Was This Fare?


The other day at Newmarket, a train manager gave quite a telling off to a passenger who came on the train and tried to tender a $20 for the short ride to Britomart. She told him he should have bought a ticket at the Newmarket station. He said he had never noticed the ticket office there.

Unscientific survey but in the last few days I have noticed on buses a high percentage of passengers who do not use HOP hand over large bills.

You have to accept train managers and bus drivers do not carry enormous amounts of change.

A reader wants to know the policy.

Edwin writes to AKT:

“Yesterday I wasn’t allowed on two buses. It was a Midtown to Sandringham. a 243 and a 249.

I was in a rush and couldn’t get cash out from a dairy so had to get $20 from an atm and two buses were at the stop already.

The first bus the driver said he had already taken two $20 bills. Another bus was just behind him but again he wouldn’t take my money.

I was left behind to go find a dairy to buy something to get change and wait for another bus to come. I had to wait half an hour. I was just wondering if drivers are actually allowed to deny you like this?”

The official answer to your query, from Auckland Transport is:

“They should accept $20 but good message - use HOP and make it easy on yourself - on NZ Bus.”

So what’s fair? What do you think?




  1. Greg says:

    I’ve seen this quite a few times in Wellington. Drivers aren’t given much of a float and literally cannot give change for $20 on a single section first thing in the morning. If someone is short, they’ll often run to a bank machine and - quite often - be given $20s.

  2. Stranded on the North Shore says:

    Make cash fares double the Hop fares, and suddenly the problem with $20 bills will go away. Kiwis are thrifty and will always find the best deal, but if the savings are 5-15%, you might excuse some to think that it’s not worth the effort… Once you can pay with HOP for everything, it will really make sense to have a hop card.

    In Vancouver you can only pay with EXACT coinage, no notes accepted, and no change is given.

    In Hong Kong, there is simply no change given.

  3. Sam says:

    Agreed that in the event a $20 note is accepted the fare should be substantially higher, double perhaps.

    However a Busabout Pass is $10 so I think $20 should be expected & accepted for those. Most Hibiscus Coast services carry change for a $20 for Busabout & Discovery Passes.

    Also, most if not all the ATMs I use have $10 notes…

  4. Jim C says:

    I have a snapper card for when I’m in Wgtn. Its interesting to see the number with those cards just get on and off with problem. A customer got on at the terminal with a $20.00 note and asked for a city section. The change given was all in coins. That was I used to do on my later runs as a bus driver with WCT. That way when you cashed in at the end of your shift the counting of the money was a lot quicker.

  5. jimmy says:

    I think it’s fair enough. Go use your $20 note to buy a Hop card.
    Bus drivers shouldn’t have to compromise their safety by carrying large amounts of change just for your convenience.
    I like the idea of not giving change as well, suddenly the ride costs $20, and the usage of Hop will skyrocket.

  6. Matt says:

    Once HOP is rolled out across all modes and services, cash fares need to become very dramatically higher than the HOP fare. And not just by raising the cash fare, either, but by discounting heavily for HOP payments.

    Right now, 10-12% discount is so negligible as to nearly make it not worth the hassle of carrying around H&E card plus HOP plus train 10-trip. The 40% student discount is much better, but that should be the standard level of discounting for HOP with students getting a further discount (maybe another 20% off the base fare).

  7. Andrew says:

    Agreed. The difference between cash and non-cash payments needs to be greater, and I support a “no change given” policy.

    Auckland Transport currently issue a “Maximum Fare Schedule” which lists the highest prices a PT operator can charge. They should exempt cash payments from the MFS, or issue a Cash-MFS with higher limits.

  8. Andrew says:

    Oh and to answer the original question: The bus driver should accept the $20 if the passenger accepts the condition that he won’t get any change. The driver should point out that it may be cheaper to buy a HOP card - indeed, maybe the driver could carry a limited number of HOP cards with $10 value on the card, and the $20 could go to that.

  9. joust says:

    when I’ve used national bank atms I’ve usually been able to withdraw just $10, for other bank’s customers it might be worth the 50c fee if it means you can board a bus!

    I understand the point about whether they have to accept cash. Most of us would probably understand them not being able to change a $100 dollar note. Its probably a security thing too, bus drivers would be unsafe carrying large amounts of change. I think the response is reasonable - Hop makes it easier for everyone.

    The problem with people getting caught out without the right change is a symptom of using cards to pay for everything and as a consequence not having small change. I wonder if any of the dairies who wouldn’t give change would have been able to sell the passenger a Hop card?

    On a bus system I’ve been on overseas they didn’t have tag-off on the ticket card for buses - just a fixed fare for each bus route depending on its length. So if you pay using a card it debits the amount as you enter, or if you pay using cash it all goes straight into a locked box - no change - if you have to overpay to cover the fixed fare then that’s your choice on paying with the cash you’ve got available (the cash fare was actually slightly higher). The best way to avoid those problems was to use the card.

  10. Ben says:

    With the way the current system is it is not fare at all.

    Maybe if the bus prices weren’t so high this wouldn’t be a unfair situation. But 3 stages on a bus is one forth a $20 note, thats a significant proportion especially if your doing a round trip.

    You cant just have arbitrary rules set by bus drivers when they see fit, it will create pissed of (new) public transport users, who are not keen to use the transport system again.

    What is needed is a clear and well publicised policy, such as the “no change given” system. The most important factor is that consumers are well informed and understand what is required of them - or else your will just leave them alienated.

  11. Giel says:

    Well said Ben - I agree 100%. The current situation is ridiculous. If someone took them to the Commerce Commission or for that matter Consumers, Fair Go the operators wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

    AT needs to get this right with a clear policy - especially with the World Cup coming up. The time for Train ticket collectors and bus drivers to be rude to passengers for incorrect change is “Over” with a capital O. We know it can be hard on them but that is their job. Integrated ticketing is the time to get this policy right once and for all. The policy needs to be rolled out and be clear. But as it stands there is no direction and too much depends on whether the PT operator you get is in a good or bad mood as to whether they take you cash or not.

  12. tbird says:

    On the other hand, the drivers could just carry a decent float. Expecting change from a $20 is reasonable - it’s our most common ATM note.

    Then, instead of treating paying customers like shit, they could happily accept the fare and the customer could get on the bus without hassle.

    Seriously, bus drivers generally don’t have a reputation for being friendly, but if I was treated like this I’d complain. I’d let both the company and whatever council was paying the company subsidies know that I was unfairly treated. Then I’d never ever get a bus again.

  13. Matt says:

    tbird, a significant reason for bus drivers not carrying “a decent float” is that they get attacked, assaulted, and robbed when they do.

    I have absolutely no problem with bus companies putting the safety of their staff ahead of the convenience of their customers, especially when they are statutorily required to do their utmost to minimise the risks to their employees.

  14. Bryan says:

    If coke vending machines and carpark ticket machines can handle $20 notes (and produce change), why can’t buses be equipped with the same technology? Safer for the drivers, too, as the cash is locked away in the machine.

    Will the platform ticket vending machines accept notes, or will they only be debit/credit card or coins?

  15. Scott says:

    Brian, I think its likely we will get these machines: http://www.thalesgroup.com/Portfolio/Documents/tvm_a_pdf/?LangType=2057

    I don’t think auckland is quite ready for a no change given system yet, but, in a couple of years, when integrated ticketing is complete i think it should be rolled out on B-line routes, (i think NEX should have off-board ticketing only).

    When I was in hong kong coins where dropped under a glass plate and held there for the driver to count, before being dropped into a secure coin box. Such a system would massively reduce the risk of driver fraud, reduce cash handling time, and improve driver security. (I assume the driver does not have the key to the box). No change given would be a massive incentive to get a hop card.

  16. George D says:

    Geil’s right. ATMs have been handing out 20s for decades now. We should have had a simple card based ticketing system with dispensers. What will make or break this system is the availability of card sales and top-up machines. Limited, and we’ll have the same or worse problems, widespread, and everyone will be happy. Because it requires capital expenditure and uptake from retailers, there’s a worry.

  17. George D says:

    tbird, that’s one reason to catch the train. The staff are way friendlier and easier to deal with.

  18. Kris says:

    Greg is right, drivers is are not given much of a float usually $50 to $100 mostly in coins and small number of notes. The float can be gone very quickly especially if you a number of passengers giving $20 notes. I have been on buses in Wellington where the drivers had to go into shops to get change especially near terminus’s.

    Drivers I have known, prefer Hop/Snapper, passes or concession cards because of safety issues at terminus’s especially if the driver have alot of notes.

    From a passenger point of value whether you a regular traveller on in frequent traveller, you should have a Hop or Snapper card on you for that times if you need to catch a bus.

    Due to spread out nature of Auckland, Auckland needs to become Hop/Snapper savvy like Wellington.

  19. Steve says:

    IMO Once the Hop rollout is complete across all modes there needs to be some serious differentiation between cash and non-cash fares to encourage use of the latter, maybe increasing the differential to 50% or higher. The other thing that should be considered is not accepting cash fares/prepay only or correct change only during peak times to speed up boarding.

  20. Andrew J says:

    While I understand the “Float” problem, it is worth noting that you have presented legal tender which they are REQUIRED to accept, ie a bus driver cannot refuse your travel on the basis of having a banknote that he cannot issue change for.

    From the Reserve Bank Act 1989:

    Section 27: Legal tender

    (1) Every bank note issued, or deemed to be issued, under this Act shall be a legal tender for the amount expressed in the note.

    (2) A tender of payment of money, to the extent that it is made in coins issued, or deemed to be issued, under this Act, shall be a legal tender,—

    (a) in the case of coins of a denomination of $10 or more, for the payment of any amount:

    (b) in the case of coins of a denomination of $1 or more but less than $10, for the payment of any amount not exceeding $100:

    (c) in the case of coins of the denomination of 5 cents or more, but less than $1, for the payment of an amount not exceeding $5:

    (d) in the case of any coins of the denomination of less than 5 cents, for the payment of an amount not exceeding 20 cents.

    (3) The references to coins and bank notes in subsections (1) and (2) do not include references to coins and bank notes that have been called in.

  21. Malc says:

    Maybe they could put change machines in at the bigger bus stops or railway stations?

  22. aucklander says:

    Andrew J - That is fine quoting the Reserve Bank Act , but what happens when the driver’s float is depleted due to accepting so many $20 notes for very small fares.

    A driver doesn’t have the option like shopkeepers who are able to rush to the bank to get more change. It makes it hard for a driver especially if they are enroute.

    If they start carrying large floats the word will soon get out and their safety is then compromised.

  23. Andrew J says:

    Qaucklander, same as what happens on the trains, you take their money and tell them that you will give change when they disembark - ie they will come and see you. If you still cannot change the note, then you let them carry on. You LEGALLY cannot refuse carriage because of the note that a poassenger is carrying!

  24. Matt says:

    Andrew, that’s great, but all it means is that a $20 note is good to pay for $20 worth of goods/services, and the driver cannot refuse to accept it on the basis that it’s not worth $20. The RBA doesn’t, and nor should it, deal with the matter of tendering a sum greater than the value of the service and for which the vendor cannot supply change. That would be the province of the Fair Trading Act, if it’s the province of any legislation at all, but more likely it’s down to the simple law of contract - the driver is refusing the accept your offered consideration as they cannot offer services of the value for which you are paying.

  25. Lindy-lu says:

    Can’t wait till transport almagamate together. At the moment I carry and use:1x stage 10-trip train ticket/s; 2x stage 10-trip train ticket/s, an Urban bus card, a HOP card, also a Howick & Eastern bus card. When they become ’1′ it’ll make things easier (I’m hoping).

  26. Scott says:

    Andrew J, Im pretty sure legal tender is only required to be accepted when a sales contract is concluded, i.e. a restaurant meal has been eaten, and a debt is owed. In a situation such as a bus ride where payment is taken prior to the contract being formed I understand there is no obligation to accept legal tender.

    Take a look at the following: http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/research/bulletin/2007_2011/2007sep70_3mcbride.pdf

    As such I understand it is fully legal for a bus operator to refuse some denominations or even all cash.

  27. Alex says:

    There are absolutely two sides to this debate, however legally the bus operators are obliged to accept payment as a $20 (or even $50/$100 note) is legal tender. They cannot legally decline services on the basis that handling cash is inconvenient.

    There are ways around this such as accepting payment and giving change at the end of the trip etc.

  28. Rtc says:

    In other places I’ve seen that when paying with such a large amount that the passenger gets no change but rather an IOU from the bus that can then be used for subsequent trips. That way you can catch the bus but the driver doesn’t have to carry a thousand dollars with him/her the whole time.

  29. Andrew says:

    @Alex, sorry it seems you are wrong, see the comment immediately above yours.

    Is there any legal requirement for an operator to give change? I assume not, as I’ve seen vending machines that clearly say “no change given”.

  30. Matt says:

    Andrew, there’s probably some common law rule but it’s unlikely that there’s statute law on the giving of change. It’s the kind of thing that is based on centuries of tradition.

  31. Richard says:

    Why not just have the machine print a voucher for the change that they can then redeem onto a hop card or something?

    And no ATM I have used since highschool has given out $10s. Just 50′s and 20′s with the odd one doing 20′s only.

    When its $4.50 for most trips anywhere I dont think a $20 is unreasonable since thats just 3 other peoples fares and a little more for change.

    And the reserve bank act only applies to debts that already exist, so if you were paying on disembarking etc then you would have a case, but they can refuse service for any reason that doesnt fall foul of the antidiscrimination laws.

  32. Andrew J says:

    What is Auckland Transport’s, or indeed NZ Bus’ official view on this? Has anybody bothered to ask?

  33. AKT says:

    @Andrew J I asked both NZ Bus and AT. If you read the end of the post if provides the extent of the answer they gave.

  34. AKT says:

    NZ Bus has replied:

    We try to encourage people to board with correct change or close to it to improve boarding times. In the situation you describe below, the driver should have handled the situation in the following way;

    · Issue your fare ticket and take the note

    · Ask you to come and see them at the end of their trip to see if they can then provide the correct change


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