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New “Low Balance” display

Since the beginning of July there has been a slight change to the display when you touch in or out.  I’m still trying to get full details, but this is what I’ve worked out so far.  Whenever you touch in and your balance is below the maximum journey charge the system will display a “Low Balance” warning message.  This also happens on touch out.  There appears to be account taken of whether you have already capped or are close to doing so, certainly on touch in but possibly also on touch out.  If you have auto top-up enabled then it is unlikely that you will see this warning as the top-up will happen before it decides whether to display it.

This isn’t all good news though. If the device displaying the message is a validator, or certain varieties of gateline, then the message will replace the actual balance, and the journey charge if you were touching out.  So far I’ve checked various Southeastern gatelines and some tube gatelines, either personally or via my kids using their zip cards.  The gates at places like Crayford appear to display both message and balance whilst those at Waterloo East only displayed the message.  On the tube it was only the message.

This is clearly not ideal as people may be frightened into checking their balance at a ticket machine when they have enough for the journey(s) they are making that day.  Worse is that on touch out they are deprived seeing the deduction which many people like to see to assure themselves that nothing has gone wrong.

On Friday I managed to get a letter printed in The Standard which touched on this issue.  It had to be edited from my original submission, but at least it’s got the concern out there.

This post replaces an earlier version where the facts were less clear.

10 Responses

  1. All my friends have been worried by this notice but I never take any notice to it cause i always know much my fare is. But I think they would show both Low Balance and how much money taken and how much money is left just like they used this would make ticket barriers very informative upon exit and upon entry to a station

  2. I agree, it is vary badly implemented at present. My sons have been using their zip cards this weekend and it’s been virtually impossible to tell what their journeys have cost straight away.

  3. Why do you think it’s badlyimplemented ? When one exits the station, the balance is shown on the left, with the journey cost on the right. Simples !!!!

  4. Hi John,

    That is how it works on some gatelines and where no message is displayed. But on validators and other gatelines the “Low Balance” message replaces the actual balance and the journey cost. That is why it is badly implemented.

  5. It may appear that the message has been removed as I could see a balance of £0.60 on the gateline today.

  6. Thank heavens for that.

  7. It’s still doing it on South West Trains. I have over £6 on my Oyster card but when I tapped in at Mortlake it simply gave me a ‘Low Balance’ warning. Is this another cynical attempt to make people pay TFL more money and have cards on an auto top-up? Why are they playing at – just tell me how much I have on there. 99% of journeys in London aren’t using the maximum possible (£8+) cost.

  8. According to the RailUKForums thread on this subject, it appears a base data release was sent to LU stations last weekend and presumably London Overground as that’s where I was able to see the 60p balance.

  9. I am slightly confused. I am going to London in November for 3 days. I am going to order a £20 oyster visitor card. How will I know if I need to top up?
    Thanks

  10. Hi Shauna,

    Your balance may be displayed on exit to start with. Once it gets nearer to empty you may have to use a ticket machine to check how low it is.

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