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Oyster Card Use in UK

My friend & I were traveling in UK March 16th-20th,2020. We used the Oyster Card during our travels by train in London. Very convenient to use particularly during these "no contact" times. I had loaded both card with 50 pounds each. We only used around 15 pounds each on the train travels. The Oyster card website states that you can get a refund at the train station kiosks but only if you 10 pounds or less on each card. When we left the UK, we were unable to go to any of the "Visit Britain" stores for refunds since all the stores were closed on our date of departure. After I arrived back in the US, I sent an email to Visit Britain website to ask about a refund back to my credit card. This is the response I received:

We are pleased to confirm that credit on your Visitor Oyster card never expires, so you may use it any time you are in London.

If preferred, you can also get a refund on any unused credit on your card. To do so just send your card and a covering letter including your home address explaining why you are returning it. The correct address to send it to is:

TfL Customer Services
14 Pier Walk, 4th Floor
SE10 0ES

A cheque will then be sent to you in GBP (£) for the unused credit amount. Your card will not be returned to you if you send it by post and the activation fee paid at the time of purchase is non-refundable.

So when you are traveling with to the UK & using the Oyster card, be aware of their return of funds policy (no return of funds to your credit card) they only refund you by paper check in British pounds. I have no idea how to cash a check in British pounds in the US since I have don't have a major bank acct( does Bank of American do this or any major Bank?), only credit union. Does anyone have advice? I had thought of perhaps donating the funds to a legitimate charity in the UK for travel for sick patient's for example, but my name, address & credit card number are attached to the card which isn't safe to do. So the Oyster Card is great for travel throughout the UK & more money can be added to it at the kiosks at the train station, but don't put too much money on it as it would be difficult to get the money refunded without a hassle. I appreciate input anyone can give me. Thank you

Posted by
9200 posts

Did you get the check? If so, for how much?

If not, let us know when you do.

By the way, this only pertains for Visitor Oyster Cards and not regular pay-as-you-go cards.

Posted by
4 posts

As far as I can tell, I haven't mailed the cards back to the UK yet. I understand there is a 5% administrative fee, plus postage, taken out of the refund.

Posted by
3444 posts

Why would your credit card number be "attached" to the Oyster card? Or any other personal info for that matter? You paid Visit Britain for the Oyster, probably with a shipping fee if you purchased it before arriving in London, and they gave you an Oyster with £50 loaded on it. That is all that Oyster knows is it started with £50 and has whatever amount left on it.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and most other large US banks will collect the US$ equivalent of the UKPounds from the cheque to be issued for you. But you have to have an account with the bank and they will charge a (hefty) fee.

You might find a friend that will be going to London in the future to give the card to and they can use up the funds for you. No loss of money through fees that way.

Posted by
18149 posts

I strongly suspect that any US bank you try to use to convert a GBP check to US dollars is going to charge a fee so high that there will be very little money left. I think you need to find an alternative way to make use of the value still on the cards. Do you perhaps have friends or relatives who may travel to London in the future (assuming you will not)?

If not, mailing the cards to a UK charity could be an option. I'm not aware of any financial risk of doing so; perhaps someone else knows more about this than I do.