News has leaked out that TfL are to change the Oyster card deposit at some point in the new year. The date hasn’t been agreed yet, but it is NOT linked to the new fares.
When this change takes place the £5 refundable deposit will be replaced with a £5 fee. This is to encourage use of contactless payments for short or infrequent visits to London. The good news is that after a year the fee will be added to the PAYG balance making the card effectively free. This recognises that people who use their Oyster cards to hold season tickets or discounts and keep the same card are not adding to the burden of providing new cards.
A Transport for London spokesperson said:
In early 2020, we propose to replace the £5 refundable Oyster card deposit with a £5 fee. This will only affect cards issued after this time and will help reduce the number of cards that are returned after a few days or weeks. Customers who still use the card after a year will receive £5 pay as you go credit, essentially making their card free. If customers wish to avoid the charge, they can alternatively use pay as you go with a contactless card or mobile device instead. More information will be provided to customers when the timescales for these changes have been agreed.
I think this is a good change. I’d like to see the refund to PAYG extended to existing cards, although the logistics of that may be a bit of a challenge. Of course once the new system has come in you can always swap your old card for a new one and get a refund of the old deposit. I’d also like to see the differentiation between normal and visitor cards ended with this change. There are times when visitors could make use of a travelcard (which can’t be put on an existing visitor card) and it would simplify the offering. They could still produce cards with fancy designs for visitors who would like a keepsake.