Reading buses has smart cards suitable for occasional travellers, typically loaded with ten trips. They also have short-hop fares that are cheaper than the regular cash fares or regular smart card fares. Is there any way to pay for short-hop fares by smart card, or can those only be paid in cash?
An employee of Reading Buses answered my question:
Thank you for your enquiry regarding our smartcards.
If you are not a frequent traveller then you can opt for our E-Purse Card. It doesn’t save you money, however will save you having to keep looking for correct change. Can be topped up online, with the driver or the shop.
This can also be purchased online, or our Bus Shop in the Broad Street.
So, it does appear the answer is yes, with the special e-purse card. On a closer look, the e-purse card is described at their online shop page.
Presumably, you tell the bus driver upon entering to take only the short hop fare rather than the normal fare, if applicable.
Have you read the smart card information page from Reading buses? Your 'smart card' link in the question goes to the 'easysaver 10' (10 trip discount ticket) information page.
On the smart card info page in the section 'save money', they list which tickets you can top up the card with, namely 7, 30, 90 days or a yearly pass or the already mentioned 10 trip discount ticket, with each ticket covering a trip within the simplyReading zone.