Auckland commuter Marius Botha is relying on the co-operation of bus drivers to get to and from work after a $190 AT Hop card payment disappeared.
He has to show them his receipt, while they radio their depot to avoid delay-making arguments and approve his passage.
Mr Botha, an IT manager, arrived back from holiday to find that a Hop card he was issued last year was among a batch that Auckland Transport was unable to activate for the start of the new ticketing system on Ritchies buses from Sunday.
After queuing for a replacement card on Monday morning, making him late for work, he paid $190 for what the council body terms a monthly pass but which he fears may be only for four weeks.
Although he tagged on and off at the beginning and end of his trip to work from Albany to Fanshawe St, and got home again that night without incident, he was told when he tried to board a bus yesterday morning that his card was $10.08 in the red and he had to top it up.
"When I attempted to tag on, the system said I had insufficient funds," Mr Botha said.
"After a five-minute argument, I was allowed on to the bus - thank goodness I had proof I purchased a pass."
When he rang Auckland Transport's call centre, he was told he had to top up his card with $11 as it was "in negative balance and I won't be able to use it."
"But I refuse to pay $11 for the right to use a card for which I paid $190," he told the Herald.
He had an easier time catching his bus home last night, when the newspaper visited his stop to see him on his way.
Although the driver said it was not his problem, he radioed his base and gained permission to give Mr Botha a "free" ride home without holding up other passengers.
Auckland Transport operating officer Greg Edmonds said the organisation was looking into Mr Botha's problem "and we will deal with him directly".