Using a contactless card on the London Underground or any other method of public transport in the British capital has become one of the most frequent ways to pay for trips made.
For many years now, it has been possible to use a contactless card to pay for public transport in London, either by debit or credit card, in addition to being able to use the different transport cards available. Little by little it has become the method most used by Londoners themselves, probably because of the ease of using this payment method. Below we explain how to use a contactless card and if it is better for you to use a transport card.
What will you find in this article?
- How to use a contactless card in London
- Contactless cards valid for use on London transport
- Contactless cards designed for travel
- Cards issued in the UK
- Cards issued outside the UK
- Contactless cards not accepted
- Use the mobile: Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay….
- Things to consider when using a contactless card issued outside the UK
- Differences between Oyster Card and Contactless Card
- Fares 2022 when using a contactless card on public transport in London
- Price Table of different routes with Contactless Card (or Oyster Card) and single ticket 2022
- Maximum Daily and Weekly Limits when using Contactless
- Child Rate
How to use a contactless card in London
It is possible to use a contactless debit or credit card to pay on London’s public transport, including the London Underground, public buses, London rail network, DLR (docklands light rail), tram, overground, Gatwick and Heathrow Express.
To use the contactless card as a payment method on public transport in London, you simply have to keep in mind that it works exactly the same as an oyster card . The rates that apply when using contactless are the same as those that apply when using the Oyster card, which has always been one of the cheapest and therefore most used ways to use public transport in London.
It is necessary to use a contactless card per person . Like the oyster card, to use it you simply need to tap on the same yellow reader that is used for the oyster card.
On the London Underground, overground, DLR, and trains within the London transport zones, it is necessary to present the contactless card at the yellow reader that you will find at the entrance and exit. In the case of public buses, it is simply necessary to present the card when getting on the bus, and not when leaving.
Contactless cards valid for use on London transport
Contactless debit or credit cards must display the contactless symbol (image to the right) in order to use them as a payment method on the London public transport system.
Contactless cards designed for travel
Today there are several wallet-type debit cards, which have the contactless function that are ideal for travel. These cards usually have many advantages, and it is one of the best ways to pay and not carry a lot of cash.
You can order one before you travel to London, but if you don’t have time for it to arrive home before you travel, don’t worry. You can create a virtual card in the Revolut app and then pay with your mobile phone. Our favorite is the Revolut card, and we have prepared a guide with everything you need to know to order and use it in London without any problems: Use Revolut Card in London . But we also have a guide where we talk about the different cards available: Travel Cards .
Cards issued in the UK
If you have a contactless card that has been issued in the UK (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or American Express) you should be able to use it without any problems.
Cards issued outside the UK
Most contactless cards issued outside the UK are valid. Keep in mind that you must have the option to use your card abroad activated, and that your bank may charge you a commission each time you use it.
- American Express: All American Express contactless cards should be valid.
- MasterCard and Maestro: Almost all MasterCard and Maestro contactless payment cards issued outside the UK are valid. Most of the cards that are not accepted are from the US, Canada and the Netherlands.
- Visa and V PAY: Some Visa and V PAY contactless cards that are only for online purchases may cause problems in London.
Contactless cards not accepted
Contactless payment cards issued by other entities such as Diners Club, JCB or Union Pay are not accepted.
Use the mobile: Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay….
It is possible to use the mobile to pay in the London public transport system with Apple Pay or Android Pay contactless technology, among others. The rates that apply are the same as with the contactless card.
If your account is linked to a non-UK debit or credit card it may not work or your bank may charge you a fee each time you use it – best to check with your bank before you travel.
Remember that you will have to have a mobile phone with NFC technology and this option must be activated to be able to make contactless payments with your mobile in London and anywhere else in the world.
Things to keep in mind when using a contactless card issued outside of the UK
If you have a contactless payment card that has been issued outside of the UK, I would recommend you keep the following things in mind:
- You should be able to use it to pay without problems as long as your account or bank does not have any restrictions activated.
- Make sure it is activated to be able to use it abroad.
- It is very important to keep in mind that your bank may charge you a commission each time you use it . If so, in that case it can be much cheaper to use other prepaid “purse” cards such as the Revolut. Below is a link to our guide on how to create a Revolut account in minutes.
For this reason, I recommend that you inform yourself well at your bank before coming if you want to use your card in London transport, since the commissions charged by banks can vary a lot.
Use Revolut card to travel to London
If you are in doubt about what fees your bank may charge you, then we would recommend asking for the Revolut card. You can use it to pay in shops, restaurants and on public transport in London.
If you no longer have time to request a card to travel, and you do not know if your bank will charge you commissions, when in doubt, for ease and just in case, I would recommend using an oyster card or a visitor oyster card.
Differences between Oyster Card and Contactless Card
When paying with a contactless card the same fees apply as when using an Oyster card.
Maximum Daily Cap
When using the contactless card, the same maximum daily limit applies as when using an Oyster card.
Maximum Weekly Cap
When using the contactless card, in addition to the maximum daily cap, there is also a maximum weekly cost cap that is not available when using an Oyster Card. This maximum weekly cap applies from Monday to Sunday, and the maximum applicable 7-day fare is equal to the price of a 7-day London Travelcard . The difference is that the 7-day Travelcard can be used any day of the week, while the rate applied when using the contactless card is valid from Monday to Sunday.
There are no administrative fees when using a contactless card. When acquiring an Oyster Card it is necessary to pay a deposit of 5 pounds. This deposit is refundable, and is returned to you when you return the Oyster Card. But you return the oyster card before a month, you have to pay 3 pounds for administration costs.
To use the Oyster card it is necessary to add credit to the card before using public transport. With the contactless card, the total cost of all the trips you have made during a day is calculated at the end of the day and there is only one daily payment. That is, the total will appear as a single transaction, instead of 5 transactions if you have traveled 5 times.
Not available with contactless cards.
2022 fares when using a contactless card on London public transport
The fees that apply when using a contactless card are exactly the same as when using an oyster card, and the same maximum daily cap applies as with the Oyster card.
The price of each journey will depend on two things:
- The transport zones in London that you have passed through: depending on whether you are going from zone 1 to zone 1, or from zone 1 to zone 3, etc.
- The time of day you travel: The journey will be a little more expensive if you travel during rush hour (peak time), that is, a business day between 6:30 and 9:30 in the morning and between 4:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon. If you travel outside rush hour (off peak) it will be a little cheaper.
Price table of different routes with Contactless Card (or Oyster Card) and single ticket 2022
|Zones||Oyster or Contactless (Out of rush hour)||Oyster or Contactless (rush hour)||One-way ticket|
|2 – 6||£2.80||£1.50||£5.90|
|Gatwick Express||£19.90||£19.90||according to train|
|Heathrow Express||£25.00||£22.00||according to train|
Maximum Daily and Weekly Limits when using Contactless
It is also very important to bear in mind that there is a MAXIMUM DAILY LIMIT after which trips using the oyster card or contactless card are free. And, as I mentioned before, with the contactless card a maximum weekly limit is also applied.
The maximum daily limit or «daily cap» applies to a calendar day, and depends on the areas in which you have traveled. Basically, once you have reached that maximum limit, the following trips you make (on any method of public transport in London) will be free. It is still necessary to present the oyster card or contactless card at the yellow card reader when entering the bus or entering and exiting the London Underground (or other method of transport). For this reason, it is sometimes better to use an oyster card or contactless card than a one-day travelcard in London, but this is explained in more detail in this article: Oyster card or Travelcard .
The maximum weekly limit that applies when using a contactless card is applied from Monday to Sunday. The maximum 7-day rate applied is equal to the price of a 7-day London Travelcard from the zones you have used. The difference is that the 7-day Travelcard can be used any day of the week, while the rate applied when using the contactless card is valid from Monday to Sunday.
|Zones||Maximum Daily Limit (Oyster or Contactless)||1 day travel card||7 day travel card|
|1 – 2||£7.20||£13.50||£36.10|
|1 – 3||£8.50||£13.50||£42.40|
|1 – 4||£10.40||£13.50||£51.90|
|fifteen||£12.30||£19.10 peak / £13.50 off peak||£61.70|
|1 – 6||£13.20||£19.10 peak / £13.50 off peak||£66.00|
|Bus (any zone)||£4.50||£5.00||£21.20|
Peak: Peak hour. Off peak: Outside rush hour.
Bus: Only using buses, the maximum daily limit using an oyster card is 4.50 pounds.
It is not possible to opt for a child rate when using a contactless card. Remember that children under 11 travel free on public transport in London, and they do not need any type of ticket to use the transport.
Children aged 11 to 16 can take advantage of the Young Visitor Discount, but they will need an Oyster card to do so.
Outside the London transport zones, and to get to Gatwick, Luton or Gatwick airports, children (even if they are under 11 years old) will need a train ticket.