Using contactless payment to pay for London´s public transport is slowly becoming one of the most popular ways to pay for using London´s transport system. These can be used to pay for travel on London´s underground system (known as the tube in London) or any other method of public transport in London, such as buses, trams, DLR, and riverboat services.
It does make a big difference being able to use your own debit or credit card to pay for London´s transport, as this can be the same card you use to pay in shops, restaurants, cafes etc. You no longer need a specific transport card if your contactless payment method is valid.
How to use contactless payment for London´s public transport
You can use your contactless credit or debit card to pay for public transport in London, including the London Underground, public buses, London rail network, DLR (docklands light rail), tram, and overground as the Gatwick and Heathrow Express.
You can add supported payment cards to Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay and use your mobile phone or smartwatch to make contactless payments.
To use a contactless payment method on public transport in London, simply keep in mind that it works exactly the same as an oyster card. The fees that apply when using contactless payment are the same as those that apply when using an oyster card, which has always been one of the cheapest and, therefore, most widely used ways to pay for public transport in London. If you are not familiar with Oyster Cards, check out what is an oyster card.
One very important thing to remember is that you need one contactless card or contactless payment method per person. Just like you would with an oyster card, to use it, you simply have to swipe your card, phone or smartwatch on the yellow reader at the barriers.
On the London Underground, Overground, DLR, and trains within the London transport zones, swipe with your contactless payment method at the yellow reader by the barriers as you go in and out. If you are using contactless payment to travel on a bus, you just swipe the card once as you get on the bus; there is no need to swipe again as you leave the bus.
Contactless cards valid for use on London transport
Contactless credit or debit cards must display the contactless symbol (image to the right) to be used as a payment method on London’s public transport system.
Contactless cards designed for travel
Nowadays, there are several wallet-type debit cards with a contactless function that are ideal for travelling, as they don´t have any overseas transaction fees.
Our favourite card for this is Revolut, which is super easy to use. We believe this is one of the best ways to pay when you´re abroad and not have to carry cash with you if you are on a trip.
You can easily create an account before you travel to London, and you could either request a card be sent to you or just add it to Google Pay or Apple Pay as a virtual card on your phone or smartwatch. You can then easily manage your card on your phone and add money to this account easily just by transferring from your normal bank account.
Cards issued in the UK
If you have a contactless card issued in the UK (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or American Express) you should be able to use it to pay for London´s public transport without any problems, and the fares will be exactly the same as if you used an Oyster Card.
Cards issued outside the UK
Most contactless cards issued outside of the UK are valid. You must have the option to use your card abroad activated if necessary. And one thing to check is if your bank will charge you a commission fee each time you use it, in which case, you probably want to get yourself a card with no commission fees.
- American Express: All American Express contactless cards should be valid.
- MasterCard and Maestro: Almost all MasterCard and Maestro contactless payment cards issued outside of 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 contactless Visa and V PAY cards that are only for online purchases may cause problems in London. But in general, if you have a Visa card that you usually use to pay in establishments at home, in reality, it should work in London but I would check with your bank.
Contactless cards not accepted
Contactless payment cards issued by other entities such as Diners Club, JCB or Union Pay are not accepted.
Using your Mobile Phone or SmartWatch: Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay…
You can add supported payment cards to Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay and use your mobile phone or smartwatch to make contactless payments. The rates that apply are the same as with a contactless card or oyster card.
If your account is linked to a non-UK-issued 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 your NFC technology must be activated to make contactless payments with your mobile phone.
Things to consider when using a contactless card issued outside of the UK
If you have a contactless card that has been issued outside of the UK, I would recommend keeping 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 essential to keep in mind that your bank may charge you a commission fee each time you use it. If so, it can be much cheaper to use Revolut.
For this reason, I highly recommend that you find out exactly what you will be charged in terms of commission and transaction fees if you want to use your card on London transport since these fees can vary significantly.
Differences between Oyster Card and Contactless Card
When using contactless payment the same fees apply as when using an Oyster card.
When using contactless payment the same maximum daily cap applies as when using an Oyster card.
When using contactless payment, in addition to the daily cap, there is also a weekly cap. This maximum weekly cap applies from Monday to Sunday, and the maximum 7-day rate that applies is equivalent 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 admin fees when using contactless payment. You have to pay £7 to get an Oyster Card.
When you use an Oyster card you will need to top it up and make sure you have enough credit on it for the barriers to open. With contactless payment, the total cost of all the trips you have made during the day is deducted at the end of the day as one single payment.
These are not available with contactless payment.
2023 fares when using contactless payment on public transport in London
The fees that apply when using contactless payment are exactly the same as when using an oyster card, and the same maximum daily cap applies as with an Oyster Card.
The price of each journey made on public transport will depend on two things:
- London travel zones: The price of travel will vary depending on whether you are going from zone 1 to zone 1, from zone 1 to zone 3, etc. Find out more about London Travel Zones.
- The time of day you travel: Different rates apply according to the time of the day. Peak time is business days between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Slightly cheaper if you travel during off-peak times.
Contactless Payment and Oyster Card Fares compared to Single Cash Fares from 5th of March 2023
|London Transport Fares 2023|
|Zones||Contactless / Oyster (Peak)||Contactless / Oyster (Off Peak)||Cash|
|Zones 1 – 2||£3.40||£2.80||£6.70|
|Zones 1 – 3||£3.70||£3.00||£6.70|
|Zones 1 – 4||£4.40||£3.20||£6.70|
|Zones 1 – 5||£5.10||£3.50||£6.70|
|Zones 1 – 6||£5.60||£3.60||£6.70|
|Zones 2 – 6||£3.60||£5.60||£6.70|
|Gatwick Express||from £19.90||from £19.90||depending on train|
|Heathrow Express||£25.00||£22.00||depending on train|
*Prices updated March 2023. The rates when using a contactless card are the same as when using an oyster card for London public transport.
Daily and Weekly Caps when using Contactless Payment on London Transport
|Zones||Contactless Daily Cap||1 Day Travelcard||7 Day Travelcard|
|1 – 2||£8.10||£15.20||£40.70|
|1 – 3||£9.60||£15.20||£47.90|
|1 – 4||£11.70||£15.20||£58.50|
|1 – 5||£13.90||£21.50 peak / £15.20 off-peak||£69.60|
|1 – 6||£14.90||£21.50 peak / £15.20 off-peak||£74.40|
|Buses (any zones)||£5.25||£5.90||£24.70|
It is not possible to opt for child rates when using contactless payments on London Transport. Remember that children under 11 travel for free on London public transport, and they do not need tickets as they can get through the big gates with an adult.
Children from 11 to 16 can benefit from the Young Visitor Discount on an oyster card.
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.