A Tale of Two Smartcards

When theory meets practice, who wins? Will it ever be the poor customer?

My Saturday lunchtime involved two important tasks, both involving smartcard replacement.

Earlier this week, my Pink MCard failed again on an Arriva bus.

So off I trotted to Leeds Bus Station Travel Centre, where they were queueing out of the door (or they would have been, had they not been automatic doors. We all squeezed inside instead).

I reckon the problem is because my card had a weekly all-zones MCard product on it when I got it (when I left WYCA in October 2016, and they took my Annual MCard off me) and it sometimes confuses the ticket machines into thinking that the card has expired. However, with 20 or so people behind me I didn’t feel like having that conversation when I reached the front, 15 minutes later.

I handed my card over and explained the problem, and was offered a new card free of charge as I’d registered it. There’s still one MetroDay ticket on the card though – can it be transferred across to the new card? Yes, says everyone involved.

Computer says no.

So now I have one new Pink MCard to replace the original, with five new MetroDay tickets on it (I was there, it made sense to get some more); and another Pink MCard with one MetroDay ticket on it as a replacement for the one stuck on the old card.

And, even though all of these cards are registered, there’s no way to find out what products are on which card. There’s an app, but only for Android phones (Apple don’t allow others to access the NFC chip). I have no idea why the MCard website doesn’t let me see how many MetroDay tickets I have left. That’s why I buy them in fives; buying in 10s would save me £1 overall but we know I’d lose count.

The other shoe…

Just before Christmas my 20-year-old Boots Advantage Card finally expired. That was when I discovered that I hadn’t updated my account since I’d taken the card out; so I updated my email address and then tried to update my address (two moves out of date), verifying the change by entering the last three digits on my card.

Computer says no. My ancient card has nine digits, the system was expecting a 19-digit card number to parse the check digit from.

Which meant my replacement card would go to the wrong address…

But it’s okay, there’s a phone number to call… except I couldn’t get past the automated system as I didn’t have a card number and I hadn’t put my date of birth in when I registered the card. So, another tweet.

On my way home from the bus station I called in at the Boots at Leeds Station. No queue, for once. Nice man swiped my card, which had already got the points from my old account transferred across when it arrived, then swiped my receipt from last month to add on the points I hadn’t yet collected. Total time taken, under 15 seconds. And I can see the points on my account on the website.

These are two relatively minor issues (unless they happen to be your cards, of course), but there are moves to introduce smartcard ticketing to the railway. How that will work is anyone’s guess; a season ticket is easy enough, but will I be able to use the same card to hold my occasional London trip tickets? In theory I could get a (cheaper) South Yorkshire smartcard and top it up with West Yorkshire tickets, they both use ITSO. Oyster gates should be able to read ITSO cards as well; could I replace an Oyster card with an ITSO one?

The bigger question, of course, is: will either of the new MCards work perfectly every time on Arriva’s buses? Time will tell.

  1. And why would I? What’s my date of birth got to do with collecting points?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.