An Oyster Rail Journey

This is a how-it-works description for an Oyster rail journey.  For the purposes of the description, no distinction is made between National Rail, Underground or DLR.  They are all part of the rail network and one journey can include as many parts as you want.  There is also no difference between what happens with different sorts of Oyster cards, be they adult, child, discounted or even staff.  So, let’s get on with it:

Touch-in at the start

When you start a new Oyster rail journey there are a number of things which happen.

  1. The system checks to see if any refunds or online topups are waiting to be received.  If there are they are added to your balance.  Also any other instructions or travelcards are received.
  2. If your card has auto top-up enabled and if your balance is below the threshold it is increased by your auto top-up amount and a record made to be sent to the central system.
  3. Your balance is then checked against the minimum required fare for a journey from that station at that time.  The minimum required can be zero if you have already capped for the day (or have a travelcard), or less than the fare if that would take you over the cap.  If you do not have enough credit then you get a red light with two beeps and the gates won’t open.
  4. If you are ok then your balance is displayed* on the screen (unless it is an old gate on the Underground).
  5. The entry charge is then deducted from your balance (possibly making it negative) and a green light with one (or more than two) beeps occurs and the gates open.

Touch on a pink route validator

If you pass a pink route validator when changing trains at a station you are encouraged to touch on it. When you touch on a pink route validator, one of two things happens.  If you are in the system and have not exceeded the maximum journey time from the start to the station with the validator then the location of the validator is stored in a via field ready to be used, if appropriate, at the end.  In this instance there is no effect at that time on the balance or the fare for the journey so far.  Alternatively the system starts a journey at that station by following the description above.  This can happen if you have not touched in before (maybe the gates were open and you had a travelcard valid at that point, or you have used a paper ticket and touched the wrong validator), or if you have taken too long to get there.  In this instance you do affect the balance and may also affect the overall fare.  A pink route validator will NEVER end an Oyster journey.

Touch out at the end or at an intermediate station

If your journey is a simple one then this is the last section.  If one or more OSIs are available then it may be repeated after the following section as many times as necessary.

  1. The system checks to see if any credits or products are waiting and actions them if necessary.  Note that it will NOT try to add an auto top-up.
  2. It checks how long has elapsed since touch in at the start of the journey.  If you’ve taken too long (or didn’t touch in) then it will discard any previous open journey and record an unstarted journey ending at that point.
  3. It works out the fare required to get to that station from the start, taking account of any travelcards held, any appropriate via points recorded and whether a cap has been reached.
  4. It adjusts the earlier deduction if necessary, but never by more than the previous entry charge, displays the new balance and the journey charge in brackets and opens the gate with a green light.  Note that this even applies if your balance is now negative.
  5. The only exception is if your balance was already negative and an unstarted journey has been detected.  In this case the gates won’t open and you will be asked to seek assistance.

Touch in to continue your journey

If your touch in completes a valid out of station interchange then the procedure is significantly different to the earlier touch in at the start.

  1. The system checks for any refunds or credits or products waiting to be received at the station and applies them if necessary.  It will NOT apply an auto top-up, even if the balance is below the threshhold.
  2. Your previous journey details (up to the last touch out) have the price zeroed and the current journey is re-opened with the original start point.
  3. If the OSI is regarded as a via point then it’s use is logged in a via field ready to be used at the end if appropriate.
  4. Your current balance is displayed* (i.e. what was left after the last touch out) unless it’s an old gate.
  5. A new entry charge deduction is made, taking account of the fare charged so far.  If that fare is at or more than the maximum journey charge then no deduction is made.  You get the green light and the gates open.

Ticket Expiry or Low Balance warnings

* In addition to some old gates not being able to display balance information at all, there are some messages which over-ride the display of balance and fare paid.  This is a problem on validators and some ticket gates.  If you have a travelcard season (or bus pass etc) then a warning is displayed within the last 4-5 days of validity.  Fortunately, most journeys made with a travelcard will not result in a fare being deducted so this isn’t too much of a problem.  Since July 2013 however, a new warning has started to be displayed when the PAYG balance on the card falls below the maximum journey charge.  This is not a good development because where it replaces the balance and fare you can be left wondering whether you have enough, or indeed whether something has gone wrong.  All you can do is go to a ticket machine (possibly having to queue) to discover what your balance really is.

314 thoughts on “An Oyster Rail Journey”

  1. I think you need a distinction between touching out on a gateline and touching out on a standalone reader, as the latter will start a journey if you have exceeded the maximum journey time, rather than deducting an unstarted journey charge. (You can then get this journey voided at a tube station or touch out 2-30 minutes later at the minimum fare.)

    Also, regarding touching out point 5, are you sure you only get seek assistance with a negative balance? I thought the system would not let a passenger out unless he had enough credit to cover the shortest possible journey to that station (or possibly even the full unstarted journey charge). That way he can be referred to an RPI and issued a penalty fare 🙁

    Touch in to start your journey point 3: You will not be able to commence a journey with a negative PAYG balance, even if you have already capped or have a Travelcard. (This might apply if you reach the cap and then have an incomplete journey.)

    Touch out point 4: It is possible for an amount to be deducted on touch-out which is more than the entry charge. My Heathrow to Kidbrooke example refers – with Z1-3 annual Travelcard, touch in at Heathrow 123 LU deducts £4.90, touch out at London Bridge LU adds £3.90, touch in at London Bridge NR deducts £0.00 (as within zones), touch out at Kidbrooke deducts £0.25 (£1 already charged and the journey is now deemed to be a mixed TfL and red NR zones 4-6).

    Feel free to incorporate, or to ignore if they are too technical.

    • Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for the thoughts. Initial responses are:

      1) Good point about validators, I’ll need to re-word that. You can only get the charge refunded at a tube station if it was levied at a TfL based station. They won’t entertain claims refering to NR.

      2) As far as I know the shortest journey doesn’t come into consideration when exiting an unstarted journey. You can definitely exit with a resulting negative balance. I think this will need some careful testing.

      3) True. I thought that was covered by needing the minimum fare, but I can see what you mean.

      4) You’ve misunderstood, so I might need to word it more carefully. What I’m saying is that it will never give back at the end of a journey more than was deducted as an entry charge at the last touch in. Take Crayford to Custom House. The journey is a zone 3-6 one with via Woolwich as the expected route. If you go via Lewisham and Canary Wharf instead then it will make a zone 2-6 charge on touch out at Canary Wharf DLR. Even though touch out at Custom House would normally only require a zone 3-6 charge it will not give back more than was deducted on entry at Canary Wharf LU, which will have been the difference between a zone 2-6 single and the maximum charge.

      I think I might need to incorporate some examples as well.

  2. I hope this is in the right place. I am trying to find out about touching in and out with an Oyster 60+ Card.

    I want to travel from Portsmouth to London Victoria (return) and think I can use my 60+ card from Gatwick (not the Express). I’d therefore buy my ticket as a Portsmouth to Gatwick return, but then as I continue the journey on the same train would not be able to touch in at Gatwick, nor touch out on the return journey at Gatwick.

    Would this be a problem and if so, is there a way around it.

    • Hi,

      Unfortunately Oyster is not valid at Gatwick regardless of what service you take. Coming from the south the first useful station would be East Croydon. The good news is that you don’t need to touch in or out as the 60+ card is like a freedom pass which is treated as a season ticket.

  3. Hello, Mike, thanks for the excellent info, it’s very useful for the London trip that we are preparing with my wife.

    I have a very (dumb) question… for NR with my Oyster Card (always within the fare zone, of course), how do we get the rail ticket? There is some way of booking it in NR website or just I have to go to the station in the specific travel date?

    Thank you very much! (and sorry for my very bad english)

    • Hi Sergio,

      The Oyster card replaces paper tickets when used in London. You add credit to the card and this is used to pay for your journeys as you travel.

  4. hello im travelling frim vauxhall to worcester park on southern west trains how much money will i need to put on my adult oyster card??

  5. Hi Mike

    I’ve had a few problems with getting overcharged on my oyster – presumably by tapping in and out at the wrong areas.

    I regularly make the Harringay to Shadwell journey and the Harringay to Leicester Square journey.

    Harringay NR takes me to Highbury and Islington and then Overground takes me to Shadwell from there. Should I be using the pink validator?

    Also, Harringay NR takes me to Finsbury Park. I then have to tap out at Finsbury Park to exit the NR platform. When I go onto the tube network to Leicester Sq, do I need to re-tap-in at Finsbury Park UG readers…or just tap-out at Leicester Square?

    Very confusing!

    • Hi David,

      Harringay to Shadwell goes through zone 1 at Shoreditch High Street, so might be higher than you expect. At Finsbury Park you either need to touch out and back in again (recommended) or if the gates are open you can walk through without touching either way. If you touch out at Finsbury Park NR then you definitely need to touch back in on the validators before continuing on LU.

  6. hi how much is the fare from london victoria underground to newcros plese..would be helpful to know before i start my journey thanks x

    • Hi Michele,

      It depends which way you go. If you take the District line to Whitechapel and then the Overground to New Cross it is £2.80 peak, £2.20 off-peak. If you change onto Southeastern (eg at Embankment) then it’ll be £4.10 peak and £3.50 off-peak.

  7. If I travel from oxford Circus to East India Dock by underground, do I have to tap in again – or in out then in – or do nothing when I change to DLR?

    I was confused last year by this and ended up paying an extra £8.50 on top of the daily amount. I live in Gloucester so am not used to the Oyster cards. Worked in London all my life but don’t get any Freedom card – not fair!

    • Hi Pam,

      Assuming you are changing at Bank then you shouldn’t need to touch there. If you have trouble again, call the helpdesk when you get back (ie at least 24 hours after the issue) and they should be able to sort out a refund. As you don’t live in London they can send it direct to a bank account. You must claim while the history is still live, just over two months.

  8. Hi Mike,
    I’m travelling from Liverpool St to Shenfield on a Greater Anglia service – as I have a peak 1-6 oyster travelcard can I simply purchase a single from Romford/Shenfield and not touch out at Shenfield meaning its utililsed my Oyster to Romford and my paper ticket from Rom to Shenfield? Or will it see it as a PAYG from London to Shenfield?

    • Hi Ross,

      You can do either. I think the Oyster extension should be slightly cheaper than a ticket from Romford, but it won’t be more. If you touch out at Shenfield then you’ll need to have some PAYG credit to cover the fare.

  9. Hi I’m coming into London and am getting on the tube at Hillingdon, is it possible to buy an Oyster card (not top up) from a ticket machine at that station or do I need the ticket office to be open?

    • Hi Lissie,

      I don’t know for certain, but I believe most Underground machines can sell Oyster cards. Otherwise there is always a local ticket stop.

  10. Hi Mike
    I want to travel from Epping Underground Station to Wimbledon Main line via Waterloo. I have a senior rail card which is linked to my Oyster. Can I just touch in and out or do I have to buy a National Rail ticket. Which is the cheapest way to do this. By the way I not want to travel to Wimbledon on the District Line as the journey will take much longer.

    • Hi Pam,

      You can make the whole journey on Oyster. Touch in at Epping, out at Waterloo LU, in at Waterloo NR and out at Wimbledon. You must touch back in within 40 minutes of touching out at Waterloo LU, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

  11. Thanks for your reply Mike. In fact I made the journey: Epping, Bank, Drain, Waterloo then Wimbledon with no problems. However stopped off at Waterloo for coffee with a friend for about 1.5 hours. Where does it say about the 40 minutes rule? Does that only apply if you are changing from LU to NRail? Cannot check my Oyster online yet but will do so in a day or two

    • Hi Pam,

      The details are on this site under out of station interchanges. Yes it is only from LU to NR, the other way is only 20 minutes. If you exceed the time you’ll be charged for two journeys, which won’t make a lot of difference in your case, but can double the cost sometimes.

  12. Hi Mike
    Hope you are well.
    I travel from Wembley central to Watford High street on London overground and pay £1.60 each journey costing me £3.20 per day. However I have to walk 20 mins to Wembley Central and another 15 mins to my work place from Watford High Street and same for the return journey. I was wondering whether there was an option for a 7 day or monthly travelcard which I could use for bus too without costing me significantly or increasing my overground charges.

    • Hi yog,

      Sadly not. You are benefitting from the exception allowing off-peak fares when travelling against the peak flow between Euston and Watford Junction. If you used 4 or more buses per day it would cost £4.40 making your total £7.60/day or £38.00/week. The travelcard for zones 4-8 is £49.40/week.

  13. I doubt this is the right place but spent all night on TFL’s website and though it tells me the journey I wish to make and how long it will take does not tell me how much or if I can use Oyster. Useless to be honest – I think my local station is just outside the zones – Merstham though on TFL’s website it refers to it as Merstham, London – so maybe there’s been a change I’m unaware of?

    I always end up getting paper one day travel cards which I think is maybe an expensive option as I often just going one place and back again next morning via night busses and one peak fare the 1 stop to finish off on NR Coulsdon South – Merstham. Also not checking my journey history enough am shocked to find I only have 60p left on it so these night busses been adding up or I’m doing something wrong.

    So my two questions I have reading your website for reducing my costs are if I cant use Oyster to start a Journey from Merstham on NR going into London as a TFL bus runs back and forth from West Croydon in the zones to Redhill, Surrey outside the zones and goes through Merstham would I be able to tap in on that and go into the zones then continue on NR that way. Would this work out cheaper than buying a paper ticket which single to London Bridge form Merstham is £9.20

    Secondly would that work out cheaper than getting paper rail tickets to London and then using Oyster on tube?

    • Hi Bluelionman,

      Oyster is not accepted from Merstham NR Station as you say, but it is accepted on the 405 bus. Yes, you can use the bus into the zones and then pick up the train. The off-peak daily cap is £8.50 which should be the most you have to pay as long as you touch in on your final bus before 0430. I am aware of issues with capping if you use the all-night trains between Victoria and East Croydon. The 0200 service seems to be the worst. Finally, restricting yourself to a zones 1-6 cap will be cheaper than paper rail tickets to London plus Oyster for the tube.

  14. Hi, I’m going to be making a journey return journey from London Waterloo to Canning Town on the Jubilee Line and next getting the DLR to custom house for Excel any ideas how much it will cost me using Oyster.

    • Hi,

      The single fare finder is your friend. Obviously for a return you’ll need to check both ways unless you are sure that the peak/off-peak times will be the same. In your case the outward journey would be here, and the return here.

      There does seem to be a problem with the logic of the station lookup, but if you persist you will get the data you need.

  15. Hi Mike,

    Can I travel from Brixton rail to Bromley south rail with a 16+ PAYG oyster as I am 17

    Also how much would it be to and fro?

    Thank you!

  16. I’m travelling from Euston to Watford junction and back.

    It’s it better to user an oyster card for both ways or am I better just getting am off peak return.

    Sorry to all but I’m new to using the oyster card

    • Hi Matty,

      An Oyster card is most likely to be the cheapest way to make this journey, especially if you don’t travel from Euston to Watford in the afternoon peak (1600-1900).

  17. Hello Mike,
    I am a traveler and I will be coming in London this summer and I am a bit confused (also sorry if I make mistakes, English is not my first language).
    – if I travel from King’s cross to Hampton court station: I can use my Oyster card and do not need to buy separate train tickets. If I don’t buy a train ticket in advance, how can I be sure that I will have a seat on the train?
    – if I travel from King’s cross to Windsor Palace: the palace seems to be outside zones. Do I need to purchase a separate train ticket for the whole trip, or can I use my Oyster card to decrease total price since a portion of the trip is in London?

    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Yes, you can use Oyster for the whole journey to Hampton Court. It’s not possible to reserve seats on either the Underground or suburban train services. Unless you travel at a particularly busy time you should be alright. For Windsor I would use Oyster to get from Kings Cross to Paddington, then buy a paper ticket from there to Windsor. You can use Oyster further along, but you’d have to get a slower train and get out part way through to touch out.

  18. How much will it cost me to go from Barking to Dalston Junction and can I do the whole journey on an oyster card? I know I have to change for the overhead at Whitechapel.

    • Hi Paige,

      The single fare finder is your friend. Yes, you can do the whole journey on Oyster. However, because Shoreditch High Street is in zone 1 you would actually be better off changing at West Ham and Stratford and going to Dalston Kingsland instead. The two Dalston stations are very close to each other.

  19. I purchased a weekly travel card starting Monday 23rd June for zones 2-5 and so far I haven’t been out of that when travelling from Hayes to lewisham overground then DlR to heron quays. However, on Wednesday I forgot to tap in at Hayes and since then my oyster hasn’t beeped once at any station including today. Is it broken?

    • Hi Tom,

      Not touching in within travelcard zones wouldn’t cause the card to malfunction. However, if it isn’t beeping when you put it on readers then it might be broken. Try checking the balance at a ticket machine. If it doesn’t work then take it to Canary Wharf tube station and see if they can replace it.

  20. Hi,
    Will a £20 oyster card be sufficient for an over night stay in london staying in stratford and travelling back and forth a few times to the city and the use of the tubes. Can i use it on all trains ie euston to stratford.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Stratford is in zone 3 so the caps for travel in zones 1-4 would apply. This is £10.60 anytime (includes travel before 0930) or £7.70 off-peak. It is valid on all rail services in those zones EXCEPT St Pancras International to Stratford International (the high speed service).

  21. Hi there !! 🙂

    I am visiting London in a few days and I am still a bit confused about some situations…
    Let’s say I take the tube at Earl’s Court / Connection at Wimbledon to Hampton Court. Do I need to touch out at Wimbledon then immediatly touch in before having my train to Hampton Court ? Or I just need to touch in at Earl’s Court then touch out at Hampton Court ? Thanks for your help !! 🙂

  22. I shall be visiting from the provinces and have an unused Oyster Card linked to a Senior Railcard. If I am making multiple journeys in central London on one day is it cheaper to use the card every time or to buy a day pass?

    • Hi Rod,

      As long as the Oyster card has the discount loaded it will be cheaper, especially if you only use it in zones 1-2. My only confusion is your description that it is unused but has the discount loaded.

  23. Thanks for the reply. We shall use it to go to Bromley travelling round in zones 1 and 2 first. When we bought the Oyster cards at St Pancras we put £20 on and the guy adjusted it for our Senior Rail cards but we have not used them yet. ( We have got quite good at using the buses with our free pass) Will do on Aug 9th

  24. Hi, I’m new to Oyster and have a quick question about touching in and out. I will be regularly travelling between Cheshunt(zone8) and Barkingside(Zone4). When I get to stratford to avoid the higher zones do I touch out on the NR platform at stratford an then in again on the underground platform, or do i simply touch in at cheshunt and out at barkingside. And also do the pink validators come into it at anypoint?
    Thanks very much.

    • Hi Andrew,

      According to the single fare finder the default fare is the cheapest so there is no requirement to touch at Stratford. If you change between Hackney Downs and Hackney Central and again at Stratford then you do need to touch the pink validator on the Overground platforms at Stratford. If you’ve gone direct to Stratford then you’ll come in on a different platform.

  25. Can I use my oyster from carshalton to London bridge and how long so I have to get there? I’m travelling with someone, would it be cheaper for them to buy a single fare ticket, a travel card or use their oyster? We are returning the same day.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Carshalton is in zone 5 and London Bridge in zone 1 so that’s 5 zones. The maximum journey time allowed for that is 110mins M-F daytimes, 125mins evenings and Sat, 135 Sunday and BH. Oyster will be the cheapest way unless you have a railcard which cannot be linked to an Oyster card which can get you a discounted travelcard.

  26. Hi Mike
    I have just moved to strawberry hill and make a return journey to london bridge overground station twice a week in peak time. I have been buying paper ticket for 10.80. Would it be cheaper to use oyster?

  27. Here’s a scenario I just thought of earlier this week, when I used the Underground to get between Heathrow T5 and T123 (which is free using an Oyster card).

    Since it is possible to take a zero fare journey from any of the Heathrow stations (T123, T4, T5), does that mean that you can enter at these stations with an Oyster card that has a zero balance? As you describe step three of the touch-in process, the system checks the card balance against “the minimum required fare for a journey from that station at that time.” As the minimum fare is zero, representing travel within the Heathrow free travel zone, would this actually work, or does TfL consider the minimum fare to be the £1.60/£1.50 fare to Hatton Cross?

    • Hi Austin,

      As far as I know the minimum fare needed at Heathrow is zero. It will however still deduct the maximum fare which will not be adjusted unless you touch out properly. If your card balance is negative then I don’t think it will allow travel at all.

  28. Thanks. Based on my journey history, a maximum fare (£5.10, in my case) is indeed deducted when you touch in at any of the Heathrow stations, with it fully credited when you touch out within the free travel zone.

    Of course, as all of the Heathrow stations are fully gated, it would be quite difficult to not touch in and out correctly for travel within this zone.

  29. Hi Mike,

    I’m a recent convert to Oyster and – largely thanks to your excellent site – I thought I was beginning to understand its complexity. Yesterday though I experienced a couple of things I’d not previously seen. My current use of Oyster is combined with walking the London Loop so the journeys tend to be somewhat unusual.

    The first journey yesterday was Feltham-Elstree via Richmond & West Hampstead. All was normal until I exited at West Hampstead Overground. Because of where the queue was heading I found myself at the large gate – I assume these are for luggage, bikes, wheelechairs etc. This is the first time I’ve used one of these. I checked that the light was yellow, put the Oyster card on the reader, the gate opened but the light went red. I stepped back and tried again, several times, but the light was always red and the gate stayed open. The staff member said the gate had read the card so I should go through.

    A similar thing happened at Elstree: I found myself at a large gate, I checked that the light was yellow, put the Oyster card on the reader, the gate opened but the light went red instead of the usual green.

    On the second journey, having walked between Elstree and Cockfosters, I travelled Cockfosters-Feltham via Highbury & Islington and Richmond. At H&I I of course needed to use the pink validator. I checked that the light was green, touched the card, the light turned green but the display said “closed”. This confused me because all the others I’ve used (Richmond and Rayners Lane) say “interchange”.

    I’ve checked online today and all the charging is correct and as expected. In other words, the gates at WH and Elstree behaved, as did the pink validator at H&I.

    The questions I’m left with are: do the large gates act differently from the others, in that the lights never turn green but the gate otherwise works; and why do pink readers sometimes say “interchange” and sometimes “closed”, and also work as expected. Doesn’t TfL know that Oyster is complex enough without confusing customers with inconsistency 🙂

    Any thoughts?

    • Hi Alan,

      The wide gate issue is easy. They are generally bi-directional so the yellow light oscillates with the red one as the gate gives each direction a turn. As long as the gate opens you can be sure that it has worked. It’s also possible that the Oyster has been held against the reader for too long. There should be a mechanism to stop double entry within seconds, so combined with the switching issue, that is probably what has happened.

      I’ve never seen the closed issue before on a pink validator. I’ll have to make some enquiries there.

  30. Thanks, Mike. That explains the wide gate issue then, though I think it’s a bit confusing. I’ll try to avoid them in future 🙂

    On the pink validator at H&I, I notice that I made an error in my previous post. I said that I checked the light was green before touching: I should have said I checked the light was yellow before touching. I watched for a short while and the validator said “closed” for all cards so it wasn’t something to do with mine.

    I’ll be interchanging at H&I next week sometime so I’ll see what it says then.

  31. I passed through H&I twice yesterday and the pink validators – including the one I used last week – both said “interchange” as usual. So it seems the “closed” was just an unknown feature which didn’t affect the functionality.

  32. I’m traveling from Romford to canery wharf , I have a pay as you go oyster I’m traveling on British rail and the dlr how much should this cost me ? Start my journey at 06:28 and the return journey I will tap in before 16:00 please help as I find the fairs very confusing

  33. Hi Mike.

    I need your help regarding the following:

    I currently have an 18+ oyster card and travel from Leytonstone – Surbiton.

    Originally, I used to pass through Bank (via waterloo and city), but that was costly due to entering zone 1 (£8.50 off peak price cap).

    I have been given some information on alternative routes and would like your help in choosing the best option.

    A) I should travel to Surbiton via Stratford/Canada water (pink validator)/Clapham Junction.

    Off peak should cost £1.50 and peak is £1.60. If for whatever reason I experience delays with the Overground, how much will it charge me (one way), if I have no choice but to pass through zone 1?

    E.g. In the morning, I would have travelled at off-peak time (£1.50) through Canada water, but on the way back, I have to re-route and travel through zone 1 (either Waterloo or Vauxhall-Walthamstow). What is the cost for this – Peak and Off-peak?

    B) Buy 18+ discounted weekly zone 1-2 (£21.90), and pay the extension fare for zones 3-6.

    I believe off peak extension fare is £1.50 (each way) – so my journey from Leytonstone to Surbiton and vice versa will cost an additional £3 daily, if I travel during off peak hours. (Zone 1 will cover me if I experience delays).
    However, I am unsure of the extension fare during PEAK hours (am and pm), and would like to know what these are.

    Also, will a railcard benefit me as such, as it does not include buses (I will be using this route 3x a week; 2 of which are during off peak hours, and 1 during peak).

    • Hi Zee,

      You’ve been given some good advice, but some of the details are not quite right. The line between Waterloo and Surbiton is charged at National Rail rates and using the tube from Leytonstone makes it the through or mixed mode rates which are huge when the journey includes zone 1. The single fares you need are:

      Zone 1-6: £7.50 peak, £5.10 off-peak with £8.50 off-peak cap.
      Zone 2-6: £3.90 peak, £2.50 off-peak.
      Zone 3-6: £3.30 peak, £2.30 off-peak.

      The 1-6 fares are for your current journey, 2-6 is what you’d pay via Canada Water and 3-6 is what you’d pay either way with a zone 1-2 travelcard.

      To be brutally honest, even with your discount a travelcard isn’t worth it if you only make 6 single journeys with just 1 at peak. However, a 16-25 railcard will reduce the off-peak cap to £5.60 and the off-peak fares to £3.35, £1.65 and £1.50. In your case that will be very worthwhile.

      So, if you are using PAYG with the 16-25 discount you would pay £1.70 more to go through zone 1 off-peak or £3.60 peak, but the lower cap would almost certainly affect that if it was afternoon peak.

      I hope that helps.

  34. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for taking your time to reply to my previous query. I hope you can reply to this post before midnight as there is a current special offer regarding 16-25 rail card, that ends tonight!

    I understand your point if I was to purchase zone 1-2 travel card; thank you for your suggestion.

    One final question, the savings are huge if I purchase the rail card, however, does the ‘off-peak price cap’ and ‘peak price cap’ include buses if I pair the rail card with my oyster?

    If not, would purchasing the ‘off peak’ or ‘peak’ travel card allow me to go on buses? I know the off-peak rail travel card is only 30p compared to the off-peak oyster price cap (zones 1-6 and 2-6 respectively).

    The savings are large if I take zone 2-6 (minus bus use), however, if I were to add up the buses I currently take (times by three days I travel), (1x bus to Leytonstone, 1x bus from Surbiton to uni, 1x bus back to Surbiton st & 1x from Leytonstone to home), it does begin to add up.

    Final thoughts?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Zee,

      Yes, bus travel counts towards the rail caps as well as having its own cap. If you’re going to cap then buses are effectively free, or they will help you reach the cap.

  35. Thank you so much for clarifying! I was told by TFL, national rail caps do not include buses.

    You have been very supportive; thank you for setting up such a wonderful site!

    • National Rail fares don’t include buses, but Oyster rail caps include all rail, buses and trams. The caps are the equivalent of the day travelcard which always covers everything.

  36. Hello,

    Great site you have here. Now, I’m perplexed to what could have happened on my journey. I went from Zone 5 to Zone 2 and was still charged £4.60 at peak time.

    Canons Park –> West Hampstead LU –> West Hampstead Ovgrd —> Willesden Junction —> Warwick avenue

    The time between the West Hampstead stations was definitely within 20mins.

    Please shed more light on this.


    • Hi Nia,

      It’s simple, but quite frustrating for you. You went the wrong way. There are two fares for your journey, the default via zone 1 fare and an alternative via Wembley Park and Northwick Park/Kenton. If you don’t touch at Northwick Park and Kenton then you’ll be charged the default fare.

      Looking at the map I can’t see much difference between the two options and you need to touch between the West Hampstead stations, so I think this should be added as an alternative route. But until it is, you’ll have to go the other way to get the cheap fare. You might like to look at my map page for Kenton to Northwick Park – it’s not that far really.

  37. Hi I’m no good with trains. Hoping I don’t get lost lol. I’m goin to be getting the Victoria line from Tottenham hale to Victoria (morning time) and from Victoria back to Tottenham hale (night time) just wondering how much I would have to put on my oyster please. Thanks

  38. Hi,
    I’m traveling from West Dulwich to Green park at least 5 days a week. I’d really like to use the Orpington train to Brixton and tube from Brixton in the morning ( as Victoria is a nightmare) but in the evening Green Park to Victoria via tube and Victoria to West Dulwich on south eastern service. Does the oyster travel card (roughly £37 for 7 days) include my train journey, and if not which is the cheapest option? I can’t use the bus as it will take me almost 2 hours!
    Thank you

  39. hi
    I travel from Witham to liverpool St quite frequently.Having obtained an Oyster staff pass for Zones 1-6 which goes as far as
    Harold Wood. No trains to Witham stop at Harold Wood,how do I get round this ?

    • Hi Richard,

      When you say “quite frequently” do you mean every weekday, or do you want to buy day returns from Witham to Harold Wood? The Oyster staff pass is a season ticket so if your other ticket is not a season then the train doesn’t need to call where they change.

    • Hi Daren,

      It’s actually the other way round. Take both cards to any Underground station ticket office and they will set the discount flag on your Oyster.

  40. Hi Mike,
    My husband and I will be staying at the Novotel Hotel ( Zone 6) near Heathrow airport for 5 days. We plan to visit Windsor Castle and Central London. This year, there is a $3 admin fee and its refundable once I return the Oyster card. The next 3 days we plan to visit Central London(zone 1/2). I’m concerned if the daily cap on Oyster will be a better choice for us since we are staying in Zone 6.
    Should I buy the Oyster card( not the Travel Oyster) or Travel card ( no charge $3)?

    • Hi Ratna,

      I’m struggling a bit to understand what you mean. The visitor Oyster card costs a £3 activation fee which is non-refundable. The normal adult Oyster card has a £5 deposit, but they won’t refund this in the first six months now. Perhaps the Novotel operates a short term loan scheme using adult Oysters?

      In terms of travel, the daily cap is less than the travelcard in zones 1-6 so I would certainly recommend using Oyster. You’ll need to make other arrangements for Windsor though, as that is outside the TfL and Oyster area.

  41. Hi

    Can you please tell me whether it is cheaper to get my 12 year old daughter an Oyster card for use over a weekend in London to include Carshalton or to get return rail tickets to Carshalton and a travel card? Thanks

    • Hi Gill,

      First off, Carshalton is within the travelcard area, so if you were getting paper tickets then that’s all you’d need all day. A paper one-day travelcard costs £6 for a child. If the child is travelling with an adult holding a gold card season, Network Railcard or Friends & Family Railcard then the child travelcard is £2.30. The 11-15 zip Oyster card costs £10 and is valid until the child’s 16th birthday. With that card the off-peak daily cap is £1.50 so the £10 fee pays for itself quite quickly unless a railcard is being used.

  42. I wish to go by rail only from Petts Wood to Riddlesdown via Beckenham Junction, Crystal Palace & East Croydon, all within zones 4 -6. How much will I be charged?

  43. Mike. Thanks for reply.
    I don’t understand as each route has at least a train every 30 minutes and is the fastest route taking 1hr 5mins leaving at 12.43 am tomorrow.
    As I have luggage going between Penge East and West is impossible as they are over half a mile apart, with no buses.
    How much will I be charged for the Petts Wood to Riddlesdown via Beckenham Junction, Crystal Palace & East Croydon (all within zones 4 -6) journey?

    • Hi Jg,

      This is a strange one. The journey planners want you to get the tram between Beckenham Junction and East Croydon while your prefered mode is indeed possible and is remarkably quick. There are not many 4-leg journeys where one or more legs are only 30 minute intervals which would work quite as well as this. Indeed on the return I can’t get it to do faster than 1 hour 38 minutes.

      In answer to your question, if you don’t touch out and in at the Penge stations it will charge you the default fare of £3.70 as if you had gone via London Bridge or Victoria.

      Incidentally, my OSI page for Penge East to West suggests that it is 0.4m and takes about 8 minutes.

  44. Hi Mike
    I’m going to have to start travelling daily from Shenfield to Canary Wharf, Monday to Friday, and so can you please confirm whether getting an Oyster Card/Contact less payment is the best bet, and how much the daily spend will be. I’m planning to travel between 7 and 7.30am from Shenfield, leaving Canary Wharf at 15.50 to come back. Many thanks

    • Hi Clive,

      The fares are £7.60 and £5.50 so £13.10/day or £65.50/week. The travelcard is £75.50/week or £290.00/month. You’ll be better off with PAYG unless you keep missing the 1600 cut-off for off-peak fares, or make several additional journeys. If you use contactless you can rest assured that it will cap at the weekly rate from Monday to Sunday if you do overspend.

  45. Brilliant Site. Thankyou.
    I will be travelling from Kings Cross-Hampton Court.
    Please confirm route.(Victoria line- Vauxhall-Train -Hampton Court.?)
    How much will this cost with an Oyster linked to a Senior Railcard, and how do I find out if I am travelling within the correct zones for my Oyster.

  46. In May, 2015, we will be staying in Wandsworth Town and plan on going to Windsor for the day. We are 60+ and plan on using the Oyster with the senior rates. I am not quite sure how to use the Oyster to purchase tickets for this journey. Do we swipe the Oyster when we enter at Wandsworth Town and then when we disembark at Waterloo and then re-swipe as we board in the train from Waterloo to Windsor? Is this the cheapest way to make the journey using the Oyster for this journey?

    • Hi,

      You can’t use the Oyster card beyond Feltham on that journey. I don’t think you need to go to Waterloo either because Wandsworth Town is on the line to Windsor. You may need to change at somewhere like Putney or Richmond. Just buy a return ticket to Windsor from Wandsworth Town.

  47. Hi Mike,

    An incident yesterday left me wondering a couple of things which I’m sure you’ll be able to explain.

    I touched in at Epping at 15:48 intending to travel to Feltham via Stratford and Richmond. I already had a paper ticket for my travel beyond Feltham. Nearing Richmond I checked SWT’s website and found that an incident (person hit by train) between Richmond and Barnes meant delays up to 60 minutes. By the time I arrived at Richmond this had turned into no SWT trains at all for an unknown period.

    I had 30 minutes or so before the maximum journey time was reached so I waited on the platform while I looked up how to get to Feltham by bus. SWT staff then announced that we should take a bus to Twickenham to continue from there. So I got a bus to Feltham (to avoid having to pay again for TWI-FEL) and by the time I got there the trains were running though of course much disrupted.

    This left me with two questions. Firstly, at times like this they always say “Tickets valid on buses etc”. This may be fine with paper tickets which can be shown to the driver but how does it work with Oyster? Effectively I already had a ticket from Richmond to Feltham because I was in the system, but I had to leave it to get to the bus where I had to pay again. The increased cost for my journey was a mere 80p which I really don’t care about – I was thinking much more about the person hit by a train. But how is Oyster supposed to work in this sort of situation?

    Secondly, one of my options was to simply wait at Richmond and hope that services resumed in a reasonable time. This might have meant that the maximum journey time from Epping expired. I presume that the £3.45 deducted at touch-in would then remain deducted but do I then have a “ticket” to travel by train from Richmond to Feltham? Alternatively, if I touched out at Richmond after the MJT then presumably I’d be charged a further £1.70 (the minimum) for an unstarted journey? I guess I could have touched out at Richmond before the MJT then back again when trains resumed: this would be cheaper.

    I must say that all this is purely for my education in case of future similar incidents: I don’t care about the small increased cost or the delay. The cost to the injured person was much greater.

    • Hi Alan,

      The question of ticket acceptance is a grey area. I don’t think there is any right, but the company forcing travel changes can decide to cover extra costs after the event. In terms of maximum journey times, the helpdesk will adjust charges where there is known disruption. I would be stunned if any RPIs working in a situation like yesterday took any action if MJT had been exceeded.

  48. Hi Mike,

    I’m thinking of moving to Merstham but I work in Notting hill.
    Currently a season ticket to victoria is around £2300 is it possible to use this ticket on The underground to complete my journey from Victoria or would I have to buy a separate zone 1 travelcard as an add on of some sort.

    • Hi Jeb,

      No, the £2324 ticket is just for National Rail services between Merstham and London Terminals. The price of the travelcard including zones 1-6 is £3048. The £724 extra is a lot less than you’d pay for travel in zone 1 alone.

  49. Hi Mike.
    Just a quick question about what constitutes a journey with Oyster. My young son has ‘done’ most of the Underground network and last summer we went to do the stubs of the Metropolitan to Amersham, Chesham and Watford. I was using an ordinary Oyster card.
    Is then the journey to Amersham, back to Chalfont, up to Chesham, back to Moor Park and up to Watford one journey or several?!!!
    Hope you can help.

    • Hi Wayne,

      Technically it should be several. If you started and ended at Baker Street (for example) and didn’t leave the platforms at each change then you could probably get away with two because the maximum journey time is quite generous. Touch out and back in at either Amersham or Chesham to ensure you’ve paid for the furthest extremes of the trip.

  50. Hi Mike,

    I’m soon starting a new commute from Clapham Junction to Blackheath. I’ve spent ages looking at the possible routes and prices but still not sure which gives the best value.

    Either journey is a mixture of TFL and National Rail and it seems hard to pin down exactly how much a monthly travelcard would be. I’m wondering if PAYG might be the best way forward as this would offer me some flexibility over routes if there were delays on particular lines, but would this prove much more expensive than a monthly card?

    Would appreciate your advice!


    • Hi Jess,

      Although London Overground is run by TfL, it is also part of National Rail, so I imagine your routes are actually all on NR. The quickest route will be via Waterloo and will also be the most expensive as it’s a zone 1-3 journey. The other sensible route is using Overground to Denmark Hill and then Southeastern to Blackheath from there. That is a zone 2-3 journey and thus cheaper. Either way, unless you are making significant extra journeys I would advise using PAYG or a National Rail point-to-point season.

  51. Hi Mike,

    I intend to commence commuting regularly between Stevenage and various destinations in London and have been researching what could be the best/cheapest way to do that.

    As far as I understand, Oyster card could be used from Hadley Wood station and so I need to get a paper ticket from Stevenage to Finsbury Park (faster trains) or Hadley Wood (slower trains).

    What in your opinion should be the best option in terms of cost vis-a-vis duration of journey?

    Will really appreciate your advice.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Sudip,

      Cost versus time is a very subjective comparison – only you know the value of each in your circumstances. If you decide to use the fast trains then you’re probably better off with a Stevenage to zones 1-6 paper ticket.

  52. Hi Mike, Relying on you to sort my confusion on 1 thing. If using zone 2-6 weekly travel card & travelling from seven sisters to east croydon via Victoria ( obviously only using Victoria for interchange b/w tube & southern rail , will I be charged zone 1 fare for stepping into zone 1 at Victoria ? The plan is to travel from seven sisters to east croydon & return for 5 days a week . Also not sure if there is any peak travel card fare or only one flat weekly travel card fare for oyster. Any help on this will be much appreciated.

    • Hi Yasmeen,

      Weekly and longer travelcards are all anytime. There are no off-peak period travelcards. You will be charged a zone 1 fare for travelling through zone 1 – see the FAQ page.

  53. Thanks Mike for the prompt reply. This means I will be better off using paper weekly travel card costing £58 which I can use to make multiple journeys including passing through Victoria & peak times. compared to oyster PAyg. Actually I need to pay for someone working for me for roughly 3 weeks only. they will also be using buses & tram in this journey . rgds

    • Hi Yasmeen,

      Although you are charged for travelling through zone 1, you will still cap at the zone 1-2 daily rate of £6.40. If you are buying a weekly travelcard then you’ll be better off getting zones 1-5 which will cover your whole journey.

  54. Hi Mike,

    I’m Currently half way through a Zone 1-6 Season Ticket but will move to Brentwood at the end of the month, TfL take over Brentwood from next month and I am having trouble getting any info from them regarding ticket prices etc. Would you happen to know if Brentwood will change zone? And should I return my Season ticket then purchase a Brentwood to Liverpool Street ticket as I will no longer need to use the underground? Any assistance is appreciated.


    • Hi Scott,

      I too am having difficulty getting details of fare changes from next month. Brentwood is currently outside the zonal area so I think it unlikely that a point-to-point season ticket to Liverpool Street will not exist. Your best bet is to seek a changeover from the travelcard to the paper season. If the travelcard is on an Oyster card then you’ll probably need to do it at Liverpool Street.

  55. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the quick response, no one seems to want to take ownership of it. I’ll pop into Liverpool Street next week once I’ve moved and enquire, will let you know the outcome.

  56. Does redhill accept oyster because I heard something about an update. I’m 15 using my oyster , beckenham junction team stop – to east croydon – to Redhill. Is it cheapest to buy a rail card from east croydon. Is it £3.10 return.

    • Hi Amanda,

      Redhill doesn’t accept Oyster at the moment, although there are plans to include it as part of an extension to Gatwick Airport. The child off-peak day return from East Croydon to Redhill is £3.10

  57. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the brilliant website. A dumb question re oyster card on NR – will a TfL travel card (7 days or longer) on a oyster card cover NR journeys that are within the same zone (and of course, the NR stations accept oyster)?

    As NR (7 days or longer) travel card always starts from a certain station, if some days I need to alter NR stations that my journey starts from (but say all within zone 3) and use LU to complete my journey ending in zone 1, can I buy a TfL zone 1-3 travel card on my oyster? Will that cover my NR journeys that are from different stations?

    Many thanks.

    • Hi Lia,

      All travelcards, whether paper or on Oyster, allow unlimited travel in the zones covered on all rail services*. Paper tickets have to be issued from a station, but if that station is in the zones covered then it is only to satisfy the ticket issuing software.

      * apart from the usual exceptions of St Pancras International to Stratford International using High Speed 1 and Hayes and Harlington to Heathrow Airport using Heathrow Express or Connect.

  58. Hello Mike

    Can I use my pay-as-you-go Oyster card from Wimbledon (tube) through to Shenfield, changing onto the overground train at Stratford. And if so, how much will it cost (offpeak and peak)?

  59. Insult added to injury! to cut a long and painful story short, on Friday afternoon I sat on a TFL Overground train outside Brondesbury Station for 90 minutes on a journey from Hackney Wick to Gunnersbury because of an ‘obstruction on the line’. When I eventually got to Gunnersbury, having been on the Overground throughout, I discovered I had been charged £12.80 (instead of the usual £1.50 – I think) because I had two uncompleted journeys. Presumably the system decided that if I had spent so long coming from HW, I must have broken my journey at intermediate stations and penalized me accordingly.

    • Hi Allan,

      Indeed it will have charged two incomplete journeys. These may automatically be joined together because of the disruption, or you can request that the helpdesk adjust them for you. There won’t be a problem in the circumstances described.

  60. I am in the process of sorting it out with TFL; but mentioned it because it raised an issue arising from a delay that I previously wasn’t aware of. I think the lesson to learn is: if you are delayed for long enough that you can claim the fare back from TFL, first of all check how much you were actually charged for the delayed journey.

  61. My friend travelled Richmond to Notting Hill Gate via Hammersmith D&P/Hammersmith H&C&C and Wood Lane/White City. He was charged a £1.85 zone 4-1 single fare which I believe should have been £1 zone 4-2 as NHG is dual-zoned. I think the system hasn’t managed to parse the route and assumes he’s gone via High Street Kensington, and this needs to be added by TfL as a valid route. What do you think?

    As a side point, the single fare finder says making the journey via Earls Court, West Brompton and Shepherd’s Bush is £1.40 for a NR zone 4-2, which doesn’t make sense either as it’s all TfL/green routes.

    Travel was off peak with a Railcard.

    • Hi Thomas,

      Not sure. Via High Street Kensington could be a direct train or at worst a same platform interchange at Earls Court. On that basis would anyone incur multiple changes just to avoid zone 1? Granted the distances involved at West Brompton and Shepherds Bush are slightly less than the way your friend went. It’s worth raising with the pricing people, but I’m not sure what response is likely.

      On the NR vs TfL price, that’s an error. It would be right if travelling via Clapham Junction and Shepherd’s Bush (which is probably more logical than the other alternative route) but wouldn’t involve a change at West Brompton (or Kenny O). That one should be able to be changed, I hope.

    • Hi Giulia,

      Sorry if this is too late. You can use your travelcard for part of the journey along with a ticket from either East Croydon to Gatwick Airport or Boundary zone 6 to Gatwick Airport.

  62. Hi mike, I work for Arriva London as a bus driver and have a staff oyster. I would like to travel from Hertford North to Palmers Green by rail, how much would it cost, peak times, and from where can I use my staff oyster?

  63. I will be taking a train from Feltham to Putney, can I use my Oyster card? And how do I use it? Do I have to swipe in and then swipe out at end?

  64. Hi, can someone please advise if I am better off using a paper travel card (with an annual Network rail card) or should I change to an Oyster card
    My journeys are always after 09:30am or 10:00am and I need to travel from Shenfield in Essex to St Pauls in London (and return).
    I usually take National raid from Shenfield to Stratford and then the Central line to St Pauls – with a one day travel card the off peak rate is 15.20 pounds and Peak rate is approx 30 pounds – what would the Oyster fares be? Many thanks Eddy

    • Hi Eddy,

      I’m not sure where you get those travelcard fares from. As far as I can see they should be £27.90 for Anytime, £18.90 for off-peak valid on any train arriving in London at or after 10am and no return restrictions, and £13.00 for the railcard discounted off-peak travelcard which cannot be used before 10am at all. £13.00 reduces to £12.50 at weekends.

      You can’t link a Network railcard to an Oyster card, but the single fares are £10.90 peak and £8.10 off-peak. Towards London peak is only touching in between 0630-0930 while returning from London it is also 1600-1900. As you can see, the best price depends on what time you actually travel in each direction.

  65. Hi, I am going to London on Tuesday until Friday and staying in Shenfield. Will be going into London every day, so planning on buying a visitor Oyster card, if I put £30 credit on the card will it be enough for 3 days travelling around London and then going back to shenfield? (going to thorpe park one day, so won’t be travelling round London that much)

    • Hi Lisa,

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no. Shenfield is one of the furthest stations away from London where Oyster can be used. The off-peak daily cap (after 0930) is £18.90 per day. You may not reach that every day, but it’s very likely to be more than £12. Do you have a contactless payment card? If you do then it will probably be cheaper to use that instead, especially if your travel around London is limited to zones 1-2. If you can avoid leaving London to return to Shenfield between 1600-1900 then you should be capped at £15.20. There’s also no need to top up or buy the actual Oyster card. Register the CPC on the TfL website before you arrive and you’ll be able to track your spending in nearly real time (about 15 minutes delay).

  66. Hi Mike,

    I have oyster zone 1 to 6 card. I have to travel to Redhill. Do I need to buy a paper ticket or can I use my oyster pay as you go.

  67. Hi, I cant find information on the cheapest way for my child to get to school from Romford to Brentwood. She will have a 16-18 zip card. She keeps talking about a travelcard but I think she just needs to top her zip card and pay half the adult price.
    Who’s right?

    • Hi Sarah,

      I believe you are. Zones 6-9 costs £25.30/week while the single fares are £1.40 peak or £1.20 off-peak. Even if travel both ways is at peak times she’ll only spend £14.00.

  68. Hi, We travelled from Charring Cross to Waterloo, then changed for Bank. The system says we did not touch in at Bank, Im sure we must of touched every gate we came across. Do we have to touch in at Bank even though we were exiting?

    • Hi Ian,

      The entrance to the Waterloo and City line at Waterloo is guarded by validators, not a gateline. I think that is probably the cause of the issue. If you contact the helpdesk they will arrange to adjust what you’ve paid.

  69. Hi Mike
    I will be commuting between Snaresbrook and Letchworth 4-5 days per week.
    I keep getting different answers to my questions at TFL and National Rail.
    I plan to travel from Wlathamstow Central to Finsbury Park and then pick up train to Letchworth. As the train stops at Hadley Wood (zone 6), can I take advantage of the TFL cheaper rates and just buy my ticket from Zone 6 to Letchworth? If so do I need to tap in and out at Hadley Wood?
    I’m confused about Pay as you Go and TFL, so please can you advise? I’m not sure whether to buy a weekly card or daily.
    I would start my journey befor 6.30am and return same day during peak time.
    Thank you

    • Hi Tracey,

      If you are using PAYG then you will have to touch out at Hadley Wood (and in on the way back). Starting your journey before 0630 means that it will be charged at off-peak rates, so a season ticket probably isn’t worth it for the London end. Your ticket between Hadley Wood and Letchworth can be a season.

  70. Hi Mike

    Yesterday (14/9) I needed to travel from Waterloo (NR) to Wimbledon to pick up some shopping, and then from Wimbledon (NR) to Elephant & Castle (NR). I have a 16-25 railcard discount applied.

    The first journey worked normally, charging me £3.30, the correct fare when touching in between 1600 and 1900.

    After picking up my shopping, I touched in 15 minutes after I had touched out, and caught the Thameslink train to Elephant & Castle. I can see that I was charged £1.25 for this trip, which is the off peak fare instead of the £2.30 fare that the single fare finder gives when touching between 1600 and 1900, despite touching in at 1646.

    These were the only two journeys I made that day.
    I tried to work out what had happened but couldn’t work it out. I wonder if you had any ideas?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi James,

      That does seem odd. I would have expected it to charge £1.65 on the second journey to bring your total up to the railcard discounted off-peak cap of £4.95. If you want to cut and paste your journey history I can see if anything else is happening.

  71. We will have a zone 7day zone 1-2 Oyster card and need to take a return trip from earls court to Carshalton. Now much payg money will we need to load and can we do this trip getting the train from Victoria? Thanks

    • Hi Sylvia,

      The single fares are £2.70 peak and £2.10 off-peak. You’ll need peak if you leave Earls Court for Carshalton between 0630-0930 or 1600-1900. For the return you’ll only be charged peak between 0630-0930. Yes, you can touch in at Victoria and out at Carshalton, the system will calculate the fare on touch out.

  72. I have just bought an Oyster card so still learning about it. I went on Saturday by NR train from Suffolk to Stratford, then used central line from there to Oxford Circus then returned from Westminster to Stratford for return rest of way by train. When I got to Stratford I wondered where I was supposed to touch out of underground before boarding NR train. I looked around and no one to ask so went to the underground exit touched out there without actually going through barrier and doubled back to NR platform for train home. I’m glad I had time to do that without missing my train. Was that the right thing to do and is it the only way to do it please? Also I had my senior rail card added to the oyster card – does that give me a reduced fare? Thank you.

    • Hi Julie,

      I was under the impression that there were validators on the Anglia platforms at Stratford. There also ought to be a validator at the side of the Jubilee line concourse. Otherwise yes, what you did works as well.

      Yes, the senior railcard should give you a 34% discount on off-peak single fares and the off-peak cap. If you added it after the first journey (eg at Oxford Circus) then that won’t have been discounted, but the discounted cap would still apply as long as you hadn’t already passed it. The railcard off-peak cap for zones 1-3 is £4.95.

  73. Hi Mike

    Firstly, thanks for helping us all out on our travel questions, much appreciated.

    I currently have a season ticket which I pay through my company as a “season ticket loan”. It covers zone 1-4. I am now moving to Potters Bar which will be more expensive. What I want to do is to find out how I use my oyster card now. I cannot get the oyster card refunded. Ideally, I would like to pay for the different e.g. my annual season ticket zones 1-4 is £1180 end to end, but my new end to end will be more as I am travelling further, so if the cost was say £2500 I would be happy to pay for the difference or “top up” the oyster to cover for that. Hope that makes sense. Please help!

    Many thanks,


    • Hi Sonesh,

      You can buy a Potters Bar to zones 5-6 travelcard season. That can be used in conjunction with your zones 1-4 travelcard on trains which don’t stop at the boundary. It’s £142.50 per month and you can buy pro-rata durations to cover the entire rest of your annual (eg 2 months and 6 days would cover from next Monday to December 31st).

  74. Hi, I have been living and working in London for most of my life and have only use oyster PAYG.I am going to move to How Wood in Hertfordshire and will have to travel into London Victoria for work. my journey will be…

    How wood-Watford Junction-Euston-Victoria (LU)

    am trying to work out the cheapest way. I work 3-4 days a week ,don’t have to travel on peak time and some day it might just be a single journey. I think using my oyster PAYG will be a better option, but I still have to purchase a paper ticket from How wood to WFJ. Or would it be better just to purchase a paper ticket all the way? Also, if I use my PAYG oyster from WFJ to Victoria, do I need to tap out and in again at Euston to change from national rail to underground to Victoria? some people say I do and some say I don’t. If I do, would I be charge 2 separate journeys? I don’t see how I don’t have to tap between statuons cause most underground have gates and I need to tap in and out anyway.

    This whole thing really confuse me. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Claudia,

      I’ll try and simplify things then.

      If you can genuinely travel outside off-peak times then a paper ticket for the whole return journey costs 40p more than paper to Watford and Oyster onwards. The paper single is a lot more, and if there’s a chance you won’t know you’re getting a lift home until you get there then PAYG will restrict your losses. A season ticket won’t make sense unless you travel at least 4 days a week and all in peak time.

      If you take a look at the OSI List page you can see the allowance between touch out and touch in at Euston to ensure it’s all one journey. Note that it’s different each way. If your London Midland train uses one of the ungated platforms at Euston, do remember to find a validator to touch on. I believe they are usually near the top of the ramp up from the platform to the concourse. Finally, in both cases you will be charged extra for the second part of the journey. It isn’t as much as if it charged two separate journeys, but it does confuse some people.

  75. Hello, I’m looking to buy a return ticket to Ryde Pier Head from Waterloo. Is there anyway to purchase tickets using my annual zone 1-4 oystercard and pay only for the journey outside zone 4? Thanks.

  76. Hi Mike!
    I may be having to travel from Tottenham Hale to Feltham on a daily basis soon for work, what is the cheapest & shortest way for me to do this? And will I be able to use my oyster card for the duration of the journey?

    • Hi Nicola,

      Unfortunately cheapest and shortest rarely mean the same thing when applied to rail journeys. Yes you can use your Oyster card for the whole journey. The shortest/quickest route is via Waterloo while the cheapest involves changing at Highbury & Islington and either Richmond or Clapham Junction so as to avoid zone 1.

  77. Hi mike,

    I am a student studying at Holborn. I have to travel 3 or 4 times per weeks from twickenham station to waterloo station (return)by south west train. What is my cheapest way to travel from twickenham to Holborn and i got an oyster card as well.

    • Hi Jet,

      Just use your Oyster PAYG (or a contactless card) each time you travel. You’ll be capped at £11/day. A monthly travelcard will only be worthwhile if you travel 20 or more times in a month.

  78. Hi Mike,

    I commute from Tulse Hill to London Blackfriars every weekday, and I have a paper annual season ticket for that (one without a travel card for tube). My paper ticket was demagnetised (code 09) 3 times last year so I am not a big fan.

    Is there anyway I can load the annual season ticket to my oyster card? given that both Tulse Hill Station and Blackfriars accept oyster at their ticket barriers.

  79. I have a 16+ oyster card, I want to get from zone 1 (most probably Barbican station) to Amersham. It would be quicker to get the train from Marylebone but would I be charged extra for making a train journey rather than just sticking to the metropolitan line? If so, how much would the Marylebone to Amersham fare cost?

  80. I am going to commuting from Bromley-by-Bow to North Dulwich on a daily basis. Both stations are in Zone 2 and I will travel via Whitechapel and Peckham Rye. If I purchase a Zone 2 only travelcard will I have to tap again at Whitechapel before taking the Overground? or will it work out that I haven’t been through Zone 1? Thanks!

    • Hi David,

      The single fare finder says that you do need to touch the pink reader at Whitechapel to get the avoiding zone 1 fare, so yes, you will need to touch it with your travelcard. You can only get travelcards for a minimum of 2 zones, but 2-3 is much cheaper than 1-2.

    • Hi Ayhan,

      If you only want to travel between Belvedere and London Bridge then you’d be better off with a weekly season ticket for rail only at £42.10. If you also want to use tubes/dlr/buses then a weekly zone 1-5 travelcard at £55.20 is fine and can be used from Belvedere at no extra cost.

  81. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the reply and I am sorry for bothering you again. Most Probably I will use tubes as well, so thats why I am planning to buy zone 1-5 oyster weekly or travel card. What if I buy a Two Together Railcard, will there be any discount for oyster weekly (Considering that I will be travelling on off peak hours)? Sorry for asking it, because I will travel to town centre frequently with my wife in one month, and sounds like we have to pay 440 pounds for transportation. I mean is there a way to reduce this ammount?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Ayhan,

      If you are only travelling off-peak then just use PAYG. A season ticket is only worthwhile if you commute normally in peak hours. The two together railcard will not give you discounts on single Oyster fares, so depending on your usage it may be better to use the railcard to buy paper off-peak travelcards.

  82. Hi Mike,
    I will be moving to London next week and I will commute everyday to work from Wood Green to Kingston Upon Thames, I suppose it will be a monthly oyster card from zone 1 to 6 I will travel via tube and train. I read on the website it will cost 227 a month, am I right or I’m missing something? Thanks so much for your help.

    • Hi Claudia,

      A monthly zones 1-6 travelcard does indeed cost £227. You can make the journey avoiding zone 1 by changing at Finsbury Park, Highbury & Islington and either Richmond or Clapham Junction. The monthly zones 2-6 travelcard costs £155.60. You’ll need to touch the pink reader at Highbury and whichever of Richmond or Clapham you use.

  83. Hi Mike

    I will commute everyday to work from Dartford to South Kensington, ususal arrival time at south ken will be 8:30am. I plan to travel via train and tube. What would be the best option? Can I use a monthly oyster card for both my train and tube journeys? What will be the monthly costs? Thanks for your help in advance.

    • Hi Sum,

      You can use a monthly travelcard which can be loaded onto your Oyster card if you wish. That is a zone 1-8 travelcard and costs £291.50/month. There is a paper alternative which is a Dartford to zones 1-6 travelcard and costs £290/month. Both will work for your journey. The zone 1-8 version is also valid to Cheshunt, Watford High Street, Watford (Met) and Chalfont & Latimer.

  84. I travelled Cheshunt (rail zone 8) to Kings Cross (zone 1) during the evening peak with an out of station interchange at Tottenham Hale. This should be charged as off peak as peak fares only apply into zone 1 in the morning. I was charged the wrong Oyster fare. I have a senior railcard applied to my Oyster. The single fare finder shows the railcard fare as £2.65. I was charged £4.30. My wife’s non-discounted Oyster was also charged £4.30. This is odd as the non-discounted fare is £4.00. Thus not only is the railcard discount not being applied but the fare charged is also wrong. A phone call secured a refund and a promise this would be investigated. I suggest people check their journey history if travelling into zone 1 from outside London in the evening peak.

    • Hi Fosil,

      This is a problem because the OSI at Tottenham Hale is nearer the end of the journey than the beginning. When you touch out it charges the peak fare of £4.30. Unfortunately the Oyster system will not reduce a charge applied mid way through a journey so the fare stays at £4.30 when you exit again in London. For your wife there is an easy solution which is to use a contactless payment card as that looks at the whole journey and charges accordingly. Sadly for railcard holders it’s not so easy, but if you went via Seven Sisters you wouldn’t need to touch out and in again.

      I’m not saying it’s ideal, but knowing how the system works at least gives options. The Oyster system is being upgraded to work in the same way as contactless, but it’s a big job and completion is still a year or more away.

    • Hi Kev,

      Yes it does. However, some of the fares are not very competitive compared to paper tickets so you should check your options carefully before deciding which way to pay. You cannont put season tickets from Redhill on an Oyster card either.

  85. Hi
    I’m trying to work out whether it’s worth my while buying a PAYG Oyster card. I live in Hertford and usually buy a Travelcard with my Senior Railcard discount.
    However, I am going to DLR Cutty Sark, via Highbury & Islington and Stratford. Would a Travelcard be cheaper or should I buy a return to H&Is and use Oyster for the rest of the journey? Travelling from Hertford at 9:17. Thanks.

    • Hi Zipcooler,

      For that route your cheapest option will be an off-peak return to Highbury & Islington then Oyster PAYG. Get your senior discount loaded onto the Oyster card at Highbury & Islington and the single fare to Cutty Sark is £1.00 as long as you touch the pink reader on the Overground platform as you arrive at Stratford.

      If it’s possible, have you considered travelling from Hertford East and changing at Hackney Downs/Central and Stratford? The whole journey can be made using Oyster and the off-peak discounted single fare is £2.95. You would need to avoid touching in during peak times (0630-0930, 1600-1900) to get that fare. You’d also need the discount applied to the Oyster card first, which may not be possible at Hertford East. Once applied, the discount remains active until the railcard expires.

  86. Hi

    can you help my confusion – I am planning to travel from Clapham Junction to Elstree. I believe I can use the Overground via West Hampstead (avoiding Zone 1) and then Thameslink or travel via Waterloo and then Jubilee line to west Hampstead etc.

    There seems to bevarious different fares, eg off peak single fares of £2.70 or £5.30 (via Zone 1) on the TFL single fare finder or a NR anytime return fare of £9.50 (not via London)

    If I use a contactless card for the return journey will I be charged NR fares or the TFL ones.


    • Hi openjade,

      First things first, the £9+ fare has nothing to do with Oyster or contactless. That is what you would pay if you went to the ticket office and bought a paper ticket. If you use a contactless card you will be charged £5.30 if you travel via zone 1 (detected by any touch at Waterloo, Vauxhall or Victoria) or £2.70 if you don’t.

  87. Hi Mike,
    I have an 18+ Student Oyster. How much is it each day if i go from Hampton Court to Wimbledon on the south east train and then use the Southern Railway line to Morden South and back during Peak hours.


    • Hi sbee,

      18+ cards charge the same PAYG fares as adult ones, and Hampton Court to Morden South is £3.50 peak single. You’ll actually be using South West Trains from Hampton Court and either Thameslink or Southern to Morden South.

  88. Hi,
    I am trying to plan a journey to the excel london from bognor regis for my 2 daughters and I am so confused! I have basically worked out they need to get to victoria then tube to westminster, change to jubilee line to canning town then change to the DLR line to get to custom house. They will be travelling on a saturday and I am confident enough to get their tickets to victoria? My question is how to pay for their travel from victoria to the excel? Should i just give them cash? Any idea how much it will be? Or should they buy oyster cards? I have no idea about the oyster cards and am not sure if it will be worth it? I would appreciate any help – I don’t travel to London very much and I find it all a bit confusing!

    • Hi Joanne,

      Just buy day travelcards from Bognor Regis to zones 1-6. That will cover them for everything they need. The super off-peak version is valid all day on Saturdays and is £23.50 adult or £11.75 child.

  89. Hello Mike, My son is coming over from Norway and planning to travel from West Brompton to Hampton Court .How far will his oyster cards take him

  90. Hi Mike,
    If I need to travel between Bexleyheath to Watford North what will be the best route in terms of time and money? As it is only 3 times a week I know weekly pass won’t be required.
    Thank you

    • Hi Pb,

      Unfortunately the word best is a very subjective term, and speed and cost often mean different routes with travel. The fastest way is almost certainly Bexleyheath – Charing Cross – Euston – Watford Junction – Watford North. The cheapest way to do that journey is to use Oyster to Watford Junction and a paper return ticket for the last stop. The cheapest way overall is to avoid zone 1 by changing at Denmark Hill, Clapham Junction, possibly Willesden Junction and Watford Junction, where again you’ll need a paper ticket. That will take significantly longer.

  91. If I am travelling every day for a week from Ealing Broadway (zone 3) to Stratford (also zone 3) can i buy a zone 3 only travelcard or does it have to be zone 1-3 as I’ll pass through zone 1?

  92. Dear Mike,

    What will be the cheapest way to travel a return Journey starting from East Dulwich to Heathrow air port starting at 6pm on weekday. ( for 2 adults and a two kids below 11 with railway family card )?
    Oyster or return tickets ?
    Thank you

    • Hi South,

      The cheapest way to travel is by train to Peckham Rye, then Overground to Clapham Junction, another Overground to West Brompton, District line to Earls Court and then Piccadilly line to Heathrow. If the two kids have 5-10 zip cards then use Oyster because they will travel free. If not then buy tickets with the railcard. You need East Dulwich to Zone U2356 London.

      If there is any way that you can start from Peckham Rye then the kids will not need tickets at all and you will benefit from cheaper Oyster fares which will make the railcard redundant. Even a bus will only add £1.50 per adult with the kids free if that could get you from Dulwich to Peckham.

  93. Thank you for the rely Mike. On the return if we bring some luggage with us will it be issue on caring luggage in many transits ?

    • Hi South,

      There won’t be an issue actually carryng the luggage, but you may decide you want to take a more direct route for convenience. Even travelling through Central London you’d need three trains though (Piccadilly, Jubilee and Southern Rail).

  94. Dear Mike,

    Thank you for the reply. I found another way. If I buy two adult and two kids 1-6 super off peak traveller cards (for the return journey to Heathrow terminal 3 from East Dulwich) it will be 20.60 pounds with family /friends card. Only issue is whether it will be accepted in transfers at gateways between 4-7pm ?

    • Hi South,

      That’s actually just an off-peak travelcard for zones 1-6 (there is no super off-peak version) and yes, it is valid any time after 0930.

  95. Hi
    What is the cheapest fare to Hampton Court from Orpington.
    Just use an oyster/contactless card or buy a 1 day travel card.
    Will be travelling after 9.30

    • Hi Mandy,

      Just use a contactless payment card or Oyster. The fare charged will depend on the route you take. Cheapest is avoiding zone 1 on National Rail only, eg Orpington – Lewisham – Denmark Hill – Clapham Junction – Hampton Court. A little more expensive is Oprington – Brixton then Underground to Vauxhall and SWT to Hampton Court. Finally, National Rail only via zone 1 (Waterloo) is likely to be quickest, but more expensive than the other options.

  96. Hello Mike!

    We’ll be visiting London soon and staying between Queensway and Notting Hill Gate stations. Which would be the cheapest way to get from either of them to Hampton Court? We have oyster cards.

    Also, do we need to touch in when changing from tube to train?

    Thanks in advance!!

    • Hi Victoria,

      The cheapest way is to start from Notting Hill Gate and travel west to Shepherd’s Bush. Then change onto London Overground to Clapham Junction and pick up the Hampton Court service from there. This way you avoid zone 1. The two stations at Shepherd’s Bush are a very short signposted walk away. When you get off the Overground train at Clapham Junction you also need to touch the pink reader on the platform before switching platforms for the Hampton Court train.

    • Hi Andy,

      If you want to get the cheaper NR only fare then I suggest Thameslink for St Pancras to Peckham Rye then change to a Southern train to South Bermondsey.

  97. Hi
    I’m looking into travel from heathrow terminal 5 to custom house. Is getting an oyster my best bet? And how much is daily travel (return) likely to be? I’m a student and have heard I may be able to get a student oyster so any info would be helpful. Thankyou

    • Hi Cheryl,

      The peak single fare is £5.10 while the off-peak fare is £3.10. Peak is charged when touch in at the start of the journey take place between 0630-0930 or 1600-1900. You can get more info on the 18+ Student Oyster on the TfL website.

    • If you just make a return journey using tube and dlr then you’ll be charged £10.20 max. If you add anything extra in then the daily cap will stop charges at £11.80.

  98. Hi there
    I just had a quick question. I have an Annual Travelcard (on Oyster) covering Zones 1 and 2. I know that if I use the Travelcard to go to a Station outside of these zones that I would be charged from the boundary of Zone 2 to such Station. Where can I find these fares? They don’t seem to be on TfL’s single fare finder?
    Stuart Cottis

    • Hi Stuart,

      If the station is in zone 4 then you’d be charged a zone 3-4 single based on the whole journey. So if it was all Underground then it would be charged at the LU rate, but if part of it was on National Rail then it would be at the NR rate, even if the part in zones 3-4 was only on LU.

  99. Mike
    Thanks for your very helpful response. Do you know where we can find the actual monetary amounts though for these fares from the boundary of zone 2 to zone 3 etc. I can’t find them on the TfL website. Would you recommend using


    • Hi Stuart,

      The 2016 Single Fares page under Fares Guide on this website lists the fares within zones 1-9 for each of the different scales of fares. Boundary of zone 2 to zone 3 is just zone 3. If you have a specific example then I can assist working it out.

  100. Mike
    The table on your website under Fares Guide is excellent! Out of interest, where did you get it from as I can’t find it on TfL’s website.

    • Hi Stuart,

      It’s not there anymore. They stopped updating it when it became too complicated. Some of the table is obtained from the fares announcement by the London Mayor each year, the rest is just entering sample journeys into the fare finder.

  101. Hi Mike,

    I’m regularly travelling from Notting Hill Gate to Surbiton and back, what is the cheapest way with an adult oyster card? Thanks

    • Hi Mari,

      You need to travel via Shepherd’s Bush and either Clapham Junction, or West Brompton and Wimbledon. You need to touch the pink reader at whichever of those stations you use.

  102. Hi,
    We will be travelling over two days on the following routes:
    2 Seniors, both with senior railcards.
    Monday 7th Aug – Petts Wood – Old St
    Old St – Stratford
    Stratford – Old St
    Tuesday 8th Aug- Old St – Euston

    What is the cheapest ticket to cover this?

    • Hi Helen,

      You’ll need an Oyster card with the senior discount attached. If you can’t get this done before leaving Petts Wood then ask at Old Street. You’ll have paid full price for the first journey but will get the discounted off-peak cap. See the Railcards and Discounts page for more details.

  103. Hi Mike,
    South West Trains will shortly be handing over to a new operator. Although I suspect this will mean no difference in fares, it prompted me to wonder whether things are any further forward in correcting the injustice that sees, for example, the fare between say Bank and Twickenham (Z1-5) being higher than the fare between Bank and Heathrow (Z1-6), just because the latter is all TFL and the former includes NR. The concept of a premium for NR services surely goes against the logic of a zonal system? Has the new franchise deal simply pushed back any prospect of fares alignment until at least 2024?

    • Hi Jon,

      I don’t know about any potential changes to fares, but I would be surprised if anything did change. The biggest current problem is the animosity between the Mayor and the Transport Secretary.

  104. Thanks. I assume the transfer of suburban services to TFL / London Overground, which would probably be the only likely catalyst for any alignment, is bound up in the same issue? Do you know if the new franchise deal for the former SWT area includes the option to strip out the suburban services earlier than 2024?

  105. Hi, my daughter age 16 is starting college next week. I’ve bought her a zip oyster 16+ Photo card. She’s going to be getting a train from Broxbourne Station to Tottenham Hale, to then get on London Underground Victoria Line to Victoria London. College start from 19th September to 29th June 2018. Monday to Friday 9.15am to 4.15pm. I’ve been on Tfl website and had the option of buying a Odd Period Travelcard from September to June calculating to £1615.00. Then I went to the Broxbourne train station today & they told me to buy a 16-25 railcard for £30 to save 1/3 on travel. Does this include the underground?? Not sure what’s best?? Can u help? Do I stick with oyster or national rail?

    • Hi Silvana,

      That’s very poor advice from Broxbourne station. A 16-25 railcard may still be useful for trips away from London by rail, but the 16+ Zip Oyster card basically gives you a 50% discount. So definitely stay with Oyster for the commute.

      Also, you’ve got the right idea about odd-period season tickets, but I wouldn’t buy it for the whole year. Once you exceed a month, each extra day costs roughly the same. If you buy up to June you’ll be paying for Christmas and Easter holidays. I’d personally get one per term. In December you’ll need to do some maths depending on how close the term starts to January 2nd. If it’s only a couple of days then it might be worthwile starting the ticket on January 1st to get this years price.

  106. Hi
    This is my first post but need an answer to a question? If I were traveling (Mon-Fri) from Upminster to Denmark Hill via Whitechapel using my oyster card would I have to use a pink validator? or do I just change trains at Whitechapel and swipe out at Denmark Hill! thanks to all

  107. Hi,

    I have a travel card zones 2-5, how much more I’d have to pay for a journey from West Croydon to Grays, given that I won’t crypt re cross through zone 1?

    • Hi Krzysztof,

      As long as you travel via Canada Water/Whitechapel and West Ham then you’ll be charged for a zone 6 to Grays single. You can use Upminster to Grays in the fare finder to get the prices.

  108. Please can you let me know the price from Shenfield station on greater Anglia to Russell square station in London as not clear from price list and what zone it is in? Also can you purchase a weekly or monthly ticket
    Many thanks

    • Hi Donna,

      Shenfield is outside the zones so not covered by my fare tables. The Oyster fare finder says £11.60 for a peak single and the weekly season is £105.80.

  109. Hi Mike! Fascinating blog – I have a technical question – when you tap at a gate, how much communication is done with a central server before the light goes green?

    Does the reader (a) just read the balance off of the card’s secure memory using the chip on the card? Or (b) does the card have an “id” so that the balance is checked via a request to some sort of central server.

    If (a), which would make sense (the card counts as a “trusted token” and can only be updated by a trusted writer (also the gate), how does it query the refunds/etc to change the card’s balance – does it cache them on the gate? Does it do it via an online request to the central server? If this is the case, why not query the server for the balance instead of storing it on the card?

    If (b), how does the infrastructure handle hundreds of thousands of requests per second – are static gates (or the pads on buses/trams) connected to the network 100% of the time? What if there’s a poor connection?

    Basically I’m wondering what functions (e.g. “balance check”, “apply refund” etc) are done “online” with a request to a central server, and which are done “offline”. Are they done instantly/in real time (i.e. before the light changes green/red) or are they batched and sent asynchronously? I’m guessing its some sort of hybrid but I’m fascinated to know for definite.

    Settling this debate would mean I either have to buy someone a pint or get bought a pint.

    • Hi rats,

      Well if a pint is at stake I’d better be careful what I say.

      I can be 100% certain that no communication with the central database/server is done while the card is touching the reader. At a station or tramstop there will be communication with the local server, while on buses it just communicates with the on-board computer.

      Topups, travelcards, refunds etc are sent by the central server to each station/tramstop/bus periodically. I think it is every 10 minutes or so, maybe more frequently. This is why you have to wait 30 minutes after ordering topup before it can be collected. I have picked up in around 10 minutes before, and failed once after about 8 but succeeded when trying again about 12. My guess is that as well as topping up a flag is set on the card to ignore any other attempts to top up. I’m not sure how that is cleared, it may be a combination of timeout or touching a reader where a topup doesn’t still exist. Once the topup has been picked up the local server or bus reports to the central server so the request can be cleared from the list.

      I hope that settles the debate one way or another.

  110. Hi Mike

    I am starting to commute form Bush Hill Park to East Croydon, north to south zone 5!, during peak hours both AM and PM.
    I have a 25-30rail card but believe this is of no use as travel is in peak hours.
    Please can you advise of best/cheapest travel options – will it be the weekly oyster card 7 day for zones 1-5? or contactless? – is there any ways/routes/changes I can cut down the travel costs?

    Thanks for any advice

    • Hi Konner,

      Either Oyster with a travelcard or contactless will work the same for weekly travel (Mon-Sun). You can cut the cost by avoiding zone 1, but there will be a time penalty. Change at Hackney Central/Downs, Stratford, Canada Water and New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction. You’ll need to touch the pink readers at Hackney Central and Stratford to say you’ve avoided zone 1.

  111. Hi Mike,
    I travel from Chafford Hundred in to London. Usually during Off-Peak times. I travel to Angel (Zone 1). I have a 16-25 Railcard on my oyster card also.

    I noticed while playing around with the single fare finder that it is cheaper to travel to Upminster ,Tap out, Tap in, and continue to Angel. (Oyster Split Ticketing !!)

    CHF to Angel: £4.75

    CHF to UPM : £1.70
    UPM to Angel : £2.05
    Total : £3.75

    Whole £1 cheaper.

    But to do this I have to go to the gate line and do it there. Also I to have to wait for the next train, but sometimes I get on the same train as they tend to wait at Upminister.

    However I notice there are oyster validators on the platform.

    Could I tap that validator twice to achieve the same effect or is there some kind of timer to prevent accidental double taps?

  112. Hi Mike, many thanks for your kind reply to my other question.

    I went from Windsor to Waterloo with a single rail ticket & have discovered via TFL’s very useful Oyster journey history email that I was charged £5.30. I must have absent-mindedly (& rather daftly) touched in when entering the station when coming off the train at Waterloo.

    I’m going to email TFL with a PDF photo of the ticket & plead confusion & absent-mindedness. Anything else I should say?

    Thanks for a very useful site.

    • Hi Donald,

      That should do it. Technically you touched out and it’s a very common mistake when you are used to doing it all the time and then suddenly have a paper ticket. I’ve even done it once. You’ll have no trouble getting a refund if you have proof of the paper ticket.

  113. I’ll be in London 10 days. Taking the train from Dulwich to London and back, each day. and a few trips within the city as well. Do I buy an oyster card or travellers card? Many thanks

    • Hi Kathleen,

      You’ll need an Oyster card anyway, but you should get a travelcard for 7 of the days, then use PAYG for the other 3. Which travelcard you need depends on which Dulwich station you use. East and North will require zones 1-2 while West needs zones 1-3.

  114. Please find for me the cheapest route between Bruce Grove and Eltham station. Thank you for helping me. I used to buy weelky a 40£ underground pass and to charge extra 15£ for Southeastern. I don’t know how to avoid zone 1.

    • Hi Kora,

      Firstly the weekly Undergound pass is actually a zone 1-3 travelcard. It is valid on National Rail services as well within the zones covered. Eltham is in zone 4, so if you get a zone 1-4 travelcard for £49 it covers everything.

      Avoiding zone 1 for that journey is going to be a bit tortuous, but it is possible. The easiest route involves changing at Hackney Downs/Central, then Overground to Stratford, then DLR to Lewisham (possibly changing at Canary Wharf), then Southeastern to Eltham. If you do that then it’s a zone 2-4 travelcard which is £28.20. You’ll need to touch the pink readers at Hackney Downs/Central and Stratford as you change trains.

  115. I have an oyster season ticket for zones 1 – 5 for commuting however I need to travel out of London to Aylesbury but do not want to purchase a Marylebone to Aylesbury ticket. As my season ticket goes to zone 5 can I buy a train ticket to Ayesbury that goes from Harrow-on-the-hill (zone 5) but start my travel from Marylebone? The train goes through Harrow from Marylebone to Aylesbury.

    • Hi Elaine,

      Yes you can. The fares are a bit confusing, but if you are travelling off-peak you might find a boundary zone 5 to Aylesbury ticket is cheaper.

  116. Hello Mike,

    Today I noticed on the TFL Fare Finder that the “default fare” for Wandsworth Town NR to Swanley NR is more expensive than the “default fare” for Putney (or Clapham Junction) to Swanley.

    £5.90 Peak
    £3.50 Off Peak

    £7.60 Peak
    £4.40 Off Peak

    Usually I find the fares from Wandsworth Town & Putney are the same (unless sometimes if heading west).

    Also Putney & Clapham Junction have identical fares showing and three “alternate fares”, but only two “alternate fares” show for Wandsworth Town. (The additional “alternate fare” showing for Putney & Clapham Junction is “Using National Rail services via Waterloo/Waterloo East (or Clapham Junction and Victoria)”).

    As Wandsworth Town is sandwiched between Putney and Clapham Junction it seems a bit odd to me that Wandsworth Town fares aren’t the same as Putney & Clapham Junction, and wondered if you had any idea why?

    Many thanks.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’d say it’s a mistake. If you use my fare finder (powered by the same source as TfL’s) you also get the zonal coverage of each fare and you’ll see the the missing alternate fare is actually the one used for the default from Wandsworth Town. What’s missing is the via Clapham Junction and Peckham Rye fare. I’ll raise it as an issue with TfL.

  117. Hi

    Quick question. I need to go on the overground from West Croydon to Haggerston but intend to break my journey on route at Surrey Quays.
    Is there a time limit that would make these two single journeys (West Croydon to SQ – then SQ to Haggerston) or will it treat it is one journey?

    • Hi Chris,

      No time limits involved, it will be charged as two journeys. You can’t break Oyster journeys and still be charged for one, unlike on National Rail tickets.

  118. Hi

    I travel from Hackney Downs > Liverpool Street (tapping in and out on an oyster card pay as you go). Then I travel from Liverpool Street > Farringdon > Southern Rail/Thames link to Coulsdon South (tapping in at Liverpool St and out at Coulsdon South on an oyster card pay as you go).

    My question is – do I need to tap in changing from the met line at Farringdon to Southern rail/Thames to continue my journey to Coulsdon South?

    Is there also a cheaper way to make this journey?

    Thank you,


    • Hi Emma,

      No need to touch anything at Farringdon. Yes, if you avoid zone 1 it’s cheaper. Travel via Stratford (touch the pink reader), Jubilee line to Canada Water then Overground and Southern.

  119. Hi,

    I recently took a journey from London Bridge National Rail station to Island Gardens DLR station via Greenwich on NR/DLR. I must have failed to touch in at London Bridge (the gateline was open and unattended, I tapped and it beeped, but I wasn’t paying very close attention and nor did I look at the display screen…), because a ticket inspector on the DLR said my Oyster card was not validated.

    He mentioned an £80 penalty for failing to touch in but didn’t give me a penalty fare (at least, I don’t think so – perhaps the details from my registered Oyster card have been collected for later processing!!) – but when touching “out” at Island Gardens (which seemed like the right thing to do), it didn’t say either Entry or Exit, but “Seek Assistance”. I touched a second time and it said “Entry”.

    Can you think what might explain this “Seek Assistance” behaviour at touch-“out”?

    • Hi Jake,

      It could be a number of things. At a very basic level there might have been a misread when you touched. There are other options, but to advise further I’ll need to see your journey history for that day, including the card balance when you touched at Island Gardens.

  120. This is a random question, but… 🙂

    When the Oyster deposit was increased from £3 to £5, how did TfL manage this?

    It seems to me that they would have to add £2 to every Oyster card. Or does the system support different Oyster cards having different effective minimum balances?

    • Hi Chris,

      The deposit is entirely separate from the balance. In the early days you didn’t have to pay a deposit if you added a travelcard to your Oyster on day 1. The amount of the deposit is stored on the card and is refunded when the card is surrendered. If it was £0 then obviously nothing is refunded.

  121. Hi,
    That’s interesting! I had kind of assumed that the deposit and balance weren’t stored separately.
    Thanks for answering my (pointless) query 🙂

  122. What’s cheapest way to travel from Ockendon to Wimbledon as just got a new job and wonder if oyster would be better than a season ticket

    • Hi Neil,

      Yes, Oyster will be cheaper than a weekly season ticket. If you can commit to a month or longer then the season may be better, especially if you want to use trains at the weekend. For the season ticket you need an Ockendon to zones 1-6 travelcard for £91.90/week. Ten peak Oyster singles is £84.00. If you can spare a little more time then avoiding zone 1 is £59.60 for the zones 2-6 travelcard from Ockendon, or £54.00 for ten peak singles. To avoid zone 1 you change at West Ham, Canada Water and Clapham Junction, touching the pink reader at Canada Water.

  123. Hi Mike I have an oyster 60+ now but confused where I can use it. If I want to go from Bromley south to Whitstable will I have to pay thanks

    • Hi Debra,

      You will have to pay, but only from Swanley. You need to travel after 0930 weekdays and the train doesn’t have to call at Swanley.

  124. Hi Mike. This is an odd one, but hopefully you’ll have some idea of what happened here. I have a Oyster card with a Zone 1-2 annual travelcard and gold card discount set. Today I made an off-peak journey from zone 1 to Ponders End, and back again later (also off-peak). I made both journeys by changing between the Victoria line and NR at Tottenham Hale. Going northbound (ie TfL > NR) my journey cost £1, but southbound (NR > TfL) it cost £1.25. Not the first time I’ve made this journey and the same thing happens each time. Why and how am I charged different fares depending on which direction I’m traveling? A mystery to me, although I suspect the cost should be £1.25 as that’s what the single fare finder says it should be.

    • Hi Andy,

      It’s a quirk of the Oyster system and how extension fares are charged. Northbound your journey is treated as a zone 3-5 extension fare which is on the TfL-LU scale. The system only has 3 extension scales: TfL, NR and TfL+NR. Thus TfL is used for TfL-LU and TfL-Ang. I don’t know whether this is supposed to be what happens, or just what the system will cope with. Southbound you start with a plain PAYG journey (Ponders End to Tottenham Hale) on the TfL-Ang scale. Once you’ve been charged that fare it can’t be adjusted down when you exit within your travelcard and it becomes an extension fare. If you were to travel via Hackney Downs/Central and Highbury & Islington then you’d be charged the same as northbound.

  125. Hi
    I’ve just become eligible for a 60+ Photocard and have a question about its use.

    With a normal travelcard on Oyster I understand you are not obliged to touch in or out on the tube/NR providing you remain within the zones that the travelcard covers (I appreciate that at gated stations you don’t generally get a choice!). Is the 60+ photocard the same? In other words if I were to use the 60+ photocard to travel from an un-gated station in suburbia without touching in would I incur the wrath of any RPI I happened to encounter en-route, or would it be ok as it would be if I had a normal travelcard?

    Thank you

    • Hi Lindsay,

      The 60+ Oyster card is treated as an off-peak travelcard with certain peak additions. There is no penalty for missing a touch within the freedom pass area as long as you don’t use it on a morning peak train where it isn’t valid.

  126. Hi Sacha,

    I’m not sure what you’re asking. You can top up at the ticket machine at Whitton. If you can be more specific about your query I’ll try to help further.

  127. Hello,
    I know that I can touch out, make a “U-turn” and touch in at a barrier gate again – the system treats this as ending one and starting another journey. But is it possible to touch out on a free-standing Oyster pad and then immediately (or after 2 seconds) touching in on the same one so the system treats that the same as I’ve mentioned?
    I hope you understand.
    Thank you, Daniel Slováček

  128. Hi,
    thanks for your response. It’s appreciated by a transport nerd…
    Just another question – what happens if I break this rule by touching a free-standing pad twice in a row?
    Thanks , Daniel

    • Hi Daniel,

      I think you may be confusing terminology here. There are two types of yellow Oyster readers for validation. One is attached to a paddle gate and you can re-enter via another gate immediately. Note that gates are always one-way, even the bi-directional wide gates know which pad has been touched. The other is a free-standing or standalone validator. Generally the same touch will be repeated if a card is presented to any validator at a station within 2 minutes. This extends to 15 minutes if the station is on the list of continuation exits.

  129. Can you tell me if you start your journey using your oyster card and later in the day you get a railcard discount added would you still get the discount or what would happen to the cost for the day.

    • Hi Len,

      It depends when the railcard is added. Single fares already charged will remain at the undiscounted rate. The off-peak cap will be discounted, but if you’ve already exceeded it you won’t get anything back.

  130. Hi Mike,

    Can you advise me. I have weekly ticket Woking to London zones 4-6, i do not understand where do i need to change the trains in order to avoid zone 2-3. Thanks

    • Hi Tina,

      I think you’re slightly misunderstanding what the ticket allows. London zones 4-6 literally just means the parts of Greater London which fall into zones 4-6, plus any buses throughout London. You can’t avoid zones 2-3 and end up in zone 1 (unless you use buses).

  131. Hi Mike,

    Another anomaly I’ve run into. On routes from Elephant and Castle (National Rail) to London Overground stops between Surrey Quays and Whitechapel, the zonal coverage is indicated as 1-2. I can’t think of a valid reason for this, but LO fare rules are a bit of a weak spot for me!

    Unrelatedly (and I’m more confident this is my own misunderstanding, but curious all the same), I note an alternative route is offered from E&C NR to Surrey Quays changing onto LU via Blackfriars. This seems to be the NR1-T fare scale, but I’m not sure what section of any reasonable such route isn’t included in the TfL-LU scale. I’m sure I’m the one missing something here, but having done my best to try and understand fare scales I’m not sure what it is!


    • Hi Chris,

      I think there are issues with both those points. Changing at Blackfriars should definitely be TfL-LU, no question. The other one is a bit more nuanced. You could go E&C – Blackfriars – London Bridge – New Cross/New Cross Gate/Queens Road – Surrey Quays. Or you could go E&C – Peckham Rye – Surrey Quays. The latter is obviously zone 2 only. I’ll pass them on and see what they say.

  132. Hi,

    Thanks very much. That’s certainly an interesting route! I have always wondered how these were originally technically generated – I assume it must have involved human work to define routes between defined fixed points and then an algorithm to fill in the blanks.

    On a semi-related point, I was looking at your fascinating 2017 Zonal Coverage FOI response, and doing a bit of data crunching, specifically to get a list of every station pair without a route defined. I found the results quite interesting.

    Same NLCs filtered out, sorted by quantity, and reverse directions filtered out (since none are asymmetric). The VIX-GX gateline having only one destination route I can understand, but some seem weird. The most interesting results (in my view) are the ones near the bottom of the list that are “odd” stations without pairings! For example there must be a fair few people doing Dalston Kingsland to Shoreditch High Street. I have actually traveled a few of these (notably E&C LU to E&C NR) and the system does actually manage to cough up a fare – but I’ve always wondered how, and what fare scale it picks.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the interesting analysis. Anyone doing Dalston to Shoreditch would use Junction surely? Hackney Downs to Hackney Central is actually one station now just like Bank to Monument. Dartford to Slade Green appears ok now. The others down the end all seem to be illogical journeys.

      Yes, if you make what the system believes to be an illogical journey (or just one not defined) then it will charge something. The ones I’ve tried (like Crayford to Fenchurch Street via Lewisham and Limehouse) appear to charge the correct fare.

  133. One more routing observation:

    I was looking up fares between E&C (NR and LU) and Vauxhall NR (a journey I’ve never undertaken – I have always taken a bus or cycled when travelling solely between those two points).

    For both E&C NR and LU origins, the default route is Zone 2-3, which seems dead wrong – I don’t see that there is a reasonable route that involves Zone 3 in either case. The obvious NR-NR route would be via DMK and CLJ, and the obvious LU-NR route would be via Clapham North/CLP and CLJ, all Zone 2 only. It might be worth adding to the list to raise, although its academic as I expect the number of people affected would be zero!

    (As an aside, I like the “NR Only Via Z1” route, which implies going from Blackfriars to Waterloo via same-station-exit OSIs at Southwark and Waterloo East!)

    • It’s an oddity, yes. For the NR zone 1 only route I suspect the intended route is via Blackfriars, London Bridge and Waterloo East. The defining interchange will be the Waterloo East to Waterloo one.

  134. Hi Mike,

    Me again with another route that’s giving me a headache – Surrey Quays to E&C NR. This is charged as a 1-2 route (I’d have thought the most direct route is to change at Peckham Rye, but I accept that timing wise it’s marginal!).

    My query relates to the alternative NR1-T route “changing between LU/NR at Blackfriars”. I’m not sure under what circumstances this route+fare would be induced. BFR-EPH is TFL-LU eligible so that OSI alone isn’t an indicator. I could conceive of a route involving changing at Queen’s Road Peckham to reach London Bridge and beyond, but that wouldn’t leave an indicator. Any ideas?


    • Hi Chris,

      No, that must be an error. At some point I’ll chase up a wholesale review of fares to/from Elephant & Castle. Not now though.

  135. Hi Mike,

    I’m looking to travel from Baker Street to Elstree and Borehamwood. This journey costs £8.40 peak, yet if I start at St Pancras International, it only costs £6.80. Normally I’d understand the price difference to be due to a LU + NR journey, only I understand that Thameslink is charged at LU fares south of West Hampstead. Surely the part of the journey up to West Hampstead would cost the same regardless if it started at St Pancras (on NR) or Baker Street (on LU)? Have I missed something?



    • Hi Jacob,

      It is quite confusing, but this is how it works for each bit:

      Elstree to Baker Street is a mix of NR and LU hence the mixed mode surcharge.
      Elstree to St Pancras is NR only so it is cheaper.
      West Hampstead to Baker Street is mixed, but the NR part is charged at LU rates so no surcharge.

      NR routes that charge LU rates are still NR when it comes to whether a surcharge is levied or not.

  136. Hi Mike,
    This week’s default route moan is Richmond to E&C NR with a low zone of 1.
    The most direct route that doesn’t involve an OSI marker is changing at Clapham Junction/Denmark Hill.
    St Margarets and North Sheen don’t have the problem.
    (Only telling you as I suspect you may be making a list of these somewhere for a future review one day!)

    • Hi Chris,

      The default route doesn’t necessarily have to be one without an interchange. I suspect the difference between Richmond and the adjacent SWR stations is the need to use SWR as well as District/LO from Richmond.

      That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an issue with some of the fares, potentially caused by not acknowledging the opening of the LO link from Clapham Junction to Wansworth Road. Before that opened the route via Battersea Park was quite unattractive.

  137. I’ve seen on the TFL website that kids between 5-11 travel free with a fare paying adult. I’m visiting London next week and will be buying a Visitor Oyster Card so I’m interested to know how it works at the gate line. Do I scan my ticket then my 6 year old gets waved through?

    I’ve looked on other sites which suggest this will be the case but I’m struggling to find anything definitive and want to avoid the scenario next week of being told at the barrier we’ve not got it right.

  138. Hi Liam,

    There’s no specific instruction. The opertor may open the wide gate for your child, or may use a special card to open the normal gate again. They’re very used to having to let kids through so there won’t be a problem.

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