Off-Peak Cap Refunds Due Today

I have found out more about the automatic refunds for people regularly travelling after 0930 (or any time at weekends) from zones 4-6.  The good news is that the first refunds should be available today.  Here is my understanding of how the system works.

To qualify for a refund you must exceed the notional off-peak cap on two or more days in a week.  The week runs from Monday to Sunday, just like contactless weekly capping.  To catch people who might only exceed the cap once some weeks but usually more, there are two other qualifications: four times in a two-week period or eight times in a four-week period.  These two and four week periods roll continuously so any pair of weeks or four continuous weeks will qualify, but the week is still Monday to Sunday.

From Monday of the following week the system starts working out who is due a refund and these are processed on Thursday.  If the refund is for an Oyster card it will be sent to the most used station ready to pick up on Friday. If contactless is used then the refund is sent to the payment card on Thursday evening.  The first week that this operates was the week beginning Monday 30th March, thus the first refunds should be available to pick up today, 10th April.

If you are due a refund for travel prior to March 30th then these will be processed as a separate job and should be made available later this month.

The notional off-peak caps are:

Type of Card Zones 1-4 Zones 1-6
Normal Adult Rate £8.00 £8.80
Railcard Discount £5.30 £5.90
16+ and Job Centre £4.00 £4.40

The off-peak caps for children have not changed (still £1.50 across the board) so no refunds will be due to 5-10 and 11-15 zip card holders.

42 thoughts on “Off-Peak Cap Refunds Due Today”

  1. Hi,

    I have recently moved to Horley and work in Clapham Junction. What would be the cheapest way to travel rail wise. I have an Oyster and was wondering can I incorporate with a railcard?

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Assuming travel at peak times you won’t beat a rail season between Horley and Clapham Junction. The only railcard which would make a difference is the disabled one.

  2. Thanks Mike. Most of the time will be off peak so is a season ticket still the best option. Also, is it more cost effective to purchase tickets a week in advance and is there anyway to do at once instead of each journey.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Off-peak changes everything. You can purchase tickets upto 3 months in advance easily, but for normal off-peak returns you won’t save any money doing so. You will also suffer a £10 admin fee per ticket if you later refund them because you don’t need to travel for some reason. To save time I’d probably buy a weeks worth online in one go and collect from a ticket machine.

  3. TFL are being a little premature in sending out ‘notification of refund’ emails-I’ve received an email today saying a refund has been credited (note past tense), but as per your article it’s not yet in my account and I don’t expect to see it until tomorrow evening.

    • Hi Phil,

      You’re lucky. I’m due a hefty refund this week for travel last Mon-Sun and haven’t received anything yet. Just off to check my spam folder just in case!

  4. Same here Phil –

    “In January 2015, we changed our daily pay as you go caps to reflect modern-day travel patterns. As a result, a small number of customers have paid more than they would have done previously.

    As our records indicate that you have been affected by this, we have reimbursed you for some of your travel costs. This was recently credited to your Oyster card when you touched on a yellow card reader at your most frequently used station or tram stop, as part of a journey.”

    Errrm, nope!

    I’ve previously had 2 emails saying I had a refund to be collected, which I successfully picked up, and have just had a third email saying there’s another one to be picked up. But the recent email I’ve quoted above seems to refer to refunds due between January and March 30th, a period I reckon I’m due about 40 quid back for, and nothing else has been credited since Wednesday when I last used my card…

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for that. I’m still waiting for any email regarding last weeks travel. I wonder whether they send emails to CPC users or just refund the money. I’ll give it until I can see my credit card statement online next week then chase it up.

  5. They’re not exactly fast at processing refunds, and the emails don’t tell you what period the refunds are for. I downloaded all my journey history from January onwards as soon as I heard about the refund process so I could check things off. I reckon the refunds I’ve had so far were for the 3 weeks’ travel since 30th March so I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for anything from last week!

    • Can you tell me when you received refunds and what period you think they might cover. Since March 30th it’s supposed to have been an automatic process every week. Prior to that was always going to take longer, though I had hoped they’d have sorted it out by now.

  6. I come in from Zone 6 to central London so should be due a refund of £2.90 if I travel after 09:30 (£11.70 – £8.80).

    On Fri 24 April I got an email saying that due to an ‘operational issue’ I was due a payment of £11.60 which I collected on Mon 27 April. By my reckoning that was for 3 refunds of £2.90 in the week Mon 30 Mar to Sun 5 Apr and another £2.90 in the week Mon 6 to Sun 12 Apr.

    On Fri 1 May another email told me I had a refund of £8.70 ready to collect which would have been for 3 trips in the period Mon 13 to Sun 19 Apr.

    After that I should be due 3 refunds in the week Mon 20 to Sun 26 Apr and another 3 for Mon 27 Apr to Sun 3 May but have heard nothing about those periods.

    Finally, last Friday I got an email saying I had a £2.90 refund to pick up which I’d guess corresponds to the 1 time I used my card in the week Mon 4 to Sun 10 May – but only using it once shouldn’t trigger a refund unless it’s part of 4 journeys in 2 weeks etc so what’s happened to my refunds for the previous 2 weeks…?

    And more to the point, from Mon 5 Jan to Sun 29 Mar I reckon I should be owed £40-£42 quid but there’s no sign of that!

    • Hi John,

      This does seem to be going wrong somewhere. I’ll be chasing up my own refund tomorrow (unless by some fluke it appears on my credit card account tonight). I’ll also be trying to get an understanding of what is actually happenning overall. Watch this space!

  7. It’d also be interesting to know what the policy is on the lifetime of refunds, i.e. are they only available for collection within 7 days like refunds that you claim for if, for example, you forget to swipe out?

    Just thinking that I’m off this Friday and all of next week so won’t be around to claim any if they email me on Friday.

    And people go away for 2 weeks or more in the summer…

    • Hi John,

      Contactless refunds obviously go straight to the bank/card account. With Oyster the refunds expire after 7-8 days, but if you have an online account you can re-request them to a station of your choice at a time of your choice. If you’re one of those paranoid people who insist on travelling anonymously then you may well lose out, but I don’t know.

  8. To answer one of your questions Mike, I received a refund to my CPC several weeks ago but can’t remember if I received an email or not. If I get time I’ll go through my bank statement and try to match the date of said refund to anything in my old emails folder.

    I exceeded the cap on Tuesday May 5th and then again on Saturday May 9th, so I’m assuming that’s the refund mentioned in the email I referred to in my earlier post and which I expected to receive last week-of course one week on I still haven’t received any repayment!

  9. Edit to above-checked my journey history and received a refund of £6.90 back in February but can’t find any record of a ‘notification of refund’ email being received around the same time. If the email I received on May 13th relates to this February payment then they really are being slow!

    Whilst on the subject of emails, TFL have oviously picked up on the fact that I’m using contactless instead of my Oyster as I also received an email a couple of weeks ago reminding me that ‘if you have an Oyster Card you no longer need you can get a refund for it’.

    • Hi Phil,

      TfL weren’t processing these refunds in February – in fact the decision to cater for them was only taken towards the end of that month.

      Strangely, the refund I was waiting for is also for that week. I still haven’t received any email, but my credit card has had a refund dated May 10th applied in the last couple of days. It caused quite a bit of confusion when trying to reconcile the account until I realised that the amount I was out by was the £11.60 I was expecting from TfL. On my credit card it was described as “TfL Goodwill” and the refund now also appears on my contactless payment history on the TfL site. I’ll have to say that I’m not overly impressed with this service. I think my actual statement will tell me the date it was processed, but I’d definitely prefer to get an email from TfL confirming what was happening.

      Oh, I also received the email about handing back old Oyster cards. Trouble is I’ve already cashed in all but one Oyster which I’m keeping for emergency use. It happens to only have a £3 deposit on it too, which is handy.

  10. Well a refund of £3.90 showed up in my bank account on yesterday. Expecting more to follow as I made three trips into and around Central London this week. However this has brought up another discrepancy-following your kind explanation of why I was capped at £10.60 some days and £10.90 others, on at least one of these days I expected to be charged £10.60 but was charged £10.90. I will check through the journey details when I get some time as it may be my mistake-or I may end up messaging you again! Anyway, kind regards.

    • Hi Phil,

      Good to hear you’ve had your refund. Can you confirm what week it relates to, and did the date of the refund appear to be back-dated to the week in question?

  11. It says “Part time workers refund 28 May 2015. Refund given on 24/05/2015”. Prior to this date the last time I exceeded the cap twice in one week was May 5th and 9th, as per my previous post, so I’m assuming it’s that one. I’ve gone through my journey history and I didn’t exceed the cap twice in one week in March or April. Bizarrely, however, the £6.90 refund I received back in February is listed as “Part time workers refund 10th April. Refund given on 13/02/2015”!! Looking at January shows I exceeded the cap on the 10th, 15th and 17th.

    • Hi Phil,

      So the February transaction was processed in April? That makes some sense. There’s an FOI request asking about these refunds which I’m keeping an eye on.

  12. Hello Mike,

    Could you please clarify precisely which Zones apply for the automatic refund? As you quote notional caps for Zones 1-4 and Zones 1-6, I took it that travel from Zone 4 into Zone 1 twice a week would qualify. However, on writing to TfL to ask why I had not received the automatic refund to my Oyster card, I received the following reply:

    “Looking at your journey history your journeys are mostly made within zones 1-4. To be eligible for the automated refunds, your journeys need to be made in zone 4-6.”

    • Hi Nicholas,

      Zones 1-4 will work, but the travel has to be after 0930 and exceed the notional cap. Can you copy your journey history and I’ll see if I can see what the problem is.

  13. Hi Mike –

    I was away last week and had two emails saying I had refunds to collect but when I went in on Monday only one of them was collected. The other one shows up on my ‘My Refunds’ page as ‘Ready At Gate’ but I guess as it’s more than 7 days old it can’t be picked up.

    So I called TfL to ask for it to be made available again and was eventually told that I would be able to request it myself via the ‘My Refunds’ page on or after June 9th when, apparently, a button to do this will appear next to it. We shall see…

    I then made the mistake of asking what was happening with the backdated refunds for the January-March period and when they were likely to be paid. To cut short a long story of being passed between departments and listening to lots of lovely call-centre muzak I ended up being told that refunds should have been paid by the end of May and was I sure I hadn’t been refunded? I’m now waiting for a call back from someone whose manager is investigating what’s going on. Needless to say I’m not holding my breath!

    Having thus lost the will to live I’ve also sent in an email asking whether it’s possible to find out exactly what periods or journeys individual refunds apply to, and whether this info could be included in the refund emails.

  14. Hi Mike –

    To cut a long story short, I was never refunded for the journeys that I made between Jan 2 and Mar 29 that qualified for the off-peak cap when traveling in from Zone 6 to Zone 1 so I chased TfL up about it.

    I emailed the Oyster Helpline to say that I thought I was due some backdated refunds. After several exchanges of emails they asked me for my journey history (they said they didn’t keep your history for more than 3 months). Fortunately I’d kept copies of mine so was able to send them the details.

    Finally, in mid-August I got an email saying that they’d be refunding me £59.50 so persistence paid off and I got my money back.

    It does make me wonder how many people never received refunds backdated to cover the Jan-Mar period unless they bothered to ask…



    • Hi John,

      That’s terrible. Have you tried contacting the Evening Standard or BBC London?

  15. Hi Mike –

    No I haven’t. That’s a good idea, think I’ll get in touch with the Standard.

  16. I have a question about capping now that the different zonal caps are so far apart in price:

    Let’s say it’s the weekend (everything off-peak) and I am travelling around zones 1 and 2, and I reach the cap of £6.40. Then I decided to travel from a station in Zone 1 (e.g. Goodge Street) to a station in Zone 5 (e.g. High Barnet).

    From looking at the fares table it would seem that if I had time, it would actually be cheaper to travel from Goodge Street to an intermediate station in Zone 2 (e.g. Kentish Town), touch out, touch back in again after a couple of minutes, then travel from Kentish Town to High Barnet.

    Goodge Street to Kentish Town = no charge (zone 1-2 cap already reached); Kentish Town to High Barnet = £1.50; total spend = £6.40 + £1.50 = £7.90.

    This would be as opposed to travelling direct from Goodge Street to High Barnet = £3.10; total spend = £6.40 + £3.10 =£9.50.

    So I would actually save £1.60 by breaking my journey (some money can be saved by doing this when the journeys made in zones 1-2 beforehand add up to between £4.80 and £6.40).

    (If I then travelled back from High Barnet to Goodge Street, another break of journey at Kentish Town there can be saving of up to £1.50, i.e. £6.40 + £1.50 x 2 as opposed to Zone 1-5 £10.90 price cap; some money can be saved when the journeys made in zones 1-2 beforehand add up to between £3.20 and £6.40.)

    I know this is a rather unusual journey pattern but isn’t it a bit unfair for TfL to penalise me for travelling direct to my destination rather than breaking my journey?

    Or is this possibility somehow taken into account and only the section of the direct journey that is in zones 2-5 is charged in these circumstances, to avoid the discrepancy, and similarly for similar journey patters with other zonal combinations?

    • Hi Joshua,

      What you describe is a known limitation of the Oyster system because the technology is over ten years old. If you use a contactless payment card instead the capping will work out properly (ie zones 1-2 cap and zone 3-5 extension journeys) without having to split the journey. Oyster will eventually catch up when it moves to the same back-office processing as contactless, but that isn’t ready yet.

  17. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your reply. As per your reply, the last paragraph of my post should have read: ‘Or is this possibility somehow taken into account and the zones 1-2 price cap reached, and then only the section of the direct journey that is in zones 3-5 is charged as an extension journey in these circumstances?’

    It sounds like people are better off using contactless then if they do these type of journeys. I wonder if there would be more of a controversy if people knew about these types of discrepancies? Does contactless allow for if you haven’t yet reached the zone 1-2 cap by your journeys so far, but you would save money by reaching it and then paying for the zones 3-5 extension journey (i.e. you’ve paid more than £4.80 travelling around zones 1-2)?

    The other big discrepancy between Oyster and contactless if of course the automatic Monday-Sunday capping on the latter but not the former. Do you know if TfL plan to extend this to Oyster, or are they secretly wanting to phase out Oyster altogether except for monthly and annual travelcards and for young people? It is starting to look a bit like the poor relation to contactless.

    I feel that really they should keep (and update) Oyster (not everyone will want to use contactless) but do away with non-paper weekly travelcards and just allow both Oyster and contactless users to nominate a start day for their weekly cap and then pay as they go (if no day is nominated then Monday-Sunday would be the default). Then only people purchasing monthly or annual travelcards would have to worry about buying in advance.

    I’ve never used contactless on the tube – do you see two transactions on your account (one for touch-in/maximum fare charge and one for the touch-out refund) or is it just processed as one transaction?

    As for the whole issue of giving people refunds when regularly travelling from zones 4-6 multiple times a day, is this a way of TfL saying they got it wrong when making the bold decision to remove off-peak caps, or at least put the burden very much on those travelling to/from outer London when they devised the pricing structures?

    And what about those who travel multiple times between zones 2 and 6 for example?- I know they are less likely to be affected as the single fare is lower, but would it really be too difficult for TfL to bring back the zones 2-6 cap?

    • Hi Joshua,

      Firstly, Oyster is not being phased out. I have been assured this by TfL’s director of customer experience, Shashi Verma. Furthermore, work is underway to convert Oyster to the same back-office charging model as contactless. Whether flexible weeks will be part of this next phase I don’t know, but there are other options being considered, including allowing monthly travelcards to be stored against a contactless card number. This won’t be monthly capping, but you wouldn’t be charged for using the zones purchased.

      With contactless you get one charge per day. You can see the itemised journeys if you register the card with TfL online. Because they calculate the whole days (or weeks) travel behind the scenes there is no need to charge maximum fares when a journey starts and then refund it when it finishes.

      Yes, the off-peak cap refunds is acknowledging that they made a mistake. The whole point of the changes was to benefit part-time workers, but they initially failed to take account of some of the travel patterns of those people.

      As for the zones 2-6 cap, that is a decision for the Mayor. TfL could reintroduce it tomorrow if it was required, but they don’t actually make the fare decisions.

  18. Thanks Mike – most informative. You don’t happen to know the timescale for converting Oyster to the same model as contactless do you?

    Because when I think about it, the type of journey I was describing, if you did it in reverse (e.g. High Barnet to Goodge Street at the beginning of the day and back to High Barnet from Goodge Street at the end of the day), that kind of journey pattern isn’t so unusual at all: all it would take in that instance for the Oyster fare to be more than the contactless one is one extra zones 1/2 journey in between and one bus journey in any zone. This wasn’t such a big deal when the zonal caps (the off-peak ones anyway) were close together, because there would probably only ever have been a 10p difference or so. But when you’re dealing with differences like £1.60, it starts to affect people more.

    I imagine contactless wouldn’t have a problem with limiting the zones 1/2/bus journeys to a maximum of £4.80, and the whole lot to a £9.40 cap (zones 1/2 cap and two zones 3-5 extension single fares)?

    Can contactless do even more clever calculations? For example, say I was travelling every day from Monday-Sunday mostly in zones 1 and 2, but one of the days I went outside these zones and reached a zones 1-5 daily cap. Then because I was travelling seven days straight, it ended up that the cheapest way of doing it would have been to get a zones 1-2 weekly travelcard and pay for the journeys outside these with uncapped extension fares. Can contactless work out what this total should be, even though journeys on the day when I went out to zone 5 have already been capped at the daily capping rate?

    I imagine contactless still includes maximum fares in the daily/weekly total if you neglect to touch in/touch out for a particular journey though?

    What I wrote about nominating a day to start the weekly cap would make sense, but maybe it would be too difficult and they might decide that if you want to start the cap from a different day than Monday, you have to buy a weekly travelcard in advance. Actually people would still need the option to buy weekly travelcards in advance anyway, in case for example they went out of the Oyster/contactless area altogether on one of the days and needed to have the travelcard scanned in order to buy boundary zone tickets.

    • Hi Joshua,

      Contactless continually recalculates all your journeys for the day and the Monday to Sunday week to get the cheapest combination of caps and extension fares. So yes, if you exceed your normal zones one day and get a different daily cap, it will recalculate it later in the week if it’s beneficial to do so.

      Back office Oyster? Hmmm. It was supposed to be working now. They aren’t currently specifying a deadline. It pretty much has to be live before Crossrail starts running trains to Reading because the card based processing model can’t cope with the number of zones that would be required. That’s the best I can say at the moment.

  19. Hi Mike,

    I was wondering if you know if refunds are not applicable for journeys that start off with a bus ride? I live in Zone 5 and I usually walk to the tube station but I took the bus on a few occasion. I have received an email for a refund due to an operational error. However, in that particular week (Mon to Sun), I exceeded £8.80 3 times, but I’ve only received refunds for 2 days. Then in the first week of Nov I exceeded the cap again, but one of my rides started off as a bus ride. I’m puzzled why I haven’t received any refund yet.

    • Hi Jen,

      A bus journey shouldn’t make any difference. I’d contact the helpdesk and ask them why you haven’t received refunds for some of the days.

  20. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your reply. Is there there a particular email I can use? The tfl website seems to suggest that I can only call instead.

    • Hi Jen,

      I haven’t used email for a while, but used to work. They can be very slow though. As the helpdesk number is now an 03 one which is included in free minutes and call bundles I would recommend calling them.

  21. Does anyone know if the Off-peak Cap Refund system has been withdrawn?

    It’s never worked properly automatically and I’ve been forced to keep my journey histories and reclaim for missing refunds since it started. However, I put in my latest claim in September and it still hasn’t been resolved. After contacting Customer Services for the third time I received a reply saying

    “Kindly be advised that we are still investigating this issue as the information on the website doesn’t give to many details about the actual refund process.”

    The scheme used to be described on a web page at this address

    but that link no longer works (it DID in September!) and I can’t seem to find any mention of the scheme anywhere on the TfL/Oyster web site any more.

    The buggers owe me over £70 quid for the period from Jan to August 2018!

  22. Update: no-one at TfL seems to know anything about the Off-peak Cap Refund system. Am I the only person who checked that I was being refunded or not…?

    The latest uninformative reply from TfL says that they’d checked my journey history and I was indeed having my fares capped at £12.50 (last year) and went on to explain how fare-capping worked, completely missing the whole point of Off-peak Cap Refunds.

    I’m still waiting for the next reply.

    I also sent in a separate question asking whether the scheme was still operating and, if not, when it was withdrawn and where this was announced. That was on Dec 13th and I’ve still had no reply to that.

    Is there a way to escalate these queries?

  23. Does indeed appear that they’re going to stop the Off-Peak Cap Refund scheme. So there’s no incentive to avoid peak hours. Brilliant.

    Also looks like they’re doing their best to phase it out with no announcement.

    “Transport for London

    Ref: 12890442

    18 January

    Dear John,

    Thank you for your patience while we were finding the answer to your query.

    I have been advised that TfL have stopped processing the Off Peak refunds at the moment. The zone 4-6 caps used for the refund calculations have been rising with each fares revision, so fewer customer’s have been eligible for a refund.

    As the final decision about whether this is a permanent change or not has not yet been made, there has been no public announcement.”

Comments are closed.