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Smart city solutions

The most innovative step a tech company can take is to understand that innovation isn’t an end in itself, but a means to make the daily lives of real people and business partners easier and more secure.

Technology to Improve Lives

To bring this ideal to life, Mastercard built a framework to support an "open loop" contactless payment system for Sydney Ferries and Light Rail. It enables passengers to use their Mastercard like the current Opal card without being limited to one network, and turns a clever idea into a reality.

This is why Mastercard joined forces with Transport for NSW to bring contactless card payment to Sydney Ferries and Light Rail in an effort provide simpler access to public transport across Sydney. 

It’s an area with many potential rewards – any impact upon daily life needs to be taken seriously. Changes to public transport payments and travel times impact upon hundreds of thousands of people every day; they affect productivity, efficiency … and even the city’s mood.

Expanding Opal's Ease and Flexibility

Mastercard's initiative for Sydney's Ferries and Light Rail is a government-supported trial for a system to support the current "single-use" Opal ticket with a more flexible and versatile "many use" Mastercard. This could mean that commuters paying with a contactless Mastercard need queue to buy a ticket to use either mode of transport. 

Perfectly suited for international and interstate travelers, anyone in Sydney can use their Mastercard to tap on and off Sydney Ferries and Light Rail as with convenience and not have to purchase an Opal single ride ticket or understand the details of the fare system. 

In the initial trial period, card holders from more than 42 countries benefited from the solution. 

New Collaborations for Better Solutions

Mastercard are using innovative technology to make commuter’s lives easier. The goal is to add value to public transport in conjunction with the NSW Government.

“... part of the Government's focus on adapting the technologies of today to make the customer experience easier while testing ... technology for the future."

Innovation is about helping our collaborators reach their goals with better, faster, more-efficient and more-secure solutions.

“… anyone catching the ferry with Mastercard no longer needs to queue for a single Opal ticket and can simply tap … at the … gates,”

- Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Andrew Constance


Inside the Technology

Implementing contactless Mastercard payments on public transport means inventing solutions to overcome some technical challenges, such as the issue of payment speed hindering movement through the gates when tapping.

With thousands of commuters moving through the gates at peak periods, a payment transaction can't take the one or two seconds required for a standard retail contactless purchase. When large numbers of people are involved, the smallest of individual delays quickly expand into a major inconvenience.

Mastercard has international experience at solving such challenges. For example, while developing solutions for London's Oyster contactless payment system (essentially the same technology as Sydney's Opal), Mastercard found a way to leverage secure contactless payment technology, greatly speeding up the process.


“A coffee shop payment takes … 1-2 seconds … Mastercard had to reduce ... that to 400 milliseconds.”

Real Change for Real People

Whatever comes as a result, it will be to the advantage of the end user. In Mastercard's view and that of their ongoing tech partners, the technological innovation of contactless transport payment is but one kind of example.

Contactless Payment for Public Transport Frequently Asked Questions