Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

Many people have bought an ORCA card, put it aside, and found that their account was deactivated because it wasn’t used for 30 days.  Delia Johnson was one of those people, but she “Got Jesse,” who got some answers.  In the report, there’s some of the typical TV-news faux outrage, but it’s true that customer service hasn’t been a strong point of the ORCA experience.

I’m told the reason for the problem is all those ORCA readers out on buses.  They can only update when they’re back at base, so there’s some delay before account information makes it to all the buses.  Furthermore, there are some memory limitations on the system.  That’s all understandable.

What’s not understandable is why the training for the call center people is so atrocious.  A friend of mine had a similar problem with a deactivated ORCA card; when they called last month, she was told they would cut her a check for the balance.  When no such check came, she called again and was told  they’d simply add the balance to the card.

Also, fishing around for about 15 minutes on the ORCA card website did not turn up an answer for how this kind of problem is addressed.  It may very well be on there somewhere, but such a frequent problem ought to be prominently answered.

Anecdotally, lots of our commenters have shared instances where the call center folks haven’t known what they’re talking about.

While I’m on the subject of ORCA and customer service, I’d like to give a special booby prize to the man who was working the northernmost service window at the Metro Jackson St. Service Center on September 2nd at noon.  He left his window in mid-transaction to take a half-hour lunch break, without telling anyone where he was going or for how long.  The customer was stuck there, unable to retrieve her ID, during the entire episode.  You weren’t wearing a name tag, sir, so I don’t know who you are, but you give public employees everywhere a bad name.  I hope your supervisor is reading this.

92 Replies to “ORCA Card Customer Service”

  1. this is a more minor quibble, but the ORCA site itself doesn’t render properly in webkit based browsers [safari and google chrome] or in firefox. there’s overlapping text and input fields all over the place, which is very annoying. the site is still useable with some guesswork as to what field corresponds to which text, and careful reading of the overlapping text, but it is very annoying.

    you’d think that a public service like ORCA would have a site that adopts web standards beyond “works in internet explorer”.

      1. I just ran a few of their pages through an HTML validator – a number of mismatched tags. Standardly non-standard URLs. Clunky commenting mechanisms.

        Amateur hour – is there a QA process?

  2. This is only for right after a credit card re-load, right? With a balance “safely” on my card, is there any expiration if I don’t take a bus for six weeks?

    1. That’s right. Once the money has been transferred to your card the value does not expire.

      The only problem is with people who load their card through the website and then don’t use it for over 30 days. If you don’t tap your card at a reader within 30 days of loading it the transaction will be canceled. I don’t understand why someone would buy an ORCA card and then not use it for over a month. I think for most users this is a non-issue.

      I usually add value at a TVM to avoid the issues with the online system.

      1. I found that checking the value of your ORCA card on a TVM will “load” value purchased online – without the delay associated with the data download to buses. I presume that if you use your ORCA with LINK or Sounder readers it will “load” immediately also.

        The 30 day policy caught me too when I first got my ORCA. An email fixed the problem after 10 days which would be too long for most customers. This could have been avoided if the reason for the policy would have been made clear at the time of the online transaction. I found out the reason from postings on this blog – there is still nothing posted on the ORCA site.

        I spoke with a Sound Transit employee monitoring the Tukwila Link station yesterday before the football game who told me that there is going to be some kind of ORCA – Link event later this month. Maybe this will help clear up issues like these.

      2. The problem is bigger than this. I just moved back to my parents place in the boonies after a few years in DC. As a regular reader of the blog, before I returned, I bought an Orca card online, had it mailed to me, and added value 11 days before I flew back to Seattle. I showed up at Link and tried to tap in at a card reader (more than 48 hours but less than 30 days after I added value, so within the correct ‘window’), but the reader said my card had no balance. I had to wait in line at a TVM and add new value from scratch.

        My account online says that my original transaction (the money I added before I left DC) has been ‘pending’ for almost a month now, so I’m trying to have it refunded, since I’m not a commuter and probably won’t be punching in again in the next 30 days. I first tried to fix the problem by email, and got a brief reply saying ‘You used your card since you reported the problem [which I hadn’t, and even if I had, that’s unrelated to my original missing transaction], so the problem has been fixed. Thanks for using Orca.’ However, whatever idiot that replied to my email didn’t fix the problem at all. I called customer support directly, and the operator, who had no idea what he was doing, told me that he couldn’t fix the problem and that I’d have to go in person to a customer service center to get a refund from one of the Orca partner agencies rather than from Orca itself. Well, Orca customer support was wrong not to fix my problem, wrong to email me and tell me they had fixed it, and wrong to tell me the only way to solve it was to show up in person at a customer service center (cause I’m solving it right now over the phone with Everett Transit.) They seriously need some re-training and better supervision.

      3. I’m at 15 days, and three attempts…and my balance is still pending. I’ve given up completely on adding value online.

  3. early on in the life of the ORCA system, i tried calling customer service to figure out how one would make a transfer using one card to pay for multiple riders.

    did you announce the number of people to put on the card both at the first point of payment AND during the transfer, or could the transfer be made automatically without the driver doing anything special? i never did get an answer, after 15 minutes on the phone with customer service. they just didn’t seem trained.

    though that was very early on. maybe they are more familiar with the system now.

    1. That’s a good question; two of us went from the 550 to Link and only tapped the card once boarding Link – we weren’t about to pay extra!

      1. you have to tell the driver on the first bus how many you are paying for, he enters the number and you tap once.

        then when you transfer you do exactly the same thing with the second driver.

        it took a while for me to figure this out, due to the poor customer service staff, who initially suggested buying a new card for everyone who would be traveling with me.

  4. 30 days (or even 60 days, as the linked article says they are “working to improve the system” for) seems a ridiculously short period of time to freeze an account for inactivity. I would hope (though doubt is actually the case) that the same kind of laws that apply to gift cards and other pre-paid expense accounts like that would also apply here…a minimum of 12 months should be expected.

    “After 30 days, we have to clear that system out in order to keep it from getting bogged for the whole ORCA system to come to a grinding halt,” said Linda.

    Then the system is broken. If the computers are grinding to a halt by maintaining people’s balances for a whole month then the solution is to fix the computers, not freeze accounts.

    1. I totally agree. This probably violates some Washington law as well.. Gift cards can’t ever expire.. why should an orca (public transit) card expire??

      1. A slight correction on gift cards (off topic a bit, sorry) – Merchant issued gift cards cannot expire, but those bank/visa/mastercard issued cards from shopping center owners like Westfield and Simon may expire and may have service charges.

    2. I don’t think you understand the problem. There is no “freezing” of accounts due to inactivity. The problem occurs when a person adds value to their ORCA over the phone or through the website. In order to complete the transaction the person’s ORCA must be tapped at a reader within 30 days of adding value. If this doesn’t occur the transaction will be canceled and the value won’t be added to the card.

      Once your card has a value stored on it, it will not expire no matter how infrequently you use it.

      1. this is all due to the tiny on board memory on the bus. it’s hard to believe in a day when a 16gb SD card costs less then $20…

      2. The problem is that you don’t find out till the transaction has already been “canceled” – which means you’ve paid, but not been given credit for it. Canceling seems like it might imply a refund. They should say that you’ll get fined the amount you loaded if you don’t tap.

  5. I’ve had problems with customer service, but the most frustrating thing to me is how the website doesn’t give information about autoload on your card, just that the card is “Active”. It also takes a baffling 24-48 hours for money added online to appear on an e-purse. The website is also consistently slow. I’ve actually purchased a new card at Westlake instead of waiting for that.

  6. “Furthermore, there are some memory limitations on the system. That’s all understandable.”
    Understandable? Maybe. Acceptable, probably not. I agree with ABeyer…it sounds like they need to make some hardware upgrades sooner rather than later. I wonder if they’re running into funding issues?

    Also, there’s a link to an ORCA survey at :) Maybe some poor scores will lead to some extra funding and/or improvements.

  7. Speaking as a public employee, that bozo who left the customer waiting for half an hour so he could take his lunch break deserves to be fired.

    And don’t get me started on the ORCA website. It’s very much “mystery navigation” and not intuitive at all. On the front page there’s an area to click that says “Feed your ORCA card here”. You’d think that’s where you should go to add value via the website, right? Wrong. All that does is bring up a .pdf file of customer service locations where you can add value. What tells me that to add value NOW, I have to go to the strangely named “Have a Card”? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    1. that whole site is a gong show. it is very close to being really terrific but there’s just no polish. the features are good, but the execution is terrible.

      the system sorta feels like not much was solved during the testing stage. maybe they spent so much time fixing big problems that they never had time to address the small ones.

      1. I’m pretty sure that this is a testing period, at least for the part where people actually use ORCA cards. Those of us using them are “early adopters.”

      2. If it’s a testing period, it shouldn’t be mandatory. But it’s the only format available now for my employer-funded Puget Pass.

        Involuntary early adoption is a recipe for customer dissatisfaction.

      3. ORCA adoption by employers was based on when their existing contract with Metro etc. was up for renewal this summer. My employer sent us an email last month to let us know we’d be transitioning later this year because of this.

        So for employers it was a choice, but only in the sense of “adopt ORCA or stop offering passes as an employee benefit”.

        At least that’s my understanding.

    2. Agreed, although I leave open the possibility that the employee had some sort of intestinal distress or other legitimate emergency that may have warranted a quick departure. If that were the case he should have simply apologized for needing to leave and asked another employee to cover him. Either way, the employee didn’t handle the situation correctly.

      (I once had a bus full of angry passengers who could not understand why I wasn’t moving the bus despite being told multiple times that I was feeling very sick to my stomach – A VERY uncomfortable situation, I assure you)

  8. I have a TransLink card for the Bay Area I use about once a year when I go down there. Their card never expires, tap or no tap etc etc. As a matter of fact, if you load value and it is not showing yet, you can “Check Balance” at a TVM and it loads it and activates it for use on the spot! The technology exists…..I see no excuse. Because I live in Portland, I got one of these (ORCA) cards to replace tickets, but lately I have been buying paper day passes when i visit and have not used it yet, hence causing this problem for me.

    1. The Translink card and ORCA are exactly the same technology.

      And again, the value on your ORCA Does Not Expire.

      “As a matter of fact, if you load value and it is not showing yet, you can “Check Balance” at a TVM and it loads it and activates it for use on the spot!”

      You can use Sound Transit TVMs the same way.

      1. It’s frustrating for me that to solve some problems a TVM is really the best answer, when there are none on the ENTIRE eastside

      2. ORCA has only been out for a few months and hasn’t even been fully rolled out yet, give them some time. None of the problems are insurmountable.

      3. This is what they need in order to surmount the problems, though. I hope the editors can call the transit agencies’ attention to all of this feedback.

      4. In Translinks case, you don’t have to wait the 24 hours for it to show up, or “post” if you load it online, the TVM speeds that up, is that the same with STs TVMS? Or will it only “Post” it after the 24 hour period has passed?

      5. If you add value online, with ORCA or TransLink, there is a waiting period whether you tag your card at a reader or check the balance at a TVM. The only way to avoid the waiting period, AFAIK, is to add value at a TVM.

        From the TransLink website:

        “When you add value to your TransLink card either through the website (not through Autoload) or over the phone, it can take up to 72 hours for the value to be available to be loaded onto your card. Once the value is available, you must tag your card to a card reader in order to load the value. Your card balance will not be updated until you have tagged your card and loaded the value.”

        From the ORCA website:

        “If you add value to your card online or by phone, it takes approximately 24 hours for the transportation value to appear on your card. Your product may display as ‘pending’ until you tap your card on an ORCA card reader. You must tap your card within 30 days of purchase to activate a fare product.”

      6. Hello? is the ORCA card for bus riders or not? It’s the only way for an occasional rider to get transfers after Jan 1. Tapping it at TVM is not an option for people beginning their journey on a bus.

      7. Yes, of course! The ORCA card is for Metro, ST, CT, Pierce, Everett, Kitsap buses, Link and Sounder trains, and ferries. You see that ORCA reader near the farebox? Tap when you pay.

      8. It does now? A month ago, I tried loading money online at home then went to check balance at a TVM about an hour later and it didn’t do that for me.

        If the TVM doesn’t work you can also, at any Link or Sounder station, tap in and then immediately tap out at the same reader. The card will be updated and you don’t get charged as the trip will be canceled.

      9. There is still a 24hr waiting period if you add value online, even if you check your balance at a TVM. What I meant was that if you check your balance at a TVM it updates your card and loads any pending value, as long as the waiting period is over, just as if you had tapped your card on a reader.

        If you add value at a TVM, there is no waiting period.

        I’m starting to confuse myself now. I wish they’d update the website to make these things clearer.

  9. The website is truly terrible, never mind the rendering issues. It’s extremely unintuitive. There are so many questions that should be answered on that site – given this is a new system, there are bound to be a ton of FAQs, yet the FAQ is hardly detailed.

    1. I agree. For example, I’d like to order a card for the lady. I’m logged in and click “Order New Card”. Do I order a “registered card” or an “unregistered card”? What is the difference? My card is paid for by my employer. Obviously hers would not be.

      I *think* there might be an answer on their website to my question, but good luck finding it.

      I understand this is a complex system. You’ve got things like employeer provided passes being associated with your personal account–not an easy thing to manage. But still, what I want should either be easy to do (add a second card to the same account) or make it clear that what I want *cannot be done*.

    2. I love that it was called “FAQ” at the rollout in like March. How could the questions have been asked frequently already?

  10. I’ve had problems resetting my password on the website after forgetting it after 30 days consistently for 3 months. I’d always get locked out after the 3rd try.

    1. That happened to me and I called customer support. They reset my password in a minute after they asked for my ORCA card number and the answer to my security question.

  11. I saw a woman yesterday on the 358 hand her ORCA card to the operator. He promptly handed it back and pointed at the reader. She tapped it–barely–onto the reader 3 times and of course all 3 times it failed to read. Please, everyone, give this thing 250 ms to read and write to your card. Yes, it does need to write to your card.

  12. Again, we really need to convince ST to stop using the word “tap.” I don’t think it’s conveying the same meaning to the customers as it is for the engineers…

    1. Agreed!

      So why don’t the STB staff and readers put our collective heads together and come up with a single really good alternative word/term to tap and tag, and formally request that the Central Puget Sound Regional Fare Coordination Project (that would be the participating agencies) and the Sound Transit board change it?

      It would also be useful to find out where the term originated, and what term(s) other systems using smart cards use.

      And suggestions from linguistics profs and other folks working with semantics and symbols etc. could be particularly insightful.

      1. What’s wrong with the word tap? I think that’s a pretty accurate description of what a person needs to do with their ORCA card. You tap it to the ORCA reader. You don’t swipe it, wave it, or show it.

        And the last thing we need is a bunch of PhD’s over-thinking this this issue and coming up with a five dollar word where a fifty cent word will do.

        No, tap fits. It’s the correct word.

      2. No tap is not the right word. It implies instant. The ORCA reader is not instant. You really “hold” it.

      3. I’ve done a little research, and discovered that what we now tend to call RFID chips were originally called RFID tags. As Mickymse pointed out, it’s an engineering term co-opted for general use. (Sort of like software companies mislabeling typefaces as “fonts.”) I wasn’t able to track down the etymology of “tap.”

        Transport for London’s Oyster card (Cubic), uses the terms “touch in” and “touch out.” In addition, TfL provides the plain language instructions and graphics you’ll see in many European countries, and Oyster’s easy-to-use-and-navigate website has videos which cover every single aspect of the card. Washington’s SmarTrip (Cubic), confusingly uses two terms – “touch” for fare gates, and “tap” for readers on buses. New York/New Jersey’s SmartLink (Cubic), instructions its riders to “[p]lace the SmartLink Card against center of target.”

        Hong Kong’s Octopus card (ERG) describes the process as “touch & go.” Additional instructions say to “[DO h]old your Octopus steadily over a reader, and wait until there is an indication that the transaction is completed and the remaining value is shown on the screen before removing your Octopus.” And “[DON’T h]old your Octopus too quickly over a reader, which can lead to an incomplete transaction; in such cases, hold the same Octopus again over the reader until the transaction is completed.”

        Oslo’s Flexus (Ruter & Norges Statsbaner) says “All you need to do is hold the card up to the symbol on the card reader until the reader verif[ies] that the card is read with a [sound/tone/beep] and green light.” (Google translation, mostly.) Perth’s SmartRider (Transperth/Wayfarer Transit) says to “tag on” and “tag off.” Brisbane’s TransLink go card (TransLink/Cubic) uses “touch on” and “touch off.”

        So there you have it – a few of the terms used around the world.

        The Seattle Times‘ illustrated “How To Pay” guide for Link uses “tap” and also has an illustration that appears to show the edge of the card against the reader. I think the artist was trying to show that the card should be held in front of the ORCA logo on the readers, but this is also how I’m seeing a lot of folks “tap” the card when it isn’t initially read. Most bus drivers then tell the rider to hold the card in front of the reader until it beeps.

      4. Yup. This is what’s frustrating about ORCA: it’s falling foul of problems that have already been solved by several other cities.

    2. “Hold your card in front of the reader” is a much better phrase. “Tap” is cute, yes but is very very wrong. But you dont tap your orca card, you hold it. Hold implies waiting and you do have to wait for a good half second for it to do its magic. It isn’t at all like your door card which you do “tap” and have it work.

      Change the phrasing and maybe people will have less trouble.

    3. I think they’re hoping to use an ad campaign centered around the phrase “I’d tap that.” Something about the streetcar with that joke.

  13. I bought a card a month ago for my partner, who is an infrequent but interested light rail user. I registered it online and added money. The card reads as not active at all of the card readers on light rail. Assuming the card ever starts working properly, am I going to have to be worried about it expiring or going inactive because it only gets used once over other month or so?

  14. One time I got a printed ticket at the Columbia City Station TVM using my ORCA card and the printed ticket said “VOID” all over it, but I was definitely charged $2. The ST person who happened to be there told me I should buy another ticket, but I was hesitant to keep buying tickets like that, so I declined and got on the train. Onboard, I called ORCA customer service, but lost them in the Beacon Hill tunnel. A Metro driver sitting near me overheard the conversation and told me to just transfer to a bus with my “VOID” ticket and tell the driver to accept it… okay? Finally I got to Westlake, where an ST employee told me to go to the Metro customer stop, where I was told to talk to a supervisor, who told me to talk to the ST guy. Finally one of them just gave me $8 in paper bus tickets, which isn’t exactly what I was after, but it made me go away.

  15. @Matt:
    “Finally I got to Westlake, where an ST employee told me to go to the Metro customer stop, where I was told to talk to a supervisor, who told me to talk to the ST guy. Finally one of them just gave me $8 in paper bus tickets, which isn’t exactly what I was after, but it made me go away.”

    That’s what most major retailers will do when you complain far enough up the ladder. Bad service at the TVM, but 4x the value of your ticket for having persevered w/ the bureaucrats!

  16. I’m all for the eliminaton of paper transfers, as they are a major cause of fare evasion/fraud, however pushing everyone onto ORCA isnt quite the solution. Unfourtunatly, for such a technological system, better preprations need to be made especally for the occaional rider whom may otherwise get disenfrancised by the system and give it an overall bad name. One of the many problems is lack of ORCA addfare/vending machines at all major transfer centers/points. If Joe, whom rides the bus to seattle once or twice a month forgets to refill his card (and dosent like various auto load schemes) gets to the bus stop and finds he dosent have enough to cover the trip, he has to cover either the whole trip or part of it out of pocket. He also looses his transfer abilitys, until he can get to a spot with a TVM (which are now only at sounder and LINK stations), and may wind up paying for 2 or 3 connecting buses until he can arrive at such a point. He may be little bit upset.

    Also, for such a system 24/7 phone support is a must, and thats not happening either. When you are forcing people to use it for transfers, which while have problems do work 24/7 with ease, not being able to call someone if your card is having problems or whatnot is totally unacceptable. I dont think there’s an hour in the ORCA service area where theres probally not atleast ten or more buses on the road.

    It would also be nice to be able to pay at the farebox, and record the transfer on the ORCA card but that would be a little complex, although good for the occasional rider. If you are a regular rider/passholder the system is actually very very good for you. But when you start forcing it on people, and requiring them to use it to take advantage of transfers you better have the appropriate infrastructure in place to handle its activitys everywhere in the system on a 24/7 basis, otherwise you will have a lot of disenfrancised people, and probally wind up with some lawsuits on your hands.

    Now, once all the bugs are worked out of the system, it would be kinda neat to work with Vancouver, B.C., Portland, and Eugene, Ore, and smaller intermediate cities to be able to use the card’s built-in e-purse and transfer capabilitys to make travel along the Amtrak Cascades corridor easy and seamless.

  17. My account was reactivated with a 5-minute phone call (including hold time, and asking about the why the card needed to be used within 30 days). The next day, the correct balance was back in my account. I’m very pleased with the level of service; I wish everyone could have the same great experience that I’ve had.

  18. The Orca number for customer service on their website is terrible!!! These operators do not know how to read the Orca card transactions, and then they explain that they cannot help me with Orca card issues, since they only sell Orca cards. Then they transfer me to LightRail or Metro, which I do not understand. Please post the correct email and phone so I can get customer service on my Orca card. The Light Rail is still not charging me the correct amount for trips and I need this fixed. THANK YOU for your help!

  19. They should sent all US transit officials to Japan to learn how to run a transit system. Their’s is second to none!

  20. Let’s be clear — they are NOT cancelling deposits, since they still keep the money they took from your credit card. They are just stealing it from you if you don’t start using it within 30 days. And there are many occasional riders — like me — who want to keep an ORCA card but may not use it for a month after adding funds.

    I assumed 2 transactions hadn’t gone through for some reason and added more. Now they say I have to put all the funds on my card or request a refund in person and pay a processing fee for the refund.

    If a bank “expired” deposits because they weren’t used for 30 days, that would be considered a criminal act. So is this. I have filed a complaint with the attorney general. I also may try suing in small claims court — I’d love to hear an ORCA lawyer try to defend this practice.

    1. If you paided with a credit card initiate a charge back proceeding. After a few hundered of these, which include a hefty processing fee charged to the merchant, this problem might get fixed.

      1. Good idea — I just initiated a chargeback with Visa. I also recommended that Visa terminate their relationship with ORCA due to deceptive and unlawful practices.

      2. Well, that would not be cool, so I hope they don’t listen to your recommendation.

        On the other hand, if ORCA is violating their merchant agreement with Visa (which seems possible) I do hope Visa has some words with them and forces them to follow the agreement. But it would be very much NOT good for ORCA not to take Visa.

  21. To their credit, Sound Transit just called me to try to fix the problem — but all they can do is either put all the funds on my card (which I don’t want — I made 3 deposits because I thought the first two deposits hadn’t gone through) or cancel the card and send a refund. Not wanting either of those outcomes, I told them I would pursue the chargeback approach. I explained that their goal of increasing the time period to use the card before it expires to 60 days instead of 30 days would be only a modest help; they should instead assume that if you put money on your card, you intend to use it. She sounded sympathetic but not optimistic that this will happen soon. (I am hoping the attorney general will insist otherwise.)

    1. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just take the refund. When the retailer is giving you a refund, it isn’t really appropriate to do a chargeback. They are trying to give your money back.

      1. That’s true. If they offer you a refund then you have no basis for a chargeback. You can choose to not do business with them but you can’t use a chargeback to change their business model.

        This 30 day thing is a deal breaker for me. I want to get an ORCA card through work. The company is moving and although I ride my bike now about 95% of the time I anticipate that at the new location I’ll use a combination bike/bus/drive/bum-a-ride during the winter. But during the spring/summer/fall I could easily see a month not using the bus. If they can’t sort this out and cash is a hassle then I’ll just drive the day’s I don’t want to bike.

        I also want to get an ORCA card for out of town visitors. The 30 day deal puts the kibash on that too.

      2. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the 30 day expiration only happened if you didn’t tap the card on a reader within 30 days after loading, but if you do, then the rest of the total does not expire. So you load the card, tap within 30 days, then your balance will not go away even if you don’t use a bus for 6 weeks. That is how I understand it to work. So don’t load the card more than 30 days before first use and it should work OK.

      3. That’s a big question! If it’s true you just have to load and use within 30 days and then it’ll sit inactive but ready to use forever I’m good with that. If I have to use it once a month then that’s a deal breaker. The deal through work is I have to assign an amount to be deducted from my check every pay period. I don’t want that to go into a sink hole during the summer that I can’t recover. Could they possibly have made this any harder?

      4. Bernie,

        litlnemo is correct. The key is to use it once, although software is software and someone may have a counter-example.

      5. That’s good news indeed. It seems that it would be to the advantage of the system to have lots of stored money sitting inactive. They don’t have to send out a monthly statement so anything stored on an epurse is in effect an interest free loan. I’ll sign up at work and just make sure my balance isn’t so much that if it get’s frozen I’m out a big deal. Hopefully once I get the card I can find a way to load money other than payroll. Weird system.

      6. litlnemo’s right. The only time you have to worry about a time limit is when adding funds to your card online. Once you add funds using the online system your card must be tapped at a reader within 30 days to complete the transaction and transfer the funds to your card. If you don’t do this your funds will still be held in an account, but you’ll have to call customer service to get them transferred to your card.

        I usually don’t bother with the online system and add funds using a TVM. If you use a TVM your funds will be added to your card immediately. I know there aren’t any TVMs on the Eastside, but I heard that pretty soon you’ll be able to buy and service ORCA cards at places like Bartell’s.

      7. OK, let’s see if I’ve got this now. The problem with “frozen” funds occurs only with online transactions to put money on the card. This limitation exists not just the first time you activate your car put for all on line transactions. Although, it shouldn’t be a big deal since you’d have no reason to load funds unless you plan to use the car.

        So the question I have now is how are payroll deductions handled? Are they the same as an on line transaction? That would be more of a problem since you might not know how much you’re going to use the card or use it at all. Plus, making constant changes every pay period is a pain for both the user and for administration. It would be nice to come up with some average amount that feeds the card even over the summer where I wouldn’t likely use it at all. Or, if I’m able to access the card like a normal epurse I can just use the online payment for managing the balance. You lose the tax saving of having it pulled out directly but for me that’s not going to be a big amount.

      8. From what I’ve read it looks like you’ll be able to manage your work-provided ORCA card yourself through the website. You should be able to add value to your e-purse yourself instead of having your company do it. Are they providing you with a monthly pass? Or just a card with e-purse funds? Here’s the ORCA Business page, maybe there’ll be answers to your questions there;

      9. We actually have a choice of a pass or just e-purse. I ride my bike most of the time (although after our move in Feb. it’ll be less because of the ugly traffic route I’ll have to contend with). A pass wouldn’t pay for me. Whatever option you choose comes out of your check but it’s pre-tax so whatever you spend on the bus reduces your taxable income. But if I load the card myself that doesn’t apply. The 1040 would still show it as taxable income.

        From the link it also looks like if you turn in the card the total value minus an administrative fee is returned to the company. They don’t separate out what was loaded by the individual. Shouldn’t be a problem though since they’d know how much was refunded for which card but the payroll and tax BS might get a bit messy. My guess is it would all get added back to taxable income so you could end up having a taxable income greater than your salary.

        Oh, and it says this too:

        The Cardholder must take all reasonable care to prevent an ORCA Card from being defaced, altered, damaged, lost or stolen.

        So custom card graphics are a no no. I’m guessing this same stipulation applies to all cards?

        The Autoload feature looks like it would work for me. If I set up a credit card it will autoload a specified amount ($5-300 in five dollar increments) and it will do that up to five times per month. The transaction doesn’t happen until the E-purse balance is insufficient to pay the fare when you tap in. That avoids the 30 day foible and would have me covered between pay periods if I end up using it more than planned.

      10. Sounds like Autoload is the way to go for you. Hope it works out, I think ORCA is great, much better than messing with change and paper transfers.

      11. What’s the 30 day deal? Does that only happen when you add value to it online?

        I never had problems with it when I do everything in person. If you want a card for guests just go to a ticket machine and get a free card loaded with $5. Get two. You have instant gratification and avoid that poorly designed website (that needs to be fixed). Of course I commute downtown everyday so doing it online is more trouble than it’s worth.

        Here’s a workaround to avoid the online problems for infrequent users.

        First, if you don’t already have a card, order one online. Then load the minimum $5 and set up an Autoload on your card. Wait at least 24 hours and go to a Link or Sounder station, tap in, wait a few seconds, and tap out to cancel the trip (no charge to you). If getting to a station is inconvenient, board a bus once. That should add the $5 and Autoload to your card. That’s it. Funds added to your card with Autoload don’t expire after 30 days. I can confirm that. The last time I used my ORCA card was more than a month ago (I use my employer provided PugetPass) and my money is still there.

      12. Yes, the 30 day deal only happens when you add funds on-line. There’s the 24 hour or so delay between your card being charged, and the funds becoming “pending” on your online account. That’s when you have 30 days to tap and get the “pending” funds transferred to the epurse.

        If you use the Orca ticket machines to purchase funds, they do transfer on the spot. I imagine (but haven’t tested) that if you have pending funds, you could go to the ticket machine, and check your balance, and this would count as a “tap” without actually spending funds.

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