How to use an oyster card

How to use an oyster card

V i s itor Oy s ter card s and Oy s ter card s can be u s e d on public tr an s port in London, including the T ube, bu s e s , tr am s and mo s t National Rail s e r v ice s .

While fare s depend on the time of day and day of the week, your Oy s ter card can be u s e d on s e r v ice s any time that they are running.

You can top up your Oy s ter card at any T ube s tation, a s well a s many other s hop s and information cen tr e s .

Credit on your Oy s ter card ne v er expire s , s o you may u s e it any time you are in London.

To travel around London with ease, buy a Visitor Oyster card, then use the credit to pay for your travel as you go. You can top up your card with more credit as you need it.

What services can I use with my Visitor Oyster card or Oyster card?

You can use your Visitor Oyster card or Oyster card on the following transport services in London:

What time of day can I use my Visitor Oyster card?

Different travel fares apply depending on which transport services you use, what day of the week and what time of day you travel – it is cheaper to travel at off-peak travel times.

On the Tube, DLR, London Overground services and most National Rail services in London, peak fares apply Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) from 6.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 7pm; off-peak fares apply at all other times.

A single £1.55 fare on buses and trams is the same at all times, regardless of when you travel.

How do I use my Visitor Oyster card?

On the Tube, DLR, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers river bus service, London Overground and National Rail services, touch your Visitor Oyster card or Oyster card on the yellow card reader when you start your journey and again when you end your journey. If you do not touch your card in and out every time, the system will not know which journey you have made and you may be charged a maximum fare. You may also face a penalty fare or prosecution.

On buses and trams, only touch your card on the yellow card reader at the start of your journey.

What happens if the money runs out on my Visitor Oyster card?

It’s easy to add more credit to your Visitor Oyster card or Oyster card at:

  • Touchscreen ticket machines in Tube, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail stations
  • Around 4,000 Oyster Ticket Stops across London
  • London Overground station ticket offices

Download the TfL Oyster app on your smartphone to check your balance, add credit to your Oyster card and buy adult-rate 7 Day, Monthly and Annual Travelcards. If you have an Oyster card and are a UK resident, you can set up an Oyster online account and top up your card online. You can’t top up your Visitor Oyster card online.

How long does the Visitor Oyster card credit last?

The credit on your card never expires so you can keep your card for your next visit to London or lend it to family and friends to use when they come to London.

Can I use a Visitor Oyster card on the Emirates Air Line?

Yes, if you pay for the Emirates Air Line cable car with your Visitor Oyster card you will get a 25% discount on fares.

Can I use a Visitor Oyster card on River Bus services?

Yes, if you pay for Uber Boat by Thames Clippers river bus services with your Visitor Oyster card you will get a 10% discount on single fares on most routes. Simply tap your card on the yellow disc on the pier before you board and again when you get off. Pay-as-you-go capping does not apply when using Oyster or Visitor Oyster card to pay.

I don’t know, but I do know you can turn in the card when you leave and get any remaining money on it back. We did that. Since you kept it, perhaps you can top it up and use it. I’m sure some of our London members will soon answer your question. Enjoy London.

I reuse mine every year when I go back, you might even find that you still have a balance on it. I’ve gone longer than a year between uses, I think I read somewhere that it had to be used every 2 years to keep it active but that you can still use it by reactivating it. I try not to leave a balance on mine when I leave just in case I don’t return for a couple of years.

I topped mine up in March 2013. Previous trip was Oct 2010. You do the math:)

Did you have to go to the service desk or could you top up at a machine upon arrival? I’ve never gone longer than 2 years so I was never sure that the 2 years was true or not.

Did it at a station ticket window. Without a murmur.

Oyster cards don’t expire, any unused credit stays on your card, so you really do not have to throw the oyster card away because the card is rechargeable with credit when you return. Using the same card, you can check your credit at the osyter kiosk that reads the card. It will tell you the balance and also if it needs recharging. You can put in five pounds, ten pounds, twenty pounds etc. from the machines. they do not give change. If this is too difficult, go to any tube attendant booth and they will help you with the transaction., All you have to do is tell them how much you want on the card and pay for it. More info needed? Call 0843 222 1234 or [original link]

How to use an oyster card

London’s iconic easy to grasp tube map got more crowded over the last decades and is now tangled with all kind kinds of additional lines and services. And then there are buses too. So let us straighten it out for you so you can focus on visiting the London’s attractions and having a great time. At the end of the day it isn’t that difficult to move around London efficiently.

TFL – Transport of London are the guys keeping it all moving. And you can find all the information you need – sometimes more than you need – here. We summarised the most important ones and, hopefully, made it easy to understand.

The Oyster Card

You can buy your card from all TFL ticket offices or ticket machines. If your want to have it ready when you arrive, order your Visitor Oyster Card here

The Oyster card is the easiest, fastest, and best way to use public transport in London. It is an electronic prepaid pay as you go card which you load with a certain amount of money at the beginning of your trip. At the end of your London stay, you can get back any amount left on your card from the TFL ticket offices.

How to use an oyster card

It is valid on the:

  • Tube
  • Bus
  • Train
  • Tram
  • Overground (Orange line)
  • Dockland’s Light Railway (DLR)
  • Thames Clippers at a supplement
  • Emirates Airline cable car at a supplement

The Oyster card is valid in London’s transport zones 1-6 and gives you total flexibility on how often, when, and where to use it. And did you know that some tube lines run now for 24hours.

It is however not valid on the Heathrow Express, Stansted Express or Gatwick Express.

How to use the Oyster Card?

Tap in your card on the reader, and when you leave you tap out. This way you automatically pay the cheapest available fare.

If you forget to tap out, you will get charged the maximum amount for a single journey. But no worries most stations have barriers, and you won’t be able to leave without tapping out.

Note, you don’t have to tap out on the buses, just leave through the backdoor please.

If you lose it, hm, we recommend using your charm and waiving nervously at the guards at the barriers…

How much does it cost?

It costs a £5 deposit which you can get back when you hand your Oyster Card back at the of your London holiday. You can load up £90 on each card.

In general transport in London especially on the tube is expensive. A ticket for a single tube journey can cost up to £5.30, but only £2.40 using your Oyster Card.

It is also capped to a maximum of £13.50 per day so you won’t pay more and basically travel for free afterwards.

And no worries if you forget to top up, you won’t be locked in. You can go into minus using up your £5 deposit.

How to use an oyster card

How about a Travel Card?

Yes, there is another option. You can also buy a paper travel card which in essence covers all public transport modes too.

However, you must set the zones you will be travelling in advance, and you can’t top it up. And you can only buy it from at the train stations as they aren’t sold at the tube ticket offices. But it’s not all bad. If you stay for more than 6 days and use a lot of public transport in all zones a Travel Card is around £25 cheaper than an Oyster Card.

Pay contactless?

In short, yes. You can pay using your contactless credit / debit card or your phone. TFL accepts all major mobile payment platforms. You get charged Oyster fares but please check with your provider about any additional fees or charges.

How to use an oyster card

Visitor Oyster Card

The Visitor Oyster Card gives you all the benefits of the regular one, but you can order it in advance here and load some money on it. This way you can jump straight on the tube when arriving.

It’s easy and hassle free. You can load your card with a maximum of £50 but we recommend starting with £20 if you are staying for a long weekend. But like the regular one you can get any amount left back at the end of your stay.

Child Discount?

Of course. London is one of the most family friendly destinations.

Up to 4 children under 11 can travel for free with a fully paying adult.

For children from 11 – 15 get a Young Visitor Oyster card which gives you a 50% discount on all travel fares for 14 days.

16 to 17-year-olds can apply for a 16+ Oyster photocard to travel at half the adult pay rate. But they also to travel with a fully paying adult. Overall, it’s a messy process, don’t bother.

How to use an oyster card

Now we hope you learned how to use the Oyster Card during your London stay. All you must do is to mind the gap, hold the rail, walk slowly, and keep your distance.

Travelling around London is simple when you have an Oyster Card. You can use it on tubes, buses, trains, trams and even selected riverboat services! The Oyster Card is a flexible travel card that you can pre-load with money according to your length of stay and the amount you think you’ll be using it.

If you’re studying at one of our English Language schools in London, we’ve created this guide to give you everything you need to know about Oyster Cards, including where you can top them up, how much you should budget, how price varies from zone to zone, and advice that will help ease your journeys across London. So much so that you’ll soon be feeling like a Londoner!

Your London Oyster Card Guide

Photo credit: British Study Centres

How to buy and use an Oyster card

1) Purchase your card

You can get your Oyster Card at any Tube Station counter or from the Transport for London website. If you choose the Pay As You Go option, or the weekly travel card, you will be required to pay a £5 deposit for the card. You can get this money back if you give your card back in at the end of your visit! If you select the monthly or yearly travel card, you do not have to pay a deposit.

2) Swipe your card at the station barrier

To use your card, simply ‘touch in’ or ‘swipe’ it across the yellow card reader when you enter the tube or bus.

3) Don’t forget to tap out!

Then when you finish your journey, you just have to ‘touch out’ or ‘swipe’ it across the card reader to exit.

Tips for Using Your Oyster Card

1) Always Touch In and Out!

At some larger stations, you can leave the station without passing through the barrier. But be careful! If you’ve swiped your card to enter the tube, you must swipe it again to exit, otherwise you will be charged for a maximum fare. At these stations, there are PINK card readers – make sure you swipe your card on these before you leave. The only times you don’t have to ‘touch out’, is when you are travelling by bus or tram.

2) Avoid Card Clash

Watch out, if you swipe your wallet the machine might get confused and take money from your contactless bank card instead of your Oyster Card. Never swipe them both at the same time!

3) Buy before you arrive

On the TFL website (Transport for London), you can select the ‘Visitor Oyster Card’ with your choice of credit. This will be sent to your address in 8-14 working days so you can start using it as soon as you arrive.

London Oyster Card FAQs

Can you use a London Oyster card in Edinburgh?

Unfortunately, you can’t use a London Oyster card in Edinburgh. The London Oyster card is for use around the city of London and its outskirts only.

How much is a London Oyster card?

You will be charged a £5 refundable deposit when you purchase a London Oyster card. This money will later be returned to you if you return your card at the end of your visit.

Is it better to use your contactless credit or debit card or an Oyster card?

The cost of using a contactless card or an Oyster card is the same. However, if your credit or debit card is in a different currency, you may be charged a conversion fee. For this reason, if you are a foreign national visiting London it is often better to purchase an Oyster card.

Can you use a London Oyster card on the bus?

Yes! Your Oyster card is fully integrated and can be used on the bus, train, tram, overground and underground trains.

Always wanted to learn English in London? Contact us to find out more about our English language school in central London.

Beth is a language enthusiast and former EFL teacher. After studying Modern Languages at university, her love of adventure led her to travel all over the world. Now settled in sunny Brighton, she loves writing blogs about the English language and giving travel advice about the UK.

Planning on sightseeing with The London Pass®? Well did you know you can also purchase a Visitor Oyster card with your pass so that you can enjoy unlimited travel in central London on the tube, bus, trains, and DLR networks. Make the most of your time in London with the Visitor Oyster card and travel around with ease.

Enjoy stress-free travel on public transport with a Visitor Oyster card

The Visitor Oyster card is the most flexible way of travelling around London as it covers your transport needs with one electronic ticket. It’s simple and easy to use, and is activated upon entry at a ticket barrier located in the stations. All you need to do is tap in on the circular yellow card reader, and then tap out again when you have finished your journey.

How to use an oyster card

The Visitor Oyster card is not stamped with a start or expiry date which means you can start using it whenever you want and any remaining credit can be used during any future trips to London. Plus, using your Visitor Oyster card for the first time won’t activate your London Pass, so you can start using it as soon as you arrive in the city.

Where and when can I use a Visitor Oyster card?

The Visitor Oyster card can be used on all London Transport networks, these include;

✔ DLR (Dockland Light Rail)

The Visitor Oyster card can be used for travel at any time of day, any day of the week so it’s great for both early risers and night owls.

Which zones can I travel across? Can I use it from the airport?

Over 66% of attractions included in The London Pass® are in Central London (zones 1 – 2) but the Visitor Oyster card is actually valid to use across all London, zones 1 – 9.

This includes travel to and from Heathrow Airport and London City Airport. So if you have chosen to get your travelcard sent out to you before you arrive, you can use it to get into London. Using your Visitor Oyster card to travel into Central London from Gatwick will incur a higher charge (up to £19.80 one-way on the Gatwick Express, for example) so we would advise against using it from this airport. Travel from Luton and Stanstead Airports is not included.

Your travel to and from Windsor Castle is included in your London Pass + Travel package. Journeys are valid from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central via Slough only. Show your valid London Pass to the ticket controller at London Paddington to board to train at no extra cost.

How to use an oyster card

The 60+ Oystercard provides fr ee travel on Transport for London ( TfL ) services for all Londoners when they reach 60 years old. The scheme is run by Transportf for London and it bridges the gap for older Londoners since the age of eligibility for the London Council’s Freedom Pass was raised by the Government.

The 60+ Oystercard allows Londoners to travel for free on TfL services from 09:00 weekdays, as well as anytime on weekends and bank holidays. It also allows holders of the pass to travel for free outside of weekday morning peak hours (6:30 – 9:30am) on National Rail services within London. Please check TfL’s website for a full list of time restrictions.


To be eligible for a 60+ London Oyster photocard, you must:

  • Be a permanent resident of a London borough
  • Be aged 60 or over

You’re not eligible for a 60+ London Oyster photocard if:

  • You’re eligible for an older, or disabled person’s Freedom Pass
  • You have a Veterans Oyster card


You need to create a web account with TfL before you can proceed. You will need:

  • A colour , digital, passport-sized photograph
  • An active email address
  • A machine-readable passport (most valid travel passports are machine-readable) or a UK driving licence (full or provisional). If you don’t have a current passport or driving license you can use your birth certificate as proof of your age for eligibility.
  • Proof of address
  • A valid debit or credit card (registered at your current address), to pay a £20 admin fee and verify your address

If you don’t have all this information , you can still apply online but may be asked to:

  • Download and print off a verification letter and take it to a Post Office in London with proof of your age and address
  • Pay the £20 application fee at a Post Office

If you are unable to apply online, you can apply over the phone. You will need:

  • To call 0343 222 1234
  • Have either your passport or driving licence to hand. You will be asked for the number to verify your identity and age. If you don’t give your passport or driving licence number over the phone you will also be sent a verification letter. You need to take this letter to the Post Office with the required documents for verification.
  • You will need to pay a £20.00 charge. This can be done by debit/credit card over the telephone or in person at the Post Office.
  • You will be sent a letter in the post. You must s end a passport sized photo in the return envelope.
  • Allow up to 2 weeks to receive your 60+ Oystercard .

Transition to an Older Person’s Freedom pass

Once you reach the State Pension Age, the 60+ Oystercard is no longer valid and you will need to obtain the Older Person’s Freedom Pass (OPFP). The OPFP is not issued by Transport for London. It is issued by London Councils. Please view our OPFP dedicated page for more information about this pass.

If you agree for TfL to share your personal data with third parties when you apply for the 60+ Oystercard , they will forward your details to London Councils approximately 4 weeks before your 60+ pass is due to expire. Your local Council is then responsible for processing your Freedom Pass and will contact you if they require any further information. If you are unsure whether you agreed fior your personal data to be shared with third parties, please contact Transport for London.

How to use an oyster card

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Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

The information provided on this page is purely factual and general in nature. You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

No longer is an Oyster Card needed to ride the London Underground – instead, commuters can simply tap their contactless credit card or now even their payment-enabled smartphone at the barriers to hop on board.

That’s thanks to the launch of Apple Pay in Australia for iPhone users and Android NFC payment apps for both Commonwealth Bank and Westpac customers, and as the phone behaves just like a credit card, it’s your ticket to the Tube.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started, and how you can easily keep track of your trips to assist with company expense claims or indeed your own travel budget.

Smartphone as an Oyster card: what you’ll need

As the idea suggests, Apple users need a modern iPhone – either the 6, 6 Plus, 6s or 6s Plus – configured with Apple Pay (or a linked Apple Watch), and an American Express card issued directly by American Express Australia.

How to use an oyster card

That includes cards like the American Express Qantas Premium card, the Platinum Charge card and the new $0 American Express Essential Card, although AMEX cards issued by ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB or Westpac aren’t yet supported.

Instead, CBA credit card customers toting any NFC-capable Android smartphone can fire up the ‘CommBank’ app and register their MasterCard or American Express card for contactless payments, as can Westpac customers with certain Samsung phones.

These include the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, S5, S5 Mini, S4, Note 5, Note 4 Edge, Note 4, Note 3 and Alpha models, although not Android phones from other manufacturers like HTC and Sony.

How to use an oyster card

Customers of all other banks or with other smartphone types may instead be able to obtain a ‘pay tag’ to enable smartphone contactless payments – for more information, contact your financial institution.

Smartphone as an Oyster card: how, where it works

Unlike in Australia where you’ll need an Opal, Myki or Go Card to tap and go on public transport, Transport for London (TfL) accepts fare payments from not just its own Oyster cards but also contactless credit cards on most services.

That includes the Tube/Underground, London Overground, TfL Rail, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and most National Rail services in London, along with the city’s buses, trams and the ‘Emirates Air Line’ cable car.

Before you approach the ticketing barriers or hop on board, get your phone ready to make a payment – for Apple users, it’s as simple as double-clicking on the iPhone’s ‘home’ button while the phone is locked:

How to use an oyster card

Android users running the Commonwealth Bank or Westpac apps will instead need to unlock their phone the normal way, open and sign-in to their bank’s app and look for the ‘tap and pay’ option.

Then, hold your phone over the yellow card reader, just as you would a traditional Oyster card, and your fare will automatically be billed to your nominated credit card.

How to use an oyster card

Smartphone as an Oyster card: fares, travel history

Using your smartphone to pay for your journey costs the same as a regular Oyster card pay-as-you-go fare, with the same daily and weekly fare caps that benefit Oyster users also offered to smartphone-paying commuters and which are applied automatically.

Just be sure to use the same payment card via your preferred app for every journey, otherwise the system can’t calculate how many times you’ve travelled during your London visit and you’ll continue to be charged for each trip.

Also remember that your bank’s usual overseas transaction fees continue to apply – just as they do when using a credit card for any other overseas purchase – but as these fees are normally percentage-based it’s no different to buying an Oyster card top-up the old way.

Only one charge will appear on your credit card statement each day which includes all of the travel you’ve done during that period, and by registering your card on the Transport for London website, you can easily keep tabs on your costs.

That’s handy if you’ll be submitting an expense report on your return or your employer needs a payment receipt that shows a record of where you’ve been and when, and if there are any mistakes, requesting a fare review online is easily done.

So the next time you’re in London, do not pass a ticket vending machine, do not collect an Oyster card: a smartphone in-hand is all you need to get around the city.

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Executive Traveller may receive a commission when you apply for these credit cards via our links.

The information provided on this page is purely factual and general in nature. You should seek independent advice and consider your own personal circumstances before applying for any financial product.

How to use an oyster card

How to use an oyster card

Chris Chamberlin

A Brisbane-based contributor to Executive Traveller, Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Anyone with a contactless debit or credit card can use it to pay for travel in London. It’s ideal if you don’t have or want an Oyster card. Or if you run out of pay as you go credit on your Oyster card.

Your card is used the same way as an Oyster card – you tap in and out at the tube or train station ticket barriers or tap the yellow card reader when you get on a bus. The main difference is that you don’t have to top-up your card with money, the fare is taken from your debit card or credit card the following day.

You need one contactless debit or credit card per person. You can’t pay for two or more people with one card.

Coronavirus/COVID 19: Face coverings are still compulsory on public transport in London

Contactless single & one day travel fares 2021


For central London (zone 1) it costs £2.40 per journey with a contactless debit or credit card.

Contactless Single Fares 2021
Single:off-peak Single:peak
Zone 1 £2.40 £2.40
Zone 1–2 £2.50 £3.00
Zone 1–3 £2.80 £3.40
Zone 1–4 £2.90 £4.00
Zone 1–5 £3.20 £4.80
Zone 1–6 £3.30 £5.30

Monday–Friday 6.30am–9.30am and from 4pm–7pm. If you travel into central London (zone 1) from an outer zone, there is no afternoon peak rate.


Off-peak fares are charged at all other times, including Public Holidays.

If you want to use your contactless card to pay for travel for the whole day, there’s a ‘daily cap’. This is the maximum you pay for unlimited travel in one day. For central London, it’s £7.40.

Contactless Daily Cap
Zone 1–2 £7.40
Zone 1–3 £8.70
Zone 1–4 £10.60
Zone 1–5 £12.70
Zone 1–6 £13.50

It’s £1.55 for one bus journey or for unlimited bus journeys within one hour with a contactless card. If you use the buses all day, £4.65 is the maximum amount deducted from your card.

There are no zones for bus travel in London.

Contactless weekly fares

If you use a contactless card to pay for travel between Monday and Sunday there’s a weekly cap – the maximum amount deducted from your card.

As it runs from Monday to Sunday, the cap does not benefit everyone.

For anyone visiting London for 5-7 days, a weekly Travelcard or bus pass might be cheaper depending on the day you first use public transport.


For central London (zone 1) it’s £37. Contactless weekly cap prices are the same as weekly Travelcard prices.

  • You benefit from the contactless ‘weekly cap’ if you arrive in London on Monday or Tuesday and use it to pay for public transport every day until Sunday
  • If you arrive in London on Wednesday to Sunday and use public transport every day for 6-7 days, buy a weekly Travelcard instead

The cost for bus travel between Monday and Sunday is £21.90

  • You benefit from the contactless weekly bus fare if you arrive in London on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and use the buses every day until Sunday
  • If you arrive in London on Thursday to Sunday and use the buses for the next 5-7 days, buy an ordinary weekly bus pass instead

How do I use a contactless card?

On the bus

Tap your contactless debit/credit card on the yellow card reader when you get on the bus. You don’t need to tap your card when you get off.

On the underground/overground

Tap your card on the yellow card reader to open the ticket barriers at the start of your journey. Do the same when you arrive at your destination. Even if the barriers are open, tap the reader otherwise you are charged the full fare.


The following working day, your journeys are added up and the money is deducted from your bank account or added to your credit card bill.

Non-UK issued contactless card

Visitors with non-UK issued cards should bear in mind that overseas transaction charges might apply when you use a contactless card. It’s probably best to check with your card provider first.

Card clash

If you have two or more contactless cards, make sure they’re not near each other when you tap your card on the reader. Decide which one you’re going to use and stick to it.

If you use different cards you will not benefit from the daily or weekly cap and you could be charged the ‘full fare’ (expensive!).


A record of usage is available, but you need register your contactless credit/debit card with TfL.

If you don’t want to do this, get an Oyster card instead. Receipts are available when you buy and/or top-up a card at an underground station ticket machine. You don’t get one automatically, you have to select ‘Receipt’. Look out for the prompt – it’s easy to miss.