LivingTravelHow to use contactless payment on the tube

How to use contactless payment on the tube

Contactless payments were first launched on London buses in December 2012. TfL (Transport for London) claims that around 69,000 payments are made using contactless contacts on London buses every day.

You can pay for your ride on the London Underground, Tram, DLR, London Overground and National Rail services that accept Oyster with a contactless payment card. London buses stopped accepting cash in July 2014, and you can only use Oyster or a contactless payment card for bus trips.

No contact explained

Contactless payment cards are bank cards that have a special symbol with built-in technology to allow a simple touch of the card to pay for purchases under £ 20. You don’t need a PIN, a signature or insert the card into any reader.

Contactless is available on debit, credit, charge and prepaid cards.

TfL stated that there were 44.7 million contactless cards in circulation in the UK, with an estimated fifth issued within the Greater London area. In the first quarter of 2014, more than half of the UK’s total of 44.6 million contactless transactions were made within the Greater London area.

Contactless bank cards are also being issued by banks outside the UK, but you are advised that overseas transaction fees or charges apply for travel paid for with a card issued outside of the UK. Not all non-UK cards are accepted, so check before you travel.

Don’t throw away your Oyster card. Contactless payments are available alongside Oyster for pay-as-you-go customers.

Oyster will continue to be available to those who use season tickets or dealerships or those who prefer to continue paying for rides in this way.


The key benefit of contactless payment is that you no longer have to have an Oyster card and you don’t have to check your Oyster card balance before you travel. That should mean you can board without delay. Instead of maintaining a balance on your Oyster card, with contactless payment, the fee will be automatically deducted from your bank account / payment card account.

If you have a joint account, both of you can use a contactless payment card, but you must have a contactless payment card, not a card for one account, and trying to pay for two people traveling together with one card will not work.

Known issues

The biggest problem to watch out for is “card clash.” Londoners begin to know this phrase by heart when we hear it announced so often on the tube:

Customers are reminded to only touch a card on the reader to avoid paying with a card they did not intend to pay with.

This means that you need to be careful to keep all of your contactless payment cards and your Oyster card separate if you want to ensure that only one of them touches the reader to be charged. You can simply take a card out of your wallet and tap it on the reader, or store a card in a separate wallet, as you don’t need to remove the card from a wallet for it to work in the reader.

What about the limitation?

The limit is when you take multiple trips in one day and you are charged a maximum daily amount instead of a one-time fee for each trip, and this type of limit will be made with contactless payment. Or it can be limited to a seven-day rate, but only Monday through Sunday. It cannot work seven days after a Wednesday, for example. You just need to remember to use the same contactless payment card to get the daily or weekly limit benefit.

Contactless payments work in the same way as Oyster, charging customers an Adult Pay-As-You-Go fee when they enter and exit TfL readers at the beginning and end of each trip. To benefit from the limitation, you must tap on and off each trip.

If you generally buy monthly or longer duration travel cards or bus and tram passes, you should continue to do so. Travel cards and monthly or longer bus and tram passes will not be available on contactless payment cards.

Record of your trips

If you sign up for an online account with TfL, you will be able to see 12 months of travel and payment history. You don’t need to sign up for an account online, but this seems like a good way to verify that you are being charged correctly. If you decide not to sign up for an account online, you will only be able to access travel and payment history for the last 7 days.

TfL has more information and a video that illustrates how contactless payments work on the transport network. To view, visit the TfL website.

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