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Oyster card vs. travel card in London + credit card chip info

We leave for Dublin, then London in a couple of days and I've been going over and over the Oyster Card vs. travel card and am so confused about this that I'd appreciate some help. We will land at Gatwick 6/11 and Eurostar out 6/15. We'll be taking the train from Gatwick to Victoria so won't need a card for that journey and we can probably walk around enough not to need a card at all for that day. But we will need a card for the other 4 days. Last time it was so easy with a 3 day travel card. What do you vetern travelers to London suggest?
In addition, USA Today had an article about using credit cards in Europe and having difficulties as US ones don't have chips in them. We've never had any trouble before but I'm wondering if we will this time.


Posted by
873 posts

As the 3-day travel card has been discontinued, the best thing for you to do is probably to get an Oyster Card. It's a pre-loaded card, so you can put as much money on it as you need, and return it to TFL when you're done. Buy it from a ticket window if you are worried about machines not accepting your credit card.

It's a really good deal especially if you plan on taking the tube/bus a lot on any given day, as there is a daily cap on how much you get charged -- once you hit that cap, you travel for free for the rest of the day.

Posted by
332 posts

I suggest you purchase 7 day paper Travelcards for zones 1-2 from the rail (not tube/underground) station at Victoria for £25.80 each. The travelcards would allow you to take advantage of the 2 for 1 discounts available from the rail companies at . You need to present a Days Out voucher, also. Vouchers are available in the back of brochures at train stations or from the Days Out website.

The discounts can be significant with 2 for 1 discount on expensive and worthwhile attractions like the Tower of London, £17, Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms, £14.95, etc. More information here: .

Four one day Travelcards could be slightly cheaper than a 7 day card, £22.40 to £28.80, depending on whether you travel at peak times or not. The Oyster Card price cap may save you a few pounds over the cost of a Travelcard if you barely use public transportation. It only takes four tube rides to reach the price cap. I reach the cap every day that I am in London.

Credit cards without chip and pin should not be a problem except in automated ticket machines and gas pumps. Read further: .

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you Anna and Chip.
I have already printed out as many 2 for 1 vouchers for places my granddaughter might want to go including a play which I'll call to book when we arrive. We will have rail tickets as we are arriving in Gatwick and taking the train to Vic Station. I emailed the 2 for 1 program to see if we needed different train tickets for each voucher and they replied that we could use the same one over and over, train logo I mean. I will add up which will be cheaper. We plan to walk a lot but also plan on "tubing" alot.

Posted by
970 posts

I find that the ever-present discussion of Oyster Cards versus Travel Cards hurts my head. For a short stay, the cost difference is going to be minimal. Just get an Oyster Card.

As others have said, American cards will be fine except at automated facilities. No one in any area that caters to tourists is going to make it difficult for Americans to spend money. When I go, I pay big bills (hotel, etc.) with a credit card, and use an ATM to grab cash for everything else.

Posted by
20 posts


We just got back Saturday from 19 days in England and Scotland and had zero problems with using two different credit cards. A few times the card had to be swiped several times before it would take, but that's no different than at home.

Posted by
307 posts

I bought an Oyster Card( purchased at Paddington Station, but they are available at most stations I would think) for my trip to London. It cost about 27 BP's and I used it extensively. The cost was for unlimited travel for a 5 day period I think. Very convenient, good for buses as well.

Posted by
44 posts

We have decided to get the Oyster card for our 3 days in London. I really would like ot not travel with a load of cash and just use an ATM card and some CCs.

We arrive at Heathrow terminal 5. Try as I might, I can't track down on Barclay's web site if they have ATM machines in the terminal. My Bank allows fee free use of Barclays, a French and German bank.

So my question is twofold.

-Barclay's cash machines in the terminal?

-Can I buy the Oyster card in the terminal if there is some sort of travel info kiosk or do I head to the tube station and buy it there? Should I worry about using the CC in the Tube machine, or is there a staffed booth which can take US CCs?

Posted by
970 posts

Paul, I'm pretty sure that you can find ATM's at Heathrow that will take a Barclay's card. However, that's different than finding a branch of Barclay's at Heathrow.

Better yet, I recommend buying about £100 in the States before you fly. That way, you have more enough cash on hand to get you out of your airport, to your hotel, and a start on the next day before you need to worry. Don't worry about saving pennies on such a small amount. Just buy the pounds at your departure airport.

Don't recall that ticket machines on the Tube take credit cards. Can someone else verify that?

Typically, you can buy Oyster Cards at any Tube stop that has a sales window staffed by an actual human. I believe the stop at Heathrow is staffed. If not, or if you arrive at a late hour and the window is closed, just buy a ticket to Paddington.

Posted by
44 posts

Bank of America allows free cash withdrawls on Barclays, BNP Paribas in Paris and Deutche Bank in Germany which fit our trip.

When I got my Intl driving Permit at AAA a few weeks ago, they gave me a 50% discount coupon to use at a foreign currency exchange at the massive Sawgrass MIlls Mall in South FLorida. With BOA, you have to make two orders at $7.50 each to order Pounds and Euros. I called up the currency office and there rates were on par with the Bank and the costs with the half off coupon were tiny.

I do not know if every AAA office has this offer, but I can just stop by the mall and get Pounds and Euros for a small fee with my ATM card or pay 3% if I use a CC. This way I have both currencies when I arrive.

Like many people, I do not feel comfortable carrying a ton of cash on me and would rather just have cash when I only need it and just pay using a credit card.

Posted by
29 posts

I purchased a 3 day London Pass with travel today. I didn't see anywhere that is was discontinued. I sure hope not!!
Waiting for our first trip to the UK in September.