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Change to Oyster Deposit

News has leaked out that TfL are to change the Oyster card deposit at some point in the new year.  The date hasn’t been agreed yet, but it is NOT linked to the new fares.

When this change takes place the £5 refundable deposit will be replaced with a £5 fee.  This is to encourage use of contactless payments for short or infrequent visits to London.  The good news is that after a year the fee will be added to the PAYG balance making the card effectively free.  This recognises that people who use their Oyster cards to hold season tickets or discounts and keep the same card are not adding to the burden of providing new cards.

A Transport for London spokesperson said:

In early 2020, we propose to replace the £5 refundable Oyster card deposit with a £5 fee. This will only affect cards issued after this time and will help reduce the number of cards that are returned after a few days or weeks. Customers who still use the card after a year will receive £5 pay as you go credit, essentially making their card free. If customers wish to avoid the charge, they can alternatively use pay as you go with a contactless card or mobile device instead. More information will be provided to customers when the timescales for these changes have been agreed.

I think this is a good change.  I’d like to see the refund to PAYG extended to existing cards, although the logistics of that may be a bit of a challenge.  Of course once the new system has come in you can always swap your old card for a new one and get a refund of the old deposit.  I’d also like to see the differentiation between normal and visitor cards ended with this change.  There are times when visitors could make use of a travelcard (which can’t be put on an existing visitor card) and it would simplify the offering.  They could still produce cards with fancy designs for visitors who would like a keepsake.

11 Responses

  1. Hi

    Will the £5 be refundable and would I be able to keep my oyster with a value of £0.00 or will I need to keep buying a new card and thus paying £5 everytime I visit County London.

    I’m not too into using contactless and I am a young chap.
    Thanks
    James

  2. Hi James,

    It sounds like you visit London and then get a refund at the end of your trip. If this is the case then once this new system comes in you will not get the £5 back at the end of the trip. However, if you keep the card you can use it on every trip to London, and after a year the £5 will be added to the PAYG balance. Don’t worry about leaving a small amount on the card, it will still be there to use the next time you come.

  3. Merry xmas Mike,

    Will this potentially result in a £5 increase of the refundable unused credit that can be claimed when returning/ cancelling the card?

  4. Hi Fraser,

    I don’t think so. Currently you get back the unused credit and the deposit. When the new system starts you’ll only get back the unused credit. If you’ve held the card for a year the credit will have been boosted, but only by the amount paid initially to get the card.

  5. George Moodie

    So. A once in lifetime visit to London means that those who get the oyster loose the £5 fee, as they won’t be back. You say that this is to encourage them to use the Contactless. First hand experience has shown me that they don’t want to use their cards due to the International charges they get for using their cards. So either way, the tourist is screwed and oyster win….or, TfL win. Meanwhile, the staff will get the verbal abuse even more. Wonderful.

  6. Mark O'Connor

    Totally disgusting.

    The information isn’t even on TFL’s website and I was counting on getting that refund to do some shopping today.

    The reasoning behind is benal.

    It’s purely profit driven as Oyster get to keep the money instead of refunding it as they did before.

  7. Hi Mark,

    I’m sorry if you’ve been caught out by the change in policy, but I cannot allow the untruths above to go unchallenged. The information is quite clearly on the TfL website. As long as you keep the card for a year then TfL actually give you the money back sooner, because you no longer have to wait until you no longer need the card.

    If you have bought a card in the last week and tried to refund it then you are precisely the sort of person who TfL are trying to encourage to use contactless instead.

  8. Mark O'Connor

    It wasn’t clearly stated on their website before I took my journey and there wasn’t any announcement when the new rules about refunds would take place when I looked and when I bought the ticket I hadn’t checked the website beforehand.

    I needed the ticket for a specific event as it was a Pay As You Go Oyster Card and I had budgeted accordingly.

    It’s not a misunderstanding.

    What TFL are doing now is charging a fee.

    What other service do you use that requires you to wait a year for your deposit to be refunded?

  9. Please tell me where you bought the Oyster card from.

    I agree that TfL are now charging a fee. You don’t have to wait a year for the deposit to be returned because it isn’t a deposit anymore. As a thank you for keeping the same Oyster card for a year they now give you back the fee at that time.

    Your original post stated that the new arrangements were not on the TfL website. They were, and still are. That is a misunderstanding.

    I can actually understand if you were expecting the fee to be a refundable deposit, hence why I’d like to know where you bought the card from. It should have been made clear to you that the system had changed.

  10. Mike, I can assure you that as of the 24th March 2020 these changes were neither made clear nor advertised at all at Leytonstone High Road station, Leyton Midland station, or indeed any TVMs at Victoria line stations.
    There is also an underlying issue here as follows:
    In the circumstance where you use a contactless bank card that does not have sufficient credit available, that card is then temporarily blocked from further use on the TfL system – fair enough. However, that system takes a while to update, meaning that if that bank card is subsequently used a day later when it once again has sufficient credit available, it will still be declined with a Contact Card Issuer error by TfL’ systems, therefore forcing a customer to purchase an Oyster card as their only means of accessing TfL services.

    People in the position of having nothing or less in their bank accounts are the sorts of people who rely on having the refund available to them a few days later.

    This is a regressive move by TfL for sure.

    As most Londoners know, the chances of retaining the same Oyster card for a year are slim at best. The language itself speaks volumes of the intention behind this move in that it is now a fee and not a deposit. There is no shying from the fact that those who, for whatever reason rely on the oyster system, will be worse off.
    I cannot help but come to the conclusion that this is a sneaky money grab from a cash strapped TfL.

  11. Hi Sean,

    You make a very good point about issues when a contactless card has been declined. I will ensure that it is noted by people at TfL, though in the current situation it may not be seen as the most urgent issue. Thank you for raising it.

    Regarding the ticket machines on the Victoria line. Are you saying that when purchasing an Oyster card the machine still suggests that the £5 is a refundable deposit? If you are then that is indeed serious. If it describes it as a fee then I’d say it’s ok.

    I have to disagree about retaining the same Oyster card for a year. I had the same card from sometime in 2012 until I needed to refund a partly used travelcard in 2019 and the Oyster was cancelled. My kids have kept their zip photocards for their duration between 2-5 years. The majority of people who need to have an Oyster card because they use a monthly or longer period travelcard will keep the same card for a long time. That’s not to say that some casual users won’t lose their card, but it’s not the most common scenario.

    Whilst I accept that it appears like a cash grab where there is a genuine need for an Oyster card for just a day or so, it really isn’t when all things are taken into consideration, including the cost of the actual card which will now be given away after a year.

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