Topping Up

So you’ve bought your Oyster card and used up your initial credit.  What now?  TfL provide a wide range of methods to top up the balance on your card.  Which you use depends largely on your circumstances.

Auto Top-Up

For regular travellers this is probably the best option.  Once set up you will never need to worry about running out of credit again.  You can choose to add either £20 or £40 every time the balance on your card falls below £10.  Whenever you start a journey and the balance is below £10 you will hear an extra few beeps as you touch in and your balance will be increased by your selected amount.  This even happens on buses and trams.  When the oyster reader transfers its transactions to the central system your credit or debit card is debited with the amount.  This is what you need to do to set it up:

  1. If you haven’t already done so, you need to create an account on the Oyster website.  Then you need to associate the card with that account.
  2. Select “Top up or buy season ticket” under Payment actions.
  3. Choose “Pay as you go with auto top-up” and select an amount to top-up immediately (between £10 and £50 in £5 multiples) and the amount to auto top-up later (either £20 or £40).
  4. Click on “Next Page” twice, then enter your payment details.
  5. Your order will be available 30 minutes later and remain available for 4 days. After that time it will be cancelled and your money refunded.
  6. You will receive an email confirming your order.
  7. Simply touch in at the start of a normal journey.  The immediate top-up will be added to your card and auto top-up will be activated.  Unless the station was a tram stop you must remember to touch out again at the end of the journey.
  8. You will receive another email confirming that your order has been picked up.

Manual Top-Up

If you don’t want to use auto top-up for whatever reason, especially if you use your card infrequently, then there are a number of places to manually add credit.

  • Oyster ticket stop shops.
  • Tube, DLR, Overground, TfL Rail and some National Rail stations*.
  • Online at the Oyster website. Follow the same steps 1-8 above, but choose “Pay as you go” and select an amount to top-up (you can also add just £5 if not adding auto top-up).
  • Online using the TfL Oyster app. Select Top up, choose an amount to add (£10 – £50 in £5 multiples) and press Pay now. The same conditions as step 5 above apply for picking up.

* At most National Rail stations you may find that you can top-up at the ticket machine but not at the ticket office itself.

If you top-up at a ticket machine then you need to remember that it is a two stage process.  First place your card on the reader which will confirm the balance and any tickets held.  Then select add top-up and either insert the money or pay on a credit/debit card.  Finally place the card on the reader again so that the top-up can be added to the card.  After the second touch you will get any change returned or a receipt if paid by card.

If you pay by card then the transaction will be authorised after you enter your PIN.  If you forget to touch again to get the top-up added then this authorisation will remain and may appear as if the money has been taken.  It hasn’t, and the authorisation will drop off 2-3 business days later when TfL will have failed to charge the debit to your bank.

Link to old site with comments up to 2020

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