Oyster Extension Permits

The Oyster Extension Permit was a switch which was needed by Oyster users with a travelcard stored on their card and who wanted to travel beyond the validity of that travelcard on National Rail services.  Thankfully it is no longer required after TfL managed to persuade the NR TOCs to drop it.  It only lasted 505 days and was so poorly publicised that the majority of Oyster users are still oblivious to it’s existance.

I suggest a quiet funeral for the OEP and respectfully ask that no flowers are sent.

This page remains as a historical record, along with it’s many comments, but no new comments are accepted.

Oyster Extension Permits (the old page)

First let’s clear up a common misconception.  OEPs do not extend the Oyster system beyond it’s area.  They allow you to travel beyond the zones on your stored travelcard but still within the overall Oyster area.

This is possibly the hardest concept within the Oyster system to understand.  The whole point about Oyster is to be able to turn up and travel whenever you want without having to queue for tickets.  So why do we have OEPs which have to be obtained before starting a journey?  Before I answer that question, let me just clarify  who needs to obtain a permit.  You only need to obtain a permit if you have a travelcard stored on your Oyster card, you start your journey within the zones covered by your travelcard and your journey takes you beyond those zones on National Rail services (excluding Overground).  You don’t need one if you start your journey outside your zones, if you haven’t got a stored travelcard (i.e. you only use pay-as-you-go), if the journey is entirely within your zones, or if the part of your journey outside of the zones is only on TfL rail services (i.e. it is by tube, Overground or DLR).  The flowchart below summarises whether you need an OEP.

Flowchart describing whether an OEP is required

You can set your permit at any Tube or London Overground station ticket office or touchscreen ticket machine, Oyster Ticket Stops, some National Rail ticket offices or self-service ticket machines.  You should only set the permit shortly before starting the journey that requires it.  You will need at least £1.50 pay-as-you-go balance on your card.

If using a self service machine the process is simple:

  1. Select the Oyster services option.
  2. Touch your card on the yellow reader.
  3. Select the Add OEP button.
  4. Touch your card on the yellow reader again.

So, why do you need them?  When you touch in within the zones on your travelcard the system does not deduct the maximum fare (as it does when using pay-as-you-go).  This means that there is no incentive to touch out at the end of your journey where many National Rail stations are ungated and unstaffed.  With an OEP on your card you will get a reduced maximum fare deducted which will be adjusted when you touch out.  The reduced fare is equivalent to a zone 1-4 single fare.  If you fail to touch out this fare would remain deducted from your balance and wouldn’t count towards any cap for that day either.

Now the techincal bit.  The OEP is really just a switch.  All it does is tell the system to deduct a reduced maximum fare when you touch in within the zones covered by your stored travelcard.  It is this deduction that National Rail inspectors will want to see if they check your card while outside the zones covered by your travelcard.  Once the switch has been set it will remain on the card until one of the following occur:

  • You touch out at the end of a journey outside your zones.  It will also calculate the correct fare and adjust the original deduction at this point.
  • You touch in at a station outside your zones.
  • It is switched off at a ticket stop, ticket office or ticket machine.

The nasty gotcha.  You don’t need an OEP when travelling outside your zones on services run by TfL (Tube, DLR, Overground).  You do on all other National Rail services.  It is advisable to set one if travelling outside your zones between New Cross Gate and West Croydon/Crystal Palace.  This is because you might end up on a Southern operated service where an inspector would want to see the entry deduction.

The even nastier gotcha.  Originally you would still be charged correctly if you forgot to set an OEP but touched in and out at each end of the journey.  However, I’ve now been made aware that Southeastern have changed their gateline programming such that when you go to touch out it flashes up “Seek assistance” and won’t open the gate.  When you seek assistance you may well get stung with a penalty fare.  Ouch!  I’m currently trying to get information about how widespread this practice is.

This page has been heavily updated following the comment posted by John below – thanks John.

99 thoughts on “Oyster Extension Permits”

  1. Hello. A few points re. OEPs

    1) There is no distinction between NR services that accepted pay as you go before November 2009 and those that did not.
    An OEP is required if you are travelling within the zones of your Travelcard to outside the zones of your Travelcard (but within the zonal system) on any train not operated by Transport for London (this includes Tube, DLR and London Overground). The requirement applies to National Rail services that have accepted pay as you go for some time, for example Liverpool Street to Stratford.

    2) The OEP is simply an “on/off” setting. When turned on, a maximum fare is deducted when touching in within the zones of any Travelcard(s) valid on the Oyster card. The charge (for ordinary adult rate Oyster cards) is £4.20 at peak single fare times (06:30 – 09:30 and 16:00 – 19:00 M-F excluding bank holidays) and £3.40 at all other times. When the Oyster card is used to subsequently touch out, the correct extension fare is calculated and the pay as you go balance adjusted accordingly. The OEP is then set to “off’.

    3)The OEP remains set to “on” until:
    – The Oyster card is touched in at a station outside the zones of any Travelcard(s) stored on the Oyster. (This includes cards with no valid Travelcard loaded)
    – The OEP is set to “off” at a self-service machine, ticket office or shop

    The National Rail train operating companies are not really interested in the OEP setting. What their revenue inspectors are looking for is an entry charge paid when the journey was started. In other words, they are insisting an extension fare is paid at the start of the journey. The OEP set to “on” before touching in simply enables the charge to be deducted.

  2. Couple of queries. How does it work if you don’t need an OEP when starting a journey outside your zones? Say you’ve got a Z2-Z5 travelcard and you want to go into Z1,you set an OEP,I’ve got that bit,so how does it work on your return journey when you’re starting in Z1? Also,what about if your journey starts AND finishes outside the zones covered by your card? Say you had a card for Z2-Z4 and you wanted to use national rail from Z5 to Z1?

  3. Thanks for your questions. If you start outside your zones then you will have a maximum fare deducted when you touch in. When you touch out within your zones it adjusts the fare down to whatever you needed to get to your zones. The OEP is needed to activate a maximum fare when touching in within your zones because normally nothing is deducted in that instance.

    In the second instance I would imagine that you’ll get a deduction to cover both segments outside your zones. It’s not a scenario that I can easily check though.

  4. You only need to set the OEP in you are travelling from within the zones of your Travelcard(s) to outside the zones on a National Rail service:

    In Phil’s example – Z2-4, travelling from Z5 to Z1, no OEP is required.

  5. In Phil’s example, Z2-4 Travelcard, travelling from Z5 to Z1 on National Rail only, you will be charged the lesser of:
    1) Z5 Oyster single fare + Z1 Oyster single fare
    2) Z1-5 Oyster single fare

    East Croydon to Victoria on a Tuesday:
    07:30 Entry East Croydon: £4.20 deducted from balance
    07:55 Exit Victoria: £0.90 added to balance

    You are charged £1.40 for Z5 plus £1.90 for Z1 = £3.30
    This is less than the Z1-5 Peak Oyster single fare = £3.90

    15:00 Entry Victoria: £3.40 deducted from balance
    15:30 Exit East Croydon: £0.80 added to balance

    You are charged the Z1-5 Off-Peak Oyster single fare = £2.60
    This is less than Z1+Z5: £1.50+£1.30=£2.80

    £4.20 and £3.40 are the Peak (0630 – 0930 / 1600 – 1900 M-F excluding public holidays) and Off-Peak maximum fares for adult-rate cards with a valid Travelcard, regardless of what zones are loaded. Higher charges may apply beyond Z9 (not sure).

    This max fare will be deducted when touching in outside the zones of any valid Travelcard and when touching in within zones with the OEP set.

  6. With a Oyster PAYG, do I need a OEP to travel from Mile End to Windsor & Eton, when visiting Windsor Castle?

  7. Hi trevor,

    Windsor & Eton is outside the Oyster area so you cannot use Oyster PAYG to make that journey. You can use it on the tube between Mile End and Ealing Broadway, but you’ll need a paper rail ticket to carry on to Windsor. You could use Oyster as far as West Drayton, but you’d have to get off the train there to touch out and get your paper ticket which might extend the journey.

    OEPs are not extending the Oyster System, they are extending the zonal validity of a stored travelcard.

  8. I have tried to ask this question of tfl tavel centre – but still got an amiguous reply.

    You state “You should only set the permit shortly before starting the journey that requires it. “. If I take a tube journey entirely within my travel card zones (to say Euston) and then take immediately after National Rail to outside my zones (eg Watford Junction) can I set the OEP before I start the tube journey, or does it have to be just before I start the actual leg which takes me outside the zones.

    I really can not afford to pay penalty fares so am very, very reluctant to use OEP’s in case I screw up – which is a real shame.

    Thanks in advance to anyone that can assist.

    [by the way the response from tfl “You can choose to top up your oystercard at any underground station of your choice.” – err, but I was asking about OEP’s not top ups ]

  9. Hi Michael,

    You can set the OEP before you start the overall journey. There is no time limit for using an OEP so it can be set earlier in the day if that is more convenient. You can also set it at Euston if you want.

    As long as you set the OEP and touch in at the start of the journey that will take you out of zones then you will be ok as far as a penalty fare is concerned. You also need to touch out at the end, of course, so you get charged the correct extension fare.

  10. Sorry if this is obvious but I could not work it out from the previous examples. What exactly do these OEP fares cost? Let’s say I have a Zones 1 and 2 Travelcard stored on my Oyster and I use an OEP to go from Kings Cross (Zone 1) to New Barnet (Zone 4) in off-peak time. Do I pay £2.00 (which would be the National Rail fare from a Zone 2 station to a Zone 4 station) or 80p (Zone 1 to Zone 4 is £2.60 less £1.80 which would be the charge for Kings Cross to Finsbury Park in Zone 2).

  11. Hi Gabriella,

    The OEP is a switch which enables you to make a complete journey without having to break to touch in where you need to start paying. Furthermore, it allows you to start paying from an imaginary station on the zone boundary where your travelcard runs out even if there is no such station in reality. In your example you will be charged a zone 3-4 single fare which is currently £1.50.

    I agree that this isn’t as clear as it could be in the main page above so I’ll look to update it in the near future.

  12. Hi Mike

    Thanks for that reply which was extremely good at clarifying the situation. I was initially confused by your figure of £1.50 but then I saw that New Barnet is actually in Zone 5, not Zone 4 as I said. Sorry about that.

    The troublemaker in me now wants to ask what the fare is if you have a Zones 1-8 Travelcard stored and use an OEP to go to Watford Junction. At all the other extremities there seems to be an obvious answer (for example, fares exist between the Grays group stations so I can imagine what would happen if you had a Zones 1-6 Travelcard and used an OEP to go out there). What would be the “imaginary station” on the boundary between Zone 8 and Watford Junction? If it is Watford Junction itself then does that make it a nil fare? That would make the purchase of a Travelcard including Watford Junction something of a waste of money.

    Many thanks

  13. Hi Gabriella,

    Short answer is that I don’t know. I’m sure it won’t be nil. It may well be the same price as a boundary zone 8 to Watford Junction paper ticket. Watford Junction is an anomoly because although it is served by London Overground (hence the need to allow Oyster) the fares are set by London Midland. That is also why there are special fares in some instances whenever an Oyster journey is solely on that line between Watford Junction and Euston.

    Hope that helps.

  14. Hi,

    Let me add one more question:

    I currently use a PAYG Oyster card which has roughly £ 30 credit on it. I plan to add a 1 month travelcard (1-4) this weekend.

    Question: With both on 1 card (PAYG plus the travelcard), do I still need to get the OEP before I use the card for a journey taking me from zone 1 to zone 5 or 6? Or will the fare difference be automatically be deducted from my PAYG credit?

    Also, why do I need OEP only for journeys on NR? If I touch in at a tube station in zone 1 (with my travelcard zones 1-4) and travel all the way to Heathrow in zone 6, will the fare difference then be automatically deducted from my PAYG credit?

    Sorry, despite all your best efforts, I still remain confused about this whole topic. 🙁

    Cheers and best,


  15. Don’t worry, most people are thoroughly confused by this topic. Answering your second question first, it is only required on journeys outside your zones on NR trains because their stations are often un-gated. Tube stations are all completely gated and staffed so there is less danger of you leaving the system without paying. So at Heathrow your PAYG balance will be adjusted automatically when you touch out.

    Going back to the first question, if the journey from zone 4 is on NR trains then yes you would need the OEP. If you don’t get one and you do touch in and out then the fare would be deducted correctly, but if you met an inspector outside your zones you might be liable to a penalty fare. This is because no maximum fare will have been deducted on touch in without the OEP to trigger it.

    Hope that helps.

  16. I’m getting this slowly! Just wanted to clarify one thing though if I may. I’m PAYG, with no pre-loaded travelcards. If I’m travelling round and reach a price cap equivalent to a travelcard, this doesn’t mean I need an OEP does it? So if I have a zone 1-2 price cap at £5.60 off peak, and get on a NR from st. pancras to Cricklewood (zone 3), will this just increase me to a zone 1-3 price cap (£6.30 off peak)? Am I safe with the ticket inspector?

  17. Hi Greg,

    If you have no pre-loaded travelcard then OEPs do not apply at all. If you have acquired a zone 1-2 cap and venture out into zone 3 it will simply deduct a bit more to apply the next cap up. I actually did just this very thing last week. I had been zooming around zones 2-6 all day and had long since capped at £5.10. I then went into zone 1 and immediately had another £2.40 deducted.

    Hope this helps,


  18. Thanks for the reply! Presumably then, if you have a £5.60 zone 1-2 price cap, does some more get deducted (a reduced maximum fare) when you touch in to get on the NR train in zone 1? i.e. the equivalent of what gets deducted when you touch in with your OEP switch on?

  19. Actually each time you touch in it deducts the maximum fare (or up to it if continuing a journey). If you don’t touch out at the end of the journey that fare remains and does not count towards the price cap.

  20. Hi Mike,

    I have a question which has been bugging me for a few weeks. I want to travel from Harringay Rail (Zone 3) to Elephant & Castle which is in Zone 1 and 2. If I have a travel card for Zone 2 and 3, could I use this to get off at Elephant & Castle even though I will be traveling through zone 1 but won’t be touching my oyster down, or would I have to have a OEP?

    Thanks, Andrew

  21. Hi Andrew,

    You would not need an OEP because your out of zones journey would be using the TfL operated Northern Line.


  22. Hi Mike,

    While travelling from zone 4 (hainault) to zone 3 (ealing broadway) via central line, I found that even though I’ve a travelcard for z2-4, I’m being charged for passing through zone1. Why does this issue occur? I spoke to the individual at the ticket counter, but he just made a statement that since I’m passing through z1, it’s making the deductions. But I don’t the reason as I’m not swiping my card anywhere in Z1.
    Kindly advice.


  23. Hi Thomas,

    The Oyster system knows what the most likely route between any two stations is. If that route takes you through zone 1 then you will be charged accordingly. To make your journey without incurring a zone 1 charge you would need to change at Stratford and Shepherd’s Bush using the Overground North London Line between the two. At Stratford you should touch your Oystercard on a pink route validator. You’ll also need to touch out and in again at Shepherd’s Bush (you have 20 minutes to do this as it’s an out of station interchange). Doing all that will tell the system that you’ve avoided zone 1.

  24. I have zone 1-2 annual travelcard on Oyster, plus Pay as You Go. This morning tried to get OEP from 2 newsagents near Norbiton BR station in zone 5. Both said they didn’t do them and that you need to go to Tube station. This is difficult in Norbiton.

  25. Hi Jonathan,

    You only need to add an OEP if you are starting within your zones. If you start from Norbiton it will just deduct the maximum entry charge as usual and adjust it when you touch out.

  26. Thanks very much Mike. Because I thought OEP was needed bought a single to boundary zone 2 at the station for £2.60. If I had used Pay as You Go would it have deducted £2.20 at Waterloo? Seem to remember it cost more when I did the journey some time ago.

  27. If you touch in in zone 5 and touch out in zone 1 with a zone 1-2 travelcard stored you will be charged for a zone 5-3 journey. At the moment that is £2.20 peak and £1.70 off-peak.

  28. Hi Mike, I have a question. I have a zone 1-5 travelcard stored on my oyster card and have pre-pay balance. What would happen if I placed an OEP marker on my card at Waterloo, planning to travel to zone 6. But on route I get off within zone 5 at an unmanned ungatted station and that is the end of my journey. Will I now be charged the maximum deduction from my pre-pay balance? Will Tfl refund this?

  29. Hi Kulstah,

    Even if the station is unmanned and ungated there should still be standalone validators to record entry or exit. If you touch on one of those it will clear the deduction from your card. However, the OEP will remain in place so you will have to ensure that you always touch in and out wherever you travel until such time as you touch out (or in) outside of your zones.

    Hope that helps.

  30. Hi,

    I have a question which might be slightly deviating from the subject, but I am so confused and you guys sound quite well-informed on the matter, so I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    Basically, I commute via train from Alexandra Palace (zone 3) to Welwyn Garden City (outside the Oyster area) with a season ticket. Once a week though, on my return journey, I have to go all the way to Finsbury Park (zone 2), on a fast train that doesn’t stop at Ally Pally. Now, as my season ticket only covers the route between WGC and Ally Pally, on these occasions I normally buy (before my journey) a paper ticket from Ally Pally to Finsbury Park in case I bump into a ticket inspector. The price for this ticket is 2.10 £. However, if I was to use my Oyster PAYG on National Rail from Ally Pally to Finsbury Park, this would cost me only 1.60 £. The problem is, I can’t use my Oyster Card because I can’t swipe in at Ally Pally, and I can only swipe out at Finsbury Park!!! I don’t find it fair that for exactly the same journey I have to pay 0.50 £ more each time. Is there a way around this? What do you guys suggest?

    Thanks in advance.

  31. Hi Sparky,

    Unfortunately there is no way round this. At least not while using a fast train. However, on checking the fares on both TfL and NRES you might not be being overcharged by as much. A peak single is £1.80 using Oyster or £1.50 off-peak. Is your journey between 4pm and 7pm? If it is then you are only losing out on 30p. Also, do you return back to Alexandra Palace from Finsbury Park and is that peak or off-peak? A paper return from Ally Pally to Finsbury Park is only £3.70, just 10p more than two peak Oyster singles and 20p less than a paper single plus peak Oyster for the return. If your return time is variable and is sometimes peak, sometimes off-peak then the paper return is only 10p more than a paper single and Oyster off-peak single.

    Hope this helps.

  32. Hi,
    I’m currently travelling from Woking to Watford Jct each day via central London and am trying to work out if the Oyster option would be cheaper than the £367.50 I’m paying a month for that journey.
    I now understand from the above posts that I would need to add an OEP to the card at Waterloo for my return journey and I think that I would be charged for the extra cost of Woking to Surbiton on the way in to London.
    The Oyster site shows a zone 1-9+Watford Jct as £275.40 per month (2011 prices), so the OEP would have to cost less then £100 to be comparable.
    Any thoughts?

  33. Hi CJ,

    Sorry, you seem to have missed the opening paragraph of the page above. OEPs do NOT extend the Oyster area beyond Surbiton (in your case). You would need a Woking to Surbiton season ticket in addition to the Zone 1-9+WJ stored travelcard.

  34. If I got a Z1-6 travel card stored on the oyster, do i need a OEP if travelling to Orpington from London Bridge?

  35. No. With a zone 1-6 travelcard you would only need an OEP if using Chiltern or London Midland/Southern services to zones 7-9 or Watford Junction; or C2C services to the Grays area.

  36. Hi this is a really helpful site. I have an unusual situation and I would appreciate some suggestions. I have an Zone 2-3 travelcard and need to travel from West Norwood – Zone3 to Belvedere – Zone5. It appears that the most straightforward route is to travel to London Bridge in Zone 1 and change there for a train to Belvedere. As I will be starting my journey from within my Travelcard zones I expect that I should be setting an OEP at West Norwood. I don’t believe that I will have to go through gates at London Bridge to switch from Southern to Southeastern trains.

    Do you know if I will be automatically charged for travelling through Zone 1 as part of my journey? Do I need to touch in or out at London Bridge?

  37. Hi Dave,

    Yes, you will need to set an OEP before you start. If you don’t touch out and in again at London Bridge the system will still assume that you have gone that way and will charge you accordingly. If you need to visit the concourse while there, make sure you touch out on the platform 8-16 gatelines and touch in again on the platform 1-6 gatelines. That way the system will apply the out of station interchange and allow you 30 minutes between touches while still treating the whole journey as one.

    You will be charged in one of two ways, whichever is cheaper will apply. Either you will be charged a zone 1 single and a zone 4-5 single, or you will be charged a zone 1-5 single.

    Alternatively, if time is not an issue you can avoid zone 1 by travelling via Crystal Palace to New Cross Gate, walking to New Cross then a train to Lewisham, DLR to Greenwich and finally a train to Belvedere. If you take this route then you have 25 minutes to walk between the New Cross stations and have the journey treated as one. You will then only be charged a zone 4-5 single.

    Hope this helps.

  38. Thanks very much Mike for the alternative.
    But it is also good to know that I can touch out at London Bridge, grab a pasty and a coffee, then touch in again and not be charged twice for zone 1, that was what I was most concerned about

  39. I’m planning to make a journey from Canning Town (Zone 3) to Twickenham (Zone 5), changing at Waterloo (Zone 1) from London Underground to National Rail. I currently have a Zones 2-3 travelcard.
    Given that the OSI at Waterloo will merge my overall journey into one, and that from Waterloo to Twickenham I’ll be passing back through Zones 2 and 3, will that mean that I need an OEP as my overall journey is starting inside my travelcard zones and ending outside my travelcard zones even though there is an interchange outside my travelcard zones?

  40. Hi Mike,
    This website is invaluable! So much more helpful than anything TfL have produced! Just one question.

    If I have a z3-4 travelcard, do I still have to touch in and out every time I make a journey within those zones? If I’m travelling from Bexleyheath (z5) to Blackheath (z3) and get inspected at Kidbrooke, having forgotten to touch in, will I still be liable to penalty fare or will I just be deemed to be within my travelcard area?

  41. Hi Jack,

    The TfL terms and conditions for Oyster Cards says that you must touch in and touch out at all times. In practice you will not currently experience any problems if you forget to do so within the stored zones. The only exception to that is if you have an OEP set because then a reduced maximum fare is applied and only adjusted when a pair of matching touch in and touch outs occur.

    I suspect that you know the answer to your other question. Suffice to say that you would have a problem if checked before arrival at Welling, or maybe even just afterwards if the inspector was certain that he didn’t see you get on the train there.

  42. Hi,
    I will need to travel from Willesden Green to Dartford for a 6 months period. The daily travel would be to take a tube from Willesden Green to London Bridge and then change to Southeastern train to Dartford. As I understand from this forum the OEP only work within the oyster 1-6 zones. That means I can’t use travel card 1-6 zone to get to Dartford with OEP. Is there any other extension available to extend travel card daily beyond 6th zone? I wouldn’t like to use extra season ticket for London bridge to Dartford on top of my oyster travel card if possible. Does anyone have any ideas what would be the best option for this daily commuting. I never needed to commute daily outside zone 6 so I really need help with this one.
    Thank you all for your help!

    • Hi,

      There’s no easy way around this one. If you definitely need to travel by train to Dartford then the cheapest way will be to get a Dartford to all zones paper travelcard season. If you already have a travelcard loaded onto your Oyster then you probably need to swap it for the new ticket. OEPs, even if they were applicable, are really for occasional journeys rather than daily commuting.

      However, there is one potential alternative if you don’t mind extending your commute by about 20 minutes. All the buses between Crayford and Dartford accept travelcards and Oyster as if they were in zone 6. In fact they go all the way to Bluewater like that. The 96 is about every 7-8 minutes and the 428 adds another 4 buses an hour so you rarely have to wait that long. Journey time is around ten minutes depending on traffic.

  43. To my surprise, the chap at the tube station next to my work knew about OEPs (having remembered his refresher course), even though he thought the min. balance was £1.30. He reckons it’s valid for a year (if not used). I think it’s a shambles that this OEP thing is not advertised anywhere! Oh well, I shall be experimenting with it and let you know if I run into difficulties.

    I wonder whether OEPs are required at stations like Gunnersbury and New Cross where the Oyster readers are shared by TfL and NR.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for the message. I’d be interested to hear about any issues you encounter. £1.30 is the minimum adult fare for 1 zone outside zone 1. Not sure why you need 20p more for an OEP, but that’s what the TfL site says. Regarding stations like New Cross, the key is not who runs the station where you start or finish your journey, it is whether you will be using any NR (other than Overground) trains while outside of the zones. If you had a zone 2-3 travelcard and went to London Bridge by SET then you would need one, but if you went via Overground and Jubilee Line you wouldn’t.

  44. Mike,

    but how does the Oyster reader know whether I’ve arrived by Overground or Southeastern? This wouldn’t matter too much until I read the bit about Southeastern’s readers rejecting cards with sufficient prepay credit but no OEPs.

    • Right, you’re saying that you don’t have zone 2 on your travelcard and you arrive at New Cross. If you touched in at somewhere in SE London then it could want to see an OEP, but if you touched in at Stratford, say, then it wouldn’t. I think it’s quite likely that the barriers at New Cross will just calculate the correct fare anyway. The situation is a little muddied now given that a poster over the weekend said that Charing Cross quite happily let him out without an OEP. It is just possible that SE have had legal advice on the basis that if you touch in and try to touch out with sufficient PAYG credit on your card then they can hardly suggest that you were trying to evade payment of the correct fare.

  45. This all makes fascinating reading for a transport geek like me but I can’t help thinking that any fare system that you have to be Sherlock Holmes to even understand isn’t fit for purpose!!

  46. i have zone 1-3 from old street station to lewisham station bu sometime i go to orpington station,but b4 i always put extra £10 on my oyster but now do i stiill need the oep?pls explain to me pls.

    • Yes, you always have needed the OEP. It doesn’t cost anything extra, but it does make the system deduct a charge on touch in at Lewisham which will be adjusted when you touch out at Orpington.

  47. Hello Mike, thanks for your informations

    I have an oyster card with a travel card zone 1-3.
    I’m supposed to go to Kingston(zone 6) tomorrow

    I’ll set an OEP on my oyster
    Touch in at Waterloo railroad station (zone 1)
    Touch out at Kingston (zone 6)

    So my PAYG fare will be £2.9 (peak single fare for zone 3-6)

    When i’ll come back
    No need to set an OEP
    Touch in at Kingston
    Touch out at Waterloo
    PAYG fare £2 (off peak single for zone 3-6)

    Can you please tell me if its right or if i miss something.

    • Hi Anousak,

      You’re almost right. You’ve got the OEP stuff correct, but the fares you will be charged are lower – you’ll only need the zone 4-6 single fares because when mixing a travelcard season and PAYG the system invents an imaginary station on the boundary between the crossover zones (unless one really exists, of course). So that will be £2.30 and £1.70.

  48. HI,
    I have a 1 and 2 weekly travelcard.
    I get my OEP to travel to zone 3 but i change my mind halfway through the journey and tap out at zone 2.
    Will i be able to reset the OEP or will the full amount be deducted from my balance ?

    • Hi Thomas,

      When you touch out in zone 2 it will adjust the maximum fare which was deducted on touch in back down to zero so you will not pay anything. The OEP will remain on your card so you will have to remember to touch in and out every time until it is cleared. Unless the station is operated by SWT you should be able to clear the OEP yourself at a ticket machine. SWT machines will be able to service Oyster cards later this year.

      Hope this helps.

  49. Please help! There are Oyster readers at Woking station though I thought it was out of the area. Is it possible to use Oyster at Woking then? I am travelling from zone 3 to Woking everyday – do you know what my options are for OEP? Currently paying £224 a month for a paper ticket and can’t find anywhere to calculate alternatives.

    • Hi ap,

      The readers at Woking will almost certainly be for South West Trains’ own smartcard ticketing system. They may well look like Oyster readers, but the furthest out Oyster goes on that line is Surbiton. The SWT scheme has recently been extended to cover Weymouth to Basingstoke so it looks like they are preparing for a further roll-out towards London.

  50. Mike,

    I’ve done a few tests…..

    The OEP remains on your Oyster even if you forgot to touch out and have been deducted the maximum fare, which is a bit strange. I assumed being charged the maximum fare would use up your OEP.

    I was deducted £1.90 for swiping out in zone 4 (I have zones 1-2 annual) WITHOUT having activated the OEP. This was at a Southeastern station.

    • Hi Jeff,

      The OEP will only be automatically cleared at a station outside of your zones. If you don’t touch out at the end of your journey you are not doing anything to update the status. If you touched in at the same station later on when coming back it would remove the OEP then, but the maximum charge (albeit a reduced one) would remain. I can see the logic in what happens but I’m sure some people get overcharged. I hesitate to say lots because I believe that there are still a significant number of people who don’t know about OEPs.

      If you swipe out at any station outsode your zones without an OEP (after swiping in within your zones) it will by default calculate the correct fare and deduct it. Southeastern have decided to alter the programming of their gates when they have RPIs present so that cards without an OEP set (where one should be) will be rejected. They then issue a penalty fare. If there are no RPIs present then they just let you through as normal so they get your money.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with us though.

  51. Hi Mike
    just discovered your site…it’s excellent & so much more informative than the TFL or NR websites.

    However, I’ve looked thru your site but can’t seem to find answers to some questions:

    1) in the pre Oyster days, when I had a paper TravelCard Z1-2, i just bought a paper ticket from Boundary Zone 2-to-X to cover the whole NR journey.

    This does not seem to work now…i have Oyster with Z1-2 TC and travelled the other day from Waterloo>Woking…touched-in with Oyster at Waterloo and used paper ticket (Clapham Junc Z2>Woking) to exit at Woking…but I’ve been charged £3.50 on my Oyster PAYG!

    Did I do something wrong, or is it just not now possible to use Oyster TC for part of the journey when going out of London TravelCard Zones (ie OEP not relevant)??

    If so, this is a backward step as i’ll have to buy a paper ticket for the whole journey & therefore pay TWICE for the Z1-2 section!

    2) do you think I’m due/can get a refund for the above?

    3) what is the “IOW trick” all about?!

    Many thanks

    • Hi Pat,

      1) Did you set an OEP? If yes then you don’t need to. OEPs are only required when using PAYG on your Oyster card beyond the zones covered by your travelcard. You should still be able to get a Boundary zone 2 to Woking paper ticket. Touch in with your Oyster card at Waterloo and no charge will be made because you are within your zones. Use the paper ticket to exit at Woking.
      2) If you explain to the Oyster helpline what happened they may well issue you a refund for the £3.50. OEPs are the most mis-understod concept within the whole Oyster system so you are not alone.
      3) And an easy question. The IOW trick, sometimes also refered to as a ticket to Ryde, is an annual gold card between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde St Johns Road. It is one of the cheapest annual seasons that you can buy within the old Network South East area and gives you a gold card which is like a network card but without the minimum fare restrictions and with the ability to upgrade to first class.

      Hope that helps.

  52. Hi Mike, My wife and I are coming to London in a few weeks for 7 days. 1st time since Oyster came in. Found this site really helpful. We’ve got Zone 1-2 Travelcard and £10 PAYG loaded on 2 Oystesr. On a Sunday we want to travel from Lambeth North UG to Teddington (Rail) via Waterloo and then return back to Lambeth North later same day. Do I set OEP’s at Lambeth North or Waterloo? Thought I fully understood the OEP concept thanks to your site, but then read about OSI. Does this have any implications for our journey through Waterloo? When changing from UG to Rail at Waterloo do we have to touch out then touch in prior to boarding train for Teddington? or can we change from UG at Waterloo onto our Teddington train without passing exit gates. Any idea what the extension fares will be?
    Thanks for any advice you can give.

    • Hi Dave,

      You can set the OEP at either Lambeth North or Waterloo, in fact anywhere before you join the train that will take you outside zone 2. However, I would not leave it until Waterloo National Rail because I don’t think the ticket machines there can set OEPs yet. You should find that the ticket machines at the Underground stations will allow you to set an OEP, otherwise just ask at the ticket office. You will be charged single fares between zones 3 and 6 which should be £2 each, each way. You don’t need to set an OEP on the way back, which is just as well as I wouldn’t like to estimate how successful you’d be at finding a shop which understood what to do. Things will become a lot easier later this year when the SWT ticket machines will become Oyster enabled.

      Hope that helps.

      PS. Once you’ve set the OEP you MUST touch in and out everywhere, even if the gates are open for any reason.

  53. I noticed you said a maximum fare was deducted when entering (in Z6) and that it would apply if I forgot to touch out. What if a PAYG (only) has sufficient for the proposed journey but less than the maximum? Thanks Alan

    • Hi Alan,

      The system will record a negative balance on the card. You would need to top up before being able to use the card again. Note that this also applies to cards with travelcard seasons on them, even within the zones covered by the card.

  54. Hi
    i had a 2-3 pass on my oyster card, and travelled from lewisham(zone2) to london bridge(1) national rail & then northern line to clapham common(2)
    I was charged £2. I touched in and out at all correct points
    it worked 1 day, but next day it didnt and was charged fine.
    I didnt know at all about OEP
    just reading on ur site now.
    so how come it worked yesterday?
    Also does it cost to set ON OEP?
    and how much will it cost me now? with OEP on same card

    • Hi Rochelle,

      Sadly you are not alone. Take a look at this page on my site to see exactly what has happened to you. In answer to your other questions, an OEP doesn’t cost anything. All it does is ensure that the card acts like a PAYG card even when touch-in is within the zones of your stored travelcard. As soon as you touch out (or in) outside of your zones the OEP will be cleared. You need to set it again next time you want to make a journey outside of your zones.

  55. Hi Mike,

    I have a travelcard for zone 1-2 .
    But do I always get charged 1.50 pound evertime I take the southern service from Brockley (zone 2) to Imperial Wharf (zone 2)? I change to overground or another southern service at Clapham Junction. I once tapped my oyster card at Clapham Junction, but I still get charged for 1.30 pounds.
    Does it has something to do with OEP?

    • Hi Alvina,

      It doesn’t have anything to do with OEP, although you probably ought to have one before you start the journey until May 22nd when they are abolished. What you are being charged is for using zone 3 between Brockley and Clapham Junction. £1.50 is the peak fare while £1.30 is off peak. If you want to avoid this charge you will need to go via London, for example Brockley – London Bridge – Waterloo East – Waterloo – Clapham Junction – Imperial Wharf. If this is your regular work journey and you want to carry on going via Crystal Palace then what you actually need is a zone 2-3 travelcard.

      Hope this helps.

  56. hi,

    If I want to travel from Eltham (z4) to Twickenham (Z5) and I have a oyster travelcard 1-4, would I need an OEP? I would be getting a SW train from waterloo to twickenham…

    Thanks in advance,

  57. Hi. Do you have any idea how this works at interchange stations? Say I have a zone 1-2 Travelcard. I touch in at Kennington, out at Balham and touch in again to get on an NR train to zone 4, which I understand is counted as one single PAYG journey. Do I have to re-set the OEP to continue my journey at Balham? I notice it was taken off when I last made this journey.

    • No, you don’t need to reset it. The OEP remains set through any touch outs or ins within your travelcard zones, but as soon as you touch outside of your zones (out or in) the OEP is removed. If you make an interchange outside of your zones the OEP will be cleared when you touch out and it will no longer be required when you touch back in again.

  58. I have 1-2 travelcard and set OEP at Bank before travelling to zone 4 rail. I was charged £4.60 twice, once when entering Waterloo City Line and again when entering Waterloo rail. £2.70 was credited at rail station in zone 4. Oyster Helpline said that I should have checked out at the Waterloo end of the City line (where there are no barriers) or set the OEP at Waterloo underground. They did refund the £4.60. Shows how careful you need to be.

  59. Hi Jon,

    They are absolutely right. There should be validators at the Waterloo end of the Waterloo and City if there aren’t barriers. When you have an OEP set you need to touch in and out everywhere within your zones as well. Only 51 more days left!

  60. I have PAYG and want to travel from Kingston to South Kensignton changing at Wimbledon. Do I need to ‘touch in’ at Wimbledon?

    • Hi Simon,

      Have you looked at the page all about Wimbledon? The answer is no, you don’t need to touch in, but you do need to touch on the pink route validator in the mini concourse in front of platforms 1-4.

  61. Ahhh…I just got a £20 penalty fine when trying to exit a station in zone 2, with a valid zone 3-5 travelcard. I had enough pay-as-you-go credit to cover the difference between zones 2-3 but not the full cost of the 2-5 fare. At the time of being issued the fine, the inspector could not explain to me why i was liable and just repetitively yelled at me “YOU DO NOT HAVE A VALID TICKET”. Not helpful. After you reading your website, I now understand.

    I have been living in London using the train for 4 years and have never even heard of OEP until doing a bit of research on Oystercards today! I think it is ridiculous how little this is publicised.

    Am I wasting my time appealing the fine do you think?

    • I’ve sent you an email asking for more details. Whether any appeal might work will depend on the exact circumstances. I completely agree about the lack of publicity for OEPs.

  62. I buy a weekly zone 1-3 oyster travel card. On Friday’s I head home to Guildford buying a paper ticket from Clapham Junction to Guildford and using my Oyster to get through the gate at Waterloo. The last two Friday’s I’ve been charged £4.60 uncompleted pre pay. I appreciate once I leave Waterloo I go off the TFL grid however what confuses me is my girlfriend has a weekly zone 1-3 travel card and does exactly the same as I do and doesn’t get charged.

    I spoke to TFL this London who agreed to refund the two charges but they couldn’t explain why I got charged and my partner didn’t. They said it could be because I had an OEP on my card?

    • Yes, that is exactly the problem. Just touch the card on any Underground ticket machine and then select the option to clear or cancel the OEP. You can also do this at any National Rail ticket machine apart from those operated by South West Trains.

      Incidentally, you might be paying too much for your paper ticket. When using more than one ticket for your journey the train does not need to call at the station where the tickets change over if one ticket is a season ticket or both tickets are zonal. Your travelcard is both a season and zonal, so you can either buy a ticket from Wimbledon to Guildford or from boundary zone 3 to Guildford. Your only concern is which is cheaper as it does vary from route to route.

  63. Hi Mike,
    I would like to ask one question i got new job in lewisham i have to treavel from wembleypark station what zones pass I required i dont want get off at zone 1 plz advise me .
    Many thanks

    • Hi srinivas,

      If you travel through zone 1 then you need a travelcard including zone 1. If you want to avoid zone 1 then you can travel via West Hampstead and Stratford and arrive in Lewisham via the DLR. In that case you would only require zones 2-4.

      Hope that helps.

  64. Hi Mike I have z3 and z5 pass and 10 pounds topup inside my oyester card as well i traveled from lewisham to london bridge through national rail when i get off in londonbridge when i toutch my oyester it asked seek assistence so when asked the staff he cheched my travel card and he asnwered i have to pay fine because i dont have OEP, and he simply write a fine , then i asked him i dont know abt OEP iam listening oep fist time even no one informed me before why i should pay fine i argued with him but he simply answered u have right to appeal then what i have to do now shell i appeal now or he has right to impose fine on me… iam travelling since 3 years but i neaver got such a horrible problem please asnwer to my problem. thanks

    • Hi Neelima,

      Technically he has the right to issue a penalty fare (which feels like a fine but it isn’t). The rules surrounding OEPs are the worst advertised aspect of the Oyster system, and thankfully OEPs are being abolished on May 22nd. To my knowledge Southeastern are the only TOC who have taken this draconian stance of enforcing OEPs at the very point that you would be paying the fare. I’ll send you an email tomorrow to discuss your options.

  65. Hi Mike
    I have a Z4&5 travelcard and also £about 6 on my PAYG. I always travel within Zones 4 & 5 with the occasional trip to Z1. Yesterday I touched in at Wembley and finished at Euston but did NOT touch out. Think the OEP on my travelcard has always been enabled (not sure how but why I may have enabled it but its always been that way).

    Now the system has deducted £4.60 from my card. Is there a way to get that back?


    • Hi Jill,

      You can try phoning the helpline and explaining what you did. If they agree you’ll get a refund to pick up at an agreed station.

  66. Many thanks Mike.
    Actually missed the main question (instead of the refund) in my original email.

    Did this happen due to the enabled OEP? Should I disable the OEP so that in future, if I did go to Z1 with Z4-5 oystercard, when I touch out, my Oyster will automatically deduct the charge to cover zones 3-1?

    Many thanks

    • Until Saturday you need the OEP to avoid the possibility of a penalty fare. From Sunday you will not need the OEP any more as they are being abolished. The OEP will automatically be cleared when you touch out or in outside of your zones. What the OEP does is ensure that a reduced maximum fare is deducted when you touch in within your zones. When you touch out this is adjusted to what you should pay. Because you didn’t touch out it didn’t adjust the charge to what it should have been.

      Hope that helps.

  67. Hi Mike. Just got a £20 penalty fare today from Southeastern on the basis of no OEP. I have a travelcard for zones 2-4 on my oyster. I touched in at Bromley South (zone 5) but it asked me to seek assistance which I did. The man at the ticket office asked me if I have enough top-up value on my oyster and after telling him that I have more than £8 he checked the card with a device and concluded that there’s a problem with my oyster and I need to replace it.
    As I was rushing to get to London, I jumped on the train as the gates were open, hoping that the staff at the office in London Victoria (zone 1) will help me sort out my card and pay the fare difference. After getting to Victoria I went straight to the office for “Customers with fares to pay” and told them what happened. One staff member said he has no reason to believe me and he needs to issue a penalty fare for me as I travelled without having a valid ticket for zones 4-5 and 1-2 respectively. I also told them to call Bromley South station to talk to the sfaff member that checked my oyster so that they can see if I’m telling the truth or not, but they didn’t want to. It’s so frustrating as I genuinely wanted to pay the fare difference (that’s why I purchased the top-up for), I couldn’t do it and they made me feel like I deliberately tried to avoid paying the fare. I had no idea about OEP before and I was sure it’s a technical problem, especially as I did travel from zone 4 to zone 1 this week and only paid the fare difference, but that was a First Capital Connect train. Do you think there’s something I can do about it? Thanks.

    • Hi MB,

      This is not actually an OEP issue. OEPs were only required when starting a journey within your zones. They are now no longer required, by the way. The issue here is that your card has malfunctioned. Unfortunately that means that you were travelling without a valid ticket. I suggest that you take it to an Underground ticket office and arrange for the travelcard and PAYG balance to be transfered. As long as the card is registered they will have a record of the balance without needing to read the card.

      Did the penalty fare notice mention OEP? If it did then there is a slight possibility that it is invalid. I’m no expert in such matters, but it might be worth seeking advice. Beyond that, unfortunately, I don’t think there is much wrong because you did board a train without a validated Oyster card or a ticket for your journey. You might try a complaint that the staff told you a completely inaccurate reason for the PF, but given that they are no longer required from today (Sunday) it’s a pretty moot point.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help.

Comments are closed.