Here’s an article with two incredible tips that will make life of commuting Londoners much easier. If you don’t live in London or don’t use public transport regularly, please stop reading. You want to keep that glamorous idea you have of the capital of the UK and I don’t want to be the one spoiling it. Now, if you are a sufferer like me, continue reading to make the most of your Oyster card and learn if you can save some money.
Oyster cards are a must-have item to move around town. Since last year London buses won’t take your cash and although you can use a contactless bank card to pay for your journey, Oysters are still the most accessible and frequent method to touch in and out.
There are two payment modes for your Oyster. The first one is a ‘pay as you go’ mode where you pay separately for each individual journey and your balance is deducted gradually as you use it. The ‘pay as you go’ mode gives you the peace of mind that you will always pay a cheaper fare than a paper ticket. If you happen to travel a lot one day, you won’t pay more than the equivalent Day Travelcard. If you only take a bus, you only pay for that journey and if you don’t use it at all, you pay nothing. You can compare the pay as you go fares with some examples of single journey fare on Transport for London website.
If you travel from point A to point B every day of the week — to work or to study, for example — you can also add a Travelcard to your Oyster. These cover different zones, transport methods and can be purchased for a day, week, month or annual. Having a fixed cost, travelcards also represent huge savings compared to the maximum day fare.
Depending on your travel needs, you don’t necessarily just go for one option or the other: you combine both. In this article we will cover how to make sure your Oyster has enough balance and use an app to track all your journeys, which will help you to assess how your money is spent and decide on the best payment mode for you. Two coworkers helped me with this research and we all ended up with savings. Now I’m paying £44 less every month.
Setting up an Oyster auto top-up
Whether you decide to use your Oyster on pay as you go exclusively or a travelcard with some pay as you go balance, auto top-up will help you to avoid queues at top-up machines, counters or the odd last minute visit to the corner shop. The auto top-up feature allows you to link a bank card to your Oyster so it adds funds automatically every time your credit is below £10.
This option is ideal to ensure you are always covered and you never get a red light touching in, indicating that you have run out of balance or that the trip you are attempting is not covered by your travelcard zones. I told you we were going to save money but at this stage we are saving precious time. You don’t want to be that person ever again stuck at the Tube barriers getting the error beep without a clue of why this is happening.
Fortunately, ensuring your Oyster always has credit is very easy. You will need to create an account on Transport for London's website and register your Oyster card. The process is quick and you only need the long code on the back of your Oyster card and an email address. Once you sign in, just select the appropriate card number (if you have more than one) and click on the third option called ‘Manage Auto top-up’. At the time of this writing you can only recharge automatically £20 or £40, plus an additional £10 top up when you activate the service. You will be asked to select a Tube or train station to confirm your selection and you are ready to go.
Managing your journeys
The main reason why you may be overpaying is because you buy a travelcard that covers more London zones than what you need or because you travel so often that a travelcard is cheaper than using the pay as you go mode. Of course, you don’t know this yet and you think you are doing the right thing because you’ve been doing this for years. Let’s put that system to the test.
In the next post on these series we will learn where to find your recent journey details, find out how much you are overpaying and discover an app to track all this information on your iPhone.