CityRail coin sneakyness


CityRail ticketing machine at Bardwell Park

Have you ever tried to pay for CityRail trains with coins? Got bitten by that ridiculous ten coin limit? Here’s how to game the system :)

Schadey talks about Schrapnel

We all have experience with emptying our wallets of schrapnel to pay for beverages from vending machines or museli from managers named Bevan. I knew a guy called Bevan in Singapore, he lived in Clementi. I always got weird looks whenever I arrived at that "heartland" station!

Wait, I’m supposed to be talking about Sydney trains! So we all have experience with getting rid of loose change with vending machines, but those sneaky CityRail ticket vending machines were designed with an arbitrary ten coin limit. This is particularly irritating given Australian coins are as massive as hockey pucks and a billion times heavier. Roughly speaking.

I had a brainstorming session with a guy from uni as to why this might be.

  • They take a comparitave hit in fees despositing coins compared to banknotes and want to encourage the latter
  • Coins are heavy!
  • They want to discourage people from buying tickets so they can catch you out and fine you for a substantially larger amount.
  • They’re cheapskates

You can get rid of schrapnel though!

The good news is, during a particularly dull train trip where I’d left my headphones at home, I calculated how we can get rid of as many low denomination coins as possible while still paying the fare in ten or less coins.

Getting rid of as many 50c coins as possible, with 10c change:

$1   50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c
$2           50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c 50c

Getting rid of as many 20c pieces as possible:

$2 $1 $1     20c 20c 20c 20c 20c 20c 20c
$2 $2        20c 20c 20c 20c 20c 20c 20c

Getting rid of as many 10c pieces as possible:

$2 $2 50c 20c 20c    10c 10c 10c 10c 10c
$5 (banknote)            10c 10c 10c 10c
$2 $2 $1                 10c 10c 10c 10c
$2 $2 50c 50c            10c 10c 10c 10c
$2 $1 $1 $1              10c 10c 10c 10c
$2 $1 50c 50c 50c 50c    10c 10c 10c 10c
$1 $1 $1 $1 $1           10c 10c 10c 10c
$1 $1 $1 $1 50c 50c      10c 10c 10c 10c

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of combinations, but it gives you an idea. I also didn’t bother with combinations of 20c and 10c coins that give change, as it would defeat our stated purpose of getting rid of coins!

Unfortunately to get us under or on the ten coin limit we have no choice but to use some high value ones. Still, even with combinations that use lots of $2 coins we’re still getting rid of a lot of schrapnel as well.


  • Take your coins to the bank and sort them into little bags. Wastes a lot of time, but will give you folding money to use instead
  • For a cut of what you have, Woolies will also take your coins and give you folding money to use.
  • Give your coins to charity and stop being so stingy
  • Melt and cast your coins into a sword to ward off ticket inspectors

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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