Nearly $200m on Myki cards

Funds held on Myki cards have been steadily increasing, much on expired cards.

It’s 2022-23 annual report time for state government organisations, and apart from checking the patronage and fare revenue data, it’s also worth checking the Department of Planning and Transport number for how much they’re holding on Myki cards.

This year: $197.5 million. Wow.

The Age has a story here:
The myki money you could be giving the government for nothing

I checked previous years, and this has been climbing steadily for a while.

Chart showing Myki cardholder funds held by the government, 2014-2023

(2013 was the first year Myki was fully operational)

As I understand it, this is a net amount. Some abandoned cards are at a negative balance, and I’ve heard this could be up to about $50m. Which means the total amount held is probably much higher, closer to $250m.

The Age report says about half the money (so about $100m) is on cards not used in the past 12 months. And half of those cards (so presumably about $50m) have not used in the past four years – so it’s unlikely people will ever find/use/get refunds on that money.

(In January 2023, the Herald Sun reported that $104.7m was on expired or inactive cards, and in February 2020 Channel 9 reported it was $80m.)

UPDATE: As of April 2024, the Herald Sun reports it’s now $113m.

Why has the total on Myki cards climbed as high as $197 million? The most likely explanation is that people (especially occasional users) often buy another card when the old one has expired – or they can’t find the card and they need to travel. This has accumulated over a decade.

I’m one of those people. I checked my Myki online account. Apart from the card I’m using, I have two others, with $6.19 and $0.50 on them. Neither have expired yet, but I don’t actually know where they are. Now I have to try to find them!

Buying a Myki: Top up Myki Money or Myki Pass?

Any way you look at it, $197 million is a lot of money.

For comparison, Qantas has a major scandal due to $520 million of unredeemed flight credits. And that’s where they know exactly who owns those credits.

The government should make every effort to return unused card balances to the owners.

The four year expiry of Myki cards has no doubt contributed to this situation. They’ve recently made it possible to extend card life by two years by scanning the card at a Myki vending machine or using the PTV app, or over the counter – which should help – but not a lot of people know about it.

If the next iteration of Myki further extends card expiries, that will help. And of course the option of fare payments via bank-issued cards (including on phones) will help even more.

Want to know more about coming Myki upgrades? At the PTUA’s Annual General Meeting next week there’ll be a presentation and Q+A from the new ticketing operator. To find out how to join and attend, check the details here.

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.

11 replies on “Nearly $200m on Myki cards”

I have one sitting in my account from 10 years ago that is blocked – says it has a positive balance but just tried to transfer online and couldn’t submit for a blocked card. But it might not actually have a balance because I’m sure at the time any balance would’ve been transferred over – but it was in the early days when they did stupid things like block your Myki when transactions failed and you needed to turn up to Southern Cross to fix it.

I might call the contact centre just to make sure I’m not contributing $18 to the $200mil!

If you have registered the card for automatic payment you can have the balance transferred to another card. It’s a bit of a pain but can be done.

Fascinating article, Daniel. That is a lot of money!
I recall when I changed from full fare to Seniors myki I needed to go to Spencer St and present my old card. I filled in a form and they transferred the funds to my new card. It took a few weeks. I wasn’t able to transfer the $ online myself or at a Premium station.

I have a couple of old miki cards but we live 2 hours out of Melbourne and the only place that transfers expired cards is Southern Cross Station need to authorise major stations in the country to be able to make this happen – Jeff

The cynic in me suggests that there is a disincentive for the government to enable credit card payment as an alternative to Myki, simply for the amount of forgone interest on funds held.

Prompted by this article, I used the PTV app to transfer money ($8.98) from a registered concession Myki to a full fare registered card.

Very easy process, only downside i(if you can call it that) is that the card I’ve transferred the money from is now blocked.

Of course this was a ‘feature’ of the short card expiry! Absolutely no other reason why Myki cards would have such short expiry compared to any other of these types of cards

I lost a small fortune (~$40 iirc) on a concession card in 2013 because the powers that be decided it impossible to transfer that balance to a regular myki. I first tried online, which did not support it. I then tried a staffed station, who suggested the myki hub in Southern Cross, a 90 minute round trip. At Southern Cross, yhey informed me that they lacked the correct form for doing so and that I should write to the department of transport. The department only replied with a form letter, suggesting it could be done at a staffed station or the Myki hub. The entire system is just a form of price discrimination designed to take from the unwary, rural people, international students and tourists.

@Jeff 2 hours out of Melbourne I assume is a V/Line station. Question is whether it is staffed and whether it uses paper ticket or myki? I know staffed metropolitan stations can replace the cards with balance transfer to the new one, never tried at a staffed, myki V/Line station.

The unused balance you’re referring to is their float, and they are perpetually accruing interest on that value in that account.

Once a Myki card expires, the balance “breaks” (commonly referred to as breakage), and DPT can declare that as profit, free and clear. Breakage is a significant profit driver for gift card/stored value programs.

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