Oyster and contactless card refunds from TfL

Oyster and contactless card refunds from TfL

Cash for old cards, plus delay and overcharging rights

If you have an old Oyster card lying around that you no longer use (perhaps because you're not travelling as much due to coronavirus or you've switched to contactless), you could reclaim a share of £530 million sitting on unused cards. You can also get refunds for Tube delays, and reclaim up to a year's overcharges if you failed to touch out, whether you paid by Oyster card, contactless card or mobile device.

This guide focuses on travel in London via Transport for London. If you pay for travel using contactless or smartcard in another area or via another operator, see refund policies by train company in our Train delays guide.

Are you owed a share of £530 million stuck on unused Oyster cards?

The latest Transport for London (TfL) figures from March show there are more than 81 million Oyster cards out there that haven't been used for a year. And there's more than a whopping £530 million sitting on them, which in March was made up of over £260 million in initial deposits when getting the card and over £270 million in pay-as-you-go credit.

If you no longer need an Oyster card, you can get a refund of the initial deposit (the £5 you paid to get your card) AND any remaining pay-as-you-go credit (any money you put on your card via the website or app, or at a station or shop, to pay for travel). Bear in mind that your card will be stopped when you request a refund of the deposit, and you won't be able to use it again. If you bought the card on or after 23 February 2020, you can only get your £5 deposit back after a year.

Here's how to get your money back

Firstly, you'll need to find out your balance to know if there's anything to reclaim – you can do this by registering your card online, or checking at a Tube station ticket machine. Then follow the steps below:

  • Online. Annoyingly, at the time of writing, TfL still hasn't reinstated online refund applications via Oyster accounts, despite telling us back in January that it hoped to do so "later this year". This means you'll have to choose one of the other options below to get your money back.

  • By email. Get in touch with TfL by filling in this online form – include your contact details and your Oyster card number. TfL aims to reply within 10 working days.

  • By phone. To apply over the phone, call TfL customer services on 0343 222 1234 (which costs the same as a normal 020 number) with your Oyster card number. It's open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

  • At stations. If you have £10 or less pay-as-you-go credit, you can get a refund from Tube station ticket machines. Just touch your Oyster on the yellow card reader, select 'Oyster refund' and follow the instructions. The ticket machine will dispense a refund in cash.

  • By post. Write to TfL Customer Services, 4th Floor, 14 Pier Walk, London, SE10 0ES. Again, include your contact details and Oyster card number.

Getting a refund can take just a few minutes, and the amounts aren't trivial:

I lived in London for eight years, and built up a stack of pay-as-you-go Oyster cards – it always seemed handy to have another one spare. But when I moved out of London (and started using contactless whenever I visited), suddenly I was left with a pile of blue plastic.

So I logged on to Oyster, spent a satisfying five minutes adding them to my account and claiming refunds, and ended up claiming £67.85 in total.
- Former MSE Steve N

Claim a refund if your Tube's delayed by 15 minutes or more

Delays can be fury-inducing, but if your journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more, you can at least get your money back for the inconvenience.

Whether you travelled using an Oyster card, contactless card, paper ticket or mobile device (using Apple Pay, Google Pay or similar), you can ask Transport for London (TfL) for a refund as long as it happened within the last 28 days. You'll get the value of a single fare for the distance you travelled – you can visit the TfL single fare finder to check what that is.

TfL says you can't apply for a refund for "delays outside our control" including:

  • Bad weather
  • Customer incidents, such as a person falling ill on a train
  • Engineering works
  • Security alerts
  • Strikes

It does not gives refunds to those travelling for free via a Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photocard or Veterans Oyster photocard, or to children aged 11 or under who are travelling for free while accompanied by an adult.

How to claim

Before you do anything, wait at least 48 hours as you might be refunded for your delayed journey automatically – check if you have been by signing into your TfL account (you'll need to create one for free if you don't already have one, then register your card – if you paid by mobile, register the card you use for Apple Pay, Google Pay or similar). Then go to 'View refund history', where you'll be shown refund applications from the last 12 weeks.

If you don't receive an automatic refund, you can apply for one by going to the 'Refunds and replacements' section of the TfL website and signing into your account. Once you've logged in, select the Oyster card or contactless card you used to travel (again, if the card was unregistered at the time of the delay, you can register afterwards to claim, and if you paid by mobile, register the card you use for Apple Pay, Google Pay or similar) then hit the 'Claim for service delay' button and follow the instructions.

If you'd prefer to claim by phone, call TfL customer service on 0343 222 1234. It deals with Oyster card and paper ticket queries 8am to 8pm each day and contactless card queries 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5.30pm Saturday and Sunday.

For full help with claiming, see our Tube delay refunds guide.

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Check if you're owed a refund after failing to tap out

If you use an Oyster card, contactless card or mobile device to travel on most Transport for London (TfL) services (plus National Rail services in London), you must touch in and out via the yellow card readers when you travel. If you don't, you'll be charged the maximum fare, which is usually up to £8.90.

In 2021, TfL charged passengers almost £80 million in total for failing to tap their cards to show they had completed their journey – though not all of that can be reclaimed, as those reclaiming still have to pay their fare.

Yet there's a quick way to get up to a year's charges refunded, and some have got back over £70 – but before you claim, wait at least 48 hours as you may get an automatic refund. If you've an Oyster card it will be added the next time you touch in or out at a train station, and if you used a contactless card or mobile device, the refund will show up on your statement or your fare will be adjusted when you next travel.

To claim manually, sign into your TfL account, select the card you used to pay for your journey (whether a physical card or one linked to your mobile device) and click or tap on 'Journey & payment history' – if your card was unregistered when you failed to tap out, you can register afterwards and claim back for up to eight weeks after you travelled. Look for journeys with a yellow warning triangle next to them – they're usually incomplete – then make your claim by filling in the form below the info. Get full help in our TfL overcharge refunds guide.

What if my Oyster card is lost, stolen or stops working?

If you lose your Oyster card, it's stolen or it stops working, notify Transport for London (TfL) and it will transfer your credit to a new Oyster card and cancel the old card – as long as the old card is registered. If you didn't register your old card, create a free TfL account and register your new card when you get it, as if your card isn't registered you cannot get a refund or replacement.

You can report an Oyster card as lost, stolen or not working by signing into your TfL account, selecting the card, clicking or tapping on 'Report card lost, stolen or failed' and following the instructions. If you want to do it over the phone, call TfL customer services on 0343 222 1234 between 8am and 8pm.

For full info on what to do about lost, stolen or faulty Oyster cards, see the 'Refunds and replacements' section of the TfL website.

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