Since September 2014, you can pay for your journey on London Underground, tram, DLR, London Overground, and National Rail services that accept Oyster with a contactless payment card. London buses stopped accepting cash in July 2014 and you can only use Oyster or contactless payment card for bus journeys.
What Is Contactless?
Contactless payment cards are bank cards which have a special symbol on them that has the in-built technology to allow a simple touch of the card to pay for purchases under £20.
You don't need a PIN, a signature or to insert the card into any reader.
Contactless is available on debit, credit, charge and pre-paid cards.
TfL (Transport for London) stated there were 44.7 million contactless cards in circulation in the UK, with an estimated fifth issued within the Greater London area. In the first quarter of 2014, over half of the UK total of 44.6 million contactless transactions were within the Greater London area.
Contactless bank cards are also being issued by banks outside of the UK but you are advised that overseas transaction fees or charges may apply for travel paid for with a card issued outside the UK. Not all non-UK cards are accepted so do check before traveling.
Benefits of Contactless Payment
The key benefit we are being told about is that you no longer have to have an Oyster card and you do not have to check your Oyster card balance and top up before traveling.
And that should mean you can board without delay.
Instead of keeping a balance on your Oyster card, with contactless payment the fare will be automatically deducted from your bank account/payment card account.
If you have a joint account, you can both use a contactless payment card but you must have a contactless payment card each - not one card for one account and try to pay for two people traveling together with one card as that won't work.
Problems of Contactless Payment
The biggest issue to be aware of is 'card clash'. I think Londoners are starting to know this phrase by heart as we hear it announced so often on the tube:
Customers are reminded to only touch one card on the reader to avoid paying with a card they did not intend to pay with.
This means you need to be careful to keep all of your contactless payment cards and your Oyster card separate if you want to ensure only one of them touches the reader and therefore gets charged. You could simply take one card out of your wallet and touch it on the reader or keep one card in a separate wallet as you don't need to actually remove the card from a wallet for it to work on the reader.
What About Capping?
Capping is when you do multiple journeys in a day and are charged a maximum daily amount instead of a single fare for every journey and this type of capping will happen with contactless payment. Or it can cap at a seven-day rate but only from Monday to Sunday. It can't work out seven days from a Wednesday, for example. You just need to remember to use the same contactless payment card to get the daily or weekly capping benefit.
Contactless payments work in the same way as Oyster, charging customers an Adult-rate Pay As You Go fare when they touch in and out on TfL readers at the start and end of every journey.
To benefit from the capping you must touch in and out on every journey.
If you usually buy monthly or longer period Travelcards or Bus & Tram Passes, you should carry on doing so. Monthly and longer period Travelcards and Bus & Tram Passes won't be available on contactless payment cards.
Has It Been Tested?
Contactless payments were first launched on London's buses in December 2012. TfL tells us that each day there are around 69,000 payments made using contactless on London Buses.
Should I Throw Away My Oyster Card?
No. Contactless payments are available alongside Oyster for Pay As You Go customers.
Oyster will continue to be available for those using concessionary or season tickets or who would prefer to continue paying for their travel this way.
Record of Your Journeys
If you register for an online account with TfL you will be able to view 12 months of journey and payment history.
You do not have to register for an online account but this sounds like a good way to check you are being charged correctly. If you decide not to register for an online account you will only be able to access the journeys and payment history over the last 7 days.
TfL have further information and a video illustrating how contactless payments work on the transport network: www.tfl.gov.uk/contactless