or your existing balance.

  • Media reported over the weekend that there’s up to $80 million in funds on unused Myki cards. Solutions could include enabling travel by paying directly with contactless credit/debit cards (similar to Sydney and London and others), and better ticket and refund options for tourists.
  • By the way: it’s February. That means for anybody with students in the house, their 2019 Student Passes and Concession Cards are about to expire.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

31 replies on “The Myki 90 day myth reborn”

About the money placed in dormancy.
So if you don’t use your MYKI for more than 90 days, you have to reactivate your card and then wait a further 24 hours before using the train, tram and bus. Is that correct?
90 days is not a long time, why don’t they have a longer period say12 months, or do they (Govt) want to get the interest on the cash?

Of course you should be able to use a credit card, isn’t that why the Victorian taxpayers paid a billion dollars for MYKI?

Something I just noticed when looking at my Myki transactions; if you touch on before a fare increase comes into effect but don’t touch off until after the increase, you get charged the new price and not the old price. Does that sound correct?

How does one retrieve unused funds on an old card?
My mother who has passed away had a pensioner myki that had at least $100 on it.

Without defining dormancy that is a useless definition. Without describing the impact of dormancy it doesn’t make any sense. It is still absolutely unclear what would actually happen if I touch on with a myki if unused for 90 days. Worse than useless.

@Ozman. No. It’s all about what happens after an top-up online or by phone.

I’ve added some bolding, but please read the text carefully. Nowhere does it say the card or the balance already on the card is deactivated.

@namsupo: Not surprised – the fare calculation is done at touch-off, or on the next touch-on if the touch-off never occurs.

@Able T: condolences. You should be able to apply for a refund of the card balance.

@James: “It is still absolutely unclear what would actually happen if I touch on with a myki if unused for 90 days.” — how do you mean? Leaving the top-up aside (because that’s the only thing the 90 days applies to), the Myki card would just work.

Which of course is why the headline is still misleading.

Well if the myki card just works then why is this section here at all? I assume that they are trying to tell us that something is different which is how I read it. If the answer is that it is exactly the same except that it takes 24 hours to top up then just say that. DB you might understand it because you read the manual for breakfast but it makes no sense to me.

One thing I dislike is when corporations (private or public) try to explain what is happening with their internal business systems or business rules as an explaination or an excuse for customer facing behaviour. In this case we do not need to know, and in fact it makes it worse knowing, what is happening in their computer system with archiving or dormanting. Just explain what happens to the customer. After 90 days you can still use you card but cannot top up until 24 hours after first reusing (if that is what the situation is, since I still am not quite sure).

@Ozman No. That’s exactly the thing Daniel had them change. It has NOTHING to do with balances. It is to do with topups made outside of the MyKi machine network. If you top-up via a MyKi machine, the money is on your MyKi immediately and forever (until you use it or the card expires, etc). However, if you top online or via the phone, the topup itself gets sent to all the myki readers. Next time you touch on, the topup gets applied to your card.
The issue here is: If you top up online, for instance, and then you do not touch on for 90 days, that piece of data in the MyKi network gets removed. It’s still in their systems, just not in the readers. This is most likely to reduce the amount of data they have to store in all those devices. Any money on your MyKi is still there. But, if after the 90 days, you go and touch on, you won’t get your topup because it’s not there. BUT that will alert their systems that you’re back and it will trigger the topup to be sent (from “dormancy”) back to all the readers and machines in the network and then the next time (after sufficient delay to allow this all to occur) you touch on, you’ll get your top-up.

This is just about topups made outside MyKi machines. Hence the new phrasing: “If a myki is not used within 90 days of topping up online or via the call centre, the top up will be removed from the myki equipment and placed into dormancy.”

@James – I disagree. I think it describes exactly what happens (headline aside). “the top up will be removed from the myki equipment”. That’s what dormancy is. For what you need to do: “To retrieve the top up from dormancy, the customer must:…” and, in terms of what happens when you touch on after more than 90 days: “Top ups in dormancy will take 24 hours to be available on the myki equipment again.”

Daniel, this is indeed what happens if you top up online and then do not use the card for an extended period of time. You loose the online top and any non online top up balance to an archive. if you then top up with a machine it usually reappears. But sometimes you can not top up without going to a myki customer service at a major station with a Victorian addressed ID during hours.


“After 90 days you can still use you card but cannot top up until 24 hours after first reusing (if that is what the situation is, since I still am not quite sure).”

No, that’s not the situation :-)

You can use your MyKi. You can even top up at a machine and it’ll work. The situation is:
1) You top-up online or over the phone (not at a station, not at a machine – ie the money has no way of getting onto the card – yet)
2) The topup info goes out to the readers. Takes a few hours. If you were to touch on now, you’d get your topup. But you don’t touch on now.
3) You don’t use PT at all for 90 days
4) That online topup (and ONLY that online topup) gets removed from the myki readers.
5) NOTHING else changes on your myki.
6) Next time your card interacts with a reader/machine it will NOT receive the topup that’s waiting for it because it’s been withdrawn from the readers. But it will identify to the system that you’re back.
7) Within some hours – they say 24 – that topup will be sent back to all the readers and the NEXT (ie second, at least) time you touch on, you’ll get your topup.

It is ONLY about online/phone topups that have not yet been able to be delivered to the card. They are withdrawn after 90 days if you don’t get them. And they come back within 24 hours after you do come back.

The reason it’s important for PTV to make this clear is that if your MyKi has no balance (or negative even) and you top up online but then don’t travel. And 3 months later you travel again expecting that your card will get that topup when you get to the station, you won’t. It won’t let you touch on because you’re negative. Wait 24 hours and then it will work. If you know you’ve done that topup and you don’t know about this withdrawl system, you’ll think you’ve lost the money. Which you haven’t. It’s just resting.

I am sorry to correct you. All credit-even credit that was loaded on a myki machine- is unavaiable if you have not used the card for over 90 days after topping up online. I know that is not what you will be told by Myki/Metro etc. It remains unavailable for at least 24 hours after you first try to touch on after the period of non-use.

That information is very hard to interpret clearly.

Suppose you are someone who uses myki at irregular intervals. You notice the credit is low, so you top it up, so you wont need to worry when you need to use the card in a hurry later. I don’t use apps, dont use myki online and don’t live near a convenience store. And when I need to use it, I usually don’t have any internet access, anyway.

So, when I try to use myki t o go the airport today and find that they lost/archived/ some alternative euphemism/ my money, then I can’t go to the airport today, I’ll have to try again tomorrow ? It seems to be telling me that, how else would you interpret it.

Its not just myki. There is far too much crappy misinformation about normal services and also disruption written by people who are incompetent thinkers or functionally illiterate or nesbys. Companies complain about the cost of running call centres, probably more than half the calls I am forced to make to call centres could be avoided by better information. Perhaps the crappy information was written by call centre workers to boost call volume and create more employment for themselves.

@Greg, have you got a cite for that?

@enno “I don’t use apps, dont use myki online” – so why are you even concerned about this?

If your point is about the quality of the information, how would you explain it? Because I like to think I’m okay with words, but I’ve tried multiple times now and people are still misinterpreting it.

I mean, I don’t use online topups and I dont use automatic topups. If I see the balance is low, I go right away to the convenience store and put on $20 or $50 credit, before I forget. If I was a daily commuter, I’d do things differently.

One reason is that I want to limit the number of places my credit card number is online. Another reason is because I want to minimise the disruption when the bank sends me a new credit card every 2 years, same card number but a new expiry date. A third reason is that I have about 50 passwords which is about 45 passwords too many and I am sick of more and more companies demanding that I create a complicated new password with all sorts of stupid camelCase rules, to send them a one-time message, which I will probably never use again.

Just this week, I had to contact a power company to tell hem about a broken street light. I called the power company that I am a customer of, and had to jump through all sorts of hoops suppliying personal details to some random shonky woman in India, before I could even tell them about the street light which isnt even near my house – its near a pedestrian crossing I often need to use at night. They then told me I should contact Ausgrid. To do this, I had to create “an account”, supply all kinds of personal information, and a new complicated and tricky password which took several go’s to get right , because I did not scrutinize their “rules” closely enough. So that is another unaccountable foreign corporation that knows my birth date and address and other information.

And then if I have to contact them next year about a different broken streetllight, their giant computer will say “mm, looks like you contacted us before”, and get upset if I havent remebered their complicated and tricky password, and demand all sorts of personal information before it allows me to reset the password, to some other thing which I don’t remember another year after that.

And then they have the nerve to report to the Government ” complaints about broken streetlights are reduced”.

I suppose if I was an actual chronic defective street light reporting wonk, I’d be reporting one every month and remembering the password might not be an issue.

I’m sure your followers probably know how it works already.

The issue that “the money is not actually disappeared” is pretty clear. But you didnt explain the 24 hour issue very well. What are people supposed to do, call in a sickie and go home and wait until tommorrow ? As half of my myki usage is travelling to and from the airport, even that is not a practical option for me. And yeah, I know there is an actual machine at the airport.

my own personal experience. My own professional experience.The experience of other not for profit HR managers who have had the identical issues with on line paid Myki for staff who are infrequent or sporadic users.

And it may not be how the system is intended to work

The problem is unique to VIctoria.. not Adelaides Metro Card. Not Oyster HK or Singapore. Not sure about Sydney
The justification given for the expiry/dormant/archived is anti money laundering.

It doesn’t really matter which word is used to describe what should in the document if the lived experience of sporadic users.

When I returned to Melbourne briefly after living there for 2 ½ years I had a problem with a MyKi machine topping up: it swallowed my money. Fortunately I had the wherewithal to take a pic of the error message and reference number, but when I contacted PTV to have them correct it their phone representative told me exactly that.

As others have noted, it’s a terrible flaw in the system and I don’t think any sugar-coating of it is warranted.

It’s an idiotic problem that simply should not exist. It is inconceivable that it would be impossible to design all the equipment to be able to remember all of the top-ups that are waiting for transfer to cards. Clearly they’ve done something cheap, like putting in 1 GB of memory where there should have been 16 GB.

What they COULD say, to make this ridiculous failing understandable in a manner relevant to the public, is this:
“If you wait more than 90 days to touch-on your Myki card after adding credit to it online or over the phone, the added credit may not appear immediately. Instead, it will appear when you touch-on again after another 24 hours. If your Myki card is registered, we will email you to remind you to touch-on and have the credit transferred to your card.”

“The experience of other not for profit HR managers who have had the identical issues with on line paid Myki for staff who are infrequent or sporadic users.”

I’m not sure we’re all talking about the same thing. If you did online topups then, yes, you will experience this issue if you don’t grab the money for 90 days.

But once the money is on the card, and you’ve used it for travel, if you then wait another 90 days, are you saying THAT money left over after travelling is disappearing? We have a spare MyKi at home which lives for months in the drawer and it works fine when we pull it out in an emergency.

@enno “What are people supposed to do, call in a sickie and go home and wait until tommorrow ?”

:-) No, just top up. It’s certainly an inconvenience but put on enough money to get you where you want to go (add $5) and then next time you’ll get the outstanding top-up. And your MyKi may not even be negative. Maybe you had $1 left, did an online topup, forgot about it, didn’t travel for a while, you get to the station, touch on, it works, you go negative, next time you touch on (hopefully) the outstanding topup is back.

It really is a very narrow use-case.

@enno I think you might need a Password Manager.

@Philip raises an interesting point. Storage is cheap.

It’s not free however, and more to the point it wasn’t seen as cheap enough circa 2006, when the system was being designed, to deploy lots of it to the ~20,000 devices required.

Other systems also have time limits on incomplete online transactions.

From a quick look:
Sydney Opal: 60 days (cite)
London Oyster: 9 days (cite)
Perth Smartrider: 2 weeks (cite)
SF Clipper: 6 months (and online load may take up to 5 days!) (cite)

I forgot to check the balance on the Myki we keep for our niece when we last took her out by tram. It went into the negative for her last trip of the day. Normally I would have topped it up online but I did know about this and I suspected it would be 3 months before we again had her here for a visit and would again use public transport, so I topped it up at a machine. But I shouldn’t have to.

We top up our Opal cards online before we visit Sydney and the credit is there as we board the train at the airport. There is never enough on them before topping them up for the train from the airport to Museum.

Reverse the situation by arriving at Melbourne Airport and catching a PTV bus, and you would be in trouble.

@Andrew, remember you can top up on a PTV bus. (Well, almost all of them. There’s a handful of prepaid stops/routes.)

There’s also a Myki machine at the airport… somewhere.

Yes, you can top up on buses in Victoria. I should have remembered that. If I had a dollar for every time some Victorian bogan holds up the bus while they put $5 on their myki, I’d have enough for a night out.

You don’t have that option in other places.

@Daneil, @Andrew, there’s a myki machine at the Virgin Australia arrivals at Melbourne Airport. I think there’s also one in the international terminal at arrivals but it’s been so long since I’ve been there that I’m not sure.

Perhaps what’s missing is a line that says “your existing balance is unaffected if you do not use your myki for 90 days” – only the *top up* is affected.

the myki machine at the airport is near the bottom of the split-level escalators linking the virgin baggage claim area on the ground floor to the virgin checking area on the upper floor. it is near a couple of atms. handy for me as I use virgin about 85% of the time. not handy or obvious to find if you are using the 901 bus.

@Peter – yes, there was previously a Myki machine in the international arrivals area, but building work has started in this area and the machine appears to have been removed.

If a myki is not used within 90 days of topping up online or via the call centre, the top up will be placed into a hold and take 24 hours to be available from the next time the myki is used or topped up.

Comments are closed.