Oyster Card / FAQ London Underground Oyster card

Home | Ticket Machines | Videos | Payments | Fares Opens in new window | Equipment | FAQ | Vocabulary | Links | Search

Oyster card helpline 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, daily)

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions that I hope will help you understand the Oyster card better. There is a fair amount of questions that overlap perhaps, but that will give you a more multifaceted understanding of the issues with the Oyster card.

All that really matters is that you touch in and out for every journey when you travel with Pay As You Go.
All other Oyster card products (Travelcard, Bus & Tram Pass) are hassle free.

Go to   General Questions |   Pay As You Go   |   Travelcard   |   Bus & Tram Pass

General Questions

G1 What is an Oyster card?

It is a plastic "smartcard"; a form of electronic ticketing introduced by Transport for London (TfL) in 2003 to replace the traditional paper ticket. It looks like a credit card and you can use it for travel after loading it with a season ticket (Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard) or prepaid credit (Pay As You Go / PAYG) for single journeys.

G2 Why is it called Oyster card?

Ultimately it is perhaps just a catchy name. Why does anyone call a bank Egg or Smile, for example? Or maybe it just follows the aquatic theme set by Hong Kong when they launched their Octopus Card in 1997. On the other hand in Tokyo they have a Suica card (Water melon). In both cases these names are full of local symbolic significance. Ours may simply be inspired by the saying "the world is your oyster."

G3 What is the advantage of having an Oyster card?

It is a lot cheaper for single journeys and quicker to use through the gate. And as it never leaves your hand it is harder to lose it in the bustle at the gates. With Pay As You Go you can also pay in advance for single or multiple journeys and cut out queueing time. You can also register the card for free to protect it against loss or theft.

G4 What kind of products can I have on an Oyster card?

You can have Pay As You Go (PAYG/Prepay) for single or multiple journeys, a Bus & Tram Pass (valid for bus and tram only) or Travelcard (valid for all public transport), for a period of one week, one month or any period up to one year. You can also combine these tickets simultaneously to your own advantage (learn more here).

G5 Do I have to pay anything for the Oyster card itself?

No, the card is free, but you have to pay a £5.00 refundable deposit for it. The deposit itself can not be used for travel. This deposit and any remaining credit can be instantly refunded when you have finished travelling. Be aware that there are some exceptions to this.

G6 Is there a special Oyster card for tourists?

Yes, it is called an Oyster Visitor card, but it is restricted to Pay As You Go (Prepay) only. You pay a £3 charge for the Visitor card, which can be bought with £10.00, £20.00 or £40.00 prepaid credit on it.

If you stay for four days or longer in London it would probably be better to use a regular Oyster card on which you can add a weekly Travelcard. Buying an Oyster card at a Tube station takes less than a minute. You pay nothing at all for the regular Oyster card, apart from a £5.00 refundable deposit.

Based on the information above, beware of sharks trying to sell you Visitor Oyster cards when you stay in London for more than four days. Also do not accept Visitor Oyster cards for your children, as they will then be paying adult rate. Instead you can buy them an offpeak dayticket for less than the cost of two journeys with the Visitor Oyster card.

G7 Can I use my Oyster card right away when I buy it?

Yes, after adding credit (topping up) or a season ticket (Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard).

G8 How long is the Oyster card itself valid?

It has no expiry date. Even after years away from London your Oyster card is ready to be used immediately. Just put some money or a season ticket on it and you are ready. Any Pay As You Go (Prepay) credit you leave on the card will be there when you use it for travel next time.

G9 Where can I use an Oyster card to travel?

It can be used with Prepay / Pay As You Go or a Travelcard on all public transport - London Underground/the Tube, Bus, Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway/DLR, London Overground, National Rail/NR in the Underground zones and on the Thames Clipper riverboat (PAYG only). A Bus & Tram Pass can only be used on buses and trams.

G10 Do I have to take the Oyster card out of the wallet to touch in or out?

No, it will work through the wallet, even if it is fully closed.

G11 Does anything affect the Oyster card being read at the gate or ticket machine?

Yes, other smartcards (various swipe cards, ID cards, etc.) interfere with the radio wave communication. If you keep two or more Oyster cards together, with Pay As You Go, it may not work at all or it could end up reading one card on entry and another on exit, giving you two incomplete journeys costing twice the maximum fare.

G12 Can I use the £5.00 deposit on the card to travel with?

No, it is not a credit. It is a deposit, intended to make sure you will look after your card even if it has no credit on it. But after cashing in the deposit you can of course travel with the credit you are given.

G13 How do I use the Oyster card to travel?

Think of your Oyster card as your passport to travel and think of the gate you go through as passport control. In order to enter the Tube, DLR, London Overground or National Rail you need to touch your Oyster card on a yellow reader on top of the gate. The Oyster card then decided whether you are entitled to travel.

The Oyster card is programmed to open the gate only once, so your Pay As You Go you will only be charged once.

On the bus you only touch once, as you board, next to the driver. On the tram you touch - again only once - on a yellow reader on the platform before entering the tram.

G14 What actually happens when I touch the Oyster card on the yellow reader?

When you touch an Oyster card on a yellow reader up to five different processes take place. Information kept on your card is sent electronically to a remote server where a database decides whether the card is hotlisted or blacklisted, it will calculate the fare and whether any refund is due, etc. Once all checks are positively completed the gate opens. This explains why it can be bit slow to read sometimes. Take a closer look at what happens if you have Pay As You Go when you touch in/out.

G15 Where buy can I buy an Oyster card in London?

You can buy the regular Oyster card at Tube and London Overground stations, some National Rail stations, Travel Information Centres (inside the main train stations), online at tfl.gov.uk/tickets Opens in new window , or at 4000 Oyster Ticket Stop shops around London that advertise Oyster cards in their shop windows.

G16 Can I buy an Oyster card if I am outside London / Britain?

Yes, just go to tfl.gov.uk/tickets Opens in new window or Visit Britain Opens in new window. This Visitor Oyster card can only add Pay As You Go (Prepay) use, which is fine for up to three days of full travel or four days if you travel very little or sporadically over a number of days. The alternative to the Visitor Oyster card is the daily paper ticket or a regular Oyster card. See also G6 above and P41 below.

G17 Do I need to provide a passport photo to buy an Oyster card?

No, photo cards are no longer used by London Underground for any tickets.

G18 Do I need to fill in a form or register my Oyster card?

No, registration is voluntary, except when you want to add a discount to the card or buy a ticket that is valid for one month or longer. Registration also gives you free protection against loss or theft. You can register at a Tube station ticket office or online at tfl.gov.uk/oyster Opens in new window. Also see G25 below.

G19 Are there any Oyster cards with discounts?

Yes, there are, for children aged 5 - 10, 11 - 15, 16+ and students (18+). Go to tfl.gov.uk/tickets Opens in new window to find out more. You can also get a 34% off-peak discount if you have a National Rail discount card.

If you a looking for a an Oyster card discount for a child (5 - 15) or 16+ you can pick up an application form at the post office. Oyster photo cards are normally delivered to you within one to two weeks.

G20 What is the purpose of the little light next to the Oyster card reader?

Every gate you touch to enter or exit uses the common three-colour signal system of red, amber and green to help you understand what is going on. The colour red means you cannot go through the gate, amber means you can go through and green is briefly shown when you go through to indicate that your Oyster card has validated. Green is good! ☺

G21 Why does it beep when I touch the reader with the card?

It is an audible aid to help you understand whether your Oyster card has been accepted for travel. If everything is fine you will see a green light and hear a single beep when you touch the reader with your card. Any other light or beep pattern indicates that something is not right. It means the gate will not open and a message saying "Seek assistance" may be shown.

G22 What does "Seek assistance" mean?

It indicates that there is a problem with the reading of the card. There could be many reasons for this, but most likely it is because there has been insufficient surface contact between the Oyster card and the reader. First of all, try the card on the gate again. Put it down flat on the reader. If it still doesn't work, try another gate and then ask for assistance from a member of staff if it still does not work.

G23 My Oyster card gets the "Seek assistance" messsage a lot. What could it be?

It could be a question of technique. Do not hover, tap or swipe the Oyster card over the reader, just put it down flat in the centre, for up to three seconds and it should be fine. Or try another gate to check it again and then seek assistance from a member of staff if you still have a problem. If you get the message "Seek assistance", when the gate actually opens you can completely ignore it.

G24 What does the message "not initilized by Prestige" mean on the ticket machines?

It simply means that your card cannot be read properly. A reason for this could be insufficient contact between card and reader. The machines have a mind of their own and it helps to try to understand it. Apply the Oyster card on the yellow reader again and keep it in place for 2-3 seconds to see if that helps. Don't rush the machine, because that will not help. The messages "the oyster card is not initialized / enabled", both mean the same thing.

G25 What does the message "You have an unregistered Adult Oyster card" mean?

It means that you have not filled in a form with your name, contact details and chosen password, which is something you have to do if you want to add a discount or buy a ticket for a month or longer. Registration protects it against loss and theft. Register online at the TfL website Opens in new window or in a Tube station ticket office. The online Oyster card registration is separate from London Underground, so you may have to register the same card twice.

For your password there are three categories to choose from: your mother's maiden name, a memorable date or a memorable place. Experience shows that just about everyone forgets their password, so do yourself a favour and select something you cannot forget; your mother's maiden name, your date or place of birth. Without your password you may be denied a replacement Oyster card if you lose it or it is stolen.

G26 Can you give me any advice on how to use the ticket machines?

The first thing you do is touch your Oyster card on the yellow reader. This brings up the Oyster-specific menu. For every screenful of information you see there is a limited amount of time to select an option, so you need to be focused and absorb the information quickly, otherwise you will have to start the process all over again. See also the question about card security below and take a look at the videos. Also look at the answer to G24 above.

G27 What happens if I do not get a "Your card has been updated" screen message?

If you paid by cash and there still is nothing added to your card it means the transaction was cancelled. Press the red Cancel button to return your money, then try again. Remember to place your Oyster card flat against the yellow reader for up to three seconds when the arrow flashes. If you don't you have not finalized the transaction.

If you paid by card there is no problem as no transaction will have taken place. Just start over again and follow exactly all screen messages given to you. Also see G33 below.

G28 What does "validate" an Oyster card mean?

You validate your Oyster card by touching in when you make a journey. If you do not validate at entry you could be penalized with a £80 fine if revenue inspectors turn up. Whether you touch out is up to you. With Pay As You Go it is in your interest to touch out to avoid being massively overcharged.

G29 Is it possible for the Oyster card to demagnitize?

No, the Oyster card does not involve magnetism. It uses radio frequency technology instead.

G30 Can the card stop working for any other reason?

Yes either permanently or temporarily. The Oyster card is quite brittle and it breaks in your backpocket, when you sit down. If that happens you should go to a ticket office where you will be issued with a free replacement card.

If you keep the Oyster card with other cards using the same technology it may not work. Or if the card is buried deep inside a wallet, purse or similar it weakens the strength of the radio waves needed to communicate with the reader. In this case take the Oyster card out and apply it on the reader by itself.

G31 I paid by credit card at the ticket machine earlier today, but now it does not work. Why?

You can only use a credit / debit card once per day on London Underground ticket machines. Use another credit / debit card or go to the ticket office to continue paying with the same card.

G32 Is there anything I should know when I buy an Oyster product from the ticket office?

Yes, if you pay by cash it is essential that you get a printed receipt. Check the amount/ticket details and time and date of the receipt, before you leave, to verify that you have what you asked for. Very important: If you want to be sure you do not pay for something you do not get, always pay by credit or debit card.

G33 Is there anything I should know when I buy an Oyster product from the ticket machine?

Yes, if you pay by credit or debit card beware that skimming devices are sometimes fitted by criminals on the machines to get your credit / debit card details and PIN number, the same way it is done at cash machines. Also make sure nobody is trying to read your PIN code over your shoulder while standing behind you.

Begin by touching with your Oyster card on the yellow reader, then follow the screen messages and only touch the reader again with your Oyster card when prompted to do so. A successful transaction always ends with the message Your Oyster card has been updated. Most credit / debit cards without Chip & PIN technology do not work at self-service machines, only at the ticket office.

G34 I have lost my Oyster card (or it was stolen). What should I do now?

If your card was not registered, curse your fate and buy a new one. If it was registered, either online or at a station, call the Oyster card helpline on 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, daily) as soon as you can to blacklist the lost card and arrange for a refund or replacement. There is a charge of £10 for the service. The call costs 5 pence a minute from a land line.

The Oyster card helpline promises to replace it within five days, but it is often done much quicker. For a transfer to be made within 24 hours, you must know your Oyster card number (a 12 digit number at the top right hand corner on the back of the card) and password (see G25 above) when you phone the Oyster helpline to report its loss / theft. In the meantime you have to pay for your own travel.

If your Oyster card was stolen you must get a Crime Reference Number from a police station. Do not report your Oyster card stolen unless you are 100% certain that it was. The police have more important things to deal with.

G35 My Oyster card has stopped working. What is going on?

If it beeps when you touch the reader but does not open the gate you may have less than the minimum of Pay As You Go (Prepay) on the Oyster card. If it does not beep at all when you touch the reader either the reader or the Oyster card has stopped working. Most likely it is the Oyster card. Try another gate first to see if your Oyster card works there.

If there is still no beep speak to a member of staff. If it has stopped working you can go to any Tube station ticket office to have it replaced, between 7am - 9pm. They will you a new Oyster card free of charge with all your credit and/or season tickets restored on it. The only thing that can not be restored, unfortunately, is a daily price cap or your spending towards it. See capping below.

G36 Why do some Oyster cards have a photo of the owner on it?

Any Oyster card with a discount entitlement always has a photo on it to identify the person who is entitled to it. It can only be used by the person on the photo, even if the discount entitlement has expired.

G37 Why has the discount on my Oyster Student photo card suddenly disappeared?

This happens when the expiry date of your discount has been reached. I can also happen before the expiry date if your Oyster card has been blacklisted by your college / university. This relates to people who do not attend their courses sufficently. If you want to dispute this contact your college / university.

G38 I have lost my Oyster photo card. How do I know if it was registered, so I can claim on it?

All Oyster photo cards (discount cards) are registered from the start. If you cannot remember, call Oyster card helpline 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, every day) and give them your name and address, so they can check it.

G39 I have a National Rail Discount Card, can I add the discount on my Oyster card?

Yes, the 34% discount can be added to your Oyster card to reduce the cost of the daily off-peak cap or single off-peak PAYG journeys. Any Oyster card with a discount entitlement must first be registered at a Tube station ticket office.

G40 When does it make sense to buy a weekly Travelcard instead of Pay As You Go?

If you stay for four consecutive days then the weekly Oyster Travelcard does make sense. You would be extremely restricted if you chose Pay As You Go instead. Consider that on the Tube you will never pay less than the minimum fare per journey in zone one. With that in mind you can start calculating Opens in new window how much you are likely to spend. Also check here for a detailed explanation.

G41 What is an Oyster route validator?

This applies to Prepay / Pay As You Go only. A route validator is a pink reader which you touch to save money by proving your route did not go through zone one, which is more expensive than all other zones.

G42 Where can I buy Pay As You Go or a Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard for my Oyster card?

At any London Underground station, at some National Rail stations, online at tfl.gov.uk/oyster Opens in new window, or at 4000 Oyster Ticket Stop shops around London.

G43 Can I put a Travelcard of less than a week on the Oyster card?

No, if you choose anything less than a weekly Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass only Pay As You Go is available. Every journey made counts as a single journey, but if you travel enough in one day you will get daily capping, provided you can avoid incomplete journeys. See G44 and P8 below.

G44 What is the difference between Oyster card Pay As You Go and a Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard?

Using Pay As You Go involves an amount of risk as you can never say for certain that touching in and out will be faultless. Every time it is not it will cost you the maximum fare. Nor can you guarantee that the gates will work properly or that you will be correctly informed or dealt with by staff on how to deal with certain situations.

Where the Tube joins with other travel networks it can be tricky to work out whether you should touch or not touch a reader. Apart from this, Pay As You Go is a lot cheaper for people who just travel occasionally.

G45 Are there any restrictions using the Oyster card on National Rail?

You can use your Oyster card at all National Rail stations within the London Underground zones, except on Eurostar, High Speed1 and Heathrow Express.

G46 How do I top up or add a season ticket on the Oyster card?

You can always ask the ticket office staff to help you. But if you want to learn how to do it yourself take a look here.

G47 How can I get a statement for my Oyster card journeys?

If you go to the TfL website Opens in new window you can register your card and receive statements from them. The print-out will show you the time and date of every journey and also show you where it began and finished.

Pay As You Go (PAYG/Prepay)

Click here to compare Pay As You Go versus Weekly Oyster card.

P1 What is Pay As You Go / PAYG or Prepay?

Pay As You Go (PAYG) or Prepay are three different names for the same thing - credit you add before travelling. Think of your PAYG Oyster card as a debit account with credit on it. Every time you touch in or out on a yellow reader a transaction takes place which affects the credit balance, negatively or positively. See below how it works.

P2 What is the most important advice for Pay As You Go users?

Touch in and touch out for every journey made on London Underground (the Tube), Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground and National Rail. Only touch in on bus and tram.

The Oyster system needs to know where your journey starts and ends in order to calculate the lowest fare.

So when you travel with PAYG there are two rates you can pay:

• The lowest fare applies to those who touch in and out for every journey within the maximum journey time.

• The maximum fare is paid by every one else, including those who thought they had touched in and out.

• When you touch in on the bus or tram the single standard rate is charged.

To make sure you pay the lowest fare you need to slow down and focus when you approach the gate and make sure your card reads properly every time. Apply the card, inside or outside the wallet, flat on the yellow reader for up to three seconds and look for a green light from the card reader. If you touch and go through without a green light you will be charged the maximum fare.

P3 What is a top-up or topping up?

Adding Pay As You Go (PAYG) to your Oyster card is called topping up, or adding a top-up. You can have a maximum of £90 on the card. After topping up you just touch in and out for every journey and the lowest fare will be deducted from the card.

P4 How long is my Pay As You Go credit valid on the Oyster card?

Your Pay As You Go credit stays on the card until you use it. It has no expiry date.

P5 I paid £10 for an Oyster card with Pay As You Go, so why is there only £5 on the card?

You have to pay a £5 refundable deposit for the Oyster card. When you no longer need your Oyster card it can be refunded at any Tube station ticket office, including any unspent credit. Just present your card at a Tube station ticket office after your last journey and ask for a refund.

P6 How does Pay As You Go (Prepay) work?

The card calculates the correct rate by comparing where / when you enter and where / when you exit.

On entering the Tube, DLR, London Overground and NR trains the maximum fare is taken off the Oyster card credit balance when you touch in. A refund is only made when you touch out. In zone one the difference between the maximum fare and the minimum fare is then refunded to the card on exit. If you do not touch out you pay the maximum fare for each journey. Apart from in zone one, if you touch in during peak you pay more than during off-peak.

P7 What is capping / a price cap?

Capping is the result of touching in and out successfully for every journey in a 24 hour period, 04:30 - 04:30. Provided that you continue to touch in and out every journey will be free from the moment of capping. But you must continue to touch in and out or the cap comes off and it starts charging all over again. If you find an oddly priced trip on your journey history it could be because it was the last journey before a cap, for example 20p.

There are three types of daily price cap on the PAYG Oyster card:

Bus & Tram Pass. The fixed daily rate when you only travel by bus and tram, during 04:30 - 04:30.

Peak Travelcard. You pay Peak rate if any journey is started during the morning peak (04:30 - 09:30). You get unlimited travel up to a maximum of 24 hours, from 04:30 to 04:30, the next morning. How much you pay depends on what zones you travel in.

Off-peak Travelcard. You pay Off-peak rate if no journey is started before 09:30, Monday - Friday, excluding holidays. You get unlimited travel from 09:30 to 04:30, the next morning. How much you pay depends on which zones you travel in.

There is no need to add the full amount of a daily price cap before the first journey to get capping. More credit can be at added any time it is needed, e.g. if you travel in more zones than you first thought you would.

P8 What is an incomplete / unresolved journey?

To get the lowest fare when you travel you must touch in and out to show where the journey started and ended. If you do not do this the lowest fare can not be calculated and therefore the maximum fare will be charged instead.

In question P6 above you saw that the maximum fare is taken off the card on entry. If you then do not touch out, that is the price you will pay. It is the same if you somehow manage to enter the system without touching in and then touch out. What is worse, incomplete journeys do not count towards the daily price cap, only completed journeys do. Every price cap is calculated after the last incomplete journey.

P9 How much does an Oyster card Pay As You Go journey cost?

It depends on when and where you travel. Take a look at Fares Opens in new window on the TfL web site if you wish.

• Peak time for single journeys is any entry 06:30 - 09:30 and 16:00 - 19:00 Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. During any other time it is off-peak and you pay a reduced rate (except in zone one).

• Peak time for the daily price cap is any entry 04:30 - 09:30. The afternoon peak, 16:00 - 19:00, does not count.

P10 What happens if I have enough to enter but not enough to exit?

Rest assured, if you can enter the Tube, DLR, London Overground you can always exit, even if it will be with a negative balance (a debit) when you do not have enough credit. The Oyster card can not be used until you clear the debit or add new credit. See question B6 for an exception to this. If you do not pay for your journey up front revenue inspectors may intercept you on the trains or stations and penalise you for it.

P11 Where can I go with the minimum fare of Pay As You Go on my Oyster card?

You can make one short journey at any time with the minimum fare. In reality however you can now go where ever you want and exit. You will then have a negative balance on your Oyster card. But remember that every journey should be paid in full before entering the system.

P12 Will I be charged twice with Pay As You Go if I need to touch out in order to change lines?

No. There are some stations where you must go through the exit gates to access the other lines. Provided that you touch in again for the other line, within a short period, there is only one charge. There is also something similar to this, called Out of Station Interchanges (OSI) at nearly 100 stations.

P13 Is there a time limit on Pay As You Go journeys?

Yes. For zone one you must touch out within 90 minutes of touching in. In a single zone outside zone one you have 70 minutes and for each additional zone you travel in you add ten minutes. If you take longer than the allocated time you will be charged for two journeys. Each one of those will cost you twice the maximum fare for one journey that took too long.

If you go from A to B, but do not touch out when you arrive there, and then return to A again you end up paying twice for the journey. This could be the case if you return for something you had forgotten at A.

If you go from A to B, but do not touch out when you arrive there, and then return to A again you end up paying twice for the journey. This could be the case if you return for something you had forgotten at A.

There is one exception to this. If you enter and exit the same station within 30 minutes the cost of that journey will be refunded if you reenter the same or a nearby station within 45 minutes.

Only in cases where Transport for London (TfL) accept responsibility for the delay will you get a refund. With a weekly, montly or yearly ticket there is no time limit, as you have paid for unlimited travel.

P14 What is auto top-up on the Oyster card?

If you register the Oyster card online you can arrange for it to be topped up automatically as you travel. This is called auto top-up and your card will be credited with £20 or £40 when the balance goes below £8.00.

If you only travel by bus auto top-up is a bit awkward, as you need to touch in at a Tube station to add the top-up to the Oyster card. If you are not going to travel by Tube you will have to cancel the journey at the ticket office otherwise you will be charged the maximum fare for touching in.

P15 I nominated a station to top up my Oyster card on TfL's website, so why is nothing added?

If you complete your online order before 23:00 it should be ready for the next day, which begins at 04:30. If it does not work then there could be another reason why the transaction has not worked. You will need to contact the Oyster card helpline on 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, every day) to find out why. You have seven days to pick up your order at your nominated station. If you do not pick it up you will be refunded after fourteen days.

P16 How can I check my Pay As You Go balance in London or outside London?

There are a number of ways to find out. You can touch the yellow card reader on any Oyster ticket machine in a Tube station or go to the ticket office to ask. But the most convenient way is to pay attention when you enter or exit, because the gate will show you, flashing up your current amount briefly on a small screen, either by the yellow reader or on a screen on the gate in front of you. You can also call 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, every day) if you are not near a reader. Or check it online at the TfL website Opens in new window if your Oyster card is registered there.

If you have already touched in for a journey, do not touch out again to go and check your Prepay balance, because that could cost you the maximum fare. You should only touch in when you start a journey and only touch out when you finish a journey. If you can enter with your Oyster card you can always exit.

P17 Can I use an Oyster card for more than one person, by touching once for each one?

No, only one person at a time can use the Oyster card, because only one charge can be made per journey. But if your card only has Pay As You Go on it you are entitled to share it at different times. So one person can travel around and later in the day pass an Oyster card with a price cap to a second person, who then travels absolutely free for the rest of the day. If it is a photo Oyster card, or one with a discount, then it is for personal use only.

P18 When is peak and off-peak travel on the Oyster card?

Peak and off-peak rates only apply to Pay As You Go users. There are two peak rates, one for single journeys and one for the daily Travelcard.

Single journey: touching in 06:30 - 09:30 and 16:00 - 19:00 Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, you will be charged at peak rate. Any single journey started at other times will be at off-peak rate.

The peak or off-peak rate only depends on when you touch in, not when you touch out. So you if you touch in during off-peak, but out during peak you will just be charged an off-peak rate.

Daily price cap: any journey 04:30 - 09:30, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, will cap the Oyster card for a peak day Travelcard. Any journey started after 09:30, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays, will cap the Oyster card for an off-peak day Travelcard.

P19 I touched in at 09:30, but it has still been capped for a peak Travelcard. Why?

The syncronization of the station clocks and those governing the Oyster card reader have a discrepancy tolerance of up to two minutes, so wait until 09:32 to make sure you will pay only off-peak rate.

P20 Is there a minimum amount that applies when I top up ?

Yes and no. If you top up at the ticket office a minimum of £5.00 applies. However if the cost of your total transaction adds up to £5.00 or more then you can add a Prepay amount of less than £5.00. You can also add less than £5.00 if you have to clear a negative Prepay balance or if you have a discount added.

You can add any amount using the ticket machines. To top up an amount other than the preselected £5.00, £10.00 and £20.00 press the amber button to the right on the screen which says Any amount, coins only, then add your money and press Continue before touching the Oyster card to finalize the transaction.

P21 How can I find out what I paid for recent journeys?

You have three options. Go to a ticket machine and view a journey history or a Tube station ticket office where you can ask for a printed journey history showing the last three top-ups and the last eight journeys. For Pay As You Go the stated time for every journey is the time of exit. Finally, with a registered Oyster card, you can go to the TfL website Opens in new window and log in to see a complete history of journeys and top-ups for eight weeks, but only if you have ever topped up online.

P22 Is there any problem with the daily price capping?

Yes, because, apart from on the bus and tram, it is virtual day ticket, depending on one condition. For every journey you must continue to touch in and out without fail. If you miss just one touch, or the gate does not work, the cap falls off and your card will restart at zero and begin a new count towards another price cap.

In some situations, such as station evacuations and large events (sports events, pop concerts, etc.) the gates are left open in order to cope with massive crowds going in or out. If you have a chance to touch in or out do that, otherwise it will affect your price cap or rate for the journey. If you do not have this chance something called Auto Completion should take place to refund the journey. Check your journey history (see above) to make sure it happens after a day or so, otherwise contact the Oyster card helpline, 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, daily).

One simple way of instantly resolving this situation is to walk to a nearby station and start from there or, if you exit, ask a member of staff to touch out for you. Or avoid Oyster altogether and get yourself a paper ticket.

P23 Is the cap always the same amount of money?

No, any cap corresponds to the equivalent paper ticket for one day, whether it is peak or off-peak and taking into account what zones you travel in. Only journeys on the Tube, DLR, London Overground or National Rail use peak and off-peak rates. Bus and tram journeys have only one standard rate.

P24 How does daily capping work on the Tube/DLR/London Overground/National Rail trains?

It depends on when you start travel (peak or off-peak) and in what zones you travel. Every journey in zone one and two charges the minimum rate until you have paid the equivalent of the daily travel card. After that nothing at all will be charged until 04:30 the next morning.

P25 How does daily capping work on the bus and tram?

There is only one standard rate for single journeys on the bus and tram. For every journey you will be charged this rate until you have paid the equivalent of the daily price cap and after that there will be no charges until after 04:30 the next morning.

If after travelling on the bus or tram you decide to go by Tube/DLR/London Overground or National Rail train the price cap will move from bus and tram rate to the higher rate of Tube travel.

P26 Is there anything I should focus on when I touch in and out?

Yes, especially if you use Pay As You Go/Prepay. Then you should always look for a green light when you touch.

Every gate uses a display of "traffic lights" to show the current status. A red light means you cannot enter. An amber light means the gate is ready for entry and a green light is shown to say that you have correctly validated an Oyster card.

P27 If I get an incomplete journey on my card when should I resolve it?

You should preferably deal with it in the Tube station where and when it happens. But it is particularly important to take care of it on the same day, as refunds can only be done by the Oystercard helpline (0845 330 9876) after that period. Remember also that after any refund activity on your Oyster card in the ticket office your price cap (or progress towards it) will be reset at zero.

P28 If it takes the maximum fare when I touch in, what if I only have the minimum fare on it?

If you touch in with the minimum fare that means you temporarily go into a negative balance during your journey. But when you touch out you get a refund back on to your card. If you do not touch out you get what is called an unresolved / incomplete journey which will leave you paying the maximum fare. The card can only be used again when the debit has been cleared and new credit added.

P29 What is the most common cause of incomplete / unresolved journeys?

Simply put, people are in too much of a hurry to notice what happens when they touch in or out. Make sure you get a green light on entry or exit and that it actually is your card that opens the gate.

P30 How do I to avoid an incomplete journey if the equipment does not work where I enter or exit?

To avoid being overcharged and/or keep your price cap on you need to go to a station where the gates work. Read about that and auto completion at P22.

P31 Is it always my fault when I get an unresolved journey on my card?

No, equipment failure happens daily and you may also be misunderstood and/or be given bad advice by staff. There are also many places on the network where it is not at all clear whether you should touch in or out or not, especially at the interchanges between the Tube, DLR, London Overground and National Rail trains. Speak to a member of staff if you are unsure.

P32 If I touch in and out and still pay the maximum fare for a journey can I have a refund?

That depends on the circumstances. If there was a recognized problem on the system you can get a refund from a ticket office or the Oyster card helpline (0845 330 9876). If a system failure was not recognized you are unlikely to get a refund. Also remember that any refund activity on your Oyster card in the ticket office removes your price cap (or progress towards it). It will be reset at zero.

P33 I went through both the entry and exit gates, so why do I still have an unresolved journey?

Perhaps it was not your card that opened the gate. In the crush and confusion at the gates it is very common for a person to enter or exit on somebody else's ticket or Oyster card. Make sure it is your card that opens the gate.

When you enter or exit a busy station the flow of people through the gates is often so great that the gates stay open permanently. In such a case it is difficult to say whether it was your Oyster card that opened the gates. The only way you can check it is by waiting for a gate to close or by keeping an eye on the exit or entry reader and look for the green light to flash when you touch.

P34 What can I do to reduce the cost of Pay As You Go travel?

Always touch in and out to avoid incomplete journeys. If you have a National Rail discount card you can add a 34% off-peak discount on a registered Oyster card.

P35 What happens to my Pay As You Go if I buy a weekly Travelcard?

If you have a Travelcard no Pay As You Go will be deducted on any public transport, so long as you travel within the zones of the Travelcard during its validity.

P36 What happens to my Pay As You Go if I buy a Bus & Tram Pass?

If you only travel by bus or tram then nothing will happen to your Pay As You Go. But if you take the Tube, DLR, London Overground or National Rail within the London Underground zones your Pay As You Go will be used.

P37 How can I best combine the use of Pay As You Go with an Oyster season ticket?

When you buy a season ticket, if you are only going to travel once or twice that day it may be that using Prepay will be cheaper than using up a full day of the season ticket. With a Bus & Tram Pass Pay As You Go is great for the odd journey by Tube/DLR/London Overground/NR.

Any Travelcard which includes zone one is a lot more expensive. If you just travel occasionally in zone one it would be cheaper for you to buy a Travelcard with, for example, zones 2-3 and use Pay As You Go for the odd journey into zone one. For every journey in zone one you will be charged the minimum fare until you get a price cap. Or you can go free in zone one on the bus, as a Travelcard of any zone combination is valid as a Bus & Tram Pass in all zones.

P38 How do I use an Oyster card with Prepay / Pay As You Go on the tram?

You touch in on the Oyster reader on the platform. You only touch in, you do not touch out.

P39 Are there any restrictions using the Oyster card on National Rail?

You can use the Oyster card with Prepay / Pay As You Go or Travelcard at all National Rail stations within the London Underground zones, with three exceptions (High Speed1, Eurostar and Heathrow Express).

P40 Can I have my remaining Pay As You Go (Prepay) credit back?

Yes, no and maybe. Any amount of credit left on the card can be returned to you instantly at any ticket office. If you paid by cash you get cash back and if you paid by card it is refunded on the card. If you also surrender your Oyster card to get your deposit back the refund will be in one step if the total value is no more than £10.00.

If your refund value is more than more than £10.00 it will be in two steps: step 1, the credit on your card, whatever the amount, step 2, the deposit (either £0.00, £3.00 or £5.00). If your card is registered on the TfL website Opens in new window you can also request a refund online. Now please read the next question below.

P41 Is there any situation when I can not have all my remaining credit back?

Yes, unfortunately. If your remaining credit was paid for by different tender (e.g. warrant, voucher, Travellers Cheque, cash or card) then a refund is not possible. Example: you added £20.00 with a voucher and before the credit was completely finished you added £10.00 by cash. The credit on the card now comes from two different payment sources, which the system does not understand how to deal with and therefore refuses a refund.

Any Oyster card purchased from an Oyster Vending Machine will also be recognized as mixed tender, so make sure you do not add too much PAYG, as you can only have a maximum of £10 back.

Tube stations are allowed to refund you a maximum of £10.00 with mixed tender and you have to surrender the Oyster card for this. If you have a registered card you can get a full refund, even with mixed tender payments above £10.00. The payment will be posted to you on your registered address.

P42 I have two Oyster cards on me, so how can I tell which one I have already used?

This only matters for Pay As You Go users who have two or more cards, both or all with Pay As You Go credit on them. You will have to speak to a member of staff to find out. Each Oyster card has a unique 12 figure ID number on the back, in the top right hand corner. Just memorize the last two digits of that ID before you start a journey. Or mark a card with a black marker pen. Or use a different colour wallet for one card.

P43 I know I have enough credit on the Oyster card, so why does the gate not open?

It could be one of five reasons. 1) You are mistaken and have less money than you think. 2) Your technique appling the card to the reader may be to blame. Do not hover, tap or swipe the card, just put it down, flat in the centre of the reader for up to three seconds. 3) You keep something close to the Oyster card that interferes with the reading of it. 4) Your card is beginning to crack, so the microchip circuit stops working. 5) The gate has a temporary fault. First try another gate, then speak to a member staff if it still does not work.

P44 What is directional Pay As You Go?

It is a new common-sense feature for 2011 for those people who travel against the flow in the afternoon peak period. They pay an offpeak rate as there is less demand on the service.

P45 Can I buy Pay As You Go (Prepay) or a season ticket if I am outside London?

Yes, if you have a registered card you can go to the TfL website Opens in new window and nominate a station where you want Pay As You Go or a season ticket to be automatically added to your card when you touch in. This will only work at the nominated station, within seven days.

If you add Pay As You Go for bus and tram travel only you will need to ask the ticket office to cancel your journey after touching in on the Tube, otherwise you will charged the maximum fare.

P46 How does daily capping work on the bus or tram?

For every journey you will be charged the standard single rate. After having paid the equivalent of the daily price cap you will pay nothing more until after 04:30 the next morning. Fortunately for Pay As You Go users on bus and tram there are no problems with unresolved journeys, except possibly at Wimbledon.

P47 If I only travel by bus or tram before 09:30 will it cap as a peak or off-peak Travelcard?

So long as you avoid touching in before 09:30 on Tube/DLR/London Overground and National Rail, Monday - Friday, excluding holidays, you will only pay for an off-peak price cap.

P48 I put cash in the machine to top up (or buy season ticket), but nothing is showing now. Why?

Most likely this is because you did not fully finalize the deal. You need to follow all prompts exactly and when the screen tells you: Your card has been updated you have finalized the deal, otherwise not. In the latter case, after a short period, your cash will be ejected by the machine and be collected by someone else if you have left. If you pay by card you have no such problems, as you will not have been charged.

P49 What happens if I touch in and find out the last train has departed?

It is in your interest to find out if there is still another train before you touch in. You probably need up to three minutes to get to the platform. If you have already touched in it will cost you up to the maximum fare for nothing.

If this happens make sure you have enough PAYG on your Oyster card before you leave the station as you will perhaps find it difficult to top up afterwards for the night bus.

P50 If I make one journey from zone 6 to the centre and then only travel there for the day how much will it cost me?

That depends on when you travel. First you will pay for a peak or offpeak journey then the Oyster card will automatically take care of itself and give you the lowest fare for the day.

P51 If I change between Tube / National Rail and Tram at Wimbledon station, what should I do?

Please follow the advice given at this Wimbledon link Opens in new window

P52 Is there a way I can check my Oyster card balance with my mobile phone?

If you have an Android or iPhone there are a number of apps that can show you the balance. The card must be registered for this to work, as you need to log in online. With a registered card you can of course also call the Oyster card helpline 0845 330 9876 (8am - 8pm, daily).

P50 If I make one journey from zone 6 to the centre and then only travel there for the day how much will it cost me?

That depends on when you travel. First you will pay for a peak or offpeak journey then the Oyster card will automatically take care of itself and give you the lowest fare for the day.

Season Tickets / Travelcards (weekly, monthly, up to yearly)

T1 Oyster card season ticket versus Travelcard, what is the difference?

It is just two different formats, one old, one new, with the same validity. The old paper ticket is now only sold at National Rail stations and The Oystercard is sold everywhere else in London.

T2 In what zones can I travel with my Oyster Travelcard?

You can only travel in the zones you have paid for. If you want to go beyond the zones of the Travelcard you can either add some PAYG first or go for free in any zone by bus. In the last case travel as far as you can with your Travelcard, then continue by bus. For example to go to Richmond in zone four, using a Travelcard for zones 1-2, you can travel to Turnham Green in zone two and continue by bus.

T3 I am flying into Heathrow Airport for a week in London. Should I buy a weekly for zones 1 - 6?

First consider in which zones you will travel regularly. If it is zone 1-2 then buy a Travelcard for zone 1-2. The odd journey in the other zones is better covered by using a small amount of PAYG as an extension. So calculate the added cost of PAYG journeys and compare it with the cost of a Travelcard which does include the zones.

T4 Is there any way that I could end up with a Pay As You Go debit on my Oyster Travelcard?

Yes, if you go beyond the zones of your Travelcard you end up with a PAYG debit. You can then only use the Oyster card on buses and trams until you have paid off the debit.

If your journey starts outside the zones covered by the season ticket you must add Pay As You Go before you go, otherwise it will not let you in. However at Heathrow Airport you can add a season ticket for zones 1-2, for example, and still enter without adding Pay As You Go. As a result you end up with a negative Prepay balance, when you exit, which must be paid before you can use the card again.

T5 Can I use Prepay / Pay As You Go with my Oyster Travelcard?

Yes, for journeys on the Tube, DLR, London Overground and National Rail train stations within the London Underground zones, but beyond the validity of your Oyster Travelcard you must first add Pay As You Go.

P6 What happens to my Pay As You Go if I buy a weekly Travelcard?

If you have a Travelcard no Pay As You Go will be deducted on any public transport, so long as you travel within the zones of the Travelcard. But when you go beyond the zones of your Travelcard PAYG will be taken. Once your Travelcard has expired again your PAYG will be taken.

T7 Is there any way I can travel beyond the zones on my Oyster Travelcard without paying extra?

Yes. Any Travelcard for is also valid in all zones for bus and tram travel. That way you can take the Tube/DLR/Overground/train to the last station within the zones of your Oyster Travelcard and continue for free by bus.

T8 Does having the Oyster Travelcard give me any additional benefits?

Yes, you can get 30 % discount on the Riverboat fare with a Travelcard (weekly - yearly ticket). Also look out for many 2 for 1 admission charges with Oyster card.

T9 Can I travel with an Oyster Travelcard on TfL Rail and NR with a negative PAYG balance?

No, you can only travel by bus until you clear the negative balance on the Oyster card. See B6 below.

Bus and Tram Pass (weekly, monthly, up to yearly)

B1 How do I use an Oyster card on the bus?

You enter the bus at the front door and touch the Oyster card on a yellow reader next to the driver. You only touch in, you do not touch out. Exit through the middle door. If you travel with PAYG it will cost you the standard single rate for the journey, whether you go one stop or from one end of the bus route to the other.

B2 How do I use an Oyster card on the tram?

You touch in on the Oyster reader on the platform. You only touch in, you do not touch out.

B3 Can I add a Bus and Tram Pass of less than one week's validity?

No, only Pay As You Go is available, costing no more than the daily price cap for 24 hours (04:30 - 04:30).

B4 Can I use Prepay / Pay As You Go with my Oyster card Bus & Tram Pass?

Yes, for journeys on the Tube, DLR, London Overground and National Rail train stations within the London Underground zones you must add PAYG/Prepay. When you travel on the bus or tram the Oyster card will recognize that you already have a Bus & Tram Pass and will not touch your Prepay. With PAYG, be aware of the special arrangement in Wimbledon, question P51 above.

B5 What happens to my Pay As You Go if I buy a Bus & Tram Pass?

If you only travel by bus or tram then nothing happens to your Pay As You Go. But if you take any other form of public transport (the Tube, DLR, London Overground or National Rail) your Pay As You Go will be used.

Also, when your Bus & Tram Pass has run out PAYG will be taken as payment, if you have any. So if you do not want to use your PAYG make sure you know when your Bus & Tram Pass is valid.

B6 Can I travel with an Oyster card on the bus with a negative PAYG balance?

Yes, fortunately you can. If you are in a situation where you have a negative balance you cannot pay off, you can always go by bus, provided that you have a valid Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard.

B7 Is it true I can now travel at Oyster card rates without an Oyster card on the bus?

Yes, it is true. If you have a "wave and pay" debit card with this symbol on it Wave & Pay Symbol you can use that to pay instead of buying tickets at the bus stop and risk losing your money in the machine. The only difference with a normal Oyster card is that it does not cap at the daily fare.

Remember that if you keep your Oyster card next to a "wave and pay" debit card you may end up using that instead of your Oyster - and therefore lose out on capping.