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Always a little confused on Travel Card vs. Oyster Card

Have read recent posts in a different thread on the Travel Card and Oyster Card and I was in London in June and did use an Oyster Card successfully; still, I am not clear about the best card for the best scenario of travel. In June I went with the OC and it worked fine for 1-1/2 days in London and then I used the same card for another single day, two weeks later. But I did "stew" in advance on which to buy: two TCs or one OC. In November I am going back to London for a week. Except for maybe going to Windsor, which, without checking I assume to be a train trip not a tube trip, I do expect to be in zones 1 and 2, other than I want to go to Greenwich and maybe I will go to the tube stop there that's actually in the next zone. I was going to buy a Travel Card -- does it have zones too? I haven't gone to the transport website yet and I am sure there will be good info there, but if you were going to be in London for seven days with the itinerary I just mentioned would you get the T Card or the O Card? Also, in another thread a couple of people advised to "put a Travel Card on an Oyster Card." What does this mean? Thanks, Ann.

Posted by
1063 posts

" I was going to buy a Travel Card -- does it have zones too?"
" Also, in another thread a couple of people advised to "put a Travel Card on an Oyster Card." What does this mean? "
The Oyster card is an "electronic wallet" smartcard, you can "load" travelcards (electronically) onto it.

Are you traveling on your own, if not that will affect the answers given.

Posted by
27735 posts


You said that this will be your third trip to London, yet

I haven't gone to the transport website yet

It would be well worth your while. Then if there is anything that they don't explain we have plenty of folk here who have first hand experience.

Go to and look around. They are very good at writing in simple English and explain things well. They also have a very good Journey Planner.

Yes, it is a train (2 choices) to Windsor.

How many in your group? Generally speaking, unless you are in a group larger than one, an Oyster Card - especially since you already have one - is the best choice. If you will use transport for 4 days or more in your week (what do you mean by "week"? 7 days, 5 days, other?) putting a 7 day Season ticket for zones 1 and 2 with some pay as you go money onto your Oyster card may be the best answer. Have a look at the link above.

Posted by
594 posts

Transport for London have recently introduced the option of using a contactless payment card instead of an Oyster card. This is cheaper for TFL, since they do not have to issue cards and there is less chance of the card used being invalid. Cards don't have to be "topped up", or cope with varying entitlements.

Their most recent e-mail on the subject contains the following:

Daily and Monday to Sunday fare capping automatically works out the best value for contactless travel based on when and how you use it. You will need to use the same contactless payment card for all your journeys.

This would appear to mean that the system will automatically cap your costs on a daily or weekly basis. I cannot find anything on the TFL website about the same weekly capping being available on Oyster. If it was available, it would make it unnecessary to add a travelcard to your Oyster.

I only use my Oyster card infrequently. Can anyone with more experience provide better information?

Posted by
27735 posts


Last week I gathered up all my spare Oysters from around the house and when I had an hour between trains I braved the queues at Euston Underground station to cash them all in. I wound up with a very nice little pile of cash, thank you very much Mr Oyster, and more yet to appear on credit cards. A bit of a faff but worth it.

That is on the back of having switched to using my contactless equipped AMEX which I test drove a couple of days first. It works like a dream, and if you register the online statements are a doddle. Even if you don't register you can see the last 7 days.

So now instead of Mr Oyster holding my money I truly pay as you go, and with my AMEX card I even get 2 percent back on transport.

I don't think that's the best idea for tourists, though, because although the card from New York or Paris will probably work just fine, all the little purchases may incur fees from the issuing bank as well as foreign transaction fees.

Each tourist would have to work out what is best for him/her self.

Posted by
8889 posts

Both daily and weekly capping applies to the Oyster Card.
AFAIK use of other contactless card in place of an Oyster Card only applies to UK-issued cards (I think I saw it somewhere on the TFL site).

Posted by
4689 posts

Weekly capping only on contactless cards, will come to Oyster at a later date.

Non UK cards may work - the claim is all Amex ones do. The main issue is with Mastercard.

The card charges are added up in the back office and sent daily as a single transaction. Only cards with a fixed transaction fee would be expensive.

Posted by
27735 posts

For Chris F,

from the TfL website

Cards issued outside the UK
Most contactless payment cards issued outside the UK can be used to buy tickets or top up an Oyster card at touchscreen ticket machines at Tube, DLR and London Overground stations, at ticket offices, and Travel Information Centres, even if they can't be used for contactless travel.

The table below shows which cards issued outside the UK are accepted for contactless travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

American Express logo

American Express (AMEX)
All American Express contactless payment cards.

Mastercard logo
Maestro logo
Nearly all MasterCard and Maestro contactless payment cards issued outside the UK are accepted.
The majority of cards that aren't accepted are issued in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands. There are also a few other cards that may not be accepted.If your card is rejected on our services, please contact your card issuer.

Vpay logo

Some Visa and V PAY contactless payment cards from countries other than the UK are not accepted for contactless travel on our services. Visa expects all its contactless payment cards to be accepted in the near future.

If you travel in London regularly, we suggest you contact your issuer and ask for a new contactless payment card (newer cards have the latest technology and should be accepted).

Contactless payment cards issued on other platforms, such as Diners Club, JCB or Union Pay are not accepted.

Last updated: 16 September 2014

Posted by
115 posts

Thanks to all for weighing in. To address questions you posed:
1. Traveling alone. Seven full days in London, flying home on the eighth day.
2. Depending how you count, I think of this upcoming trip as my second trip to London, not third. I bookended a two week tour of England/Wales with days in London and that's when I used the one Oyster Card.
3. I turned that card in after arriving at Heathrow, coming home last June. Don't own it anymore.
4. I spent tons of time last May at the TFL site, planning my London local travel, just have gotten around to visiting it for THIS November trip. It's a fabulous resource and on this trip I can access it when I am in London with my newly purchased iPad.
5. Sorry, I didn't understand the commentaries on the contactless payment cards. I expect to pay for my OC or TC with bills/cash at Heathrow, then, if it's the OC I will "top up" as I go around London. I have been told not to use my American chip-less MasterCard in any self-serve readers. I only use it when I can give it to a clerk. Also, don't have nor do I want an AMEX card, chipped or not.
6. I may be wrong, but I thought the TC was for a time frame of travel, and the OC was a value that could be used over any time frame. Yes? No?
Thanks again! Ann.

Posted by
3428 posts

I'll try to simplify.
a Travel Card is discount package. Like a case for a cheaper price than a single item. It can be a paper card (like those sold by National Rail) or "loaded" on an Oyster Card.

The Oyster Card is a form of payment. It can hold 'cash' for pay-as-you-go fares. It can hold a travel card. It can hold both. Thus you can get a travel card and some pay-as-you-go (paygo) cash on the same Oyster. This is helpful if you plan to mostly stay in zones 1 &2, but want/need to make a single or a few trips past those zones. The paygo cash can be topped up as needed. You do pay a deposit on the Oyster card, but it is refunded, along with any unused paygo cash, when you turn it in.

Posted by
932 posts

Is the bottom line that, if you don't have an accepted credit card, (which I don't), you still get an Oyster Card like before? (Despite whether you get a 7 day travelcard or not?)

Posted by
115 posts

I'm the original poster back again with another question. I just spent a lot of time at the TFL website. So, fuel to the fire: I see something called a Visitor Oyster Card, but I can't determine what the difference is between it and an Oyster Card. Looked and looked for a comparison of some kind and didn't find it. I don't remember there being a Visitor Oyster Card option last spring when I traveled to London before. Can anyone help? I see you have to buy a Visitor Oyster Card in advance but what is the advantage over the plain OC? Thanks. Ann.

Posted by
1353 posts

I think the main difference is you can buy the visitor card in advance so have in hand when you step off plane / train. Also they cost 3 pounds a peice which is non refundable. You can get a refund of funds left on card, but keep the actual card.

Posted by
4689 posts

The visitor card doesn't have a refundable deposit of £5, but a lesser non refundable fee of £3.

Posted by
35 posts

We have just returned from London and tried to use our contactless payment card to access the underground. Before leaving home we had activated this form of payment at our bank, TDCanadaTrust so that we could use our VISA card issued by them. Didn't work so we ended up buying an Oystercard instead. From my point of view using the Oyster Card is simple and easy to use. We will be returning to London for Christmas (our daughter now lives there) so definitely will look into the option of putting a travel card onto the Oyster card, once I read more about it.

Posted by
4694 posts

Back to the OP ...

When I go to London for a week solo, I load a zone 1-2 travelcard along with about 10 GBP of pay-as-you-go-money (PAYG) on Oyster. The PAYG covers trips beyond zone 2.

Just get a regular Oyster. You can pay for it in cash.