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Clarification on using contactless card for London Underground

On my last trip to London 4 years ago, I got an OysterCard and used it well. I returned it at the end of the trip and got my refundable money back. Now on this tripin June, we will only be in London overnight. I'm looking through my wallet and it looks like my Costco Citi Visa is contactless. As a bonus, there is also no foreign transaction fee for this card anymore. And as a travel expense, the underground costs should get me 3% back in rewards. I want to confirm, though, that using this card will work? Has anyone else used it? Do I need to set-up an account with London Underground and register the card first?

Posted by
1175 posts

My friend and I both tried using our Costco Visa CC last May. Neither worked. Display on the gate showed something along the lines of “Please see agent”. We both had Oyster cards from a prior trip so we just used them. On a different day as a experiment I tried an Amex card. That worked fine.

Hope it works for you.

Posted by
40 posts

After looking at different posts all over the internet, I've set up google pay as a backup. And as a last resort, I guess we go buy an Oyster Card again.

Posted by
4528 posts

Amex from anywhere will work. MasterCard and Visa may work but they don't all, which is down to the issuer.

Posted by
8889 posts

If you have multiple cards, make sure you always use the same one. The daily cap (maximum charge per day) only applies if you use the same card, otherwise the system thinks you are two different people.

If you ARE two people who want to travel at the same time, you need two cards.

Posted by
5 posts

This is very interesting. Let me make sure I understand what is being discussed:
If I have a contactless Amex or Visa card, can I simply use it for trips on the Underground and the charges will be automatically billed to my credit card? Do you need to set up any special payment accounts like Apple Pay or Google Pay first? Do you just hold it over the sensor and proceed?

Posted by
1128 posts

Yes. I’ve used my contactless Capitol One Visa on the underground. You just tap in and out like you’re using an Oyster card. Nothing needs to be set up in advance, it’s just like using contactless to pay for a coffee.

Posted by
8889 posts

And your card is charged once per day, no matter how many journeys you make. They make a daily total (allowing for price caps) and charge that. So if you have a foreign use charge, you only get hit once per day.

Full info here:https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/how-to-pay-and-where-to-buy-tickets-and-oyster/pay-as-you-go/contactless-and-mobile-pay-as-you-go
Note it says:

Many contactless cards issued outside the UK can be used to pay as you go for travel (overseas transaction fees may apply):
- American Express (AMEX)
- MasterCard and Maestro (some cards issued in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands aren't accepted)
- Visa and V PAY (some cards issued outside the UK aren't accepted)

Posted by
40 posts

So far I only have 1 contactless card (Costco citi visa). I'm getting a new debit card from capital one. Maybe that will be contactless. I have samsung pay, which might work. And I also set up google pay as other options. Super cool what the London Metro system has done. Thanks for all the tips. Has anyone requested contactless cards from your credit card companies?

Posted by
4528 posts

There was a recent CBNC short report on how slowly contactless cards are being introduced in the USA, where it is currently under 5% of cards issued, compared with 50+% in the portrayed cash-based society of Germany and 60%+ in Canada and the UK (South Korea is the top with close to 100%). The main reason stated was the highly fragmented American banking system and its difficulty to move in step.

I'm going to procure a contactless card for sure before travelling to
London. Thanks.

Good idea. You’ll find most cafes, shops etc pretty much expect you to use contactless. In London, at least in the places I go to, using cash is almost worthy of comment.

Posted by
3533 posts

As I read the official link, what's in question is a "bank" card which is what North Americans call ATM/debit cards. Am I right in guessing that it does not include credit cards?

QUOTE:

Contactless cards
If your bank card issued on Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or American Express shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay as you go straight away. You'll pay an adult rate fare.

Many contactless cards issued outside the UK can be used to pay as you go for travel (overseas transaction fees may apply):

American Express (AMEX)
MasterCard and Maestro (some cards issued in the USA, Canada and the Netherlands aren't accepted)
Visa and V PAY (some cards issued outside the UK aren't accepted)
If you have a prepaid card, it may be accepted on our transport services. Check with your card issuer if you're not sure if your card is contactless or if it's rejected.

Posted by
40 posts

Credit cards can also be contactless. I hear that the Costco citi card, though contactless, doesn't work on the London Underground. Luckily, I have other options. I called Capital One yesterday to request a replacement credit card that would be contactless and they are going to send me one. That should work, I'm hoping.

Posted by
4528 posts

'Bank card' is being used as shorthand for credit or debit card. Since in the UK the latter are all Visa or Mastercard-based there is little need to distinguish between them as there are no debit-only networks. ATM-only cards ('cash cards') as such have been almost non-existent in the UK for decades.

Posted by
8889 posts

Agree with Marco. "Bank Card" = Credit Card or Debit Card
Both can be contactless and used in lieue of an Oyster Card.

Correct me if I'm wrong, I think there are some cash machine (ATM) only cards issued to under 18's. Under 18's are not allowed to get into debt (it is not legally recoverable) so are not issued with credit or debit cards, which can cause you to get overdrawn.

Posted by
1682 posts

I called Capital One and now have a contactless card on the way.

It took about 20 minutes on the phone due to the lady having difficulty speaking English, and/or me understanding her. I was placed on hold three times.

One source of confusion is terminology, as the person at Capital One used the term pay-go, so it took awhile for her to figure out what contactless meant.

Anyway, this will simplify my travels in England. (Yes, there should be some sort of contactless symbol on the card.)

Posted by
1682 posts

Tom, I know, but the Capital One rep was confused by the term "contactless."

Looking at the Capital One website, it reads, "Tap. Pay. Go." Maybe that was the confusion, or she is new to the job.

edit: Might be a good idea to test your new contactless card before assuming it works on the Tube. I need to find a store around here that uses it.

Posted by
4528 posts

Correct me if I'm wrong, I think there are some cash machine (ATM) only cards issued to under 18's. Under 18's are not allowed to get into debt (it is not legally recoverable) so are not issued with credit or debit cards, which can cause you to get overdrawn.

A debit card can be available on most under 18s accounts, although some will only have a card for ATMs (eg for HSBC there is a minimum age of 11 for a Visa debit card). There are also some building society savings accounts that have cords that may only have ATM access, sometimes only to their own because they don't want to pay the interchange fee.

Posted by
3465 posts

Contactless will work at most locations that accept Apple Pay or Android Pay. Same technology. Doesn't hurt to try.

I am always amused at the surprised look on the clerk's face when I wave my Capital One card near the card machine and the transaction goes through. Actually had one argue with me that they had to rerun the purchase because there was no way how it worked was right.

Posted by
1128 posts

Mike, I believe Walgreens and Whole Foods all take contactless cards so that might be a place to try it out for the first time while in the USA. The 7/11 near me also takes contactless, but that’s not yet true for all 7/11 stores yet.

Posted by
1682 posts

Thanks, Dale. Around here we have a Wally World and the Cypress Lounge. Why Cypress in West Virginia? Earl vacationed once in Florida and stole the name from some dive near Gainesville, hometown of Tom Petty. Whole Foods is for them fancy city folk.

Posted by
1128 posts

Gainesville? Them’s fighting words since I’m an FSU alum 😊.

A good hint for Capitol One is to use their online chat when contacting them. The better and more experienced reps prefer to work on the online chat rather than deal with endless phone calls every day.

Posted by
40 posts

I had tried out my contactless Capital One card here in the U.S. before my Europe trip. It worked like a charm all over Europe and then most of the time, I didn't have to sign anything, which made the transaction much faster. My sister had the same card but she never used the contactless feature here at home before our trip. Well her card did not work like mine. I'm not sure if it's because she didn't use it here at home to "activate it" or whether that part of her card is simply broken somehow. We called CapitalOne while in Europe and they concluded it must be broken, but I think she should try it here at home and see if it works. She finally started using apple pay to avoid having to put her card in chip first and then sign her signature on a receipt. She used apple pay for London underground, and I used my contactless CapitalOne. Worked fabulous, but our trip from London Gatwick into town (via airport express rail) and then back out to zone 4 on the underground was over $30!! It cost us less than $3 to go from zone 4 (Morden Station) to the London Heathrow via the Underground lines the next day.

Posted by
3465 posts

Yes, the Heathrow Express and the Gatwick train are both expensive. It is not covered under the Underground cap. You will be charged the price for the Express train plus the daily cap for Underground to the zones you cover on any separate Tube rides. Taking the Tube all the way is a lot less expensive.

Posted by
4528 posts

As you went on the Gatwick Express there was a premium payment for that which was compounded by travelling through Zone 1. It is possible to get to Morden from Gatwick for £8.10 off-peak, and even as low as £4.70 if the tram from East Croydon is convenient to where you are going.

Posted by
1 posts

I've researched this thoroughly to prepare for an upcoming trip. The confusion lies mainly in our common English barriers, lol. As Americans, we think of "bank cards" as debit/ATM cards linked to our checking account. In the UK, "bank cards" are simply cards issued by a bank. As long as your credit or debit card is issued by a major bank (Capital One, Bank of America, etc.) it should work. Your credit cards issued by different departments stores, etc. (Costco, Sam's Club, Walgreen's, etc.) will NOT work. I'm going to assume that cards issued by a credit union will also NOT work. Also - this is important - before you use your card as "contactless" in the UK, you must have first used it as contactless (tapped instead of chip inserted or swiped) in the US at least once - it will not work, otherwise. Google Pay, Samsung Pay & Apple Pay on your phones will also work - assuming you've used them in the US also, using the same cards in both places.

Posted by
4528 posts

In the UK, "bank cards" are simply cards issued by a bank. As long as your credit or debit card is issued by a major bank (Capital One, Bank of America, etc.) it should work. Your credit cards issued by different departments stores, etc. (Costco, Sam's Club, Walgreen's, etc.) will NOT work.

I don't follow this. In the UK we have plenty of credit cards branded by companies other than banks, including stores. If they are a MasterCard or Visa, and not just a store card, they operate in the same manner as those issued by banks, or indeed other credit companies. Some cards don't work on TfL because the issuer has put restrictions on their use.

Posted by
6 posts

Does the transit system also accept ApplePay? If so, does it matter what card is on the account? I see that some have not been successful using the Costco branded Visa card and wonder whether that is a possible problem with ApplePay if I use my Costco card.

Posted by
3526 posts

Hmmm? I have no contactless cards. But I do have debit and credit cards from 2 different credit unions. I carry all 4 cards with me on my trips to Europe. They've worked fine wherever I've been, including the UK.

Posted by
213 posts

“Does the transit system also accept ApplePay? If so, does it matter what card is on the account? I see that some have not been successful using the Costco branded Visa card and wonder whether that is a possible problem with ApplePay if I use my Costco card.”

It does, however, even when I perfectly timed my step up to scan my Apple Pay, there was a slight delay in accepting the scan compared to my Oyster card. When in a crowded line, I felt I was causing a delay, albeit slight delay, so I went back to using my Oyster Card to ensure immediate passing. Based on my understanding, IF you use Apple Pay and you have it on your IPhone AND Apple Watch, make sure you use the same device each day. Scanning your wallet via your Apple Watch on your scan in while using your phone on follow up scans causes the machines to think the scans are by two different people even if you use the same CC for both devices.

Posted by
92 posts

I use my Citi card Costco for Apple or (wallet) on iphone with my AMEX and checking account as options

Posted by
456 posts

I have a few "picky" questions about using an OysterCard or a contactless card. Are the daily caps the same for an OysterCard and a contactless card? My husband and I would need two individual OysterCards, but we have identical contactless cards (same account number). Would using two identical contactless cards mean we'd reach our daily max in half the time? Does the system somehow "know" we've used two identical cards? If the information posted about foreign transaction fees is correct, then for two of us using identical contactless cards would we only incur one foreign transaction fee per day? Picky details, I know, but the fees add up over time.

Posted by
4528 posts

Are the daily caps the same for an OysterCard and a contactless card?

Yes, although the weekly Monday-Sunday ones aren't.

The TfL system should set up a main and supplementary card as two separate accounts for their purposes.

Posted by
47 posts

Yes, daily cap is the same for Oyster and contactless CC. Your CC's won't work if they both have the same number. Well, actually it will work for one of you, but the other will have to use another card or buy an Oyster.

Posted by
3465 posts

The cards may have the same account number printed on them, but the contactless technology creates unique numbers for each card when used in contactless mode. So, no, you do not reach your Tube cap amount in half the time. Each card must be used the full amount of trips to reach the cap on each one individually. Also, if one person uses both cards (not sure why but in case) it will take twice as long to reach the cap.

Each card will also be charged independently at the end of the day so that is 2 transactions on the account. If this account gets charged foreign fees, then each transaction will be charged a fee.

I have not tried this myself, but a good friend in London who works in banking specifically with bank cards says this is what will happen.

Posted by
3173 posts

Does using Apple Pay on your iPhone consistently cause a moment’s delay both entering & leaving the Tube? Or does the delay depend on which credit card is on Apple Pay?

Posted by
623 posts

.As long as your credit or debit card is issued by a major bank
(Capital One, Bank of America, etc.) it should work. Your credit cards
issued by different departments stores, etc. (Costco, Sam's Club,
Walgreen's, etc.) will NOT work. I'm going to assume that cards issued
by a credit union will also NOT work.

My goodness, what a strange statement. I don't think it makes sense even if by "work" it means only contactless payment vs. just generally being accepted as payment.

First, there is no such thing as a Costco-issued "store" credit card. There is a VISA credit card issued by Citibank for Costco members. It "works" for me in the US and in the UK. It works contactless at Costco, but since it's also the primary card linked to my Google Pay, I don't faff around with trying to use the card contactless anywhere else. I just wave my phone at the card reader and presto the bill is paid. Paying with my phone works for me around town, and was my primary payment method on my last couple of trips to the UK.

Second, my other VISA-branded debit and credit cards issued by the credit unions I belong to, DO "work" in the UK. One of my CU VISA credit cards is also linked to my Google Pay and that one has also "worked" in the UK for contactless payment via my phone. (My CU credit card doesn't have the contactless "wave" symbol so of course it wouldn't work contactless on its own vs. via Google Pay. It's chip/signature and has worked that way in the UK, although as noted most recently I use my phone whenever possible there.)