|Buses||Single journey||Daily cap||Weekly cap|
Return fares? There are no return fares
Hopper fares? Your second bus journey is free if it’s less than sixty minutes since you boarded the first one
Daily cap? If you make more than one bus journey then the computer stops charging you once the total reaches the cap
Weekly cap? The weekly cap only applies from Mon-Sun
|Trains||Single journey||Daily cap||Weekly cap|
Child fares? There are no contactless fares for children
Return fares? There are no return fares either
Peak and off-peak? Peak time is 6.30 to 9.30 AM, and 4 to 7 PM (Mon-Fri). Fares are based on when the journey begins
Daily cap? The computer adds up all the journeys you make in a day and stops charging you once you reach the daily cap
Weekly cap? The weekly cap only applies from Mon-Sun
A ‘contactless payment card’ is your bank debit card or credit card – the same card you use for your shopping.
It works exactly like an Oyster smartcard, but you don’t have to keep topping it up because it takes the money straight out of your bank account.
You will notice that the contactless fares are practically identical to the pay-as-you-go Oyster fares. Contactless and Oyster are usually the cheapest way to travel in London, unless you are staying for a week or more, in which case a travelcard may be cheaper (but it all depends on how many journeys you’re going to make).
Important note: the computer doesn’t actually charge your account until the very end of the day, because it needs to know whether you reached the ‘daily cap’. This means that the fare payment won’t come out of your bank account until the following day. The weekly cap works in exactly the same way – you will still get charged at the end of each day, but when the accumulated daily totals reach the weekly cap the computer will stop charging you.
UK-issued bank cards should work as long as they carry the contactless payment logo: , but only a few foreign credit cards and contactless debit cards are currently accepted, chiefly American Express, plus some MasterCards and Visa cards. You can check whether your contactless card will work at the TFL website.
But be careful! If you are using a foreign contactless bank card then you should be extremely careful about the charges, because your bank might add on a hefty transaction fee for anything purchased overseas – which will include individual bus and train tickets.
Contactless cards work out cheaper than using a 1-day travelcard because they have a daily cap. This is the maximum amount of money that the computer will take from your card each day – and it’s always lower than the cost of a 1-day travelcard – handy! But you will need to make at least three journeys in one day for it to take effect.
Buses and trains each have their own daily caps. If you use a combination of buses and trains then you’ll have to pay the train cap (which is higher). The daily caps are all shown in the fares table above. If you need to check which zones each train station is in then here’s a list of London underground stations.
Important note: this might sound obvious, but you need to use the same card for every single journey in order for the daily price cap to work (and the same goes with the weekly cap).
Contactless cards also have a weekly cap (Oyster cards do not have weekly caps). This works in exactly the same way as the daily cap, and freezes your maximum seven-day spend at the same level as a weekly travelcard.
Unfortunately the computer is only clever enough to keep track of your journeys between Monday and Sunday – that is the only stretch of seven days that counts. If you’re travelling between Tuesday and Monday instead, or Wednesday to Tuesday, for example, then you will end up paying the rate for seven individual days.
And it doesn’t matter if you skip a day either. If you only travel on five or six days out of seven then it will still kick in as long as your Monday to Sunday total exceeds the weekly cap.
The cost of the weekly cap varies depending on whether you just use the buses on their own, or a combination of buses and trains. If you use the trains then the cap will be affected by which zones you travel through (buses don’t have zones, so the bus cap is always the same). Our bus and train fares table above has a list of all the caps for contactless cards.
No. We get asked this question every day (literally every day!) but it’s not possible to share a contactless card. Each person in your group will require their own debit card or credit card.
We’ve lost count of the times we’ve seen tourists tapping their card down on the Oyster reader twice, assuming that the computer will deduct two fares, but it doesn’t work like that. The first time that you touch your card down the computer will think that you want to start your journey, and when you touch it down again it will think that you want to end it. If you do both of these taps within two minutes then you’ll get charged a maximum fare. If you do them outside of two minutes then you’ll get charged a minimum fare (the exact amount will depend on which zone you’re in). This fare will only be refunded if you start a brand-new journey within 45 minutes. We know this sounds confusing, but the important point to remember is this: only one fare will be deducted from your card – not two!
If you’re really stuck and need to use your solitary contactless card to pay for two tickets then there’s a simple solution: just buy them from a self-service machine instead, or from a manned ticket window – but then you’ll end up paying the normal cash fare instead, and not the contactless fare.
A contactless card is just your normal bank card (the same one you use to do your shopping), so you either have to have a debit card or credit card. (It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people actually ask that question!)
All you have to do is touch your bank card against the big round Oyster reader by the door (it’s bright yellow – you can’t miss it!). If it registers okay then you will hear a beep and see a little green light by the Oyster machine. If you hear two beeps and see a red light instead, then it didn’t work, and you should try again. Try holding your card it flush with the reader. (You may have to take your bank card out of your wallet first.)
Some buses also have a second reader by the middle doors, and a third one by the back door, but if you’re an inexperienced traveller then I recommend sticking with the front door. That’s because the front door will always have a reader, and if you try and board a bus through a door where there isn’t one then it will look like you’re trying to dodge your fare.
Note: There is no need to touch your bank card down again when you leave the bus – you only have to do that when travelling on the train.
All you have to do is wave your contactless card near the big yellow Oyster reader at the front of the platform gate, and the gate will open automatically.
If the gate refuses to open then take your card out of your wallet and touch it flush against the reader. If it still doesn’t work after that then you’re probably out of money (which means your bank account is empty!). There should be an LCD screen on the gate which will tell you the exact reason.
You need to touch it down again at the other end of your journey as well. The reason why you need to touch it down at both ends is because the computer needs to know your entire route was. If you only touch down at one end then it won’t know all the zones you passed through, so the system will clobber you for whatever the maximum cost was on that line (ouch!). If you forget to touch down at both ends then it’s even worse: you could be prosecuted for fare evasion.
Important note #1: Sometimes the train station staff open the barriers to speed the flow of people through the station, but you must STILL tap down – even if the gate is already open.
Important note #2: Some suburban stations don’t have platform gates and place their Oyster readers against a wall instead. They are usually found at the bottom of the stairs, or on the platform itself.
There are loads of different reasons why your card might won’t work – the most obvious of which is that you don’t have enough money in your account. But have you checked that it’s actually a contactless card? It should carry the following symbol on it: .
If it happens to be brand new, then you probably won’t be able to make a contactless payment until you’ve made at least one with chip-and-pin (for security reasons). If it’s been issued by an overseas bank then check that it’s valid on the TFL website.
Contactless payment cards also suffer from something called ‘card clash’. If you keep your Oyster card and bank card in the same wallet then the computer might get confused about which one to charge, and end up rejecting both. If this happens to you then don’t fret… just separate the cards and try again.
If you need to change trains then you only pay one fare, provided that you don’t leave any of the stations in-between. Let’s imagine that you’re travelling from Holborn to Baker Street, changing onto the Bakerloo line at Oxford Circus. There’s no need to leave the station there: you can just walk between the platforms without passing through any barriers. The computer will then recognise that it’s all part of the same journey. It’s only when you actually pass through the barriers at Baker Street that it considers the journey to be over.
Note: It works differently on the bus. You always have to pay a new fare for each bus journey.
It’s not possible to get a receipt for contactless journeys. All you do is tap the bank card down on the reader – there is nothing there to print out a ticket or a receipt.
If you are really desperate for a travel record then you will have to register your contactless card on the TFL website beforehand, and they will log 12 months-worth of journeys. You can then print the whole lot off as a CSV file or PDF file.
Note: If you’ve already registered for an Oyster account then there’s no need to register again. You can just log in and add your bank card to that one.
If you don’t like the idea of registering an account then you can still get a record of your journeys here, but only for the previous week.
London: A Visitor’s Guide
Have you seen our guidebook? We explain how to ride the buses, boats, taxis and trains, with all the fares and ticket options
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