Anyone using auto topup on an Oyster (or zip) card will have received an email yesterday. The key points are:
From Sunday 17 November 2019, the Auto Top-up threshold will change to £20. From this date, your Oyster card will be topped up with your chosen value when your balance falls below £20.
You will also see Auto Top-up charges more quickly in your bank account. If we are unable to collect payment for your Auto Top-up, your Oyster card will be stopped.
I have seen some comments already on other forums expressing disgust which I must say surprise me somewhat. My first reaction is great, or why has it taken so long. At a stroke it will solve the issues with auto topup at Gatwick Airport and Victoria platforms 13/14. There might still be problems at Paddington HEx platforms but they will be reduced and TfL probably thought increasing the threshold to £25 was a step too far.
The second paragraph appears to be somewhat draconian, but it is in fact similar to the current procedures. At present the auto topup amount is requested as part of an overnight process the day after the credit was applied to your Oyster card. Back in the day many details of touches were only transferred to the central system overnight, but that has long since been superceded by transmission within 30 minutes. Again, it’s perhaps surprising that TfL have taken this long to update the auto topup process. Remember that the credit is applied to the Oyster card and can be used immediately, meaning that TfL take a revenue risk. By claiming the funds quicker they reduce the risk.
The big change is that TfL will no longer send an email if a collection fails offering you the chance to correct the issue within a few days. This is a shame, but is almost certainly due to increasing misuse of the system by fare evaders. You won’t actually lose the upto £20 legitimately on the card, but you will have to liaise with the helpdesk to regularise the issue. It should also be noted that you won’t be trapped in the system if your card is stopped as exit gates are programmed to allow exit on stopped cards. The key is to always ensure that your account has enough money to cover your £20/£40 topup at any time.
Finally, if you aren’t happy with these changes you can always deactivate auto topup. And if you pay full adult fares then using a contactless payment card/device is a better solution than auto topup anyway.