Contactless is here

From today, anyone can use a contactless payment card instead of a normal adult Oyster. It charges the same as Oyster and introduces Monday to Sunday capping as well as daily capping. If you choose to register the card on the TfL website you will get access to journey history for a whole year and the ability to request adjustments online. It should be noted that adjustments are less likely to be needed though, because the system processes all touches at the end of the day and can make educated decisions to correct many inconsistencies.

30 thoughts on “Contactless is here”

  1. Is weekly capping only available with Contactless cards and not with Oyster cards? If so, do you know why?

    Also, I wonder why TFL will hold a full year’s journey history for Contactless when they can only retain eight weeks’ detail for Oyster cards? I believe “data protection” was cited in the past.

    • Hi Dave,

      Monday to Sunday capping is only available on Contactless cards. With Oyster the processing takes place at the reader every time you touch. With contactless the whole day is processed in one go centrally at the end. This makes it possible to apply the complex algorithm to ensure that you pay the best price per week.

      Data protection is still the reason. With Oyster your history is simply a record of when you’ve used the card. You will have separate records of any topups, indeed auto topups are recorded on your account for a long time. With contactless your history is actually your receipt for a charge on your card account. So while it is deemed reasonable to keep Oyster history for 8 weeks, contactless history could very well be required over a longer period. One of the data protection principles is that data should only be retained as long as is necessary.

  2. I currently have one of the Barclaycard pay tags (associated with a credit card account) which I may eventually use for travel. However, because it’s only a small sticky bit of plastic with very little text on it, I don’t have enough details to allow me to register it on the TfL site.

    The Barclaycard web site cheekily suggests ringing TfL to get the card registered with them but, of course, TfL need details about the card that only Barclaycard can supply.

    I’ll ring them sometime in the week and see if they’ll provide me with the additional stuff I need to register it. In the meantime I’ll try a contactless journey with the main credit card on the account.

    • Having just looked at my paytag I notice that there is a 4 digit number which is similar to the last 4 digits on the credit card. I think that sorts out the card number, but the security code is anyone’s guess.

  3. Yes, I got that far too. It’s also a reasonable guess that the validity is the same date range as the main card.

    Of course the tag will still work for travel without being registered on the web site but TfL did tell me that if I ever have a query on a journey then I’ll need all the info that I haven’t got in order to talk to them about it.

    (I actually rang them to attach my sons Zip card to my online account but figured I may as well ask my contactless questions too.)

  4. In the event, we went to London Zoo in Regent’s Park so my little contactless trial was a little more adventurous than planned.

    On the way there we went from Worcester Park to Camden Road, a single journey with a single pair of touches. First touch at WP gave me a ‘Seek Assistance’ and ‘Try Again’ but got a green light second time around. It was reassuring to log into my online account and see that I was in transit – no fear of RPIs when you can check these things for yourself 🙂

    On the way back we went Camden Town -> Euston -> Victoria -> Clapham J -> Worcester Park touching in/out as required. The card touches are longer than with Oyster I think but seem pretty reliable. Camden Town had staff available patiently trying to explain ‘Card Clash’ to ignorant passengers – rather them than me!

    Within ten minutes of getting back, the system had helpfully joined up both the tube and surface legs and made the correct charge – lovely.

    One thing I didn’t try (because I’m a cheap so and so) is multiple touches at the same station. Oyster charges for these at different rates for different times between touches but I’ve no idea what contactless cards will do. The same?

    • Yes, the touch is a little longer with contactless but always seems to work for me. I’m pretty sure that the 2-30 minute and 30+ minute gaps will work the same. I hope the 0-2 minute gap also does because it’s been found to be another way to break an OSI. I haven’t tried it yet though.

  5. Hey Mike,

    Am I right in assuming you can’t link your 16-25 railcard with your contactless card? When would an oyster (w/railcard) be more effective than using contactless?

    • Hi Charlie,

      Yes, at the moment you cannot apply any discounts to contactless. If you have a railcard then I’d stay with Oyster unless you are only using buses or trains in the morning peak (0630-0930). The railcard can sometimes apply the off-peak cap during the afternoon peak.

  6. I have a miles earning credit card and my wife is an additional cardholder. The card numbers, expiries and CVV codes are identical on the two cards, though we have set the PINs to be different. Because we want to earn the miles, we prefer to use this card for both of us, but are concerned how this would work under the new system. Any thoughts on how that might be handled? At first blush it seems the system would see these as duplicate taps; I could see it working fine on buses but causing havoc at stations, so we aren’t keen to try without getting advice first.

    • Hi John-Paul,

      I don’t think that would work. Most additional user cards have slightly different numbers these days. The PIN isn’t used with contactless transactions, so TfL would see that as the same card. If you can’t get a differently numbered card then perhaps use an Oyster card with top-up from your miles card.

    • Hi Alun,

      It’s a bit of sensationalist reporting there, and I’d hope that the London Assembly might have understood the system a bit better. Monday to Sunday capping is the equivalent of buying a weekly travelcard on Oyster, but the Oyster version is more flexible in that it can start on any day whereas contactless only starts on a Monday. Contactless is more flexible for the Monday to Sunday week because you only pay for the travelcard if you actually travel enough, but you can still get the travelcard on Oyster.

      I’m already aware that Oyster will switch to back office calculations at some point and that weekly capping will then be possible like it is on contactless. There is no way it will happen using the current Oyster technology. The other advantage to Oyster moving to a back-office solution is the limit on the number of zones can be relaxed. I’d imagine that this needs to happen before Oyster can be extended to Reading.

  7. Saturday morning, I boarded a bus, swiped my CPC and got ‘card not read, try again’. Tried three more times with the same result. Tried my Oyster card but it was in negative balance (I’ve pretty much abandoned Oyster since contactless was extended to tube and NR as well as buses and hadn’t topped it up after getting an emergency fare last time I used it). With no way to pay I got off. Luckily I had a choice of two buses for my journey, bus on the other route came along a few minutes later, I boarded and my CPC was accepted with no problems. Any idea why the reader on the first bus kept refusing it?

    • Hi Phil,

      I have had some problems with CPCs on some Underground gates, particularly older ones. A helpful assistant suggested holding the card at a slight angle rather than placing it flat on the reader. I now routinely stick my thumb under one edge and it seems to work.

  8. Hello
    I notice that when I pay with my PayTag then I get charged more per trip. When I pay with my full Barclaycard then it is the same rate as an Oyster.
    There is no way of registering my Paytag as the TfL website requires information that isn’t present (exp date, CVC etc) and Barclaycard can’t help and TfL wont help (according to a posting further up).
    Has anyone else checked their Barclaycard statement and found this discrepancy?

    • Hi Russ,

      I’ll follow this one up. In the meantime, can you give me specific details of what journey you made and what you were charged. Include all touches, including pink validators. I’ll try and work out what might have gone wrong. As a last resort, try contesting the charge with Barclaycard. That should force TfL to provide full details.

  9. My first use of contactless yesterday didn’t go to plan. I touched in, the gate opened, so went through, touched out the other end, no problem I thought. But now I can see my history it tells me I was charged maximum fare for not touching in!
    I’ve filled in the form to claim a refund, but how can it say I didn’t touch in if the gate opened? I had taken the card out of my wallet so it wasn’t card clash. No other cards were anywhere near the reader.

    • Hi Alan,

      There might have been an issue with the reader. I’ve had a contactless touch appear a couple of days late once. The other option is that the gate opened because the next person touched their card. Did you see what happened to the light or hear any beeps?

  10. Thanks Mike. Don’t think there was anyone behind me, this was around 10pm and there were few people about. Probably as you say the reader didn’t transfer the data in good time. I did note after touching quite a delay (well, over a second!) before anything happened, but the light did go green as far as I can recall. I do find it a bit off-putting that nothing shows up on the screens (where with oyster you see your balance and/or the journey cost)

    At least the incomplete journey detection was automatic and easy to complete.

    I haven’t done anything more complicated than A-B yet – no pink validators or OSI ! The main reason I’m trying contactless rather than oyster is for the 12 months journey history – does it record extra touches like OSI, or does it just give start and end. If it’s the latter, then I will go back to oyster as I am comfortable with how that works; and having the history on the card means you can check immediately after a journey that you’re being charged correctly, rather than waiting 24 hours for it to appear on the web.

    • Hi Alan,

      Yes it does record intermediate touches, even pink readers. You can also normally view your current usage (scroll down your dashboard) with about 10 minutes delay. Obviously it wouldn’t help with your issue, but it’s always worked for me since I became aware of it. Todays usage does only include start and end points, but the full history is available the next day. Also, at validators the screen should show “Card Accepted” and gates should show “Enter” or “Exit” on the screens. They can’t confirm costs because they have no access to other touches.

  11. Hi Mike
    Thanks for the reply. I guess I was just unlucky then. I made a journey in the morning, and couldn’t see the touches for that journey until the next day either.
    I see now my account has been updated, the incomplete journey has gone and it shows the touch in at kings cross at 22:01 – so I suspect it was in the system all along but just got mislaid!

  12. Hmm, this is interesting. I’ve found a notification in my account which reads:
    Refund Application Closed A previously unknown journey on 20/01/2015 was updated by our system to show travel from Kings Cross LU (Tube) to Paddington LU. The correct fare of £230.00 was applied. This replaced the refund application previously associated with it American Express – xxxx
    The actual journey and payment history show the correct charge of £2.30 (rather than £230!!) so I guess that’s a glitch in the notification system (or somebody typed it incorrectly!) I think this proves that the touch in got delayed such that the touch out arrived first !

  13. Hi

    I’m wondering if you can explain what would happen in this situation with regard to weekly capping? Between Monday and Saturday I only travel within zones 1&2 and reach the weekly cap. On Sunday I take a trip into zone 3 or higher. What would I get charged? Would I be charged for just the trip into zone 3 or would it reset the weekly cap and i get charged for the difference between the 1-2 zone and 1-3 zone cap?

    I’m in this situation at the moment and it seems ridiculous that it would cost me money to travel to, for example, the stratford Westfield (I live in Bethnal Green) but it would be free to go to Shepherd’s Bush instead?

  14. Hi Mike
    Do you know if there are plans to phase out Oyster cards at some point now that Contactless has been introduced. The reason I ask is because I have a Senior Railcard attached to my Oyster card and benefit from 1/3 discount on the oyster price in the off peak. I am assuming it is not possible to attach the Senior Railcard to Contactless payment in the same way?

    • Hi Mungogerald,

      There are no plans to phase out Oyster at all. The reason you cite is one of the main ones, plus the fact that children can’t have bank cards.

  15. [Re: Yes it is. It is possible to get between the two via zone 1 without touching readers – via Farringdon. Granted it’s unlikely, but they do state that some routes are defined as travelling via zone 1 regardless.]

    Thanks Mike – please can you advise what route that would be? I can’t work it out.

    • Streatham Hill – West Norwood – Tulse Hill – Farringdon – West Ham – Canary Wharf.

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