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.

Jay‏@hackerjay@oddnoc
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.

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