Refunds of £5 Oyster Card Fee

It’s nearly a year since TfL changed the £5 deposit for an adult Oyster card to a £5 fee, refundable after a year. They’ve now provided some details as to how this will work. First here’s the general text:

  • From 23 February 2021, customers who purchased a new Oyster card in the past year will begin to receive a refund of the £5 they paid to get the card.
  • The £5 paid for the card will be returned automatically in the form of pay as you go credit, added to their card one year after the date of purchase. Customers simply have to use the card to receive the automatic refund, meaning they receive the refund while they are using their card, rather than waiting and applying for a refund when they no longer need it.
  • The refund will be available to collect for six months after the first anniversary of purchasing the card. Any customers who have not collected their refund by that point, or feel they have not received their refund after six months, can contact TfL’s Customer Services who will be able to investigate and process as required.
  • Customers without an Oyster card who expect to only travel for a short period are encouraged to use pay as you go with contactless cards or mobile payment instead.
  • Any customers who bought their Oyster card before 23 February 2020 will still be able to get any deposit and pay as you go credit fully refunded whenever they no longer need their card.

I also asked for some more detail about how it will actually work:

  • On the anniversary of purchase the card number will be added to a list of cards eligible to receive the refund.
  • When a card on the list touches in at the start of a journey the central system will queue the £5 refund to the faster universal load (FUL) facility and transfer the card number to a second list of those actually queued for a refund.
  • When the card is next touched in or out between half an hour later and 4 days later the refund will be added to the card and the number will be removed from the second list.
  • If no other touches are made during that 4 day period then the FUL will fail and the card number will be added back to the first list to await further activity.
  • If the refund hasn’t successfully been picked up after 6 months then the card will be removed from the eligible list.  The customer will still be able to contact customer services, so the refund will not be lost.

This seems to cater for most eventualities without clogging up the FUL facility unnecessarily.  The only people who might struggle are those who only use their card occasionally for a single bus journey.  Finally, here are a few potential questions:

I haven’t used the card since March because of the pandemic, am I still eligible?  Yes you are.  It doesn’t matter how frequently the card has been used, just that it is still available to be used.  Hopefully we’ll be back to fewer restrictions by August when the first cards will fall off the automatic list.

I’ve lost the card but I know the number, can I still get the refund?  Sadly not.  The refund is only available as a credit to the PAYG balance and must go on the actual card.  No refunds will be made by any other method.

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