This is an old page. The current version can be found here.
Oyster is a very flexible, intelligent payment system that tries to ensure that you always only pay what you need to for the journeys you make in one day. Most of the time it works very well, but there are certain circumstances where a paper ticket (usually a day travelcard) is either cheaper or more appropriate. These are some of the times to consider leaving the Oyster at home:
- When exploring or roving around London. Oyster is designed for reasonably straightforward journeys, usually with a gap between each one. If you want to make lots of rail journeys one after the other, without doing something else between each one, especially if arriving at one station and leaving from another nearby, then a travelcard is probably a better bet. The reason is that many nearby stations are linked by out of station interchanges which will join your journeys together and cause you to exceed the maximum time allowed for a journey between two points because you went via somewhere a long way away. If you must use Oyster then consider touching into a bus between stations (and getting off straight away); that will break any OSI.
- When travelling as a family. An Oyster card is for individuals only, it cannot be linked with others to form a group. Therefore it is not possible to offer the discounts available with a Family and Friends Railcard when using Oyster. Most off peak and especially afternoon peak travel will be cheaper using the railcard and paper tickets. See also point 5 if travel includes zone 6.
- When travelling in a group. Off-peak day travelcards are available with large discounts if 10 or more people are travelling together.
- Afternoon Peak with Railcard. If you have a railcard attached to your Oyster card you will get discounted off-peak single fares and also a discounted off-peak cap. However, if you only plan to use trains in the afternoon peak and not enough to trigger the price cap, it may be cheaper to use your railcard and paper tickets instead. But remember that the cheaper zones 1-2 and 1-4 caps are fully discounted on Oyster with a railcard attached, while only the 1-6 and 1-9 paper travelcards can be discounted. A discounted 1-6 travelcard is still cheaper than a full price 1-2 or 1-4, but more expensive than the Oyster discounted equivalent.
- Afternoon Peak to/from zone 6. If you make a return journey where touch in for both legs is in the afternoon peak and you travel between zone 6 and another zone up to zone 2 then it may be cheaper to buy off-peak return tickets from the first station outside zone 6. For example, Dartford to Sidcup off-peak return is £3.80 compared to £2.00 oyster single each way from Crayford or Bexley to Sidcup. This doesn’t work for child tickets because the off-peak cap for children is only £1.40, but it does work with a family railcard. If travelling to zone 1 the travelcard becomes cheaper which is also the oyster cap.
There may be other instances where paper tickets are cheaper, but we haven’t found them yet! Remember that the ability to cap at the right rate for the zones used, or not to cap if you haven’t travelled enough, is the big advantage that Oyster has over day travelcards.