If you’re travelling by tube, bus, London overground or on most trains in London, you can now pay by contactless card. It’s designed to be more convenient. The problem is that — if you’re not careful — you could be charged twice. What should you watch out for and what should you do if you are charged twice?
Q. What’s changing about how I can pay for my travel in London?
A. From September 2014, you’ve been able to pay using your credit, debit or prepaid card, if it has the contactless symbol on it. All you need to do is to ‘tap’ your card on the ticket barrier readers in the same way you’d do if you have an Oyster travelcard.
SAVVY TIP: You can only use contactless cards to make payments of £30 or under at a time.
It’s more convenient because you don’t have to worry about having an Oyster card or making sure it’s topped up all the time.
Q. Can I use a contactless card on all my journeys in London?
A. You can use contactless cards on most journeys. There are some exceptions if you’re travelling by train, there are a couple of bus routes you can’t use it on (402 and 477 — as I write this!) and you can’t use it on riverboats or Emirates Air Line. There’s a full list of where you can and can’t use contactless cards on the Transport for London website.
Q. Can I use a contactless wristband or my mobile phone?
A. Yes, you can. There’s a list of the other types of contactless payments that are accepted (you can see the list on the TfL website). It includes mobile phones, wrist bands and tags.
Q. Is it cheaper to use my contactless card?
A. It depends. You get charged the same as if you use your Oyster card, except that you won’t pay more than a certain amount on a weekly basis (from Monday through to Sunday). The cap varies depending on the journeys you make and when you make them. But it does mean you can (probably) make some journeys during that week and you won’t be charged for them.
If you use your Oyster card, you only benefit from daily capping. This is the same principle but it caps the amount you spend on train, bus and/or tube fares in a single day. If you pay using a contactless card, you’ll get daily capping as well.
SAVVY TIP: People who use Oyster cards should have been able to benefit from weekly capping from 2015. But as I write this in July 2016, it’s not yet been introduced.
Q. What happens if have my Oyster card and contactless card in my purse? Could I be charged twice?
A. Transport for London says that if you touch your purse on the reader and it has your contactless card in it and your Oyster travelcard, the machine won’t know which to charge so will ‘beep’ and should not take the fare from either card. However it also says that you could be charged two fares on two different cards.
Transport for London rather euphemistically calls this ‘card clash’. There’s more information about card clash on the Transport for London website.
SAVVY TIP: I’d recommend that you check your Oyster balance and your contactless card statement very carefully to make sure you’re not being charged wrongly.
Q. What happens if I use the wrong card by mistake?
A. If you touch the wrong card on the card reader you could get charged twice. Be aware of this!
If, for example, you wanted to use your Oyster card for both your journeys but, but touched a contactless card on the reader by mistake on your journey into work and used your Oyster card on your journey home, you’d be charged on each card and you won’t benefit from the daily price cap.
Transport for London says that most of the time the system would know that you also had an Oyster card and would automatically refund the extra journey in two working days. However, I don’t understand how it will know that you have an Oyster card if you’ve not registered your Oyster card online (possibly it will take the information if you use a certain card to top up your Oyster card..?).
Q. If I’ve used the wrong card and been charged, and not got a refund, what do I have to do?
A. You’d have to apply to Transport for London for a refund. There’s information on how you can apply for a refund on the TfL website.
Transport for London says that if your Oyster card has been registered online, you’ll get an alert to say you’ve been charged twice, but if your card hasn’t been registered, it’s up to you to notice this and ask for a refund. It says that of the 42 million Oyster cards that are still ‘active’ (i.e. valid for use) only 4.7 million have been registered — around 10%.
SAVVY TIP: You can get a refund at a London Underground station ticket office if your Oyster card has been charged too much, but you can’t get a contactless card refund at the station.
Q. Do I have to use my contactless card to pay?
A. No you don’t. You can still pay using your Oyster travelcard if you prefer.
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