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Contactless payments on TfL - everything you need to know

James Temperton
24 Sep 2014
London Underground
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Contactless payments are now live on tubes, buses, trams and trains across London - we explain how it works

Contactless payments are now live on the entire London transport network. Tubes, buses, trams, DLR and National Rail services within the Oyster fare zone can now all be paid for using contactless payment cards and apps, instead of Oyster Cards or paper tickets. You simply use your contactless card as you would an Oyster card, tapping in and out using the same Oyster-branded points at stations.

For most people contactless will be cheaper than using Oyster, while it also gives you more freedom over how much you pay. A new Monday-Sunday fare cap will ensure you always pay the lowest possible fare for all your journeys, either totting up your individual journeys (at the same prices as using an Oyster) or capping your spend once you hit the price of a weekly travelcard.

Contactless is also a lot smarter than Oyster. If all your journeys in a week are between Zones 1-3 and you make two journeys to Zone 4 then the system can work out that a Zones 1-3 travelcard plus two extension fares to Zone 4 is the cheapest option. To put it simply: contactless is more high-tech than Oyster and this will save you money.

CONTACT-LESS?

The main problem is not everyone will be able to use it. At the moment contactless is only available from certain banks and phone companies leaving many people stuck on Oyster and unable to benefit from Monday-Sunday capping and 'smarter' fares. About 50 per cent of Londoners do not have access to a contactless card. If you do have one then it should just work, there's no registration needed.

The banks that currently support contactless are:

Capital One
Co-operative Bank Plc
Barclays (Barclays Bank and Barclaycard)
HSBC
Lloyds Banking Group (Halifax)
MBNA
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (NatWest and RBS)
Nationwide (only to FlexPlus and FlexDirect upon request)

If you're with Santander or Nationwide, or a number of other banks and building societies, you can't get a contactless card. With one of these banks and not sure if you've got contactless? Look for a small radio wave/contactless symbol on your card (four curved lines).

If you don't have a contactless card and don't want to switch accounts to get one, another option is to sign up for a credit card that supports the system. One place to look is Santander as their 123 card currently gives 3% cashback on Transport for London travel, so you'll save even more.

CARD ALTERNATIVES

Most card issuers who support contactless also make small 'tags' that you can stick to your wallet or phone to make contactless payments. Barclays has even made a contactless wristband called bPay, which lets customers tap their wrists at stations to pay for travel.

Intriguingly the bPay wristband can be linked to any UK Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card. Similar smart cards and other technologies are needed to ensure that everyone can use contactless payments. Barclays has said the first 10,000 people to apply for a bPay band will get one for free.

Contactless is also available from some mobile phone networks. If you're with EE (EE Cash on Tap) or Vodafone (Vodafone SmartPass) and have a compatible handset (one with NFC and an NFC SIM) then you can download the app and use your phone to make contactless payments.

That's great, so long as you've got a shiny new NFC handset and use EE or Vodafone. People on O2, Three, Orange, T-Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Virgin, GiffGaff and others can't use contactless. Likewise, if you're phone doesn't have NFC then you won't be able to take advantage.

A CASHLESS FUTURE

Contactless payments are genuinely beneficial to the majority of Londoners and even visitors to the city stand to gain from always paying the lowest possible fare. Support for contactless payments is currently limited to a select few banks, mobile phone operators and expensive smartphones.

It is hugely important that people who use other banks (or don't have a bank account at all) are not prevented from using the new contactless system. Oyster is an old and outdated system and contactless finally brings London's transport network up to date. The sooner everyone can take advantage the better. We suggest you hassle you bank and if they don't have a plan to roll out this technology then vote with your feet.

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