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LONDON Oyster card Refund Snafu

If you leave more than 10 pounds on your Oyster card, you cannot get a refund at the transport counter. You must apply for it on line.
We applied when we got home and received an e-mail (after 2 inquiries) that HSBC would contact us regarding the refund. When HSBC wrote to us, they gave a link to get the money. When we accessed the link, it said "there is no document at this site."

After numerous inquiries back at Transport for London and even the Mayor of London's office, no one cared enough to reply with an answer. As a result, HSBC has kept our refund (over $50), and given us no place to contact them about the snafu.

Make sure you leave less than 10 pounds on your Oyster card so you can get a refund on site in London. Otherwise, you may never see your money.

Posted by
6412 posts

That Oyster card so over-hyped new travelers put too much money on it. Yeah people are going to say this not a scam. I would just give the card someone you know going to London or use it on another trip. I had about 5 pounds on mine that stayed on it for 2 years and ended up using it eventually.

Posted by
16824 posts

I didn't realize it would be such an issue to get a refund of over 10 pounds, but I have often wondered about the amounts posters suggest first-time visitors load on city transit cards. London is large, and most visitors will need buses or the tube to move around, but the number of trips taken per day is very difficult to predict. If you're like me and spend unbelievable amounts of time in each museum, you may only rarely take more than two trips per day.

Posted by
329 posts

Also note the machine will not allow you a refund if you have an active 7day travel card on it. That was our mistake. We left London the day before it expired and had under £10 on it as well for travel to Hampton Court. Were told to try by mail.

Posted by
16824 posts

Oh, Marika, that's good information, too. A friend will be joining me in London next August, and I'm sure she'll benefit from a weekly travel card. Must warn her about the timing.

Posted by
23543 posts

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Posted by
2 posts

Our card was initially included in our tour fee, so I didn't have any expectations for a refund. We gave our Oyster card with small balances on them to my brother who travels to London often. In the future, I would but small increments on the card as needed.

Posted by
4468 posts

TfL doesn't really want to promote Oyster much any more at least for those with no fare concession; they would much prefer the use of contactless payment.

Although it wasn't that long ago that the only way to get a refund over £10 was by cheque in sterling .

Posted by
205 posts

In 2010 my husband and I went to London and my mother-in-law passed on some Oyster cards to us that her friend had used on a previous visit. The friend didn't want them back since she had no plans to return. Since we used them in 2010 they have been used over the years by:

  • My brother and sister-in-law
  • Our son and his friend
  • A friend of our son
  • My husband and his mother
  • Our daughter and son-in-law
  • A co-worker and his wife

So they've been back and forth to London a total of 8 times counting our trip and the initial trip when they were purchased :-) We hope to use them again ourselves within the next few years.

Posted by
5005 posts

bonnie, is this just an issue on the special visitor cards, or on the regular Oyster cards as well?

Posted by
2039 posts

I am very curious as to why this should is called a "scam". This is the way Transport for London operates, and they make their rules known. And given how easy it is to add cash to the Oyster card and anticipate your needs, why keep so much money on it?

Posted by
2092 posts

I was happy to discover the Oyster card I got 7 years ago still had 3 pounds on it and was easily topped up on my visit this August. I came home with about 7 pounds left and will just tuck the card away to be used again--hopefully next year.

Posted by
396 posts

I did a really good job and figured out how much I would need on the card for our family of 4. (Kids road for free). When I purchased the card I asked the attendant how much he thought I should put on the card. He calculated the zone where I was staying, the # of days plus the last day when I would be likely only traveling to the airport. He came up with the exact same amount that I had. However he did in 10 seconds what took me a couple of months to figure out.

Posted by
3269 posts

It is only recently that Visitor Oyster cards are refundable. You still don't get your deposit back, they now call it an "activation fee" on the Visitor card instead of a deposit, but the £10 limit still applies to payment funds. In other words, if you have just less than £10 on a regular Oyster your refund at the ticket machine would be just less than £15 and the card would then never work again. On a Visitor Oyster, the refund would be just less than £10 even though you paid the same extra £5. I have the same Oyster I bought my first visit to London, over 10 years ago, and add a few Pounds when I travel there and it still works perfectly.

I don't see any of this as a scam. There is no need to put all that much on the Oyster to start, you can always add more in any amount if needed at most every station. Most transit plans round the world will not give you a refund for over purchasing. I feel it is very generous that TfL does allow for refunds -- when they work.

Posted by
4468 posts

The amount of money TfL holds in deposits and unused balances in dormant cards is now around £350M - with the average balance being less than £3. That is an awful lot of cards ...

Posted by
8889 posts

"£350M - with the average balance being less than £3.", that makes over 100 million cards. Since the population of London is 8.8 million, and the whole of the UK is 66 million, that is an awful lot of tourists and business visitors with Oyster cards that they may no longer be able to find.
I guess TFL regrets not putting an expiry date (e.g. 3 years) on unused Oyster balances. That would be an income source.
BTW, last time I looked, my balance was around £7, and not used for about 1 year.

Posted by
3269 posts

When I got my Oyster over 10 years ago (it is a Visitor Oyster that was included with a travel package) the Visitor Oysters expired after 18 months of non use. Not sure why TfL changed that, but shortly after that visit the cards were changed to never expire. I'm sure they have those unused funds invested somewhere and are making enough income off it that it doesn't bother them to keep the money on the books. Mine currently has £1.25 on it.

The number of unused cards with remaining balance doesn't sound all that outrageous when you think about it. There are probably some Oysters with higher unused balances on them which are skewing the average. Probably is a large number of Visitor Oysters that had a couple pounds left on them and the holders either kept them as souvenirs or lost them in the shuffle of packing to return home. Locals probably lose their Oysters often as well, and if it was not registered I doubt is replaceable. I know I used to misplace my transit card for my home town or forget it in my pocket and run it through the wash which would totally destroy it.

I'm sure at some point in the future TfL will announce that Oysters older than some point in time will be cancelled if they have not been used for over a certain number of months.

Posted by
4468 posts

It is somewhat below half that number of cards since the £350M figure also includes the deposits on the cards as well. Originally these were zero and spent a while at £3 before becoming £5.

There are a lot fewer Oyster cards being sold to occasional UK visitors to London since the widespread acceptance of contactless cards.