By Julian Bajkowski

The Queensland government has called for expressions of interest for a technological fix to allow retailers to reload the state’s public transport smartcards using the same ‘contactless’ payments terminals consumers now use to make so-called ‘tap-and-go’ purchases.

The call for expressions of interest comes as the state government attempts to increase the number of merchants offering reload facilities to make it easier for commuters to charge-up their electronic tickets rather than facing fines.

A barrier to merchants taking on the smart-ticket reload facilities is that they have so far needed a costly separate ‘go card’ terminal – rather than using the same terminal that they use for tap-and-go credit and debit transactions.

Merchant uptake is a critical issue in transport ticketing smartcard deployments because without critical mass, it becomes more difficult for travellers to top-up credit needed to make journeys without risking being caught short.

“I believe the technology is now available to allow go cards to be topped up through existing electronic payment methods,” Queensland Transport Minister Scott Emerson said.

“We will go out to tender for a next generation retail contract that could potentially see go cards integrated with supermarkets, grocery chains, petrol stations, newsagents or additional convenience stores.”

The government is trying to persuade merchants that taking-on the new technology is worthwhile and is pointing to the potential for increased incentives for commuters to shop at their locations if they know they can charge-up their tickets.

“It’s an attractive proposition with the commercial benefit to retailers of additional foot traffic generated by more than 40,000 go card top-ups daily,” Mr Emerson said.

The use of contactless payment cards has increased substantially over the past year after Coles and Woolworths both added the technology to checkouts at their stores – even though both retailers are stakeholders in the rival local Eftpos network.

Many fuel retailers – which have either forged partnerships with supermarket and convenience store chains or opened their own fuel businesses   have also deployed contactless card terminals.

However fuel retailers have been hesitant to deploy the contactless payment technology upon actual fuel pumps because it would mean purchasers would not have as much reason to enter the mini-marts that are often an integral part of petrol stations and generate substantial profits additional to lower-margin fuel sales.

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