A visitors guide to London!

Contactless travel in London with your bank card: Do or Don’t?

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contactless payment in London Tube

Nowadays you can pay contactless everywhere. At the supermarket around the corner, at the gas station and even with the charity collector at the door. This is also the case with Transport for London (TfL) on the trains and buses. At TfL they call this Contactless.

But what is it and how does it work? We explain it to you.

What is Contactless?

Contactless Logo

Contactless is paying with your bank card or credit card. Your Contactless logo must appear on your card, otherwise you will not have the required technology in your card. For contactless payments you do not need a PIN code up to a certain amount of money. In the United Kingdom this is GBP 30. (around € 36).

How does Contactless work on TfL?

Contactless works the same as an Oyster card. Just like Oyster, you check in and out on the yellow card readers. The trip will then be charged on the basis of the Pay-As-You-Go rate.

And just like Oyster, you also benefit from the daily price cap, the maximum amount that is charged per day.

Is Contactless the same as Oyster?

There are not many differences between Contactless and Oyster. Not that it’s likely you notice them as a visitor.

You can use both cards as Pay-As-Yo-Go payment. And that is immediately the biggest difference.

Bank cards that support Contactless can only be used for Pay-As-You-Go. While a discount card can also be placed on an Oyster card.

What is cheaper? Oyster or Contactless?

If you can believe TfL, the same rates apply to both payment methods. However, in real life there sometimes appears to be a difference.

Geoff Marshall from Londonist and All the Stations has checked this and explains it in the video below.

Do you have to register to use Contactless?

No, this is not required. But it is allowed and it is also strongly advised!

You can create an account with TfL and register your card. You will then see your travel and payment history online and in the Oyster app.

But even more important! If you have not checked out properly, which obviously can happen, the maximum rate will be charged. Without an online account you cannot get back the overdrawn money or at least very it is very difficult.

If you want to register, go here. The Oyster app can be downloaded here .

How about transaction costs from your bank?

If you are from within Europe this is not so bad. The UK is still within European regulations, so no extra costs are charged for paying with your debit card.

However, you do pay a rate surcharge, because you pay in London with pounds. This is around 1.1% in the Netherlands, so it is negligible.

In addition, you also pay this 1.1% if you put money on your Oyster card, so there is no difference in that respect.

How about the Brexit?

Even after the Brexit, you can pay with no extra costs, withdraw money from the ATM and pay Contactless at TfL. For more information click here.

Is Apple Pay and Google Pay supported?

Apple Pay

Yes, both Apple Pay and Google Pay are supported. Make sure that when you check in with your mobile, you also check out again with the same mobile because otherwise you will have two incomplete journeys and you will pay the maximum prize. Even if you check out with your Contactless payment card which is linked to Apple Pay. This may sound illogical, but that’s how the system works.

What is a Card Clash?

A card Clash can happen if you accidentally place multiple cards on a yellow card reader at the same time.

So make sure that all Contactless and Oyster cards are separated from each other and not in the same wallet or phone case that you checked in and out with.

When a Card Clash occurs, the system gets upset and one or more incomplete journeys are registered and you get the maximum rate calculated again.

So be careful!


Whether you want to use Contactless you must be decide for yourself. Cost-wise it makes no difference if you’re from withing Europe, so it is purely about what you find useful yourself and are comfortable with. I always use an Oyster Card myself. Nice and easy in your jacket or pocket.

On one of my trips in 2020 I will definitely give this a try, see how it works and like it. I will then use it via Apple Pay. You always have your phone apart from everything, at least I do. I’ll keep you posted.

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