Use an Oyster card? This article could save you £100s

Oyster Card 10th anniversary

As the Oyster Card celebrated its tenth anniversary of keeping London commuters moving, an Evening Standard article revealed that nearly £100 million of passengers’ money is lying unclaimed on the electronic tickets.

The revelation came about following a Freedom of Information request submitted by Liberal Democrats at the London Assembly.

The Standard reported that “A staggering £46.6 million is being held as deposits, charged at £5 per card, on 25 million dormant cards, those that have not been used for at least a year.”

The article added that this was “on top of credit of £53 million on the cards, bringing the unclaimed total on dormant ones to £99.6 million”.

The Oyster scheme was introduced on 30 June 2003, since when around 60 million cards have been issued.

Today, over 85 percent of all rail and bus travel in London is paid for using an Oyster card.

How to get your Oyster Card deposit back

If you’re one of the many commuters who has worked their way through a number of Oyster cards and has several residing in various drawers and coat pockets at home or work, don’t forget that you can claim back any unused balance and the £3 or £5 deposit you spent to activate the card.

The process for getting reimbursed is currently a little clumsy, as commuters can get their money back at Tube station ticket offices only if they topped up the card with cash.

If you’ve added money to your Oyster card with a credit or debit card, refunds can only be made by phoning the Oyster hotline on 0343 222 1234.

TfL say that they hope shortly to enable passengers to get refunds at ticket offices no matter how they paid, but this is pending a software update.

Did you know?

Technical issues aside it’s hard to argue that the introduction of the Oyster card has done anything but help make commuting around London easier.

Here at Commuting Expert we’ll soon be publishing a complete guide to getting the most out of your Oyster card, including some money saving tips you may not have expected.

In the meantime were you aware that:

Three names were shortlisted before “Oyster” was chosen. In another world, Londoners could be carrying around Gem or Pulse cards to pay for their transport.

The name “Oyster” was apparently adopted because of the associated qualities of security and value (due to the hard bivalve shell and the concealed pearl); the connection of London and the River Thames with oysters; and the well-known travel-related idiom “the world is your oyster”.

Oyster allows 40 people per minute to pass through ticket gates, 15 more than with paper tickets, and also makes boarding a bus three times faster.

There have been a number of special edition Oyster cards over the years, commemorating events such as the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the 150 year anniversary of London Underground and The King Tutankhamen exhibition at the O2 Arena.

Oyster cards never expire. They can be used again after any length of time. Deposits and balances can also be refunded on return of the card at any time.

Oyster cards can be linked to an Online Account on the TfL website so that journeys and balances can be viewed.

Visit for more information (or just watch the video below!)

Looking ahead, TfL plans to make Oyster available as a method of payment on a greater number of transport routes, including the London Overground network.

Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Customer Experience, said: “We know that our customers love the convenience of Oyster, and we are immensely proud to celebrate its decade serving London. We are looking forward to extending the added convenience of contactless payments as an option for our rail customers.”
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How’d you like to use yours?

The Commuting Expert team will shortly be getting together with senior figures from both TfL and City Hall to talk about all things transport – so what would you like to see next from your Oyster card? Do they meet your current needs? Let us know your questions so we can put them to the decision makers on your behalf.


  • Lady GAGA