Why do physically perfect myki cards fail?

I remember when myki first started in Melbourne in Jan 2010, and I started my @themykiuser twitter account, I'd often see people mention that their card "died" or was intermittently faulty.  My card(s) were always fine... I rarely, if ever had problems.  I figured they were doing something wrong or the card had been bent or somehow damaged.  I figured it was something that happened to someone else.

Until, of course, it happened to me.

I've had several myki cards for various reasons.  I ordered one in a stupid name (of course... didn't everyone?) that I won't repeat here.  I ordered one in my own name, with no name printed on it, with a monthly pass and some myki money.  I ordered another in my name with my name printed on it.

The one with no name became my main card, and worked basically flawlessly from Jan 2010 until Feb 2011.  In Feb 2011 I got a commuter Club yearly card via the PTUA (which also worked flawlessly).  I put my old main nameless card in the draw, and it wasn't touched from Feb 2011 to October 2011.

In October, spurred on by an expanding waistline, I decided to start riding to work.  I cashed in my commuter club yearly (another saga... the refund was initially calculated incorrectly, but I won't go into that now), and off I went on my bike.

Of course I would still use public transport on occasion, and so I reverted to my original main nameless card, which had sat dormant in a drawer for almost 8 months.

It was here that the problems began.  It started having problems at various readers (mainly train readers, and "frankenbarrier" hybrid myki/metcard gates).  Not always, but it steadily got worse.

Trams, curiously, seemed unaffected, though I did have problems on a couple of buses I tried, but I think everyone does on buses don't they?

Again, curiously, it had no problem whatsoever at actual myki machines, topping up the card was just fine, and still is.

Anyway, the failures at train readers grew, until this happened:

Never had this happen to me at a train reader before.  I figured it was probably time to retire this card.  I'd already bought a new one and had switched to it some weeks before and was keeping this one in my wallet as a spare but it's well beyond that now, wouldn't want to risk travelling on it again especially if Authorised Officers attempted to scan it, it may not read on those readers either (assuming of course they don't just glance at it and say "thanks").

So tonight, with a balance of $0.02 left on the card, I travelled home on the card one final time.  I didn't film the touch on at Melbourne Central Myki barriers but it took me several goes to get one to respond to me.  When I arrived home at Hawthorn, this is what happened:

As you can see, although most readers ignore it (I try four in this film) some still read it eventually.  The myki machine reads it just fine.

I'm convinced there's nothing physically wrong with the card, and that it's some software fault.  Remember, a myki is essentially just another form of data storage, like a floppy disk or a USB stick.  If the files become corrupted (as I suspect they are), it doesn't mean the medium as actually faulty.  With a disk or USB stick you would simply delete the files and start again.  Of course with myki it's not so simple and the only option is to take it and swap it for another card, which at the moment is inconvenient for many as there are only three places that do it at Southern Cross Station, Flinders Street Station, and the Metshop.

myki cards are meant to last four years if treated properly.  Other systems like gocard in Brisbane have ten year expiry periods, so they must be confident it will hold up.

Anyway I'm holding onto it as memorabilia (as stupid as that sounds), and will probably get it replaced when it expires in January 2014.  It's now in $3.26 in debit after tonights eventual touch-off.  I wonder what the procedure is for people requesting replacement of a card in debit?

Of course, the worst part is, that if myki are doing something about this, why don't they TELL us?  The worse thing about myki is not the card failures, it's not the overcharging,  it's not the fact it's taken years longer than it was meant to, or gone well over budget (though that's still pretty bad).

The main problem they have, is this head in the sand attitude to problems.  These issues aren't new, they've been happening since the beginning.  It would take one simple statement, perhaps a nice "service status" page on the myki website, which lists known bugs and problems.  Let people know that you empathise with them that you understand the problems they are having, and that you are actually working to fix them in an open and frank manner, rather than pretending that it's all okay.

One can simply hope things improve as the myki rollout continues, with people soon having no choice.

EDIT an addendum to this post.  I ended up getting this card replaced.  It took ten full working days, eg I handed the card and form in at Southern Cross myki Center on a Monday, and had the replacement card with the identical balance two weeks later on a Monday, though I think there was a public holiday in between.  The fact that they can not replace the card on the spot at Southern Cross (or anywhere), and that users needing a new card must replace it, usually at their own expense, with no compensation offered or even hinted at, is one of the many beauracratic failings of myki. 


  1. I agree with you about the need to acknowledge problems and communicate! I don't even want to think about the process to replace a card that is in debit...you'd have to promise them your first born or something! I haven't had this problem with my card. But it sounds like I will!

  2. None of my four(!) dead Mykis have had anything physically wrong with them. It's definitely a software issue - maddeningly, one that takes two weeks to resolve.

  3. I agree with you.. Had similar issues with my first card, which I got replaced.... but are slowly developing again with the replacement. Slow touch-ons/offs & causing the reader to go out-of-service are getting more common.

  4. My faulty card was detected by the system after about 8 months & I had a new one sent with transferred balance ready to use which was great... I used that one for awhile until I got my PTUA commuter club which has been good for over a year now... Fingers-crossed any new issue is auto-detected & corrected, probably wishful thinking!


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