So you’ve bought your Oyster card and used up your initial credit. What now? TfL provide a wide range of methods to top up the balance on your card. Which you use depends largely on your circumstances.
For regular travellers this is probably the best option. Once set up you will never need to worry about running out of credit again. You can choose to add either £20 or £40 every time the balance on your card falls below £10. Whenever you start a journey and the balance is below £10 you will hear an extra few beeps as you touch in and your balance will be increased by your selected amount. This even happens on buses and trams. When the oyster reader transfers its transactions to the central system your credit or debit card is debited with the amount. This is what you need to do to set it up:
- If you haven’t already done so, you need to create an account on the Oyster website. Then you need to associate the card with that account.
- Select “Add/renew/top-up ticket” from the card menu.
- Choose “Pay as you go with auto top-up” and select an amount to top-up immediately (between £10 and £50 in £5 multiples) and the amount to auto top-up later (either £20 or £40).
- Click on “Continue” and select a station to activate the order from. This can be any tube, national rail, overground or DLR station or a tramstop. You can’t activate auto top-up on a bus, but once activated the actual top-up can be triggered on a bus.
- Click on “Continue” again and enter your credit or debit card details.
- If you complete this process before 11pm then your order will be available from the next day, otherwise it will be the day after. It remains available for 8 days. If you don’t collect (activate) the order within that time then the initial top-up charge will be refunded and you’ll have to start again.
- You will receive an email confirming your order and another when it is available at your selected station.
- Simply touch in as the start of a normal journey at that station. The immediate top-up will be added to your card and auto top-up will be activated. Unless the station was a tram stop you must remember to touch out again at the end of the journey.
If you don’t want to use auto top-up for whatever reason, especially if you use your card infrequently, then there are a number of places to manually add credit.
- Oyster ticket stop shops.
- Tube, Overground, DLR and some National Rail stations*.
- Online at the Oyster website. Follow the same steps 1-8 above, but only select an amount to top-up (you can also add just £5 if not adding auto top-up).
* At most National Rail stations you may find that you can top-up at the ticket machine but not at the ticket office itself.
If you top-up at a ticket machine then you need to remember that it is a two stage process. First place your card on the reader which will confirm the balance and any tickets held. Then select add top-up and either insert the money or pay on a credit/debit card. Finally place the card on the reader again so that the top-up can be added to the card. After the second touch you will get any change returned or a receipt if paid by card.
If you pay by card then the transaction will be authorised after you enter your PIN. If you forget to touch again to get the top-up added then this authorisation will remain and may appear as if the money has been taken. It hasn’t, and the authorisation will drop off 2-3 business days later when TfL will have failed to charge the debit to your bank.
This page updated 19 January 2014.