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The Presto fare card is a contactless public-transit fare-payment smart card issued in various big cities in Ontario, Canada. These cities include Toronto, Ottawa, and others. You wave the card in front of a reader in order to pay your fare.

The Presto card's automatic-recharge features are called "Autoload" and "Period Pass Autorenew". These features will periodically refill your Presto card using your credit or debit card. You can enable Autoload in either of two ways:

  1. Online.

  2. Or by mail.

In order to set up Autoload, you will have to make various choices. Which decisions should you make, and why? And what else should you know?

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    A) Is there any problem with this question? B) Is there any way in which I can improve it, in order to make it better? – unforgettableid Aug 9 '16 at 18:46
  • I would argue that this is a broad question potentially only applicable to the isolated locale of Canana, but it is otherwise a decent question. – Sean Duggan Aug 9 '16 at 19:07
  • Thank you for the reassurance. Still: Canada has a population of about 35 million people, and shares 5,000 miles (9,000 kilometers) of border with the US. Is Canada really an "isolated locale"? – unforgettableid Aug 9 '16 at 19:08
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    @unforgettableid This is not applicable to Canada, this is applicable only to the GTA + a small other portion of Ontarians. Contrary to general opinion, Toronto is not the centre of the universe... – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Aug 9 '16 at 21:38
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    90% of this is relevant to any auto reload system such as most transit systems, Starbucks, E-Z pass. If the part that was only applicable to this specific system were removed, the question and answer would be usable by more people. – mhoran_psprep Aug 14 '16 at 11:21
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TL;DR: I have five main suggestions. They are in bold, below. The rest is mostly commentary.

The Presto system has some quirks. The system has also had problems in the past.

1. Set up Autoload using a credit card. If there are any system foul-ups, this may help to protect you.

If you have Autoload-related problems, phone Presto. If they don't help, phone your credit-card issuer.

If the Presto system attempts repeated unjustified Autoloads, as it has done to others, you won't be hit with $150 of NSF fees.

If you do use a debit card and have problems, the money will already be missing. You can phone Presto; you can phone your bank; you can contact the BBB; you can file an Ontario Ombudsman complaint against Metrolinx; or you can go to small-claims court. But these options might not help.

2. If you only have a debit card, it may be unwise to set up Autoload.

Debit-card Autoload and Period Pass Autorenew are convenient, but carry risks. (See above.) You can live without them.

3. It may be wisest to choose a threshold of $20 or more.

Autoloads are supposed to be processed instantly and automatically, with no 24-hour delay. Recent system changes have made it possible to choose a threshold of $5, but that doesn't mean you should. There are rare cases, including credit-card expiry, credit-card failure, and others, in which a $5 threshold Autoload can fail.

If you can afford to set a threshold of $20, consider doing so. If you use GO Transit daily, you may want to choose a threshold which is even higher.

4. Don't choose an Autoload amount over $50 unless you use GO Transit.

Presto refunds are a hassle. Refunds over $50 are a big hassle. Don't keep hundreds of dollars on your card unless you use GO Transit daily.

If you ever decide to stop using Presto: Use up most of the money on your card, then give it away to a trusted friend or relative.

5. Know that Autoload may not work correctly if your card starts out below the threshold.

If your card has $3 on it, and you set up Autoload, the card may or may not reload itself. If Autoload fails to work, your card may eventually end up in overdraft, and you may need to schlep to a customer service office to get it unblocked. It's silly.

If you enable Autoload on a Presto card which is below your chosen threshold, watch your balance. See whether Autoload actually succeeds or not. (The Presto website isn't always up-to-date. You may want to instead use a balance-checking machine or a self-serve reload machine to check your balance.) Then please click this link and tell us what happened.

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I have an Auto load setting of loading for $20 if the value falls below $5. Remember this is a good option because as Presto says it will never allow your card to fall below the threshold value. And also the reload is realtime with no delay. So with this situation even if you travel multiple times on a given day it will never fail and you are also having optimum value in your card(not having huge amount in your card). You dont want your card to have huge value and if you lose it by any chance or are not going to use the card in near future that amount is blocked or prone to misuse.

  • Good point. Autoloads are automatic and always happen instantly. If you have Autoload enabled, your card is lost or stolen, and someone else finds it, he and all his friends will be able to use it for unlimited travel (at your expense) for a while. A return GO bus or train trip between Toronto and Niagara Falls costs $33.30 per person. Your credit or debit card will be charged automatically. Even after you report your Presto card as lost, it may take up to 24 hours for the system to block the card. – unforgettableid Oct 28 '16 at 17:10

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