If you’re traveling to London, one of the best ways to make your trip easier is to buy an Oyster Card. For those that don’t know, an Oyster Card is an electronic card that allows you to travel freely on the Tube without having to pay for tickets indivdually.
Why bother with getting the card when you can just buy tickets at the station?
Well, the Oyster card gives you a substantial discount on a Tube fare. For example, a standard Tube ticket in Zone 1 costs £4 – while using an Oyster Card that same ticket would only costs £1.90 – quite a savings. And that savings really adds up if you make multiple journeys in a day (the fare is capped so you never exceed the day fare).
This post, though, is about the lack of support you get using this card if you’re not British.
I got an Oyster several trips ago and when I was preparing for my Royal Wedding Trip – I wanted to refill the card so I had plenty of travel on it when I was there. The only problem is that you can’t.
TFL does not allow you to refill the card if you’re not in Britain. Even if you have an online account with them, it won’t accept an American Credit Card or address. I only learned this after multiple tries.
This was very frustrating.
No big deal – the simple solution is to just refill the card at any Tube station. An extra step but easy enough.
However, I was very annoyed that the problem existed at all so I called TFL Oyster Support (From the USA) and left a message. They never got back to me. After following a million prompts on their website, I was able to submit a support ticket.
I did not hear anything from them – that is until a month and a half AFTER I returned from my trip.
Here’s what Transport for London had to say:
Dear Mr Jonathan Thomas
Thank you for your email to the Oyster Card Helpdesk. I’m sorry for the delay in replying to you.
Our website is currently setup to only accept United Kingdom (UK) registered addresses and payment cards. This was introduced as a means of combating fraud. Although this may change in the future, you won’t be able to make use of the online account feature at the moment. You can top-up at any staffed London Underground station, Oyster Ticket Stops or Travel Information Centre, when you’re next in London.
You can search for Oyster Ticket Stops and Travel Information Centres on the Transport for London website. You can therefore plan beforehand where will be most convenient for you to top up according to the area/postcode that you are going to be in:
Oyster Ticket Stops:
Travel Information Center locations and opening times:
So, there you have the reason why frequent travelers to London can’t refill their Oyster Cards. Very annoying. I really wish that they would think again about this – especially as there is a big push for tourists to start using Oyster Cards instead of buying day passess or tickets.
Still, despite this total lack of support for foreign travelers – I still recommend getting an Oyster Card.