Clipper autoload is broken

Fred C. ‏@oddnoc
Dammit. Just remembered my Clipper card is empty. And don’t tell me to use autoload. That system is shamefully broken.

How is the autoload system broken? I’ve been using it for a couple of years and haven’t seen any problems. Is it a security issue?

Through my employer, I can fund my transit expenses with pre-tax funds. This is done through WageWorks, which does a great job. The money goes into an account that’s accessed via a specialized MasterCard.

I had linked the MasterCard number to my Clipper card for autoload (actually, it’s one of the old, Translink-branded ones). Whenever the value of the card falls below $10, autoload is supposed to add a user-definable increment to the card. Here’s how it works:

  1. Have $11 on the card
  2. Ride Muni, reducing the card value to $9
  3. Autoload kicks in, incrementing the value of the card to, say $29
  4. Clipper attempts to charge the linked account, which at the moment, has, say, $19.95 in it
  5. Oh no! Insufficent funds!
  6. Clipper card, including the legitimate $9, is blocked
  7. No more transit for you!

Why don’t they swap steps 3 & 4?

The last time this happened, the Clipper customer service representative admitted how broken this is, and advised never using autoload with a commuter debit card, and so I don’t.