Topping Up (inc Faster Universal Load)

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 £10, £20 or £40 every time the balance on your card falls below £20.  Whenever you start a journey and the balance is below £20 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 £20 and £50 in £5 multiples) and the amount to auto top-up later (£10, £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.  See the section on Faster Universal Load below.
  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.
  • Ticket machines at Tube, DLR, Overground, TfL Rail and 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 £5/£10/£15 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.

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 3-4 business days later when TfL will have failed to charge the debit to your bank.

Faster Universal Load (FUL)

FUL is the name of the system used to transfer topups, refunds and products to Oyster cards when the request is generated remotely from the card.  The system uses two lists to manage requests so that the main list doesn’t get too long but requests can remain active for up to six months.  Unlike the original system where the request was sent to a named station or tramstop, each Oyster card can have multiple items listed to be sent to it.

The main list is sent to every station, tramstop and bus. The amount of topup/refund, or travelcard/bus pass will be added as soon as the Oyster card is touched on a reader as part of a journey (can be entry, exit or interchange).  Items remain on the main list for three whole days, plus the hours between request and midnight when the customer orders the topup or product.  At the end of that time the item is deleted from the main list.  If it was generated by the customer ordering topup or a product then that order is cancelled and refunded back to the customer.  If it was an automatically generated adjustment or refund then the item moves to the reserve list.  This is because TfL can’t be certain how the item could be refunded.

The reserve list is held on the central database and is checked every time a card touch is received by the central system.  Once a match has been made the item is transferred back to the main list as a new request with a new 3-and-a-bit day duration.  In most cases this means that the amount will be added on the second touch (either touch out from a train or touch on a second bus journey).  Items remain on the reserve list for six months from the initial creation date.  After that time they will no longer be automatically re-queued to the main list, but details can be accessed by customer services should the customer decide to request the refund at a later date.

The two main uses of the reserve list are: (a) adjustments generated by running the daily Oyster touches through the back office capping system used by contactless cards and devices; and (b) refunds of the £5 card fee after one year.  In the case of the card fee the request is actually placed on the reserve list first because there is no guarantee that the card is still in regular use.  Items sent to the main list are expected to be picked up quickly in the majority of cases and it’s important not to overload that list.

917 thoughts on “Topping Up (inc Faster Universal Load)”

  1. 4. Click on “Continue” and select a station to activate the order from. This can be any tube, national rail, overground or DLR station or a tramstop. You can’t activate auto top-up on a bus, but once activated the actual top-up can be triggered on a bus.

    So to make this clear for me..
    I can set up the Oystercard to auto top up at a tube station/overground for the first instance … later that week, if I hopped on a bus and the Oystercard balance then went over than (say) £5, I can be assured that the card would auto-top up there and then.

  2. If the balance on your card is less than £5 when you touch in on a bus then it will add your auto top-up amount to your card. Your bank/credit card will be debited once the oyster reader on the bus gets back to the depot. I don’t know what happens if there is a problem collecting the payment, but they can blacklist lost cards and I imagine that this is what would happen if you didn’t rectify the issue.

  3. To access my journey history I topped up on line. I nominated my nearest tube station which is fine.. except that I don’t wish to travel by tube as my next few journeys will be by bus.

    How do I validate my Oyster top-up without making a tube journey?.

  4. Hi Dave,

    It is possible for LU ticket office staff to cancel the entry token after you’ve touched in. They used to allow you to do that in the days before Oyster was accepted throughout National Rail in London. I suggest that you try to go to your station at a relatively quiet time and ask at the ticket office before trying to touch in whether they will be prepared to cancel the touch in. You’ll need to return to ticket window immediately after activating the gate, and don’t actually go through the gate, just expain to the gateline supervisor.

    I hope this helps.

  5. A very comprehensive site; thank you.

    I have a fairly idle question: as an occasional user who tops up manually, why do I need to specify a specific station to activate the top up? This doesn’t usually present a problem, but it quite easily could (travel plans changing and so on), and seems an unnecessary restriction: other types of online purchases are immediately applied.

  6. Hi Sohcahtoa,

    That’s a nice easy question. Each station or tramstop or bus operates in isolation for most of the day. They all hook-up to the central database at night and transfer details of all their transactions. Meanwhile, your card contains the most up-to-date information about your useage. So, when you order top-up online it is literally sent to the server at the specific station you request. Thus you can use any gate at that station because they are all connected to their local server, but any other station has no idea about your top-up. This is also why you can’t specify a bus, becasue you can’t know in advance which particular bus you’d get.

    You can get your up-to-date journey history at a tube station because it reads the card and displays what it finds. Online you need to wait for the transactions to be transfered to the central database before you can view them.

  7. Hi, I just purchased a £20 top up for my oyster card and I didn’t realise that you have to activate it within 8 days since you bought the top up and won’t be going into London until 12th jan which is longer than 8 days!

    Can I cancel the top up or what should I do?


  8. Hi Lauren,

    If you look at point 6 under auto top-up above you’ll see that if you don’t pick it up you’ll be refunded and have to start again. I need to make it clear that this applies to one-off top-ups as well as activating auto top-up. Thanks for raising the query.


  9. Hi,

    If I top-up online now, will I be able to use my card in 2 hours time on a bus? I noticed that the start-date is not until tomorrow, which means that it’s not really convenient as I will have to find the nearest top-up point, which is a bit of a walk away.


  10. Hi Faye,

    I realise that the time has passed already, but the answer was no anyway. If you look at step 6 of the process it says it will always be at least the next day.

  11. Thank you (a bit belatedly) for the reply. I had no idea until the system worked until recently – and am so used to making payments online and having them instantly applied!

  12. If I’ve topped up online and nominated a train station to download the top-up, can I swipe the card at that station and then go and get on a bus? If not is there anyway of getting the money refunded sooner so that I can pay over the counter in a shop?

    • You can swipe at the station, but if you don’t then make a journey you will get a maximum fare charged. You could call the Oyster helpline who might be able to refund you quicker, but I’m not certain. Failing that, it will refund automatically after 8 days.

  13. Auto Top-up is a great system and I’d recommend it to any regular PAYG user. It’s particularly useful if you travel mainly on buses, as it’s the only way to top-up on a bus. But you do first have to order online and activate it at a Tube station.

    This year, TFL increased the minimum balance for Auto Top-up from £5 to £8. This tipped the balance for an occasional traveller like me: I don’t want up to £28 sitting wastefully on my Oystercard. So I decided to cancel my £20 Auto Top-up. But guess what? You must “order” the cancellation online to be “picked up” at a Tube gate, just like an online top-up! My life isn’t that regular and it’s taken me weeks to finally get it cancelled. Although my online cancellation order stated that it would only be available to pick up for the usual 8 days, it in fact remained on my account (“ready at gate”) for 14 days.

    • That’s useful to know, thanks. Also, it might not have made a difference to you but you can add or cancel auto top-up at any rail or dlr station as well as any tramstop. It’s only buses you can’t do it on.

    • Thank you for your comment. Whilst I can believe that touch out may well collect manual top up instructions, I am certain that it will NOT trigger auto top up. The reason is that auto top up is designed to keep your card in credit by topping up when necessary. If you finish a journey with £4 on your card you will not be very happy if another £20 is credited when you might not use the card for some time. I also have auto top up set on my card and I have often finished a rail journey with the balance under the auto top up trigger. It has never credited a top up in that situation.

  14. I topped up this morning in a shop, but the money I put on my card is not yet coming up on my oyster card details online. Does this mean the top up didn’t work or will it register the top up when I swipe in on the bus?

    • I don’t know how often shops communicate with the central system but I wouldn’t worry about it today. If you use it on a bus it won’t get recorded centrally until the bus gets back to the depot and uploads it’s reader. If you use it on trains then the balance seems to get transmitted reasonably regularly, but the full journey history takes 1-2 days to catch up.

      Hope that helps.

  15. Hi there,

    I topped up 10 pounds online and chose brent cross to activate my card. However, my plans changed and I left from Hendon instead – the card had nto been topped up so I had to do it manually with 5 pounds. the tenner has been taken out of my account but is not on my card – any ideas about getting this sorted?


    • Hi Frances,

      The top-up will remain at Brent Cross for eight days and can be activated either on entry or exit. After that time it will be cancelled and the money returned to your account.

  16. Hi

    Last Year I explained about my problems with p.a.y.g. top up. Guess what they are still there! I got an e-mail that £25 was ready to be picked up at Waterloo on 10/5/11. When I touched in there was no top up. The card did register but only showed the £5 I had on it previously. I then had to pay £20 cash to top up at my destination. Strangely when I returned to Waterloo on 13/5/11 I got the top up! This was no use as I am not going back to London in the foreseeable future. I have made a complaint by e-mail and asked for a refund.

    a not so cheerful Toneser

  17. You’re not having much luck, are you? I’d be interested to know what they say in their reply. Are these problems at Waterloo Mainline station? I wonder if you can give me some more details including platforms used each time. It might be that there is an issue at this station, possibly because it is so big.

  18. Hi Mike

    I used the entry in the Underground station itself, the one that leads to Bakerloo & Northern lines. I used a wide gate as I had a large bag. Although I used a narrower gate on return. I explained the problem to the station staff when I topped up my card at the final stop. He seemed to know there was a problem and advised I use a “standalone” scanner? There does not appear to be such a thing other than at DLR stations?. Do you think he meant the scanner at the top up machine? Any help would be appreciated. This must be a common problem so why is there not more help from TFL?


  19. On my point and your reply on the 11th of April, it is correct that you will not trigger an auto-top up if you’re under £8 touching out. You will collect any manual top up (including both online and refunds) and if you have _activated or cancelled_ auto top up on your card, it will take effect on a touch-out.

  20. Hi

    I refer to my posts on the 14th May. I have now had a reply from Oyster Customer Services. There is no apology or explanation as to why I did not receive the promised p.a.y.g. top up at Waterloo station until my return journey. I did state I had no plans to return to London for some time. I was advised that I could apply for a refund at a TFL ticket office, however if the top up was paid with a mixture of cash and payment card then the refund would be referred to their refunds office. I could also post the card to them and obtain the refund and deposit.

    I would then have to go through the hassle of obtaining a new card for my next visit! TFL now have an interest free loan from me!

    I expect I will leave the card as it is, at least I have it topped up for my next visit whenever that will be.

    • Oh dear. Thanks for letting us know. As you say, it’s probably best to leave the top-up there rather than go through the hassle of returning it and ordering a new one. What I might suggest next time is order the top up for your destination tube station. As long as you have enough to cover the entry into Waterloo it will then add the credit at the end.

      Sorting out refunds for occasional visitors is definitely something they need to look at.

  21. Hi Mike

    Yes I will take your advice for future trips. There is definitly a problem at Waterloo and TFL do not seem too bothered to rectify it.

  22. Hi Mike,

    Nice work on the website!

    I have bought a monthly travel card to put on my Oyster online – the travel card was meant to begin on June 2. I have not been able to get to Brixton station, which was my collection point, and now the station is closed for the weekend. So even though I’ve been travelling my travel card has not been activated.

    Do you know if there is a way to change the collection point? And is there a way to have the monthly ticket begin today, and not june 2nd?

    Thanks so much for any help!



    • Hi Jo,

      I’ve never added a travelcard to my Oyster so I’m a little unsure of procedures in this area. I’ve gone as far as I can without paying for a travelcard and I notice that it says it will be available to pick up from 5 days before it’s start date (or the next day if it’s due to start within the next 5 days) to 2 days after. If they operate a similar system to online top-ups then if you fail to pick it up within this time they will refund you and you’ll have to start again.

      I don’t believe that it’s possible to change an order that is in the system, and you certainly can’t order a product online to start the same day, but you can go to any ticket-stop or Underground station and buy a new ticket in person. Your unpicked up ticket should be cancelled tomorrow as long as you don’t touch in or out at Brixton today.

      Hope that helps.

  23. Hi again Mike,

    Thanks very much for your response.

    In the end I was able to get into the station (even though it was closed) and touch-in. The cashier then was able to validate the travel card. I ended up using PAYG credit for about three days, and this overlapped with the travel card, so I’m hoping I can get this refunded. I spoke to one of the customer service guys at TFL and he said this should be fine.

    Thanks again for your help!


    • Hi Simon,

      I’m afraid the answer is no. The only top-up that is possible on a bus is when auto top-up has already been activated on your card and you board the bus with a balance below £8. Any order submitted online has to be sent to either a station or a tramstop.

      Hope that helps


  24. Hi,
    I only come to London occasionally and need to know what is the minimum balance I have to hold on the card. It is all Zone 1 but I read that a charge of £7.40 is made at the start of each journey so is this the minimum I need to have at all times? For example, if I start of with £8 balance, after one journey charged at £1.90, at the next there would only be £6.10 which is less than the £7.40 and not allow me to start it. Can you clarify please.

    • You need the minimum fare* from that station to be able to enter a station. As long as you touched in properly you will be allowed to touch out and leave a negative balance, but that must be cleared before making a further journey.

      *If you are close to, or have reached, the appropriate cap for your travel then the minimum required balance is that which will take you to the cap. That may of course be zero.

  25. I lived in for a couple of years, but moved back to New Zealand last year.
    I have 2 Oyster cards that I would like to topup 10 pounds each, and give the cards to my brother, who is moving to London this year.
    But I cannot see a way to topup cards without validation?
    Is this possible?
    I am in New Zealand so cannot validate by touching card on a reader.
    And my brother will be arriving in London in August, but not sure where he will arrive.

    Can I do a a topup online? I have online access to my oyster cards.

  26. Hi, I have just been to put a weekly travelcard on my oyster.
    I have just realised the cashier has put a monthly card on my oyster by mistake. Is there a way to refund the monthly travelcard and issue me with a weekly now?
    I am in holiday for two weeks this month and don’t want to waste all that money.

    • You’ll need to go back to the same office again. Explain what has happened and see what they suggest. The worst case would be a refund minus an admin fee, but I’d hope they wouldn’t charge that. If you can speak to the same clerk who might remember you then even better.

      Good luck sorting it out.

  27. Hi, I have opted to cancel my £40 auto top up as I am no longer such a frequent traveller. So I nominated a tube station to activate the cancellation, however I would now like to change the activation tube station as my journey plans have changed- is this possible? Customer services telephone system is currently down and I cant seem to do a manual top up to another station while this is outstanding. Thanks for any suggestions

    • Hi Tessa,

      The cancellation will remain at the tube station for 8 days before being cancelled itself. I’m not sure whether the helpdesk can change that any quicker, I always end up having to wait whenever any orders/refunds don’t work out. I’m also not aware that there is only one top-up transaction allowed at a time, though I can understand why that might be the case. You could certainly top up at the ticket machine at any station (apart from South West Trains ones) or any Oyster ticket stop (shop).

      It is a pain that to cancel auto top-up (usually because you no longer use the card that frequently) requires you to plan to make a journey.

  28. I have purchased an Oyster card and nominated a station (Kilburn Park) but my journey starts at Paddington! Will i be able to use my Oyster at Paddington and get to Kilburn ….

    • Hi Phil,

      You need to have at least the minimum fare from the station you start at on the card to be able to enter the system. At a zone 1 tube station this is £1.90. When you touch out at Kilburn Park it will apply the top up before adjusting your balance so you won’t hit a problem, although the fare to Kilburn Park is only £1.90 anyway.

  29. i tried to top up my oyster card in a machine by credit card and i didnit swipe my oyter card for second time then my oyster is not topped and the machine took my money from my credit card, i want to know if i can have my money back? thank you.

  30. Hi,

    I’ve topped up my oyster card online and it mentions that I need to activate it. I chose Waterloo. Does the ‘activation’ simply mean that when I enter the tube gates using it activates it or do I have to go to a ticket machine to activate it, then go through the gates?


    • Hi Rhian,

      It will be added when either entering or exiting through the gates at your nominated station. There is no need to go to a ticket machine.

    • Thanks for that. I knew Waterloo rang a bell somewhere. I have a funny feeling that they’ve cludged it so that the mainline and Underground both work, but they haven’t quite got it right so some of the gates don’t. Let’s hope it worked out ok!

  31. I did the auto top up but unfortunately the bank details don’t match with my oyster online. I changed the details after visiting my bank. By now my Oyster is cancelled. I have over 20pounds in my balance, meaning I didnt use their auto top up amt at all. This is my first time. I am willing to forego the card deposit as well as the balance but Oyster wants me to settle this auto top up amt of 20pounds. How do I go about this? I tried many times, yet the msg sorry, they are unable to blah blah blah…..i called many times yet my problem is not solved. I am so aggitated and sad because I don’t want to “owe” them anything. Can I send them a bank draft to settle this?

    • Hi bealing,

      Can I just check I’ve got this right. You set up auto top-up and activated it, picking up a deposit at the same time. Was the deposit also £20? For some reason the transaction wasn’t honoured by your bank. You haven’t used the balance from your Oyster and TfL have cancelled the card so you now can’t use it. Yet they are still chasing you for the failed deposit?

      I have to say that I think there is a communication issue somewhere. Someone isn’t understanding or explaining the situation very well. I don’t think you can send a bank draft, but you can go to an Underground station with cash or cards. If you explain exactly what has happened and ask them what needs to be done to sort it out. You shouldn’t lose anything, not even the deposit. You only lose the deposit if the card is thrown away.

      I have to say that I’m a little confused because manual top up transactions are usually taken before being added to the card. It is only the auto top-up that happens after the event. Did your card details change between your initial manual top up and the first auto top-up?

  32. Thanks Mike for replying to my query. It’s an auto top up, they said the details of my card doesn’t match with my oyster registered details. Now that I have changed to another credit card (London bank registered card, not the initial card which is not) made sure both sides details match, still the transaction doesn’t get thru. And I am in limbo, meaning I owe them 20pounds now. I will call them again and hope they will advise me to go to a station to pay up. I don’t mind doing whatever I can to settle this, it’s giving me nightmares, literally.

    • Please don’t have nightmares. If the credit card details are definitely correct, have you tried asking the bank why the transaction is being refused? In any event, try the helpline again and ask whether visiting a tube station can sort the problem out. It may be better to start again with a new card. If you hand back the old card at a tube station with the £20 (assuming the helpdesk agree that is possible) they should be able to transfer the deposit and balance to a new card. You can then try setting up auto top-up again on the new card.

      I can’t help thinking that something has gone wrong in TfL’s system here and the wrong card is being used. Hopefully starting again might cure it.

  33. Hi there. I just purchased an Oyster card and had it delivered this morning. I am confused though. I hear that I need to nominate a station to first ‘touch in’ and therefore ‘Activate’ my card. At no stage was I asked to nominate a station in my online application. Neither did my letter accompanying my card specify any station or how to nominate one. So where do I go? Will any station be acceptable? Nothing is easy in life anymore. Just more complicated and ambiguous.

    • Hi Alastair,

      I’m 99% certain that you don’t need to activate a card ordered online. It will come with whatever amount you asked for already recorded on it. If you also asked for auto top-up it should have that recorded as well. You only need to nominate a station when you already have the card and are purchasing new top-up online. This is because everything has to be recorded on the physical card as there is no communication between the card and the central system at the moment when you touch in or out.

      Hope that helps.

  34. Thankyou Mike. I guess that means I can just start using the Oyster card immediately (within 8 days) and make sure I touch in and out between stations properly. I do have the auto top-up feature too. I assume from your latter comment that the nominated station holds the top-up data and then sends the information to the physical card, rather than it all going straight through the central system all the time. Presumably because that would take time and be like an information overload for the main system. Then all the information gets sent over later. Anyway, thanks for your help Mike. It seems clearer to me now.

    • Yes, you should be able to use it immediately, and don’t worry about the 8 days, that is only for picking up online ordered topup. Whenever you place an order online it is sent to a station to be added on touch in or out. Once auto top-up is activated the system will add the amount selected whenever you touch in anywhere with less than £8 on the card. Later on, when the station or bus uploads it’s data, the central system will then charge your bank card and send you an email.

  35. when i top up on line i am required to nominate a station to ‘activate’ the top up. if i arrive in London at London Waterloo mainline, do i have to enter a tube gate to ‘touch in’, and if so, can i ‘touch out’ again immediately without making a journey but effectively activating the card? will this incur unecessary costs?

    or, can i simply ‘touch in’ as i pass through waterloo mainline on my way into london. to activate the card… again without incuring costs for a journey i dont make.

    the reason i ask is when i arrive in london waterloo i will likely walk to my first engagement and use the Oyster card later in the day – at another station unknown at this time so can’t specifiy an activation station on line.

    does any of this make sense??

    • Hi Stefan,

      You cannot usually touch in and then out again without being charged for a journey. Your top-up will be loaded at either touch in or touch out at your nominated station, so if you have some credit left you could pick up at the end of your journey. Otherwise, you can order the top-up upto 11pm the night before if that helps to know where you might be. Finally, the ticket machines at Waterloo mainline can now do manual top-up, so you could do it all when you arrive.

  36. thanks mike; some very good detail on here!!

    i wonder if i arrive at Waterloo mainline and then put an additional mimimal top-up amount on using a ticket machine if that would serve to ‘activate’ the online top-up too?

  37. Hi,
    I have still £4 credit in my Oyster card, but would like to top up as I’m likely to use more than £4 this weekend.
    If I top up manually on line, say £20 (not auto-top up), do I have to use all my credit in a certain period of time?
    What happens if I can’t “activate” the card during the period of time?

    • Hi Kyoko,

      Your credit lasts until you use it, it never expires. You need to touch in or out at your nominated station to pick up your top-up within 8 days, but then it will stay until you use it. Once you pick up the top-up your balance will suddenly increase by £20.

      Hope that helps.

  38. Hi,
    Yesterday I top-up my oyster card at ticket machine at Earls court station (pay as you go) for 10 pound, and before I touch the yellow sign to finish (after I purchase by my debit card), I accidentally cancel this top-up process. On the screen it also said it is cancelled. So after that I top-up 10 pound again, this time is ok I checked the card and it top up 10 pound. Today I check my bank account it shows that I pay for TFL 20 pound not 10. Or that 10 pound will refund back to my account later? Do you have any suggestion what should I do? Best,

    • Hi Marisa,

      My first port of call would be the Oyster helpdesk. They should have a record of what happened and know how this situation is handled. If they cannot resolve it then I would contact your bank and dispute the amount deducted. But try the helpdesk first.

  39. Hello Mike, yesterday I ordered payg top-up online. I nominated Kilburn High Road because I know I will be travelling from there tomorrow morning and I have received the e-mail telling me the money is ready to be uploaded. However, my plans for today have changed and I will be travelling home on the tube, but not via Kilburn High Road. Will my top-up still be waiting for me at Kilburn High road tomorrow morning despite me having made a different journey today (I have enough money on my card for today’s journey).

    • Hi Louise,

      Yes, no problems. The money will remain at your nominated station until you touch in or out there within the 8 days following the order. It doesn’t matter what else you do in the meantime.

  40. Hi,
    I have a spare Oyster card for friends from abroad stopping by, but it seems I cannot top it up online because one can only register one Oyster card number under an account (and I already have my own one registered of course). How can I proceed knowing I have given the card to my next friend coming ahead of his trip and now would like to top it up online so that he doesn’t lose too much time queuing at Heathrow ?

    • Hi Steffie,

      You can have more than one Oyster card attached to an online account; indeed I do this myself. When logged in to Oyster online you select “Add existing card” from the menu on the left sidebar. You’ll need the card number and the security answer if it is registered.

      Hope that helps.

  41. Hi!

    I was doing the manual top-up on one of the DLR stations this morning, but forgot to touch the reader for the second time. Obviously, my card has not been topped up. Did I lose the money or can I claim a refund? I kept the receipt 😉

    Thank you

    • I’m sure you should be able to claim a refund. Call the Oyster helpdesk or visit the ticket office at an Underground station and ask them what to do.

  42. I am, having difficulty making a payment online to my Oystercard and getting the message “Sorry, we are unable to process your payment at this time. ….”. My bank has confirmed that the payment is being authorised and the address matches that which I can see against my Oystercard account.

    • Hi sg,

      If you have topped up online then no, this process is activated the next day. If you top up at a station or ticket stop then it should be immediate.

  43. Hi
    I topped up my oyster card with £5 at stanmore on 12th November. When i reached Wembley park i had problems with my card. I was told card was damaged and the £5 didn’t go on (i have receipt) The man gave me a new card with the balance i had already minus £1.30 for the journey. I called oyster helpline only to be told i will only get partial refund £3.20. This seems unfair as it not my fault the £5 did not go on to my card. Why should i lose out? I used the online form to complain and had no answer, Please advise

    • Hi Graham,

      That doesn’t quite seem to add up. I must admit that I’ve had slow responses before from the helpdesk email. They probably will respond eventually. The only other thing you can do is write to the helpdesk office. Oyster card helpline, 1st Floor, Albany House, 55 Broadway, London SW1H 0BD.

  44. Random trivia: If you touch in to continue a journey when an OSI applies, you will never trigger auto-topup. For example, if you have £9 credit and touch in at Baker Street, then touch out at London Bridge LU (£7.10 left) and touch in again at London Bridge NR, you will not auto-topup.

    • Cheers for that Thomas,

      It does seem logical though. When touching in at the end of an OSI you are not starting a journey which is the only time auto top-up should be triggered.

  45. Hi
    This has already been answered I think but just wanted to double check. I’m using a bus on boxing day as the trains are not working. I want o use my oyster but don’t have much credit. If I try and top up on line I can’t activate it as I’m only using a bus. Does that mean the only way I can top up is to go into a shop? Not sure how many will be open on boxing day. Probably have to pay cash on the bus which is a bit annoying!

    • Hi Michelle,

      You could top it up today at a tube station or NR ticket machine. There should be some newsagents open on Boxing Day as they do print papers. Many NR stations have ticket machines outside which will still be working. Hope you work it out.

  46. Hi,

    For people abroad who want to visit Londen with a pre paid visitors Oyster Card: they can order a card online at transport for Londen. Whilst ordering online there is a activation fee of 3 pounds. For the first use, can you travel straight away with the card at the tube or do I need to register it somewhere first? Greetings from the continent, Peter.

    • Hi Peter,

      You can use the card straight away. Also, if you plan to return to London later then make sure you keep the card as it never expires. You don’t get the £3 back so you don’t want to be paying that every trip.

  47. Hi this is Muhammed,

    I had done a oyster top-up of 20 pounds on 5/1/12 and i followed the procedure correctly but when i checked the top-up amount was not on my oyster card and instead they had debited the amount from my debit card. Now can anyone help me in getting a refund or what is the procedure to get my money back???

    • Hi Muhammed,

      You’ll need to contact the Oyster helpdesk. They should be able to assist. If you don’t get any joy there then you could contact your bank and dispute the transaction.

  48. Hi Mike

    I bought an annual season ticket zones 1 to 4, a couple of months ago (using a company cheque, not a travel warrent) through a season ticket loan agreement with my ex-employers.

    I subsequently left the firm and have no need for the ticket anymore. When I left the firm, they deducted the balance of the loan from my final pay packet.

    If I were to apply for a refund (Oyster travel card), can I:

    1 Do this at any station?
    2 Will the refund go back to my ex-employees to return to me? How long does this usually take?
    3 Can I just exchange the ticket for just a zone 3 and 4 travel card for the remainder of the term of the ticket and be refunded any difference?

    I would be grateful if you could help me out with the above or give me a steer in the right direction. I have been on the TFL website/google/etc and cannot find a clear answer.



    • Hi Johnny,

      You can apply for a refund at any underground station, but the refund may need to be sent by cheque. It should go to you because you hold the ticket. Your firm supplied you with a loan which has been repaid. If you reckon you can make use of a zone 3-4 travelcard then exchanging is the way to go because you will get more value back. It’s probably best to go to a larger underground station outside of the peak hours.

      Hope that helps,


  49. Hi Mike, I would love auto top up but only ever use the bus as its too difficult to use the tube stations near me with 3 small children. Don’t use other stated transport options either. Is there any way of starting auto top up without having to take a journey on trains, dlr, tube etc? Eg at a station desk? Thanks Sharon

    • Hi Sharon,

      Yes there is a way. You need to order a new card online. You can order a PAYG card with auto topup already enabled and at least £10 credit. If you then take your old and new cards to a tube station ticket office they should be able to transfer or refund the credit and deposit from the old card.

      Alternatively you can try ordering auto top up from your nearest tube station, then before picking it up speak to the ticket office and ask if they’ll cancel the entry charge. If they agree, you then touch in and return to the ticket office. It’s best if you chose a quiet time, but I’m not certain that staff have to do this anymore. I’d recommend the new card personally.

  50. Hi..
    I topped up my oyster on Monday this week as normal for a weekly travel card.. I went to and from work on Monday but have been sick the rest of the week. Could I get a refund for part of this as it hasn’t been used. This happened the other week and had to lose out on the money I had spent because it hadnt been used. Thanks laura

    • Hi Laura,

      You can’t get refunds just because the ticket isn’t used unfortunately. You might have been able to get something if you’d surrendered it on Tuesday, but there would have been an admin fee deducted. It’s also not pro-rata, so after 3-4 days there is no value left. I hope you’re better soon.

  51. I recently tried to top up at a ticket stop (shop) with a single bus journey (£1.35) and was told that the minimum i could top up was £2. Obviously, I did not want the additional 65p and was skeptical about this minimum charge so found a different shop (when i asked about a minimum charge the man looked at me like i was insane). I know that shopkeepers get 2% of the transaction value but why if we only need a single journey should we have to pay more? Is this down to shopkeepers discretion or, as I would think common sense, is a minimum charge supposed to be the minimum that could be topped up to actually make a trip?

    • Hi Jeff,

      Minimum top-up levels are entirely at the discretion of the vendor. Many Underground stations enforce a £5 minimum to encourage people to use the machines where anything from 5p upwards is possible. What I would say is that the balance on the card never expires, so your money is safe. And if the card is registered then you can even get a refund of balance if the card is lost or stolen.

  52. Hi Mike, I am seeing you helping people. I need a suggestion. Today i went to make a weekly bus pass my oyster card, the first time my oyster was not recognised by the machine, there was a error message saying i need to touch oyster again. but the process terminated saying it hasnt charged for the transaction. I did successfully second time. But when i see my bank balance it has charged for both. What can i do now?
    Thank you for your suggestion.

    • Hi Suman,

      You need to contact the Oyster helpdesk. They should be able to help you, but if not then contact your bank and dispute one of the charges.

  53. Hi Mike,

    I have just renewed my monthly travelcard for the first time online tonight (to start monday 6th). I’m confused by the email receipt slightly. Am I right in thinking that if I just use my card as normal tomorrow it will automatically register my purchase or do I have to scan the card on one of the top up machines?


    Great website by the way!

    • Hi Ali,

      Sorry for the delay replying. Yes, when you touch your card to start or end a journey at your nominated station it will register the travelcard to start from the start date. It will even do this on the start date so you will switch to the travelcard from PAYG at the instant you touch in.

      Hope that helps.

  54. I tried to re-use an Oyster card from last year (during a stay in London) but this time it prevented me from passing through the underground barriers.

    A guard advised me to top it up, but the machine claims it had been cancelled. I have the card here with me (with serial numbers); who can I report this to?

    • Hi Dave,

      You’ll need to contact the helpdesk. As far as I know, the only time a card would be cancelled without you knowing is if it gets a negative balance and you don’t clear it after a while. The helpdesk will know what happened and can sort it out one way or another.

  55. I’m fairly new to Oyster – it’s great by the way! If I top up my card at a ticket office or ticket machine, is the amount I add available to use straight away (or the next day, as seems to be the case if it’s topped up online?) Thanks.

    • Hi Ruth,

      Yes, top up in shops, ticket offices and at TVMs is instantaneous. Online is only the next day because the instructions get sent to the station overnight.

  56. Hi Mike, you run a fantastic blog.
    Would I be able to get my YP railcard discount when purchasing a one day travel pass at the ticket machines in the tube station or kiosk?

    • I’m pretty sure that you can, yes. I’ve seen various railcards on the Underground machines but I can’t be certain which ones are there.

  57. I top up my oyster card using machine.
    But after paying i couldn`t take a messase ‘touch oyster card’
    then it just finished. Even my oyster didn`t top up. But my debit card ballance – 20 GBP. What happen? Even i asked someone who work at station. He said it was not my charge.
    So what should i do?

    • Hi Terry,

      You need to contact the helpdesk. They should be able to help, but if not then you can contact your bank and explain that the transaction didn’t complete. They may be able to request a chargeback. Try the helpdesk first though.

  58. This is a great blog! I have an Oyster card I purchased in 2010 and am not sure of my remaining balance. I live in the US and am trying to set up an online account so that I can check my balance. I keep getting rejected because my postal code doesn’t follow the UK style, and my phone number is rejected although it contains the required 11 digits. Is there a way to set up an account outside of the UK?

    • Hi Laura,

      I don’t know, to be honest. I’m not sure anything actually gets sent to the address, so is there a UK address you could use, perhaps for a relative? Otherwise you could try emailing the Oyster helpdesk on oysterenquiries (at), replacing (at) with @. If the card is registered then you will need to include the security answer before they can respond.

  59. I did a weekly travelcard topup on my oyster card from station. Then only I realised, instead of starting from Monday12th, the card started from today. Can anything be done on this case, as I am loosing money for 3days? I have not used the card till now.

    • I don’t think there is anything you can do. You can ask at a station tomorrow (or tonight if there’s a late one near you) but you’ll definitely have to pay for today and the refund after the admin fee will probably be less than the three days it’s valid for next week.

  60. Hi Mike,

    I just got my Oyster card today through post and I need to use it tomorrow, however on the Order Information, it states that the credit is available from 23th of March. Does this mean I won’t be able to use it tomorrow, the 22nd?

    • Hi Maia,

      I thought that postal cards came with the credit already loaded. However, if the order information also lists the station where the credit is to be picked up at, I would assume that they haven’t pre-loaded it. This is probably a security measure. The card is still a valid Oyster card, so if you need to use it tomorrow you will need to add some credit manually.

      Hope that helps.

  61. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your very quick reply 🙂 I’m still a bit confused though. I ordered it online and topped up so I thought that when it’s delivered it’s ready to be used as well. However, on their letter it says that the PAYG credit has a start date of 23rd March. Hence, my confusion. It doesn’t state where the credit is to be picked up at, and i don’t remember filling out this piece of information anywhere online when I ordered it.
    Many thanks!

    • That’s interesting. This is a new one on me. Have you looked on your online account to see what that says? I’m not aware of any switch that activates or deactivates a card. Travelcards can be ordered in advance to start on a particular day, but PAYG credit is either there or it isn’t. I can only suggest you take it to an Underground station or ticket stop (shop) before you need to use it and ask them whether it has any credit. I’d be interested to know the outcome as well.

  62. Very new to blogs and just posted one on, probably, the wrong blog…

    Again, simple enquiry: How do we use our NON-UK credit cards (ie billling address is not in the UK) to top up our Oysters. If it ISN’T possible then there are going to be a lot of frustrated overseas visitors at the Olympics.

    I presume Mike’s response will appear here?

    • Although you can’t order top-up online with a foreign credit card, you can use it in ticket machines at National Rail and Underground stations.

  63. Hi Mike, Sorry if this sound like a rant but it’s not dircted at you…….. Got a new Oyster Card last week, ordered online with £20 auto top-up and will use this for buses only (occasional train use). Tried to increase auto-top to £40 but have to enter a train station (which is a bus journey away in itself) as a validation point which then means making a train journey I will never complete and so get charged. I realise I can get the journey refunded but what is the point of an online system (used in the main to save people going out) that insists you have to travel somewhere you dont need to go other than to update an online transaction? Phew! hope that makes sense and is there any way around it? Thanks.

    • Hi Rob,

      It is frustrating. I suffered similarly in the early days because I only used the card on buses before Southeastern joined in with Oyster. I’m guessing that they didn’t want bank details being entered by ticket stops or station clerks which is why auto topup can only be set up online. Once set up they can only send the instruction to one computer which would be a bit difficult on a bus where the reader works off-line other than when the bus is in the depot.

      You say you occasionally use it on trains. If you know the day before that you’ll be visiting a station either for entry or exit then you can order the increase to be picked up at that station. Obviously £20 will last 4-5 days because the daily bus cap is £4.20, so maybe you can live with it in the meantime.

  64. Hi Mike
    Thanks for all the great help you give here!

    I need an Oyster card for June this year. If I order it now (pay as you go) is it ok if I don’t activate it until June? And can it be activated at any station?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Lesley,

      You don’t actually activate the card. Any credit will remain on the card forever (or until it is cancelled); it never expires. It’s only when you order top up that it has to be picked up at a specific station within 8 days.

  65. Hi, I wanna ask, I top up my oyster card today in shop (one week, zones 1-3) and I forgot take the bill, I have always some money in so when I travel to work it was working but I didnt recognize that is not top up, that guy in the shop take my money but didnt top up oyster card is it possible to do something with that ?

    • Hi Robert,

      I’m assuming that you mean you bought a weekly travelcard but that it didn’t actually get put on the card. My first port of call would be the shop to ask if there is anything they can do. They may have noticed a reconcilliation error at the end of today. If you get no joy there then you’ll have to call the helpdesk. I’m sure that it will be logged somewhere that your card didn’t get the ticket.

  66. Hi,
    Yesteday (Sunday,15/04/12) i tried to topup my oyseter from the DLR machine at canary wharf, but failed as machine before i could toch my card on the reader said that it was not able to read the oyster card and the transaction of 5 pounds which i made by card has also been cancelled. It happens twice which makes 10 pounds.
    But when in the evening i checked my account statement, it shows that 10 pounds are deducted.
    So, how can i get my 10 pounds back as the machine took it but didnt top up.

    • I think this is just a difference in the way charges and refunds are handled. The charge will have been authorised at the time and this will affect the available balance. Either TfL will cancel the actual charge which will result in your balance going back up in a couple of days, or they will issue a refund which will also take a couple of days to appear. I would wait until later in the week and then call your card issuer if the balance hasn’t sorted itself out.

  67. Hi I have a 16+ oyster card and it says it is available only on bus and trams. So what should I do if I want to use train? Do I have to top up my 16+ oyster card?

    • Yes, a 16+ card is just an adult Oyster card with special deals for TfL services. You should be able to top up PAYG and use it on trains.

  68. Hi – For various reasons I have five Oyster cards on my account, all set to AutoTopUp. Each one has between £10 & £20 credit on it at the moment. I used to visit London often with friends, but now no longer require the cards. Can I return them for a full refund of the credit remaining on each one?

  69. Hi Mike,
    In reply to Robert’s comment above re the shop taking his money but not topping up his card,a similar thing happened to me once,albeit several years ago. Back in 2008 I used PAYG to get the bus to and from work. One day I was going straight into central London from work for the evening,went to the newsagent at lunchtime,asked to top up my Oyster with £10 and bought a one day travelcard which I used to get into London and back. Put the receipt away without looking at it. Next day got the bus to work but when I went to go home in the evening it said not enough money! The bus driver did a printout which showed the newsagent had only added £1 to my card. Paid a cash fare to get home where I dug out the receipt which did indeed say £1,rather than the £10 I’d given the newsagent. Of course I then also had to top up my card again to get into work the next morning. Went in the newsagent,explained what had happened,showed him the receipt and said I wanted the other £9 added to my card. He said there was nothing he could do,said customers only had one hour from the time of the transaction to notify him of any mistakes,and that there was no way for him to check the records on the machine as it was now two days after the incident (despite the fact I had the receipt). Rang TFL who said there was nothing they could do and it was between me and the newsagent to sort it out. Went back to the newsagent and after a bit of arguing I said I would call the police,whereupon he offered me £4.50,half the disputed amount,to which I agreed. Needless to say though I’ve never set foot in that newsagent since then.

    • Hi Phil,

      That’s a nasty one, though not quite the same scenario. There does seem to be a tendancy, especially when in a hurry, to forget to touch the card again at the end to actually credit the top-up. I’ve even seen a notice at a local station reminding people to put the card back on the reader at the end until the message confirms that top up is complete. In theory it shouldn’t be a problem in a shop, but I guess that speed may still result in the card being withdrawn too quickly and if the shop assistant has focused on the next customer they may not notice.

  70. Hi, I renewed my Oyster monthly travel card online but instead to pick my regular station I didn’t pick up the correct station… Is that possible to amend the pick station online or do I have to call TfL?
    Many thanks for your help

    • Hi Phil,

      I don’t think you can amend the order, although you can call the helpdesk to check. If you don’t pick the travelcard up within a few days it will automatically be cancelled and the amount refunded. You should be able to place another order to pick up at the right station, or if the online system won’t let you (because there’s already one waiting) you could buy at the station instead. Just be aware that if you touch in or out at the station where the ticket is currently waiting before the order times out, you will collect the ticket.

  71. Hi mike,
    My brother lost his +18 student oystercard about 2 hrs 30 mins ago after getting off from bus 99 to woolwich.Please what do u suggest he should do.Also is their any possibility for him to get it back if he left it on the bus.Thanks

    • Hi Samson,

      Sorry to hear this – I know what it’s like because my kids have lost several cards. If you think there’s a good possibility that it might have been on the bus then you’ll need to find out which depot serves route 99 and call them tomorrow. Otherwise you’ll have to report it as lost and request a new one, which will cost £10 as usual. If the card is attached to an online account then you can do all that automatically online.

    • Hi Angela,

      Assuming you mean you’ve ordered a manual top-up online then yes, it should be available tomorrow morning. The cut off is about 11pm and I think (it’s a while since I last did it) you’ll receive an email overnight confirming that it is ready.

    • I’ve just delved back into my archives to 2007 to see what happened the last time. It went like this:

      1) 30/3 18:59 Confirmation that I had asked for auto-top-up activation.
      2) 31/3 02:04 Confirmation that the order had been sent to London Bridge.
      3) 31/3 02:38 Confirmation that the order was ready at London Bridge.
      4) 01/4 02:06 Confirmation that auto top-up had been activated.
      5) 01/4 02:38 Confirmation that the manual top-up had been picked up.

      I think that a manual top-up only will only generate emails (3) and (5) but I don’t think I’ve ever just ordered top-up without activating auto top-up at the same time.

  72. The one I ordered was a 7-day travelcard. I just want to make sure that it will be ready at around 5am tomorrow. I just received an email saying that my order will be waiting at the station but it didn’t mention a time so I’m assuming it will be ready at anytime tomorrow. Thanks a lot Mike for your responses. Have a good night.
    Kind Regards,

    • Ah! Expect an email around 2am confirming it’s ready and another one at the same time the next day confirming you’ve picked it up then.

  73. i’ve just received my student 18+ oystercard, and i was wondering how the oyster process works for me, if i top up £10, and use it very infrequently, will my 10 pound remain there, for example if i have a one off journey, once a week or so, will my credit remain there or will it go after a certain number of days? :S!

  74. My oyster card has run out of credit. I have now toped it up online. Will I be able to use it for a journey the next day as it will have no credit on it when I try to enter the gates to pick up my credit!


    • Hi Christopher,

      As long as the order was placed online before 11pm then you should get an email sometime after midnight confirming that the topup is ready to be picked up. When you touch in at a station, the local system first checks to see whether you have any credit to add before then deciding whether you have enough to make a journey.

  75. Hi I topped up a card with £20 yesterday to travel up to London from Purley. There was £2.30 left on the card from a previous journey, I topped up and the balance of £22.30 came on the screen. I picked up my receipt and set off on my journey. I had no problems until I started my tube journey and was then unable to travel through the barrier. Someone kindly let me through and I travelled to docklands. Again a problem at the barrier so I tried to top up the card again. I was given a message to say there was a negative balance of £4.90 and I could not top up. As there were no visable staff on the station I bought a pay as you go ticket and set on my way a little bit annoyed that my journey had been so expensive. I had a meeting at Finchley so stopped off at the ticket office to query the cost of my journey £27.20 plus the extra ticket and the problem with the card. The lovely lady printed off a statement which showed the top up had not been registered, she looked at my receipt and told me I would have to sort it out at Purley, when I ended my journey there was not one at Purley so I am still £20 out of pocket. The money h as been taken from my bank. Any ideas??

    • Hi Fishhead,

      I’m not quite sure what has happened here. Usually this is caused by not retouching the card on the reader at the end of the topup transaction, but you seem to have seen it confirm the higher balance. All I can suggest is phoning the helpdesk and asking them to see what transactions have been recorded. If the topup hasn’t been registered then they should tell you what to do next.

    • Hi Zubair,

      You can get a refund of unused credit. If your most recent top-ups have all been by cash then I believe you can get cash back at an Underground station. What you spend the money on is then up to you.

  76. I have a zone 2-5 monthly travel card plus credit on my PAYG. I recently travelled from Lee NR (zone 3) to Sutton (zone 5) via London Bridge (zone 1). I didn’t exit at LB but simply changed platforms. I have been deducted £1.60 from my PAYG, but need to understand that since I did not exit and rejoin within zone 3-5, whether the system has assumed that as a minimum, I would have to have travelled via zone 2?

    If this is the case, i will increase my zone coverage to 2-5, and change trains at London Bridge, provided my PAYG is not deducted for zone 1 travel. Is this possible?

    Also, having purchased a monthly travelcard, can I top-up to include zone 2 mid term?

    • Hi Abrar,

      There are one of two things happening here, depending on what you have and when you are doing it. On the first line you talk about having a 2-5 travelcard, but then later on suggest that it’s actually 3-5. £1.60 is either the peak zone 2 only fare or the off-peak zone 1 only fare.

      What I think is happening is that you have zone 3-5 and the system is assuming that with your travelcard you might have walked between New Cross and New Cross Gate. I have seen this behaviour before, although the single fare finder doesn’t show it as a valid PAYG option.

      Unfortunately you can only buy travelcards in 2+ zone combinations, so you’ll have to wait until you next renew to add the extra zone. When you have done, I would advise always having enough for a zone 1 fare on your card in case you suddenly need to exit at London Bridge.

      Hope this helps.

  77. Mike

    Many thanks for the reply.

    Sorry, I meant that presently, I have a zone 3-5 travelcard.

    Yes, there is the option of changing between New Cross and New Cross Gate. However, (although convoluted) it is also possible to travel say, from Lee to Lewisham, to Peckham Rye, to Tulse Hill, to Sutton. Either way, it seems that I would need a zone 2-5 travelcard from next month, and thereby avoid debits to my PAYG? I would of course need to absorb the additional debits in the meantime.
    However, am I ok to travel into LB (zone 1) to change trains, (but without exiting) using a zone 2-5 travelcard?
    Presumably, if I stray outside my travelcard zone (i.e break my journey to change trains, but not exit the station) and travel back into my permitted zones, I could still be penalised even if I have sufficient credit on my PAYG? Should I need to touch out and touch in at my non prepaid zone?

    • Hi Abrar,

      The short answer is yes.

      The slightly longer answer is that as long as you have sufficient credit on your PAYG balance you can never be off-route within the Oyster area. The instructions say you must touch in at the beginning and out at the end of the journey and the system will apply the correct charge. In your specific case I would ensure that I always had enough to pay the zone 1 NR single fare so that even if you are checked by an RPI at London Bridge they won’t see anything as being wrong. If the system doesn’t deduct the correct fare then that is not your fault.

  78. Hi everybody.
    I got 4,30 in my oyster. I’d like to know if it’s possible using that cash to buy a weekly and how i’d do it .
    Thanks !

    • Hi Sandro,

      You can’t use PAYG balance to buy a travelcard. An underground station may be able to refund the balanace so you can put it towards the purchase of a travelcard season.

  79. I set up my normal £5 top up this afternoon but, at the same time, I also transferred a balance from another Oyster card (Barclaycard OnePulse).

    It’s all been set up correctly as at as I can tell, but what I learnt is that you can’t set up wo transactions to take place on the same day at two different stations. That’s not really a problem since I was only trying it to see what happened but it is interesting. I could guess that top ups work in such a way as things could get out of sequence and cause problems but I don’t understand why anyone would set it up like that.

    Oh well, at least I learned a little more about how the system works today.

    • Hi Mike,

      If you ordered top-up online today then it will not be ready to collect until tomorrow. Presumably the transfer was done at a station so should have been instantaneous.

  80. No, both are online transactions set up for the morning. Both at my interchange at Shepherds Bush (which is just as well since I’ve just changed my departure station plans).

    • Hmmm. So what did it say when you tried to set up the transfer? I’d still be inclined to wait to see what the email(s) say tomorrow morning.

  81. The transfer at Shepherds Bush was fine since I set it up first. On trying to organise the top up for Worcester Park, the site threw an error saying I already had one transaction set up for tomorrow so needed to select a new station for this one.

    It offered Shepherds Bush as the default which I accepted and which worked. I have confirmation emails for both already but we’ll see what actually happens in the morning!

    (An online transfer is fine for a OnePulse card since I don’t have a deposit to collect on it but I’m not sure I’d try it with a ‘real’ Oyster card since the transfer invalidates the card.)

    • I see. I guess that makes some sense. You’ll get two more emails in the early hours confirming that each top up is ready at the station. And another two after you’ve picked them up.

  82. Hi there.
    I want to ask something.
    I bought weekly card 1-3 zone and when I have to get in or out the closed gates it continues to takes me money, is it normal, and if not, what I’m supposed to do?

  83. I purchased 2 Oyster cards from Upminster this afternoon, putting £10 on each. I have come into work tonight and registered them online, only to have 1 card with £10 on and the other with none. I have got the reciepts that the cashier in the station gave me with each fiver change, on me for the top ups.
    I want to use the cards tomorrow for me and the Mrs journey to Olympic dress rehersal. Is it a simply case of showing reciept of unsuccessful topped card to cashier tomorrow and getting them to do it again???

    • Hi Kevin,

      I have to say that I don’t think Upminster will be able to sort it out tomorrow. If you had checked the card straight away then they could have done it. You can ask them, but I think you’ll probably have to contact the help desk. In the meantime you’ll need to put another £10 on the card.

  84. hi i topped up my oyster for a monthly bus pass in one of those oyster shops. i just logged in online and its not showing the purchase on my online account? will i have any problems if i touch in on the bus tomorrow morning?

    • Hi Amina,

      If you added the bus pass today then it is possible that the shop hasn’t communicated the fact with the central database yet. If you can call in at either a shop or an Underground station before you use the card tomorrow then they will be able to confirm whether it is there or not.

  85. I tried to top up my Oyster at the ticket machine for a weekly railcard. I put in my bank account details, however the Oyster Card did not top up. When I got to my next station, I tried to top up again and this time it went through. Looking through my bank account, I have been charged twice, even though the first transaction didnt go through.

  86. Hi Mike

    I will be visiting London in August for 4 days and i am currently looking at buying a travel card or an oyster card. I am a bit confused about the price capping. Could you confirm how this works. If i start journeys after 9.30 and before 4.30 the next day will the price cap be same as that of peak travel card?

  87. Hi,

    I topped up my oyster card with £5 pay as you go online, 2 Days later it did not upload, I beeped at my nomination station and it did not work. it says that it’s still waiting my nominated station. I uploaded another £5 the next day to see if this would work and it did not it beeped again. I topped up £5 from the shop and this worked. So nothing is wrong with my oyster card but the online System. Any idea what could be wrong exactly and what can I do to change this? I found it very helpful to be able to top up online.


    • Hi Annabelle,

      I’m not sure what the problem is from what you’ve said. My best bet is that there are two stations with the same name (one NR and one LU for instance) and your topup is waiting at the other one. If you can confirm where you asked for it to go to then I might be able to offer more help.

  88. Hello Mike, I’ve just paid for pay as you go credit to my oyster card but unfortunately I’ve stated that the card will be activated at euston underground whereas I’ve just realised that I need to use eustin square underground, can I change this? Or does it not matter? Cheers

  89. Hi there,
    My Son has an 11-15 zip card which i know is free on buses and trams, but what about trains? do i need to but a seperate travel child ticket for him or can i just pop some money onto his Zip card and use it like a normal oyster?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Viv,

      The 11-15 Zip card gives access to child fares on all trains within the Oyster area and the reduced off-peak cap of £1.40 applies after 0930 and at weekends.

  90. Hi there, I topped up my oyster card £25 in Greenwich this morning but didn’t activate it at the end of the transaction. It looks like I have been charged for this transaction from by bank but the money didn’t go on to the card. Will it be credited back to me soon? Thanks

    • Hi Beth,

      I’m sure that it will get refunded, but I am unsure of the process or how long it will take. This is a very common issue though, so the helpdesk should be able to advise details.

  91. Hi,
    I am coming to London on Friday for the paras, I have an oyster card but am a rare visit to London. I will get a travelcard when I get to the venue but have to pay to get there! I have £1.40 on my card. Happy to add manually at Station if I can add less than t he £5, I’ll only need to add a few quid for a 1 way journey across ‘town’.
    Is it possible to top up for an amount at the station?

  92. My children (14yrs) will now be travelling on the tube to school every day instead of taking the school bus. Is a simple top up the cheapest way to go with a Zip card or or there weekly/monthly fares that are more economical?

    • Hi Nancy,

      Most simple tube journeys can be made economically using PAYG. The travelcard is rarely cheaper if only used for 5 return trips. If you let me know the exact journey then I can check things out specifically.

    • Then PAYG will almost certainly be cheaper, especially if the afternoon journey can start before 1600 or is the journey which ends in zone 1.

  93. Hi there, quick question I topped up using my card at a station but I must not of tapped my oyster card properly after. Will it have still taken money out of my account?

    • Hi Laura,

      Yes, it probably will have done. Contact the help desk to find out what to do. One of these days I will find out myself exactly what needs to be done in this situation.

  94. hi mike,

    i want to top up my oyster card online PAYG and it says i have to activate my purchase at (station) then i can use it , is this activation needed for every top up i make online after that top up? or is the first activation enough ?

    • Hi Hashim,

      Yes, all online ordered topups must be picked up from a nominated station. If you activate auto topup then only the first topup has to be at the nominated station, all subsequent ones can be anywhere.

  95. Hi Mike, question about transfers – I have two Oystercards and I was going to transfer the balance from one to the other online.
    I logged into my Oyster account to do this, but then it said that if I make the transfer from card A to card B, card A would be cancelled… I may want to be able to use it in the future, so do you know if cancelled Oyster cards can be reactivated?

  96. Hi Mike,

    I purchased my daughter a PAYG Oyster card at a TfL ticket Stop at 20:37 18-Sep in a corner shop, £5 deposit and £15 credit.

    I haven’t nominated a station, in fact the Ticket will be used on a bus in the morning by my daughter.

    I’ve registered the card tonight online so I can add funds as she needs them. The card says the balance is 0.00.

    Am I not doing something correct?

    Thank you

  97. I topped up using a national rail machine. It approved my card but when I tapped my oyster it said card error and that my card would not be charged. Stupidly, I tried again and the same thing happened. I then went the newsagent and topped up successfully. When I checked my account they had taken the money twice, which is £50. Phoned oyster they said its a ticket machine error. What do I do. I’m fuming!!

    • Hi,

      The most likely scenario is that the extra charges have been authorised (reserved if you like) against your account, but TfL won’t collect them and the authorisation will drop off in a few days. If you actually get more than one real transaction on your account then call the Oyster helpline who will investigate. Your bank may agree to clear the authoriations early if you explain the situation, otherwise you’ll just have to be a little patient.

  98. Hi Mike,

    Is there any way to top up my son’s 11-15 Oyster photocard online?

    I tried to add it as an existing Oyster card to my online account but failed. And I registered his card under the /photocard login. However, it only allowed me to see the application process from last year and there was a link for lost, stolen or damaged cards. There was no obvious way to top-up.

    He never seems to know how much he has on his card and it would be very useful to see the balance online and top-up as necessary.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Heather,

      Been there as well, and I’m pleased to say you can. When you set up the photocard account you should have set a security question and answer. On your Oyster online account select the link to add an existing card and enter the 12-digit card number plus the security answer. I’ve just done this with my eldest’s new 16+ card so I hope the process is the same for the 11-15. I’ll find out next year when my youngest turns 11. If it’s not, the other alternative is to contact the helpdesk and ask them to link the card to your account. I did that last year with another of my son’s cards after he’d had a replacement. In that case it was an 11-15 card.

  99. Wish I’d read this site before trying to top up 2 Oyster cards online and pick up from a train station. I added £10 to each card online and wanted them confirmed at Feltham but did not want to use them to travel that day. It was just easier (Not!) to pre-top up online, rather than detour to a shop, top them up for travel by bus the next few days. The top up time has expired but no refund has appeared in my bank account yet for either card and it certainly has not been topped up online. How long should I leave it after expiry date before phoning the expensive Oyster phone number to ask when the money will be replaced? 4 days so far.

    • Hi,

      I’d leave it 3 working days, 4 at the max. Also, for the future, you can top up at the station using the ticket machine with either cash or credit/debit cards.

  100. When one tries to open an Oyster on-line account, there should be a prominent warning that non-uk credit cards will not be accepted for topping up the card. I spent a lot of time trying to register (it asked for a UK phone number and UK postcode, which I had to make up) only to find out that I can not top up my card anyway.

    It is not hard to find out the location (country) of one’s computer from the IP address, and display the warning only when the client computer is located outside UK. You should also add a FAQ entry about this.

  101. Last Friday, I gave my local newsagents £100, to renew my Oyster card with the monthly fee of £93. I did not realise until I was home, that I had no receipt. Having used them for years, I did not suspect a problem, however, Monday my card had no credit for the bus and not again for the train. The local station confirmed nothing was credited to my card. So £93 has been stolen from me. Is there anything I can do. I cannot afford to lose this money and of course, I have to pay for my monthly pass a second time.

    • Hi Lisa,

      Sorry to hear about your predicament. What you can do is to report the matter to the Oyster helpline. They may be able to assist, or at least investigate whether anything untoward is happening with that retailer. If the card is becoming intermittant then it is possible that it didn’t load properly. TfL should have records by now that will show whether the shop did anything on your card that day.

      Did you pay cash or was it on a credit/debit card. If it was a card the I suggest contacting the card issuer and ask them what to do next. If it was cash then I fear things may be a bit more complicated. If it was a chain of shops (eg Smiths) then you could contact head-office, or if it’s just a local independant retailer then you probably need to either contact the manager (if you know who they are and are sure it wasn’t them on Friday) or your local police. Check the helpdesk first to rule out an issue with your card.

      Hope that helps.

  102. hi,
    I received my 18+ student oyster card by post 2 days ago. I went to the local store to top-up my card by £8. I got the receipt for the same too. But my credit in the oyster shows £0.00 when I check the details online.
    I haven’t used the oyster so far.
    What should I do now?

    • Hi Sakina,

      Don’t panic! The topup details from the shop may take a while to upload to the central database. Your card has the credit and it will be reflected online after the shop uploads (usually overnight) or if you use the card on trains/tubes/dlr after a few minutes.

  103. Hi,

    I was visiting London and had an oyster card a friend lent me. I bought some credit online and set the collection point as St. Pancras. When I tried to beep it, however, it didn’t work and the train dude said it was for the international point and not the King’s Cross side. If I go touch on at St. P International I’ll get charged for a trip. So… if I don’t collect it will it be refunded or will I lose my 30 quid? Or else can I change my collection station?


  104. Hi ,

    Thank you for this great website, I have top up a week bus pass on my oyster manually at the shop , and paid £18.80p.
    But I won’t be needing it , is there a way I can get my money back or change the purchase to a pay as you go.


    • Hi Sopie,

      I’m not sure. Call the Oyster helpline and ask them. It’s possible that it can be cancelled at a tube station but there might be an admin fee and if any days have gone since the start you would also lose money for that, probably at £4.20/day. You may have to put it down to experience.

  105. Hi,

    I need to get from between zones 1-6 during peak times 4 days a week. Would it be cheaper just to get a weekly travel card put onto my oyster?

    If I was to put a travel card on my oyster done online, how do you activate it? Do you just tap in normally in the mornings or do you have to go to a ticket machine and activate it that way?

    • Hi Ashani,

      It depends what your journey is. If it involves National Rail and Underground then it’s likely to be worthwhile. Otherwise it may not be. Online ordered travelcards get added to your card on touch in or touch out at your nominated station after you’ve had the email saying that it’s ready for collection. You don’t need to use a ticket machine.

  106. Hello,
    I’m an oyster user and I purchased a travelcard for 7 days zone 1-3 couple of days ago. Ufortunately, I lost oyster mentioned above yesterday. I haven’t registered it online. I do have a receipt of travelcard pass purchase though. I’m just wondering if there is any way I can transfer the travelcard pass onto new oyster card or really anything I am able to do in this case.

    • Hi Agatha,

      If the receipt contains your Oyster card number then you could take it to a tube station and ask if there’s anything they can do. As long as the existing card can be hotlisted they may allow you to have a replacement with the rest of the ticket on it. I can’t stress enough though that if you are going to store seasons on the card then you really ought to register it. In fact I’d always recommend registering the card because it protects your balance too.

  107. Hi, I topped my Oyster Card up at Picaddilly Circus on Friday Evening. However, this morning (Monday) my card was showing as empty again. The amount that I topped up on Friday has been taken from my account. How do I go about claiming this money back?

    • Hi Emma,

      I’m not sure whether this was a manual topup or an online one with pick-up at Picadilly Circus. If it was online, did you order it the day before? If not then you haven’t picked it up yet and it is still waiting at the station. If it was a manual top up then you probably need to contact the Oyster helpline to find out what has happened.

  108. Hi Mike,
    Do you work for TFL or are you just a big fan of the oyster card?
    If I buy a travel card at a shop will it be available to use straight away?

    • Hi Samantha,

      Just a big fan, I’m afraid. If you ask for the travelcard to start immediately then it will. You can also ask for it to start a few days later where it will then sit on your card until the start date.

  109. hi,
    i registered for my 18+ weeks ago but waiting for my university to autorise it. so ive been using the adult travel card for zone 2-3 which costed me £22.00 when for 18+ it would have costed me £15.30. how can i get my refund if ive been waiting for my 18+ card?
    thank you

    • Hi Warda,

      The short answer is that you can’t. My only suggestion would be to speak to your university if they have been unduly slow in authorising your application.

  110. Hi Mike,

    I’m unable to top up my niece’s oyster card as it’s saying address listed and payment address do not match. Her parent’s are away so can’t do it themselves. Is there any way I can do top up online?


    • Hi Rachel,

      There are two online accounts for photocards. One is the photocard account which lets you report the card as stolen, amend the photo and other tasks. The other is the usual Oyster online account where you can view journey history, order topups and track refunds, etc. Have you set up the latter?

  111. Hello, I topped up my Oyster in the Oyster card top-up machine today with 10 pounds but when I tried to go in to take the train it stopped working all of a sudden, the money doesn’s seem to be there anymore but it´s out of the bank! what I can I do?

    • Hi Rosie,

      The most likely scenario is that you didn’t pick up the topup when you are supposed to touch the Oyster card again on the reader at the end of the transaction. My understanding is that the transaction is authorised (which will cause it to appear on your bank balance enquiry) but that the system won’t actually charge for it. The authorisation will drop off in 2-3 days if the transaction isn’t processed. If the transaction actually shows on your statement after about 3 working days then you will beed to contact the help desk.

  112. Hi, I have a Ryanair cash passport card which is now useless as their T & Cs are changing and it will no longer exempt me from their £6 airline booking fee. I need to empty the account before closing it and the cheapest way (lowest fees) will be to make a purchase using £157.54 of my balance, leaving 50p in the account to cover the transaction fee. I went online to try and top my Oyster card up with this £157.54 but I have to choose in multiples of £5 with a £50 max. Do you know if I can top up with such an odd amount at a train station or shop instead and if there is a maximum top-up amount? cheers Pat

    • Hi Pat,

      There is definitely a maximum balance of £90 on an Oyster card. I don’t think there’s a lower maximum top-up, just that you can’t go above that figure. National Rail TVMs will allow any odd amount to be added by card, although I don’t know enough about your Ryanair card to know whether it is treated like a credit/debit card or not.

  113. Ok here’s 1 for you….say if you spend £5.50 or more on travelling on the underground, will you still have to pay use buses thereafter given the fact the maximum daily charge on buses is less than that?!

    • Hi Alex,

      Yes, you will have to pay a little on the buses. Travel on buses and trams is capped at £4.20 per day, but only for those modes of transport. Travel on rail (NR, LU or DLR) is capped at varying rates as per the travelcard. If your £5.50 had been entirely within zones 1-2 then you would only be charged a maximum of £1.50 more on buses because you would then have hit the off-peak zone 1-2 cap. Obviously the amounts could be different if you had used more zones or had started before 0930. However, the maximum that buses would add is £4.20 regardless of whether you hit the travelcard cap or not.

  114. Hi Mike,

    I tried to top up online but because my address on my oyster didn’t match my card address it would process, so no money got added, no email confirmation so I thought no problem. I went and topped up at a station for my month travel card added done.

    Problem is now that apparently i have had money taken from my account the night before and then again the next day when I topped up.

    I call up my bank and both payments are pending and obviously I know the second one will be charged but why do I have a pending charge for something that didn’t even work or come up with any confirmation as being paid. I wouldn’t see why the person at the station would have added another monthly travel card payment for the same month on the same oyster.

    I called up tfl and they said that they initially take out the fund but because I didn’t receive any confirmation email and the process didn’t go through the money will not be charged.

    this has only happened on friday so I am guessing it will take a few day to see but I just wanted to check and see if this is a common thing and that the lady I called up at tfl was correct in saying I will not be charged for the failed online attempt at payment as no confirmation email was sent, no travel funds were added and it clearly stated that the transition could not be complete due to the addresses not matching

    • Hi Carl,

      When they authorise a transaction it reserves the money on your account. When the payment is put through it clears the authorisation, or the authorisation drops off after 2-3 working days. If things aren’t straight by Wednesday then your bank should be able to identify the transactions properly and advise what to do next.

  115. Hey Mike, I have a question. I live in the US and finally decided to save my Oyster Card rather than cashing it back in each time I’m leaving London back to the US. I was trying to top it off online and am finding a big issue with a Location (since it’s requiring one).

    So found out online you need a location to start and end the journey to transfer money onto your card. So of course me visiting back there for a few days, I won’t have a clue what tube will be my first.

    So if I were to go to any station (that has someone or a machine that allows topping off), then I would think I wouldn’t need to specify a destination correct?

    What if I used a Store that has the Oyster logo on it instead? Do I then have to specify a specific starting location? Or can they just top it off and I can then freely go to whatever station I want?

    I’ve used the card several times in the past, so I know about all the tarrifs, zones, off-peak, weekend etc, but keeping my card this time has got me confused with the top off. Thanks…

  116. Great thank you. That will make things much easier…

    Another question. How does the Oyster work with the daily cap and using the National Rail? For instance between Zone 1-3 the Oyster cap (off-peak) is £7.70. If I were to use the National Rail between Zone 1-3, and the tube later in the day, will this change the daily cap at all?

    • Hi Pete,

      The daily caps all apply to any transport covered by the one-day travelcard. You can use any combination of tube, dlr, nr, buses and trams*. Only the cable-car and river boats are not included.

      * Obviously if you only use buses and trams then the bus/tram cap gets applied rather than the normal rail caps.

    • Hi Isla,

      If you take it to a tube station they should be able to refund it. Alternatively the helpdesk may be able to transfer the credit to your 16-18 card ready to be picked up a station of your choice.

  117. I have been trying to set this up for 3 months, the first time, I went through the whole drawn out out silly business of choosing a station, and then, apparently you can’t actually set up auto top up without also do ing a manual top up (ridiculous), finally got through it all and pressed continue and……..nothing. So I do it again, thinking I might have done something wrong, nothing again…. So I leave it, thinking perhaps the payments have gone through, but my card runs out the following week, so I phone them up, the man says he doesn’t know why it hasn’t worked as there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong, (but that he didn’t trust the system and thought it was a shambles), he puts me onto someone else who finally finds that the system had tried to send me a refund, but I would have to go to Blackhorse rd to pick it up (I’ve never been to Blackhorse rd, and it’s miles off where I travel!).so the guy tries to cancel it, or move it to a station that’s closer to me, he can’t ! Neither could he refund any of the several payments I had tried to set up, so, the only option was to wait a month for the offending £2 to work its way through the system, when it would generate an option for me to change the station, so I wait, and when I out of London I get the email, unfortunately I’m out of London, and don’t get back in time, so my ccard is still stuck, and now the other payments (which also need to be picked up from Blackhorse rd, why?? I didn’t ask them to!) are stuck in the system…..3 months later I am completely unable to set up auto top up, because of a stupid glitch in a ridiculously designed piece of software that no doubt cost millions !! (I hope some of the highly-payed IT workers who designed this system are suffering from the same problems I am having). Sir, the Oyster card system is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE, it needs scrapping and re-launching, as does the IT company Yu hired to do it. Thank you for helping me get that off my chest ! John

    • Hi John,

      You can get it off your chest, but you’ll have to allow me to make some comments as well. Firstly, your last point suggests that I may have something to do with the Oyster system. I must stress that this is not the case; the word ‘independent’ in the site header means just that. Some TfL staff do comment on here, but they have no editorial control over what is posted.

      Back to the top. I did originally think that tying a manual top up to requesting auto top up was strange. However, for auto top up to work the card must have at least £8 in balance when it is activated. It makes sense therefore to ensure that is the case by insisting on a top up of £10 at the same time. It does make it clear that this is the case as well, so you don’t get to the end of a long drawn out process before you find that out.

      I am aware of the problem that you can’t have two top up or refund instructions live at the same time at different stations. I guess there’s a good reason, but it escapes me at the moment. Whenever a refund is automatically queued you get an email telling you. I do wonder whether there was an email associated with your card before you tried to add auto top up. The choice of station to collect the refund from is a tricky one. I’m still not quite sure how they do it, but I think it is related to whatever journey caused the error that is being rectified. Have you ever been to, or changed at, Blackhorse Road with that Oyster card? What I do know is that 8-9 days after receiving the email telling you about the refund you will get another one inviting you to resubmit the request, optionally with a different station, if you didn’t pick the refund up. I don’t know what happens if there was no email originally so it is possible that there is an unforeseen bug in that case. If you get an invitation to resubmit then you can wait until the day before you next intend to travel before setting it up so that it doesn’t expire again.

      Are you still having problems? If yes then I suggest contacting the helpdesk again and asking them to do whatever it takes to get the issue resolved. It’s possible that it might be best to start again with a new card. You can order one online and have auto top up pre-loaded, then when you next go to a tube station you can hand in the old card and get a refund of any outstanding credit and the deposit.

      I hope that might help, and thanks for bringing the potential issues to my attention.

  118. Was at Canada water last night topped up remaining 5 pound I had left in my account and after I touched the screen again to confirm it said failed to top up. So I tried again and it said insufficient funds. Checked my bank and tfl had charged me the five pound so I couldn’t get home. Thankfully after much discussion with the useless supervisor their John he assured me the money would be back in my account tomorrow. Checked today and no sign of it. What do I do? Thanks

    • Hi Matthew,

      Sorry to hear of your woes. The amount will have been authorised initially which earmarks it in your account until the charge comes through. If it doesn’t it will be un-earmarked about 2-3 working days later. I suggest that your card might be wearing out and you may want to get a replacement at a tube station.

  119. Hey Mike,

    I purchased an Oyster card a while back. I topped it up online for £5 and nominated Kingston as the station to activate it. I didn’t end up using it and it expires tomorrow. I know the money will get refunded, but I intend to travel day after and I intend to only use the bus. I have done a manual top up of £5 pounds again from a ticket kiosk. Will I be able to start using it on the bus day after? That would be the first time I am using it. Thanks.

    • Hi Michelle,

      You can use a manual top up straight away because it gets written to the card at the time. Only the online top up takes a day to get to the station because the updates only happen during the end-of-day processing after midnight.

  120. The activation requirement makes the process more of an ordeal than it should be. It’s not ideal for those who use the card mostly for buses and don’t want to travel to a station every time simply to top up the card!

    • Hi Schiez,

      I think there’s a little misunderstanding here. Once auto topup has been activated on the card the actual topups themselves can be triggered on a bus. Also, it is possible to order a new Oyster card online with auto top-up already activated.

  121. Hi Mike, I realize that the actual topups can be used on the bus; what I mean is that the auto topups have to be activated first at certain locations, which do not include buses. For those who almost exclusively use the card for buses, it might mean going out of one’s way to activate the top-up. Ordering a new card online is also not the most practical thing as it would have to be collected first. Ideally top-ups would be activated instantaneously after the online purchase.
    —-New message—-
    I read the instructions again more carefully and I think maybe I did misunderstand. Given that auto topups only have to be activated once, and then money can be auto-added on buses, it’s not too bad. However, not sure about manual top-ups and whether they have to be ‘activated’ first or whether one can use it immediately on a bus.

    • Hi Schiez,

      Anything ordered online has to be sent to a local server (ie at a station or tramstop) to be picked up as part of a journey. You can’t do that on a bus because you can’t tell which exact bus you might use. If you almost exclusively use the card on buses then you really only have two options. Either set up auto top up or visit a local shop with Oyster facilities (a ticket stop).

  122. This morning, I topped up manually at my local station using a machine. My debit card was processed successfully but I forgot to tap again immediately afterwards. Consequently, the Oyster credit I had purchased did not appear on my card.

    Will my debit card still have been charged or will the charge have automatically been cancelled?

    • Hi Joel,

      The charge will have been authorised with your bank so it may appear to have been taken for a couple of days. After that time the bank will ignore it because TfL won’t actually ask for the money.

  123. Hi,

    I have recently opted for a refund. It has been mentioned that I can pick up the refund on my oyster card at my nominated station as part of a normal journey.

    I don’t know, whether I can pick it up when I “EXIT” from that station, since, I might be starting my journey from some station, but I will definitely be ending my journey at my Nominated Station.

    Would I be able to pick it up??
    or the refunds or transfer of products, only works as “START” of journey and not end of journey.

    Technically, I believe, it should be possible, since the database only holds details about the Oyster card number and the amount to be credited. Only the nominated station server will hold those details for 7 days. So, technically, it should work. But, I am not sure, hence thought I will ask you guys.


  124. Everytime i try to top up my oyster card at a train station using the Visa Card, It keeps saying ‘Card limit exceeded’ meaning i then have to pay by cash? Anyone know why this keeps happening? Ashleigh

  125. Hi mike i bought an oyster card last year and used it while in london,will be coming down a gain in sept this year..Can i top the card up at any tube station so i can use for the duration of my stay in london??

  126. Hi Mike,
    Trying to register an oyster card a pal gave me before a trip to London on Wednesday (I live in Ireland) The registration won’t seem to take any phone number I put in even though they have 11 digits (I’ve even tried using my sister’s Edinburgh number but it won’t accept it!

    • Hi Elaine,

      I’d have thought an Edinburgh number should work. Are you including any spaces or brackets or other punctuation? If you still get no joy then you’ll have to call the helpdesk for advice.

  127. Good Morning Mike,
    I have a monthly travel ticket that i top up every month but usually do it at the till. last night i decided to do it online.
    I was told that it is ready for collection this morning and to look out for the flashing green light when making my journey. I did but there was no indication that it has been added, no beeping noise or anything
    My old travel ticket is yet to expire on friday anyway and i’m wondering if it has been added? as when i checked my account not long ago it told me i have a ticket waiting to be collected?

    • Hi Ebere,

      You should be able to check it at a ticket machine at any rail station. You should also get an email confirming that it has been picked up overnight once it has been.

  128. Hi Mike,

    If i were to top up PAYG online, would I be able to travel by any bus tomorrow i.e. can i pick up the amount by swiping the card on the yellow card reader of the bus?


    • Hi Jen,

      Sorry, no. You have to nominate a station or tramstop to pick up from. Buses don’t work because you can’t predict in advance which vehicle you will use.

  129. To Ebere,
    Did you nominate the correct station to collect the update at? In particular be aware of station like paddington underground where the system thinks of it as two separate stations (at the different ends of the mainline platforms) and you have to nominate the correct one.

  130. Hi Mike/Alan,
    I did get confirmation but still my online status kept saying it’s at the station waiting to be collected, i finally had to go in and they have sorted it out. Thanks for all your help guys.

  131. Hi,

    My auntie came to London and when she tried to top up her Oyster card with her VISA it didn’t work. After 3 or 4 times she could make it, but she told me has been charged for everytime that she tried in her VISA, but it just topped up once in the Oyster. She is not here anymore but she left her Oyster with me, what can I do for her?

    • Hi Ester,

      Usually in this scenario the additional charges are simply authorisations which will drop off the credit card after 2-3 days. If the real transactions appear on the statement then you’ll have to contact the helpdesk.

  132. Hello Mike, I only use the buses and got an Oyster a year ago with £40.00 which is soon to run out of credit. I’m kinda stuffed because I never use the tubes so can’t activate any top up done online.

    I’ve been told if I go into a newsagents who deals with Oyster they can top me up and I can use it right away no activation needed …is this true? How do i find a local one?

  133. I’m thinking about getting an oyster card, monthly travel card using zone 3&4.

    I would like to purchase online and I understand that I have to nominate a station where I will start my journey.
    I would also like to use pay & go to get into zone 1&2.
    How will this work if I buy online? Do I have to nominate a station that is one of these zones?

    • Hi Hannah,

      You have to nominate a station to pick up either a travelcard or a top up of PAYG balance. Travelcards must be picked up within the zones that they cover (though that isn’t usually a problem), but top ups can be picked up anywhere. Your balance is then reduced every time you travel outside the zones of your travelcard.

  134. Hi, I have an Oyster card with 32 quid on it, I bought the card using cash and topped it up using my Credit card. I want to get a refund of the balance as I don’t live in London, only go there occasionally. I went to an underground station to get a refund as my credit card has since expired and I no longer bank with them. The CS agent told me that all I can do is get a credit voucher sent to my address or use the credit. I find this unacceptable because I use a more convenient way of purchasing credit but get penalized for same, hardly fair; I don’t want any credit, hence the reason fro asking for a refund.

    • Hi James,

      I think the problem is actually refunding credit card topups at a tube station. The process would be too open to fraud if done immediately. I’d either call or write to the Oyster helpdesk. I’m sure that after a reasonable period they will send out a cheque on receipt of your Oyster card.

  135. Hi,

    I just topped up my pay as you go Oyster card with my debit card for £10. But I forgot to touch the ticket machine again to update the top up. My account shows the money has already been taken. Will I get an auto refund or has my stupidity let me to lose £10?

    • Hi Teejah,

      You haven’t lost £10. What happens is that the Oyster system authorises the transaction to make sure there are funds. This appears on your account as a pending transaction, but it only gets added once the transaction is processed. If it isn’t processed (which it won’t be in this case) then it will disappear again after a few days.

  136. Can someone help me out here I’m a little confused.
    I’ve just ordered my Oyster 18+ student photocard and I would like to use pay as you go top up – without the auto top up.
    If I set up my start journey somewhere (say Marble Arch for eg) do I have to go to the actual underground station or can I just activate the card on the bus? I only use buses so I don’t see why I would have to go to the station instead

    • Hi Stacey,

      If you order topup online then it has to be transfered to your card at a nominated station. You can’t predict which physical bus you will travel on so it can’t be picked up on a bus. If you absolutely never use trains then online topup isn’t really for you. You can topup instantly at any Oyster ticket stop (newsagents etc) or at the ticket machines of almost every station within the Oyster area.

      Alternatively, if you don’t mind up to £30 being tied up on your card, maybe auto topup might help. Once it has been activated on your card, the subsequent topups can be triggered on a bus because the money is taken from your account the next day. It is possible for an Underground ticket office to cancel a touch-in after topup and activation has been applied. It’s best to try and choose a quiet time and check with the clerk that they will be happy to cancel the entry before you make it. Explain that you are setting up auto topup and normally only use buses. They won’t usually cancel an entry if you are just getting topup, but setting auto topup can only be done as part of a journey, so they will usually help.

  137. Hi,

    Apologies if already answered but couldn’t see this after skimming through the above…

    I have just moved to an area of London which does not have a station nearby therefore I will be getting the bus to a tube station each morning. I planned to purchase a 7 day travelcard each Sunday evening ready for the week’s commutes but just realised I won’t be able to collect the travelcard on the bus. Does that mean I will need to pay a PAYG fare for my bus journey each Monday morning and then collect the travelcard from the station as I touch in?

    Or is there a more suitable alternative?


    • Hi Dexter,

      You can load a travelcard onto Oyster up to a week in advance so once you have the first one you will not need to use PAYG on the bus. Just order it online by Thursday and you will collect it on Friday as you go through your nominated tube station.

  138. Hi Mike,

    Quick question for you as I’m a little confused. I have £1.40 on my Oyster in PAYG credit (with no auto-top up). I’m coming to London for a week and so have a weekly Z1-3 travelcard which I elected to pick up at Waterloo Underground – after arriving at Waterloo NR. Can I used the travel card from my very first journey as I pick it up when I go to London Bridge? The e-mail from TfL would seem to suggest I need to pay for this journey from PAYG credit (as it’s only added when I complete the journey!). Perhaps you could clarify, as if so, I’d need to top up!


    • As long as you touch in at Waterloo Underground and the travelcard is ready to pick up then you will start using it straight away. Travelcards get picked up on any touch at the designated station. If your first journey was in reverse then I still think you’d be using the travelcard, but you’d need the minimum fare as PAYG balance to get you through the first gates. It would be refunded as the travelcard was picked up on touch out. However, if you complete a journey (or part of a multi-leg journey) before picking up the travelcard then that journey wouldn’t be free.

  139. Hi Mike,

    I got an Oyster card today and topped up in the same shop I got the Oyster card from but after registering my card online my pay as you go balance still says £0.00.

    Is there a wait before it updates or has something gone awry?

    Thank you for the help

  140. Why can’t I just add credit to my card online, without being forced to nominate a station AND make a normal journey? I don’t have to do this when I top up elsewhere, so why online? I’m an infrequent traveller to london and would like to establish auto top up, but find these restrictions prevent me.

    • Hi Mark,

      You need to actually store the credit on your card. This can be done in a shop or station, or when using a ticket machine, but when ordering online you have to say where you will pick up the credit. At the time of travel the only communication is between your card and the station’s local server, so it can’t just be picked up anywhere.

  141. I’ve just done an online top up as well as signed up for auto top up, but now reading more about the activation process I’m quite confused.
    I only use my oyster for bus but nominated clapham junction station as i come through there using a railcard then catch a bus outside.
    So I need to swipe one time only (to activate both the top up and the auto top up -is that right?) at CJ station? when? Can I do this without being charged for a journey?

    Please help. Thought this was going to make things easier as it’s so hard to remember how much credit I have on my oyster…

    • Hi Gen,
      Auto top-up needs to be activated as part of a rail or tram journey. It is possible to get the entry cancelled if it is made at an Underground station, but sadly not at Clapham Junction. Have you looked at my railcards page to see whether you can get discounted rail fares?

  142. Hi Mike,
    I updated my oyster card for the 1st time online earlier with £5. I got an email to confirm it’s been added but when I checked my pay as you go balance online it isn’t showing the £5 I have added to it. Should it be showing the new amount on there or does this only update when you use your card at your designated station?

  143. I added a new card to my account and set up auto top up. All confirmed. But when I looked again at the account, the new card number is not listed. Why?

  144. Hi Mike,

    I topped up my oyster this morning but when I went inside the tube I realised that the top up wasn’t successful because it displayed my previous balance before topping up. I’m sure I touched the oyster card to validate it but I think it probably didn’t read it properly and I did not notice.

    I take it as the money went out my bank account so what should I do to get a refund or something?


    • Hi Heber,

      Don’t panic!

      When you make the topup request the system authorises your card which reserves funds for the transaction. When the transaction is actually processed it replaces the authorisation and all is well. If the transaction doesn’t get processed then the authorisation will expire in 2-3 days time. If your Oyster card didn’t complete the topup the transaction will not be processed.

  145. Hi there Mike,
    I’ve used Auto top up for a couple of years now and recently the debit card attached to the account expired. My oyster card was working so I didn’t think anything of it until I checked my emails today and a message from tfl says they have stopped my card yesterday due to non-payment. I’ve just been online and paid the outstanding via the new debit card and I would like to know if I have to ‘restart’ the card again and how to go about it? It won’t let me check anything online and I can’t even access my journey history now.
    Thanks in advance for any insight,

    • Hi Melissa,

      Sorry for the delay replying. If you have let the card be hotlisted, which it sounds like you have, then I believe you’ll need to set up a new card. An Underground station ticket office would be able to confirm this and swap any remaining credit at the same time.

  146. I want to top up my oyster card but don’t plan to make any journeys by tube, which I understand is needed in the first instance for the top up to be activated. I plan to travel by bus.

    I have read that you can buy a top up at a ticket machine in a rail station. I was just wondering if I did this would I still have to make my first journey by tube for it to be activated. Also is there an option to collect any top up from the ticket machine after ordering it online? I am arriving into London Euston train station.



    • Hi Simon,

      Any manual top up at a ticket office, ticket machine or ticket stop (shop) can be used immediately anywhere. This is because your Oyster card is updated as part of the transaction. When you order online your Oyster card cannot be updated, hence why you need to nominate a station to pick it up from.

  147. I topped up my Oyster card at a Oyster ticket shop using my credit card and was charged an extra 50p for using the credit card. Is this allowed?

    • Hi Jag,

      I think it is. Oyster ticket stops are independent agents selling on behalf of TfL. If their policy is to charge for credit card sales then that is up to them.

  148. I topped up my oyster in a shop, but the money I put on my card has been not showing. I went to shopkeeper, he said its not their fault, problem is from TFL side but when i called TFL customer care, they are saying problem is with shopkeeper machine because of which it did get uploaded.Please suggest what i should do in this case. Shopkeeper has given me the receipt of transaction.

    • Hi Janvi,

      Where is it not showing? The topup should be on the card straight away and would be confirmed in the balance displayed when you touch in. The online system may take a while to reflect the topup, up to the next day if you don’t use the card on a train.

  149. I’ve just bought an Oyster card but I only need to use it for bus journeys. Is there a way to activate my card without making a train journey.

    Also auto top up is not useful to me as I am an infrequent user of public bus transport. Once I activate my Oyster card will manually topping up work without making a train journey every time I want to add funds?

    • Hi James,

      You can top-up manually at shops, underground stations and ticket machines. Your card has to be present to receive the top-up which is why when you order online you need to specify where you will collect it from. In your situation I agree that online and auto top ups are not recommended.

  150. I am receiving what feel like fairly frequent requests to resettle a failed auto topup (well, not like every time, but this has happened before and it definitely happened on my last TWO auto-topups on the 25th and 30th of May). There is nothing wrong with my Amex card. I use it daily for other transactions, there have been no other authorization failures during this time. It looks like some sort of comms error is happening on the auto-topup system, something that leads it to treat the transaction as failed. Other automated payment systems which which I am familiar retry when this sort of thing happens, but not Oyster. Helpline suggest I change to a different card, but that is nonsense – in any case my bank’s (RBS!) systems are less reliable than Amex, so that is hardly going to help. Does anyone else have this problem? Can Oyster/TFL be prevailed upon to automatically re-try failed transactions? I am surely not the only one to suffer from this.

    • H Paul,

      I’ve not heard of this before. I use auto top-up myself and I’ve never had a problem, and I pay with Amex as well. You could check whether Amex have an issue with frequent transactions of the same amount to the same merchant. If that could be an issue then consider increasing the topup amount to reduce the number of transactions.

  151. Hi Mike
    I’ve had an oyster card for a number of years, am registered online with it with auto-top-up. I’d like to get an additional card for my daughter to use, which will also auto-top-up to my bank account. Do I just log to my account online and select “Get new card”? This won’t replace/cancel my own card?
    Thanks, great site, can’t find the answer on the official Oyster site.

    • Hi George,

      Yes, that’s all you have to do. You can even get auto top-up switched on before you get the card when it’s ordered online.

  152. Hi Mike,

    I’ve just tried to purchase a three-month travelcard. It’s told me there’s something wrong with my payment address, telephone number or payment card.

    However, it’s also still taken the money from my bank account. How should I go about rectifying this?

    Also, to clarify – I’ve not touched in at my nominated station on the day the travelcard is due to activate. Should I wait and see what happens on that day? The error message makes me think nothing is going to happen at all.

    • Hi Chris,

      I think we can safely say that the payment card is fine if the money appears to be gone. I’d reckon that it won’t go if you don’t get a confirmation email letting you know that the travelcard will be available to pick up from . They’ve probably done an authorisation so far, which will disappear from your account after 3-4 days.

      If you don’t get an email confirming the purchase by tomorrow morning then you can be reasonably sure it’s not worked.

  153. I’m sure that this has been covered before and I apologise for any duplication but I still don’t understand how to activate auto-top up if I only use the bus. I asked a customer service person about it today – he said that I have to go through the underground barrier at Waterloo (my nominated station) then immediately come back through the barrier and ask the ticket office to refund the journey. Can that really be right? I can’t think there’s not a more streamlined way of doing it, I can’t be the only person who only wants to use the oyster card for bus journeys. I’d be grateful for your advice. Many thanks.

    • Hi Carol,

      It’s almost right. Tube stations should be able to cancel just an entry charge, but there’s little difference between that and an immediate exit so I guess it’s just semantics. If you only want to use the Oyster on buses then I recommend ordering a new card online and getting auto top-up activated before it is sent to you. In your case though I’d probably just visit the tube station as you already have the card.

  154. Thank you for your helpful reply. I found it hard to get this explained on the customer service number – the first person I spoke to just said ‘you have to touch in’ each time I asked her to explain, she seemingly couldn’t understand the idea of someone who wasn’t ever going to be using the tube – you’ve made it very clear, thank you.

  155. Hi,

    I just renewed my weekly travel card and all of sudden the oyster card stopped working. I tried it on the bus and at dlr and the person at the gates used his hand held reader and it looks like its dead. I don’t have a receipt from the travel card but I guess I can print my bank transaction to tlf for the weekly travel card. I dont know what to do, can you please give me some advice?

    than you in advance, Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      If the Oyster card is registered and protected then the Oyster helpdesk can transfer the funds to another card. If it’s an anonymous card then I don’t think there’s much you can do.

  156. Hi I have just ordered a new oyster card online and the start date is for the 22nd of July, but I wont be in London until the 27th of July to activate it, what will happen now, will it be cancelled or will I still be able to activate it on the 27th.

    • Hi Julie,

      I assume that you’ve ordered an Oyster card with a travelcard pre-loaded onto it. If that is the case then you won’t need to activate it and you can start using it when you arrive. If you were just ordering a travelcard to be added to an existing Oyster then you do need to pick the ticket up, and 5 days later would be too late.

      Also, I assume you mean June dates as you can’t select dates more than a month in advance.

  157. Hi,
    I was wondering if you could help me?
    How much should I top up on my oyster card for a return journey from london victoria to upton Park?
    Please let me know. thank you.

  158. Ive used my 16+ free travel oyster card for ages but I’ve always had this problem where i get on the bus and its fine, then top up 10 pound for example, go all around London then Come back and jump on bus to find that it flashes red. I just don’t understand as it is free travel on buses. I would e very happy of you were to respond. Thank you

    • Hi Matthew,

      The most likely explanation is that you’ve somehow managed to put your PAYG balance into negative, possibly by not touching out properly and incurring an incomplete journey charge. This would disable the whole Oyster card until the balance has been made at least zero.

  159. I used the top up machine at canonbury station to top ip for one journey, i paid by card then as soon as i went to place my oyster it said it couldnt read it and went to the start screen. I tried this again and the same thing happened! Then i checked my balance on my card and the amount had been taking out each time but it failed to top up my oyster. How do u get my money back?

    • Hi Andres,

      It won’t actually take the money. The Oyster system pre-authorises the amount which causes your card to earmark the amount for Oyster, but it only actually gets added to your credit when the transaction is processed, which it won’t be in this case.

  160. Hi,

    When topping up an Oyster card for monthly… Does the exact same Oyster card need to be used for both the first swipe and validation? Basically, is there a safety feature in place to stop people from coming up to the ticket machine and hijacking your purchase at the validation stage? Thanks

  161. Hi Mike

    I manually topped up my Oyster Card at Oyster Online on Monday afternoon using the Pay as you go service. I have since logged back into my Oyster account and the balance remains at £9 despite topping up by a further £15. Why isn’t the correct balance appearing on my account?



    • Hi James,

      Have you physically picked up the top-up at your nominated station? Your online account won’t show the top-up until the day after it is picked up.

  162. Hi Mike,

    I recently purchased a monthly season ticket on an unregistered oyster card, but then lost the oyster card.

    Is there any way of cancelling the season ticket, or transferring it to another card, using the bank/card details I used to purchase it? Or is it lost for good?

    • Hi Nathaniel,

      It shouldn’t be possible to put a monthly travelcard on an unregistered Oyster card. Try calling me helpdesk and see if they can trace it.

  163. Hi Mike,

    I was wondering why it isnt possible to top up your oyster after 1030pm/11pm in shops? i have been left stranded so many times because of this and have have to beg to get home. The shopkeepers say its out of the their control, is this true, and if so how can this be the system?


    • Hi Martha,

      I wasn’t aware of this, but it may well be because that is when TfL starts processing all the overnight stuff. It might be an idea to set up auto topup if you are regularly having to top up. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about running out late at night again.

  164. Hi Mike,

    I’ve just requested a PAYG top-up of 2 Oyster cards (£20 added to each) for a friend and I – I’ll be meeting her off a Eurostar at St Pancras, and we’re then going to take the Northern Line tube to Hampstead.

    I chose my activation station as “St Pancras (National Rail)” but am now not sure if that is correct – we won’t be making a rail journey from there, only a tube journey. Was this the incorrect option? Can I still activate the top-up from the machines in the Underground ticket hall in St Pancras?

    Worried I’ve just wasted £40!


    • Hi Mart,

      It won’t be wasted. After 8 days it will be refunded to the card it came from if it’s not picked up. You can manually add topup at the machines in Kings Cross St Pancras tube. I don’t think the three stations (Kings Cross, St Pancras and KXSP) are linked for topup collection, but, it might just work.

      Alternatively, if you want to be sure that it works and have a little time to spare, take FCC from St Pancras to Kentish Town, then change to the Northern line, go back to Camden Town and then on to Hampstead.

  165. Hello,
    I normally do a recharge of £60 + weekly, last week on 21/08/2013 evening 5.00 pm i did a top-up of £85.00 at Farrington station, i touched the machine, checked the balance and click on top-up of £85.00, inserted the visa card and entered the pin no. transaction of success and screen shows me to touch the oyster card, when i touch the card it showed an error message, contacted the TFL employee who is on duty. he said to do another transaction and told me that money will automatically refund to my bank account.

    so i did another top-up of £85.00, it worked fine. but i haven’t received the money £85.00 of 1st transaction till now.

    what i need to do?
    thanks in advance

    • Hi Chanti,

      Don’t panic!

      When you start the transaction the machine authorises the amount with your bank. If you don’t complete the transaction for any reason the money is never collected. However, it will stay reserved on your account for a few working days, and remember that we’ve had a 3-day weekend just gone so they will probably disappear very soon. Bottom line is you were never actually charged for the first transaction so there is no refund due.

  166. Hi, this is likely a very straightforward question, but I’m struggling to find an answer. I have an Oyster Card, but I also have a few paper-ticket Day Travelcards covering London Terminals & Zones 1-2. I’d prefer to load the travelcards onto my Oyster Card. Is this possible and, if so, do you know where I can do this?

    • Hi David,

      No, it’s not possible. Oyster cards can only hold period travelcards. For the daily version it operates capping which ensures you pay no more than the appropriate travelcard.

  167. Hi Mike,

    I’ve read some of the comments re 16+ Zip Oyster Photocard, I wonder whether you would be patient with me and advise me please:

    I have just applied via the oyster WEB account for my son’s 16+ Zip Oyster Photocard this afternoon online, which has been accepted. So I expect it will be posted to us soon.

    I personally have my own Oyster Card and I manage it on my Oyster ONLINE account.

    I manage my own Oyster card via automatic top-up and I would like to make the same arrangements for my son’s 16+ Zip Oyster Photocard. But I’m stuggling to find details about how I can top up his card on their website.

    Do I add my son’s 16+ Zip Oyster Photocard card to my Oyster online account and then arrange for topup that way? Regards,


  168. Can you print a receipt from a oyster top up station after the transaction. I purchased a weekly on my oyster and forgot to get the receipt.

    Any help would be great thanks!

  169. I have a registered oyster card but am an infrequent user so I did not choose auto topup. Sometimes I have to travel at short notice. When I need to topup how much notice does doing it manually on-line need?. As I understand it the ‘system’ needs to be told in advance where I’ll be travelling from so it can load credit on the card – what do I do if I have to start from a different station ? Finally if I select auto top in my on-line account now while I still have credit will that take effect immediately or on my next journey (whenever that is – even months away) ?

    Thanks, Peter

    • Hi Peter,

      An online topup needs to be booked before 2300 the night before so that the instruction can be sent to the local server at the station selected for topup during the overnight processing batch. If you aren’t certain which station you will use then perhaps a manual topup at a ticket machine or ticket shop would be better.

      Auto topup can only be selected as part of an online topup instruction. This is so that the credit/debit card details can be checked before the auto topup is first activated. All online topup requests remain at the local station for 8 days. If they are still uncollected by that time then the charge is refunded and the instruction cancelled.

  170. Mike, Thanks for the reply. The oyster card was bought on-line with a credit card so must have been checked then. Does that make a difference ? Ideally I’d like to set up auto top up on-line now before I need it. My next journey might not be for several weeks though and certainly more than 8 days. Thanks, Peter

    • Hi Peter,

      Not really, no. The card used to make the top-up which activates auto top-up is the one used whenever auto top-up is triggered. The details only get stored when auto top-up is requested. You will need to apply for auto top-up within 8 days of your next journey or it will fail unfortunately.

  171. Hi Mike,

    Last time on this I promise – If I’ve understood it I have to purchase a top-up on-line (which could be for say £5) AND request auto topup at the same time AND then use the oyster card within 8 days so the gate can load that credit and auto topup option onto the card ? Thanks, Peter

  172. Hi there,

    I selected the wrong train station by mistake to activate my card- is there a way of changing the nominated station as right now my money on my card is in limbo and I wont’ be heading to the station I originally selected!


  173. I ordered a top up for my card but now don’t need to make the journey, I only travel once in a blue moon is there any way to cancel the top up as I won’t be travelling in the next 8 days.

  174. Hi

    I have just started a new job and am planning on using the bus daily. I would like to set my Oyster to automatically top up and I can see that you have to select a station to activate it. I could use Uxbridge as it is reasonably close to where I am working but I am a bit confused as to what is meant by ‘activating’ it. Does this mean that I literally walk into the station and scan my card on any of the Oyster readers? Wont it then think that I am going to do a journey out from Uxbridge and then get confused when I don’t exit out of another station and charge me for a full journey? Sorry if this is a stupid question.

    • Hi Laura,

      Yes it will think that you’ve started a journey. If you go to the ticket office first and check that they will cancel the entry. Then touch in and go back to the ticket office where they can sort it out.

  175. Interesting last post… our company uses many pool Oyster cards and we top up by sending a cheque (yes old fashioned) to the Livingstone oyster base. Of course this means having to select a station to activate the card – often staff don’t want to make a journey (most journeys are by bus) so someone has to go to the nominated station (usually London Bridge), swipe in and head to the long queue at the ticket office to ask for a refund. Of course other stations can be used but with limited opening hours not that easy. Heaven knows what will happen if the rumoured ticket office closures go ahead. I guess we will have to ring the call centre and hope that they trust the caller. One of our users was told that they can’t ask for a refund at the ticket office – not backed up my my question to another member of staff yesterday.

    • Hi Roger,

      TfL used to allow this to be done, especially if you came from places where Oyster wasn’t accepted, but since 2010 it has been quietly removed from the literature/website. This is why I always recommend asking first before touching in, even though that does mean queueing twice. If they refuse then the cheapest immediate solution is to touch in, wait 2-3 minutes, then touch out. That is a same station exit which is usually a fare to the next station. The helpdesk will usually refund that, although you may have to argue to get the refund credited to a bank rather than having to make a rail journey.

  176. Hi Mike,
    Today I was trying to make weekly travelcard in my oyster through a ticketmachine using my debit card but after pressing the pin it says pin is ok but after that nothing happend for long time and on the screen there was a message like processing.I wait for couple of minute and just take out the card and tried again.But same things happen again.So decided to take out the cash from a cash point and made my oyster card as a weekly travel card using the same machine.Does the transaction really goes through and charge my debit card

    • Hi,

      There was a problem processing cards in ticket vending machines yesterday which may still be ongoing. You may find that the transaction has been authorised, but it will not actually be requested by TfL so it will drop off the pending list in a few days.

  177. Hi mike, i topped up my oyster card at a self service machine in Clapham Junction, when I touched the machine to get the top up the machine said their was an error and that i wouldn’t be charged but the funds have been taken from my account, will i have to ring up to get it back?

    • Hi Paula,

      The funds have been authorised which means that your bank has earmarked them for TfL. TfL won’t actually collect the funds and the authorisation will drop off in a few days.

  178. Hi

    I paid for a monthly season ticket on my credit card at a machine but forgot to scan my Oyster card the 2nd time to activate it. Will I be refunded?

    • Hi Paul,

      You won’t be charged. You’ll have an authorisation which earmarks the money for TfL, but they won’t collect it and the authorisation will drop off after a few days.

  179. Hi mike,
    I tried to topup my oyster card at south quay dlr with my credit card and unfortunately my transaction got failed but the amount got debited from my credit card and was not transfered to my oyster card. Again i tried for second time and this was succesfull.But the transaction amount which was failure for the first time was not credited back neither to my credit card nor to my oyster card what am i supposed to do

    • Hi Karthik,

      The first transaction was authorised with the bank which earmarks the money for TfL. Because the transaction didn’t complete, TfL will not collect the money. The authorisation will drop off your card in a few days.

  180. Hi, so I’ve recently moved to London and have bought myself 2 Oyster cards (1 for work and a personal one) whenever I too up my personal one at a machine it’s fine but if I too up the work one then hop on a bus it doesn’t work, just says I have no money on it… Really rather confused!

    • Hi Abby,

      So am I. Is this a machine at a station, or in a shop? Do you get a receipt confirming the top up? I think you probably need to call the helpdesk.

  181. Hi
    I have purchased a monthly oyster travelcard, zones 1-5 online but wondering why i have to nominate a station to activate my travelcard? Surely, if the travelcard is 1-5 I can use any station between 1 & 5 without nominating a station?
    Best regards

    • Hi Nick,

      The travelcard is sent to your Oyster card while you touch in or out at the nominated station. At the time of touching in or out there is no direct communication with the central Oyster system because it would take too long. Therefore the local server at your nominated station sends the travelcard and then reports back overnight that it’s done it. If it was available at every station then whenever you touched in or out it would try to load the new travelcard. Once loaded, your nominated station then knows not to try again when you come back later in the day.

  182. Hi,
    my daughter (a student living in London) has an oyster card. I want to set-up auto top-up for her with my credit card – it won’t let me (not same name and address). She can’t do it with her debit card (registered to her home address not her term address). Is there any solution? I’m keen to know for sure that she always has credit. With other online purchases, e.g. Amazon, I can purchase with my credit card and have it delivered to her name and address.
    Anyway, I’d be grateful if you could let me know if there is a way this can be done.

    • Hi Martin,

      All I can suggest is calling the helpdesk and asking. TfL is taking the strictest view about authorising credit card transactions because auto top-up is heavily reliant on trust. The balance is added immediately, but not claimed from your card until the next day. This is obviously quite risky for them.

  183. adding to your reply
    ”The first transaction was authorised with the bank which earmarks the money for TfL. Because the transaction didn’t complete, TfL will not collect the money. The authorisation will drop off your card in a few days”
    how many days usually it will take as my transaction was done on 30/09/13 its been almost two weeks

  184. Hi Mike.
    I have contacted the bank guys and they asked me to provide the below details.
    ”Please send us the attachment of the successful receipt on the email or letterhead of the Merchant stating the amount is not blocked from their end and in future they will not claim for the amount.
    The letter should be duly signed by the duty Manager and it should contain Merchant’s name, Transaction Date, Transaction Amount, Transaction ID and Card Number.”
    Whom do i need to contact for this?

    • You’ll need to contact the helpdesk. I’d also ask your bank just how long they leave authorisations active. I would say that more than a week is excessive. If it was me I’d be looking for a different bank.

  185. Hi there,
    I don’t know if you are able to help me but I also forgot to confirm my payment by tapping the yellow sign but I paid in cash. I cant remember if it was 20 or 10 I topped up by but it didn’t top my card up anyway. Is there a way of claiming that money back or was the person behind me having a lucky day at my expense and pocketed my money?

    • Hi Opal,

      I’m not sure what happens with cash. I’d call the helpline who should be able to see what’s happened. They might be able to arrange for the topup to be applied next time you touch in or out at the station. I’d be interested to know what happens in this case.

      I don’t think the person behind will have got lucky, at least I hope not.

  186. Hi,

    I would like to top up my Oyster card, but I only want it for use on a bus. I have 70p left on it.

    How can I do this? I don’t really want to pay full fare for a train journey I won’t be taking.

    • Hi Simon,

      Do you mean auto topup? If yes then you have to pick it up from a station. As long as it’s a tube station with an open ticket office then you should be able to get the entry charge cancelled after picking up the topup. I’d check with the clerk first and try to avoid busy times.

  187. Hello,
    I have selected automatic top up for my student card but have accidentally picked the wrong activation station, is there anyway i can change this as i will need it for Saturday,
    Many thanks, Jake.

    • Hi Jake,

      Sorry, you’ll have to let it lapse and be refunded. In the meantime you can top up manually at the station or a ticket stop. Of course, if you can get to the wrong station within 8 days you can still pick up the top up.

  188. Hi,
    I have a 16+ half rate oyster travel card and its due to expire in five days. However, I still have £15 on the card and I was wondering if there was any way this could be refunded?

    • Hi Katy,

      Why do you think it is about to expire? Usually 16+ cards expire at the end of September rather than at your birthday. However, you should be able to take it to a tube station for a refund. You might need some proof of identity.

  189. Are TFL going to upgrade their IT so that people can activate an online top up from anywhere rather than a nominated station? I read why but it seems very outdated and unconnected. It defeats part of the purpose of doing it online. I often change plans so it would be v useful.

    • Hi Tom,

      I doubt it. They are never going to allow network communications at the point of validation for travel because it just wouldn’t work fast enough. If your plans are that fluid then I suggest either top-up at the station ticket machines or enable auto top-up.

  190. Hi two of my children have 11-16 zip cards, if I put money on them and they get on the bus will it debit the zip card for a fair or will it know it’s a free journey as it’s a childs zip card?

    • Yes, the entire Oyster system understands which card is which. Also, the 11-15 card does not expire on the 16th birthday, it carries on until 30th September after the academic year in which the 16th birthday occurs. This is so that the 16+ card can be verified with the further education provider. It can be a great extension to cheap travel though, giving the holder an effective off-peak travelcard for just £1.50.

  191. I wasn’t entirely sure which section to post this in but I thought this would be the best one….I have become a unfortunate scenario which I thought you might want to know about!

    I have two Oyster cards registered to me – both have auto top up. I use one, and the other the wife uses.
    TfL are currently changing the way the online system logs into accounts so I logged in using the credentials for card number 1 it then wants me to change my username to an e-mail address and add a security number – so I did all that and all sorted I am in and looking at my online account.

    Went to check card 2….wouldn’t let me in. kept saying problem with the login details so I phoned them up.

    Turns out that the e-mail address that I have for card 1 was the login for card 2 so now the login info for card 2 gives me the info for card 1 – Mind boggling.

    despite various attempts to send new passwords and god knows what at TfL’s end they were totally unable to sort it to allow me to log in to view card 2 details.

    The first guy I spoke to said what we can do is link the two cards onto one account – so put them both onto card 1’s account – I have no problem with that. then for some reason our call got disconnected so I had to call a second time.

    Spoke to second customer service assistant, explained everything again and sure enough just like the last guy he found the same problem (Another 15 minutes wasted!) but it turns out you can’t link one card to another on one account if Auto-Top up is enabled.

    They would have to disable it first, which involves a trip to a tube station apparently – then link the card to the account then re-enable Auto-Top up then I’d have to make another trip to the tube to re-enable it again.
    If I was a regular user of tubes/trains that would be fine but I am not, added to that that here in Erith there is a strange lack of tube stations this wasn’t a particularly helpful solution.

    Quite why they can’t reset usernames I don’t know.

    At this point (at nearly an hour on the phone) it was fairly obvious that the customer service assistant wanted to get rid of me and ended up saying nothing else he could do but it might work in half an hour as the system might have locked me out – of course this wasn’t the case at all.

    I did suggest a new card but apparently that would be linked to the same old account that I can’t get in to!

    So I thought afterwards that maybe I could order a new card with Auto-top up and get the old one refunded back – but even that seems to require a trip to a tube station along with several forms of ID and a pound of flesh!

    Sadly TfL seem to forget on a regular basis that not all of London lives five minutes from a tube station!!!!

    I needed to get into my online account as I have a new card from the bank – so I know for a fact that my auto-top up will fail if I keep on using the card.

    Any suggestions on what I could do would be greatly appreciated.


    • Hi Chris,

      Oh dear!

      TfL have long had problems where email addresses didn’t match. I tried to change my online account address once and because it didn’t match the address on the card I had all kinds of trouble requesting statements. In the end I had to change it back.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing this. It would appear that you’ve managed to find a scenario that the testers should have thought about, but didn’t. I share your pain about distance from a tube station as I live in Crayford.

      What I would do. Go into the account that you can get into and order a new card from there. Select PAYG with at least £10 credit and auto top-up with your desired amount. You will get that in the post with auto top-up already enabled, so no need to vist that distant tube station. In the meantime, carry on using the other card. When the next auto top-up triggers you’ll get an email a day or so later asking you to update the card details. You won’t be able to, obviously, but don’t worry immediately. Try to use up all the money that is yours before they blacklist the card (ie if your auto top-up is £20 and the deposit on the card was £5 you want to get it to £15). At that point you can return the card to them to do with as they wish. If you go below £15 then you ought to send a cheque to cover the difference, if you don’t manage to get the balance down then you’ll need to request a refund which they should do. Just explain the problem that you had and how you’ve worked out the difference.

      The problem is that they may ask you to pay the £20 top-up before they’ll refund the balance. If they do and they owe you it’ll be a pain, but if you’ve gone over then there’s nothing they can do. I can’t go to court as you only owe them the amount you’ll send as a cheque. It’s up to them how they sort out their internal accounts. Think of it as payback for the trouble they’ve caused you.

      Let me know how you get on.

  192. Hi Mike

    I have just ordered an oyster card online for my mum when she visits london (incl top up) they didnt ask for a starting station will she be able to use the card straight away at kingscross or will she need to touch first? dont want mum getting stressed on her visit.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Kimbob,

      Where top-up is ordered at the same time as the physical card it will already be added when you get the card. It can therefore be used straight away.

  193. Hi Mike
    By mistake I made a weekly travel card in my oyster then realized I had another oyster card which one weekly as well so is it possible to change the starting date on my first oyster or get back the refund if I don’t use itand what is the procedure to do.

  194. Hi Mike
    Thanks for the reply.Just one more question to clarify .Shell I get the full money back which was 35.60 if I cancel the travel card.The starting day was today but I did not use it at all.It was 123 travel card.

    • You can ask, though they may deduct one day. I’d ask as early as possible. If you have both Oysters so they can see what’s happened then they might relax the rules. Good luck.

  195. Hi Mike,
    Done as you have suggested and ordered a second card and I got an e-mail about an hour ago saying that its been dispatched with the PAYG credit on it.

    I logged into my account and can see the two cards, my only worry is that on the Auto-Top up settings it says

    Your £20.00 Auto top-up request is currently being processed. We will send you an email when it is ready to be activated at N/A station.

    Not entirely sure what that is meant to mean..I did choose to set up Auto-top up with the new card and I put £15 worth of credit on the card at time of purchase.
    I had assumed that Auto-top up would be set up already but it kind of implies that it isn’t….any ideas


    • Hi Chris,

      It’s possible that they wait until the card has been used before flagging the auto top up as active. Keep an eye out for any further emails and when you use the card, watch what happens when you touch in with the balance below £10. If it doesn’t auto top-up then call the helpline. I’ve not actually tried the ordering online with auto top-up already enabled, but I’m informed it does work and is designed primrarily for bus only use.

  196. Hello.

    Earlier on this morning I topped up my student oyster card at a Shop, however, when i checked this afternoon online it says that my account balance was still £0.00. Do I have to activate first or wait 24 hours ? Or has the payment not gone onto my account?
    Because i assumed that when you paid pay as you go in a shop it would automatically go onto your card.


    • Hi Courtney,

      The top-up will go straight onto your card, but it may not show on the central database until the shop uploads all it’s transactions for the day. You’ll also see it shortly after using it at a rail station because they update balances with the central system at regular intervals.

  197. Hi Mike, heres an update on my oyster card fiasco!
    Received the new Oyster card on Monday 25th November – it appears these days that they don’t even give you a new wallet (although it says so in the enclosed letter). Its all working fine and Auto-Top up became enabled at N/A station for £20 and it has worked with no issues.
    Oddly, despite getting an e-mail from TfL regarding the dodgy card that I couldn’t gain online access to saying that the Auto-Top up had failed and I have 3 days to rectify it (that was on the 23rd November) It seemed to still be valid when I checked the balance at Woolwich Arsenal DLR yesterday- and I haven’t had any further e-mails which is a bit odd. But regardless they owe me 90p now!!! Think I’ve had that Oyster so long that I got one with a monthly pass originally so didn’t pay a deposit! 🙂
    Will keep you updated regarding how much fun it is getting my money back!!!

  198. Hi- can anyone explain what’s going on here: My son has just received his 11-15 zip card and used it on london overground journey from Clapham Junction but it didn’t work at the gates. My husband then put some money on it and it works and seems to be taking money off for the same journey. I thought London overground, tube, bus and tram were supposed to be free?

    • Hi Melina,

      They’re all free to holders of 5-10 zip cards. Unfortunately the Underground and Overground charge child rates on 11-15 zip cards.

  199. Thank you for your quick reply. So, when I am with my 10/11 year old child on tube or underground they have been letting him through free (obv I have my oyster) – is it free or when he is with me do they assume he is younger than “10 and 11 months.” ? Ie do children over 11 on tube and underground with parent have to pay on tube/overground also?

    Ps what I’m trying to say (badly!) is that I had thought children under 16 travelled free on tfl, not just on buses. Thanks .

    • There are three levels of child as far as Oyster is concerned. Under 5s travel free on everything. 5-10s have to pay on NR services but are free on everything else including Overground and TfL set NR routes. 11-15s have to pay on all rail services but are still free on buses and trams. I’ll guess that they’ve let him through thinking he was under 11.

      Finally, although the card is called 11-15 it is still valid up to 30th September after the academic (Sep-Aug) year in which they turn 16. Depending on when the birthday is this gives them up to an extra 13 months at child rates. This is because entitlement to free bus travel for over 15s is dependant on the post 16 educational establishment attended in year 12.

  200. Quick question Mike.

    Regarding the pick up of products ready at gate.

    I’m pretty sure I can pick up a season ticket, Pay as you go or and refund sent to a gate upon entry or exit, but when I call TfL they seem to think you only pick up on entry?

    I know you said many times before that you can pick up on entry OR exit but I just want to know how you know this for example have you done this many times?

    (Let’s not even get into the fact that even though TfL helpline staff think you can’t pick up on exit it still states on that you CAN indeed pick up products upon exit. And nots even get into the fact that I have picked up on exit before much to my surprise after being told that I could not)

    Basically just asking for confirmation that

    A) product is ready at gate
    B) one has a perfectly functioning Oyster card
    C) one touches it flat against a read correctly
    D) the gate is perfectly functioning
    E) pick up window is still open

    That products will load onto the Oyster card upon exit 100% of the time.

    And if you know why TfL staff seem scared to promote this on the phone but have it in print on the website confirming???

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Yes, refunds and manual top-ups can be picked up on exit or entry and I have done both on a number of occasions. The difference is with auto top-up. Once it has been activated along with the manual top-up it will only add the extra chunks on entry at the start of a journey.

    • Hi Bella,

      Yes, you can add money to your balance and it will deduct fares at child rates. Off-peak the child fare is a flat 75p with a £1.50 cap.

  201. mike just arrived and i think by mistake i had passed the card twice when entering the tube from Heatrow, because my wife did the same travel and has much more money in the card. can i do something about this?

    • Hi pablo,

      Either take the card to an Underground station or call the Oyster helpdesk. In your case an Underground station is probably better as they should be able to help immediately.

  202. Hi Mike.
    I thought it would be easy to find the answer to this but I’m not having any luck so hope you can help!!!
    I normally buy a monthly travelcard on Oyster (zones 1-2) but am going on holiday over Christmas – is it possible to freeze a travelcard while you’re away? I try not to use PAYG as for the journeys I do it works out a lot more expensive but as I go away in 5 days I’m keen to find out if freezing is an option.
    Thank you1

    • Hi Nicki,

      Sorry, you can’t freeze a travelcard. If you have 4 days left at work then a weekly travelcard may be slightly cheaper than PAYG, but it depends on your exact journey. In the future, it is possible to buy travelcards at ticket offices for any period between a month and a year. Each day is charged at 1/30th of the monthly rate.

  203. Hi Mike
    Im devastated I topped my oyster up with £200+ for 1-6 travel card at a newsagents, the money has left my bank account, i have the transaction numbers however i have lost the receipt. The newsagent has refused to help me saying they need the receipt, but i have the bank statement, my oyster, i am on cctv doing so and i have transaction codes- surely someone should be able to help me? i just want the travel card on my oyster…? Thanks!

    • Hi Janet,

      You don’t say exactly what the problem is, but it could be a matter of timing. I assume you haven’t got the travelcard on your Oyster. Have you tried querying the Oyster card at a station ticket machine? Does a travelcard show but with the wrong dates? Also, when did this happen? Is the amount showing as a confirmed transaction, or is it just under pending transactions? When a transaction is authorised (which this will have been) the money is earmarked, but it doesn’t count as gone until TfL or the newsagent claims it. If you can provide a few more details I can advise whether it really is a problem.

  204. Hi Mike

    this is such an excellent site, thank you!
    I’ve just ordered a zone 9-2 travelcard to be added to my oyster (via tlf website). Valid from Tuesday 7th Jan with pick up at my local station (Cheshunt). The “date available from” showed at 6th (tomorrow) so I would like to wander down to the station tomorrow to add it on – just so it’s on my card ready to use Tuesday morning. However, according to the website, I must complete “a usual journey” in order for it to activate. How can I do this if the ticket is not valid until Tuesday? How can i pick it up early? Can i just “touch in” and get the ticket added without “touching out”? I’ve checked on your wonderful site and can’t see a definitive answer for Travelcards – only excellent guidance for top up.

    thank you!

    • Hi Jess,

      You need to pick it up as part of a journey, but that can be done on the day quite easily. I’ve picked up a travelcard on the first day before with no problems. The main advantage to picking up seasons early is when you renew because you can pick up the next ticket before the old one finishes.

      Hope that helps.

  205. Is it possible to top up an Oyster card at a machine using a credit card with any amount, eg £23.70? Or does it have to be in multiples of £5?


  206. Am I correct in thinking that if I top up my Oyster Card manually at a tube station rather than online, I can then immediately use it on a bus without activating it on a tube gate?

    • Yes Robert,

      Activation is only required if you order online because you actually have to present the card to get the topup transferred. When you use a ticket machine the transfer is done as the last stage of the process once you’ve paid the money.

  207. Basically, I have about £100 on my bursary card and I don’t need no books or anything..I was wondering if I could up the whole amount on an oyster and then can I refund iit all?

  208. Hi,

    Is there a maximum number of auto top-ups per day or per week?

    For instance, if the balance falls below £10, it automatically tops up. Then, if the balance falls again below £10 during the same day, will it automatically top up?

    Also, if the Oyster card is lost or stolen, and used improperly by another person (causing a lot of maximum fare charges), will it cause a lot of auto top-ups or is there a limit?


    • Hi Mikael,

      There are no limits as far as I know. Even with a £20 top-up you will struggle to get back below £10 because the relevant charging cap will take effect. If you find yourself having more than 2-3 top ups in a week then you probably ought to consider setting it to take £40 each time.

  209. Hello Mike,
    For the first time, I have to topup my Oyster online.
    When I’m about to enter my credit card number, I got the following message:
    “Your products will be available between the following dates:
    Pay as you go
    From 29/01/2014 to 05/02/2014”

    What does this period mean? I’m a bit confused while on another hand I got no End date, which seems normal for a pay-as-you-go credit.

    What does it mean exactly please?

  210. Second hello,
    How easy is it to add pay-as-you-go on a Oyster Card at St-Pancras please? I’m French and never did it at a machine.
    Where can I find them?
    Is there usually lot of people waiting on a saturday, 10am?
    Thank you once more!

    • Hi Steph,

      When you order top-up online it is made available for 8 days, usually starting from the next day. After that time it will be cancelled and the money refunded.

      I’m not that familiar with St Pancras, but the FCC ticket machines should allow Oyster top-up. Alternatively, the machines in the adjacent underground station (Kings Cross St Pancras) will definitely work.

  211. I topped up my attemtped to top up my oyster card with my credit card, the payment was authorised but when i touched my oyster to recieve the top up the screen said there was a problem and i had to top it up all over again. Will i be charged for the first attempt even though it did not top up my oyster? If not, what shall i do for reimbursement?



    • Hi Megan,

      The first attempt may well show up as a pending transaction, but it will not be claimed by TfL and will drop off after a few days.

  212. Hi Mike,

    Quick question, I just transferred an old oyster card fund over to my new oyster, obviously I have to now touch in at my designated station for the funds to be transferred. Question is, I don’t plan on making a journey from there within the next week, can I not auto top up by swiping the yellow reader at the ticket machines at the front of the station? or do I have to start a journey? If the answer is the later, what then hapens to the funds, if I don’t make a journey? do they become online credit etc?


    • Hi James,

      You have to make a journey. If it’s an Underground station then you could try asking whether the ticket office will cancel the entry charge once you’ve touched in. If you don’t pick it up then the refund will fail. You may get an email asking you to nominate a new station (or the same one) to try again, otherwise the helpdesk can sort it out. You won’t lose the money.

  213. Dear Mike, I topped up my oyster card manually via credit card and after pulling out my credit card but just before I tapped my card on the yellow pad, I clicked cancel by accident. I’m wondering if I’ll be charged for this 20 pounds? Thank you.

    • Hi Micaela,

      No you won’t be charged. You might see a pending transaction for a few days, but it will drop off when TfL don’t collect it.

    • Hi Charlotte,

      If it is for your Oyster card and you haven’t yet picked it up from your nominated station then you can simply not pick it up and it will get refunded after about 4 days. If you have it on your card but it hasn’t started yet then an Underground station may agree to refund it, possibly less an admin fee of up to £10. If it has started then you are probably out of luck, but you could call the helpdesk to check.

  214. I have set for my oyster to get topped up at Finsbury Park tube station tomorrow but i need to get off the overground at kings cross and collect it at kings cross instead. Also could I get on a bus to top it up somehow?

    • Hi Olivia,

      Sorry, it can only be picked up at Finsbury Park. You can manually add some credit at other stations, but until the online topup has been collected, or expired after 8 days, you can’t set up another. You can’t topup on a bus but you can also use any of the various ticket stop shops before you get on the bus.

  215. I have been sent a replacement card for a Barclaycard one pulse which is being withdrawn next month. I can’t set up auto top-up and get an error message which says that payment cannot be taken. The explanation goes on but gives three reasons it be because address details are incorrect, phone number is incorrect or the bank are refusing to authorise. I have no clue exactly what the problem is except that I know the bank are not refusing. Unfortunately the address does not match exactly because the tfl site only uses 4 lines but my bank uses 5 lines so I have tried changing the tfl details in different ways. Apparently, after 3 attempts, the system locks you out (but doesn’t explain that it has) and, according to customer service, doesn’t reset without manual intervention. I am having that done now but still don’t know whether the details will pass a match test. I have been told that I will have to keep on trying, getting locked out if the computer, doesn’t like something, ring them up, wait while it is reset and then try again because there is no way to do this manually. Is there really no way that I can get a person involved to set up auto top-up?

    • Hi Tim,

      Oh dear, that sounds very complicated. Does your address need to have 5 lines, or could the bank change their version and still be valid? Obviously please don’t post your address here. I’ve never had any problems myself, but then I have a fairly simple 3 line address and postcode. As to whether the process has to be automatic, I’ve no idea, but I can see how they might want to make it that way to reduce the possibility of losses.

  216. Including the county, the address has 5 lines on the post office data base so changing the bank addresses is likely to lead to important mail going astray because there are similar local addresses that need to be distinguished. My main concern is that there seems to be no way of arranging auto top-up manually. I was told that the telephone staff can’t take card details to protect me but I reckon that if that is the case, they need to generally choose & supervise staff better and also select supervisors with a higher clearance to deal with money matters. The other problem was a lack of information – on line, you don’t get told exactly what the problem is in case you are phishing and you have no indication that you are going to be or have been locked out and what to do if you are locked out. A bit more information about what is going on and a back-up manual system would be great improvements on the system.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for the feedback. I agree that the system clearly needs some improvement. Not least the ability to store Post Office compliant address details where a match is required with other compliant databases.

  217. Hi there,

    I have put money on my Oyster card online, and it says it will activate when I ‘tap in’ at Hillingdon station on Saturday. I am now unable to travel. Will the money stay on my card? Or Can I get the £10 refunded in any way?


  218. Hello,
    How come it’s not possible to make a one-off top up payment to an Oyster card and just leave it there for when you next need it? I use the tube infrequently but want some cash on my card in case I decide to make a journey at the last moment.

    • Hi Kathryn,

      It is possible. You can top-up instantly at stations or ticket stops. Once on the card the balance never expires. If you order online the system needs to get the balance to your card. This can only be done as part of a journey to or from a specified station and is only valid for 8 days to ensure that delivery has happened within a reasonable time frame from being charged.

  219. I have auto top up set up on my Oyster card. I checked my credit card statement and it seems on 1st May I was charged twice for auto top up: 2 separate transactions of £20 went from my card but only one top up appeared on the oyster account. I waited a few days just to check maybe it will appear but it didn’t. Whom should I contact about it: TFL or my credit card provider?

    • Hi Agin,

      Check with your credit card first. If they can’t/won’t help then contact TfL. I’ve not heard of a problem with auto top-up before, but with normal top-ups a failed attempt will often leave an extra authorisation on file for a few working days. Half the days in May so far have not been working days.

    • Hi Andrew (and Agin),

      I’ve just spoken to the helpdesk and there was a problem with auto top-ups on 19 February. About 750 cards topped up but TfL had a problem calling the money back from the accounts. They’ve now rectified the problem and arranged a special batch to try to claim the funds again. This happened on 1st May. You are welcome to contact the helpdesk who will ascertain whether your card was involved in this issue.

  220. Hi, in December last year I bought an annual zone 2-4 on my registered Oyster card as that was all I needed to get me to work. Now that I have changed jobs and will need to travel into Zone 1 is there anyway to change my Oyster into a Zone 1-4 for the remainder of the year?

  221. Yes,
    They directed me to the Manage Auto-TopUp page which shows the 19 Feb topup taken on 1 May.
    Unfortunately, the Journey History only goes back to March so I have no way of checking this stacks up.
    The email sent to me on 1 May only mentioned that a £20 charge had been taken – no note of when it related to or where the card was when it topped up. And no mention that it was out of sync or late.
    Not very good customer service!

    • Hi Andrew,

      Yes, that’s not good customer service. I guess you can check your bank/card statements to verify that they didn’t take a payment on Feb 20th/21st.

  222. Hi Mike

    Sorry if you answered above already, there were too many replies to read through. My question is; If I renew my monthly travelcard online and nominate a station to pick it up from, can I use it on a bus before I reach the station? E.g. My travelcard ran out 14th May and I renewed for a 15th May start. Could I have used it on a bus before tapping in at my nominated station? Thanks.

    • Hi Harvey,

      You can pick your travelcard up from your nominated station a few days before it starts, but if you haven’t actually picked it up then you can’t use it on a bus. Your Oyster card only gets the travelcard when you touch at your nominated station.

  223. Hello, I have an unregistered oyster card. Can I put a weekly ticket on it at a station either via a manned desk or using the ticket machines? Or do I have to register and do it online?

  224. Hi Mike, I saw you have a couple of comments from back in 2012 from people who can’t register/top up their oyster cards from outside the UK. Any idea whether that has since changed? I’m in the US, planning frequent travel to London, and encountered the same problems trying to top up my card (I get the error about the phone number even when using a UK one). Does TFL ever plan to accommodate users outside the UK?

  225. hi ,
    I have taken oyester card 2 weeks back for z1 to z3.
    I have created a account online and added the card.
    How can i register online.
    I need to recharge for monthly.

  226. I live quite a distance from any tube stations, but frequently get the bus. I don’t want to auto top up, in case my card is lost, and would like to top up manually online. Is there any way I can do this without having to go on a pointless round-trip on some distant tube to activate the top up? Otherwise, are there any top up shops which are open 24 hours to allow topping up for late journeys?

    • Hi Alasdair,

      I’m not aware of any shops open 24 hours that do Oyster top-up. If you go to a tube station and ask the staff they may agree to cancel your entry after you’ve picked up the top-up. If you were to set up auto top-up then a quick phone call to the Oyster helpline is all that is required to get a lost/stolen card blacklisted. The balance can then be transfered to a new card.

  227. Hi. Wondered if I could just clarify something re auto top ups. If I understand it, I top up my Oyster card as normal online but set auto renew. Then for the first activation I select the tube station of my choice for this balance to take effect. My question is after this initial activation, whenever my balance falls below the minimum, is the auto top up credit applied at any station…ie the future top ups don’t have to be activated at the initial station I selected? Thanks.

    • Hi Ian,

      Yes, the actual auto topups can be activated anywhere, even on a bus. The topup is applied immediately to your card, then TfL request the money from your bank the next day when the details are received from the reader.

  228. Hi,

    Today i tried to top up my oyster for a monthly pass. I put £140 into the machine (DLR Station) The machine then told me it could not give me change (£141.50 is the monthly zones 1-3, so i had not put in enough for a monthly) It did not print me a receipt, or ask me to touch my oyster. therefore i have no idea if its topped it up, or just taken my money. I have tried calling TFL and DLR (hrs 8-5 M-F) so bit later..can anyone help me!!! £140 is a lot of money !!

    • Hi Sally,

      If you were trying to buy a travelcard then it won’t have topped up your balance. Contact the helpdesk and ask them what to do. I’m sure the machine will have recorded your Oyster card number and the fact that something went wrong, so it should be possible to refund you.

  229. I come to London once or twice a week. Every Journey is different in both start point and destination. So if I top up on the web I understand I need to “check in” to a nominated station and then complete a normal journey.

    So if for argument sake I have £10 credit left on my card and then buy a £50 credit, will I be able to complete any journey from any station with the £10, but the £50 credit will only be applied next time I go to my nominated station?

    That would make sense but can I click out at any station.

    For example if my nominated station is Euston can I click in and get the amount credited at Euston even if I then travel to any station that leaves Euston or do I have to use a particular route that I have used previously ?

    • Hi Jon,

      The words “normal journey” mean any journey to, from or via* that station. They are trying to say that you can’t just enter and exit the station without making a journey. Mind you, if the station isn’t busy you will usually get clerks who will void the entry for you. If you have credit you can continue to use it on any other journeys, the topup will be applied when you visit the nominated station.

      * when you need to change between stations as part of a journey like most National Rail to Underground interchanges in zone 1.

  230. Hi Mike! I was at Heathrow today and put £20 on my oyster card, in a rush to catch the tube, I stupidly forgot to reswipe my card. The money has come out of my bank account but not onto my oyster card, what do i do?? Please help! Thank you so much.

    • Hi Frances,

      You shouldn’t need to do anything. The amount is only allocated against your account until TfL request payment, which they won’t do in this case. The allocation should disappear after a few working days, but it varies depending on the bank.

  231. Can you top up from the USA? I can use my hotel address for the form and phone number, but would I then have to use the card within a few hours?

    I will be coming from Warwick to London, and need to get to an event quickly. I don’t want to wait in long lines on a Friday afternoon.

    • Hi Cia,

      The problem overseas people have is that the address linked to the credit/debit card needs to be a UK one. If you can get past that issue then the top up would be available for 8 days starting the day after you order it.

  232. Hi. I want to do auto top up for my existing oyster card but only use the bus. It seems that I can only activate the auto top up at a train station as part of a journey but I wont be getting the train. Is there a way around this please. Thanks, Charlotte

    • Hi Charlotte,

      If the train station is an Underground one then the ticket office may agree to cancel your entry after you’ve picked up the top up. It’s probably best left to a quieter time, outside the peak hours. If it’s a National Rail station then there’s no way. The other alternative is to get a new Oyster card online and have it delivered with auto top up already enabled. You can then get a refund of the deposit on your original card.

  233. Hi, there! I would like to transfer the remaining products in one oyster card to the other, and the website says “you must activate your transfer of products as part of a normal journey. To activate you must touch your Oyster card on the yellow reader at your nominated station, and also touch out on the yellow reader at the end of your journey. ” I’m a little confused. If I use a bus travel to activate my transfer, I only touch my card on the yellow reader once, so how can I “touch out”?

    • Hi Julie,

      You can’t make any online request to be fulfilled on a bus sadly. You need to specify a station, or take both cards in person to an Underground ticket office.

  234. thanks for replying to my 9/7/14 query. only £20 & £40 debitcard top ups, wow. good to see TfL concern for poore folk. even the cashless bus , is going to affect the less well off more . not everyone can get a cab in a ” emergency”
    anyhow good to see you helping people with their queries

    • I may have mis-interpreted your earlier query. When you asked about linking a debit card to a JSA Oyster I assumed that you wanted to have automatic top-ups. You can, of course, top up any amount in Oyster ticket stops or in the ticket machines at rail or underground stations within the Oyster area. All the machines will take debit cards, as will most ticket stop shops.

      The way auto top-ups work, TfL have to make the amount significant or they could end up losing money when there are problems.

  235. i topped my card up with a weekly zone 2 pass, got to the last stage and was sure i touched my card again in again. However it wasn’t activated onto my card but i have still be been charged.

    is this common? will i automatically be refunded or will i need to contact TFL?

    • Hi Beeman,

      It is surprisingly common that people inadvertantly fail to collect the topup or travelcard that they’ve just purchased, although still tiny compared to the number of correctly made transactions. You haven’t actually been charged, the money has just been authorised with your bank. TfL will not collect it and it will drop off the pending transactions in a few days.

  236. We touched our coyster on the reader and selected £10 for top up we inserted a note of £10 at 11.20 pm at Norbury station tonight. The card reader still showed that money does not appear on oyster card. How can it be refunded. It’s not fair for us.

    • Hi Surryia,

      Did you touch the Oyster card again after inserting the money? You’ll need to contact the helpdesk and ask them for advice. The machine will have had a surplus that day and it should have recorded that your card didn’t get its top up, but I’m not sure what the procedure is when cash has been used.

  237. I need to get a bus tomorrow morning at 8am. How can I top up my Oyster card? Need to get a bus to the station so can’t top up online. Local shop, which is further away than the bus stop, does not open before I need to start my journey. Is there any chance top up machines at bus stops will ever be introduced?

    • Hi Kate,

      I probably haven’t seen this early enough, but if you have zero or a positive (but small) balance you can make one bus journey before needing to top up again. Otherwise there is a contactless payment card, though you can’t use that on the trains yet. For the future you probably ought to consider auto topup.

  238. Is this a new feature of oyster? I have previously been told by bus drivers that I have to pay the cash fare as there are insufficient funds on my card.

    • Yes, it was bought in just before buses went cashless. The idea is to avoid too many people being stranded late at night. I did mention it in this post, but probably ought to update the trams and buses page too.

  239. Hi, I made the mistake of paying by card but then not touching my oyster on again absentmindedly. Then a minute later it said it didn’t recognise the oyster card then the session timed out and said it won’t be charged so I just topped up the amount I wanted again. Currently my bank is showing two charges still, but am I to understand from the description above that in a couple of days one will be refunded? Many thanks for any help

  240. Hi Mike,
    I have auto top-up set up on my oyster card through my online account. My son is starting university in London soon – can I add his oyster card to my online account so that he never runs out of credit on his card?

    • Hi Karen,

      Auto top-up needs to be activated through making a journey. Yes you can add his card to your account (I have all my families cards on mine) and then request auto top-up with a manual top-up. He still needs to collect that top-up though.

  241. Hello

    Yesterday I renewed my monthly travelcard (on Oyster) online, to be picked up today. As I paid I got an error suggesting the payment hadn’t worked. When I checked my account the money had been taken, obviously I can checked whether it has worked when I take my journey this evening but I am slightly worried as there is no evidence on my oyster account that the purchase has been made i.e. it does not appear in my list of orders. Is this just because it has not yet been activated? Thanks

    • Hi Eleanor,

      The money has been authorised with your bank. If the transaction didn’t work it will not be collected. I’m not sure whether purchases appear in the history straight away or after they have been picked up. The helpdesk should be able to clarify things.

  242. Hi, I have an oyster card with just over £1 credit on it, I don’t use it often, only when visiting London. I want to take a bus today as my first journey but will be making quite a few more journeys later so will hit the one day off peak maximum. Is there any way I can top my card up so I can use it on the bus or do I have to go to a tube station to do so? What will happen if I try to use it on the bus without the top up applied? Thanks.

    • Hi Graham,

      You should be allowed to travel under the one-more-journey feature as you have some credit on the card. You will need to top it up before making any rail journeys or a second bus journey.

  243. Hi, Yesterday I travelled to london by london overground and tube. It has costed me 28 pounds on the oyster card. As I understand, the maximum cap even during for peak hour travel in a day is 21 and should be lesser with my Oyster. Kindly let me know how to claim a refund.

    • Hi veerenda,

      You’ll need to contact the Oyster helpdesk. It sounds like you missed a touch or two during your travels, or took too long between touch in and out on one of the journeys. They will sort it out for you anyway.

  244. Hi, I am new to Oystercards and have a question regarding my daughter’s Zip 16+ card. How do I top up her card online? I have my own Oyster card and online account, do I do it by adding her card to my account or do I need her to set up her own online account. Thank you

    • Hi Jane,

      You can definitely add it to your account because that’s how I keep track of my kid’s cards. I don’t think they can have their own account as they are under 18.

  245. Hi. I have yesterday requested a topup to my Oyster card online & intend to activate it at Paddington Rail station tomorrow. Where on the concourse of Paddington is the machine ?

  246. Ah. I shall actually be arriving into paddington on a normal rail ticket & will use that to get off the platform. I shall be continuing my journey via tube but the entry to that tube line is temporarily closed- so I thought I could just activate upon my arrival at the rail station. Would it be an issue if my activation is at a different tube station ?? Or do I somehow have to change my order ?

    • Hi Richard,

      Unfortunately you can’t amend an online order. It will be refunded after 8 days if it is not collected. You might be better off topping up at one of the ticket machines at Paddington.

  247. I’m a bit confused and concerned. I topped up my oyster online for the first time, and selected my home station to collect the top up. This morning I touched in at my home station and it did not collect or active the top up so I had to top up my card from the machine. Online under my orders page it still says Ready at Gate. I don’t intend to make another journey by oystercard in the next week.

    • Hi Amy-Kate,

      It could be a glitch, or you might have made a mistake selecting the station. If it says Ready at Gate then I assume you ordered the topup yesterday (or before)? If you can say what station you selected I can suggest whether it might have gone to another close by station. However, after 8 days it will be refunded if not collected, so you won’t lose the money.

  248. Have you ever come across the following? I am pretty sure that TfL has made a mistake in my favour. My card (Travelcard + PAYG) has been wrongly credited twice with the same online top up, as the top up has been added to my card both when I tapped in at my nominated station in the morning, and then when I tapped out at the same nominated station in the evening when finishing my return journey home. Thus £40 has been added to my PAYG rather than £20, and only £20 has been taken from my bank account. Being of an honest disposition, I intend approaching TfL and inviting them to take £20 off my card. However, previous dealings with TfL over small amounts they have inadvertently overcharged have left me less than confident that they will get the adjustment right, and I will end up in an intractable wrangle with an unusable Travelcard. Have you ever heard of other instances of this type? And from experience, how do you think it is best to approach TfL with this? For clarity, I intend to do it in writing rather than on the phone, but I feel a bit reticent about taking time and effort to help them rectify a mistake in their system and furthermore then encountering TfL possibly misinterpreting the letter and messing up my Travelcard or taking off too much! Thanks

    • Hi Martin,

      I am aware of previous glitches with the system, although not in the exact same scenario as you describe. To be honest, I wouldn’t go out of my way to write to them for a couple of days. Wait and see if they write to you or even just make a further debit. They can’t automatically remove the extra credit. Your first indication will come tonight when they send you the confirmation email. If it hasn’t been addressed by the weekend then I would write.

  249. Thanks for the swift reply, Mike. As you suggest, I shall leave it until the middle of next week to see if TfL make a second deduction from my bank account, and if not, I shall include a copy of the journey history to make it clear to them what has happened. Obviously I don’t want to post the journey history on a publicly accessible site, but looking at the journey history, both the morning and the evening entries are annotated with “Topped-up on touch in” (although the latter was a touch out) and the same amount credited each time. I shall keep you posted if this turns out to be a glitch in the system, although I don’t suppose people will thank me for alerting TfL to a system error which works in favour of the customer! I still also have some fear of opening a can of worms for no advantage of my own, and possibly to my inconvenience, but obviously one should do the right and honest thing if one spots a mistake in one’s own favour. Very informative website, keep up the good work.