Oh No! Another Opal Card, but Opal Activation is Broken!

The Concession Opal card saga continues. In the last chapter, my card was blocked from use and a new card was to be dispatched to me, by express post. This card would have to be activated and the credit from the old card will be transferred over automatically, or so I was told.

It Arrives!

With much anticipation, I was polling our post-box continually all day, waiting for the arrival of the packet that will be my “card” to freedom. It arrived, in a nice golden envelope.

express-env-front express-env-rear

Ever wondered why you pay more when you opt for the Express Post option when signing up for your Opal card? Well it’s not just the cost of postage! This envelope was hand addressed – showing you that some actual handiwork went into it.


It seems the letters are pre-done by the system, and someone might have had to pick it off the production line to manually address and envelope for those opting for express. That’s service! Because the DL envelope won’t stack into the other envelope, they had to fold the edge on the envelope – just another step in a complicated chain of production.


Nothing escapes my eyes – not even the rear of the envelope where they proclaim the use of 100% recycled materials. I’m sure that makes someone feel nice and green inside.

The difference between a regular pack and a replacement pack? That comes down to a much abbreviated letter on a regular paper stock, done by inkjet printing (as it seems is rather common recently for mail in my area, rather than lasered on form stock). The card is the same sort of card, no change in the print.


Time to Activate

Eager to get myself back on my (proverbial) feet, I started to activate via the online interface. This is done by logging into the Opal system, and entering the four digits after the lock symbol, as requested.


Sadly, I did this, to no avail. The site stalled for a few seconds, then dumped me right back to this screen. A card with no balance, that requires activation. I checked the number – it matches online, so I was mailed the right card.

Hmm. Well, maybe it activated. Lets wait an hour – the time it takes to collect the top-up, and see what it says.

An hour later … the same screen awaits me. A card that doesn’t activate … just my luck!

Picking up the Phone

Well, I suppose I might as well try phone activation then, on the presumption that there is a bug with the online activation. The card is plastered with a label with a free call number to activate – 1800 447 792. Being free is a big incentive for me to try it, as I get a chance to document the experience of phone activation, at no cost!

  • Activation Line Welcome
  • “Thank you for calling the Opal card activation line. Please enter your Opal card number – it’s the 16 digit number located on the back of your card.”
    • Note, they used the same phrase recording for the second sentence. I enter my real number, but the next sample is made with a sequence of numbers for illustrative purposes.
  • Confirm Opal Card Number
  • “Let me confirm the Opal card number you entered. One two three four, five six seven eight, nine zero one two, three four five six. If that’s correct, press 1. If not, press 2.”
    • I press 1, as it was correct.
  • Successfully Activated
  • “Just a moment while I activate your Opal card. Your Opal card has been successfully activated. The initial value that you nominated when you ordered your Opal card will be available within the next hour. This value will be loaded to your Opal card when you tap on at a reader. For more information on the terms of use, visit opal.com.au. Would you like to activate another Opal card? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.”
    • Note, the narrator sounds very excited that it was successfully activated. I press 2, as I am done.
  • Feel Free to Hang Up Now
  • “Please feel free to hang-up now, or I’ll take you back to the main menu. Please enter your Opal card number – it’s the 16 digit number located on the back of your card.”
    • Enter the number again to get to the Main Menu!?! No thanks! I hang up.

I’m done right? Wrong. An hour later, after the activation call, my status online is still in need of activation with a zero balance. For a system which is not in a trial phase, and is in regular production use, it certainly hasn’t treated me as nicely as I would have liked.

Picking Up the Phone Again

This time, I’ll have to pay another 25c to get to someone who might know something about this. Unfortunately, having prior experience with the system didn’t seem to help, because the system was insistent it was smarter than me. With the samples already recorded from the previous calls, I won’t bother re-presenting those here.

Lets just say, after I enter my Opal card number, it goes straight to the activation success message above, and continues to feel free to hang up now, with no indication of getting to a representative. I sure as hell didn’t want to call back, at another 25c cost, selecting no Opal card number to try and get around this.

Instead, I decided to act like a kid with a telephone. I bashed in an Opal card number of all zeroes and confirmed it … which resulted in the no record message.

“Sorry, but I couldn’t find your Opal card number in my records.”

It still wanted a card number, so lets try smashing on the # key instead. Bingo.

“Let me transfer you to someone who can help.”

Then, the line went silent for a whole 18 seconds. I suspect this was where the “Thank you for calling Opal Customer Care” transfer message was supposed to be played, but the system didn’t bother doing it for some reason. The line then rang, and was answered after a short hold.

The representative had a very low audio level from her side, with some glitchiness which appeared to be due to VoIP issues on their side (as Wireshark had no out of order or missing packets when reconstructed via RTP timestamps). Regardless, I did get an answer from the representative, and I quote:

“Okay, there’s actually, um, an issue with the system at this point. So what happens is, the card gets activated, but on the screen on our side and on your side it will not show activated. So, your card should be okay for you to use, it’s just that it won’t show you activated … We have to escalate that issue to the supervisor, there is a lot of cards that are having this issue.”

When asked whether there was an ETA to resolution, there was no information. As of now, over five hours after the saga began, the system still has not been fixed. I haven’t attempted to travel with my card, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t work …

It reminds me of this archived Opal.com.au failure on the night of 17th March, when I tried to log-in, just to be denied. The system is hardly the “shiny” Opal we were promised.



It seems I’ve walked out of a problem, only to walk right into another. I can’t say I enjoy this, as others might find this to be a bigger annoyance than I do. That being said, their customer care department seems to be doing a good job of keeping the phones answered quickly and meeting their promises, but their phone tree system needs a little de-bugging here and there.

The Opal system should have been out of trial after the phased Adult card introductions, and the system certainly is in production state, but the fact that I’ve had to call them up three times already is hardly what I expected. Again, it seems there were and are issues, but Opal have not done a good job of posting problems or disruptions to their site, and thus causing themselves and their users unnecessary frustration in seeking support to problems which they are already aware of. Maybe it’s a reluctance to publicly admit that the system is flawed – but it definitely is. Every system is. But if there is full transparency, and flaws are few and far between, it will win the user’s trust and confidence.


At 9.38am on 28th April (day after), I receive an e-mail about my enquiry which reads as follows:


At the present time, the card still shows as needing to be activated, although I suppose it is reassuring that they have “resolved the issue”. Lets see what happens in 24 hours.

About lui_gough

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2 Responses to Oh No! Another Opal Card, but Opal Activation is Broken!

  1. Pingback: Nothin’ but a tarnished Opal: Problems continue … | Gough's Tech Zone

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