The minimum automatic top-up allowed on a pay as you go Oyster card has been halved to £10 from the minimum of £20 that used to apply.
The reduction comes after a campaign by London Travel Watch which had expressed concerns that at a time of both rising cost of living and fewer journeys, people may have difficulties if their Oyster card were to automatically deduct £20 from their bank account.
The automatic top-up system applies to Oyster Cards with an online account where people can set it to maintain a balance of at least £20 to ensure that people don’t make a journey only to find they can’t leave a station at the end of the trip because their Oyster card credit had been used up earlier in the day.
Previously that could have meant someone making a short trip one day, and being left with a balance at the end of the day of £19.99 would then a £20 top-up automatically taken from their bank account.
That short trip could have left them with a balance of nearly £40 on their Oyster card. This money is then locked into the TfL system and can’t easily be retrieved unless the Oyster card account is cancelled.
A few years ago, TfL used to require a minimum balance of £10 on pay as you go Oyster cards, but this was raised to £20 in 2019. Oyster card users can now log-in to their TfL account and lower the minimum top-up amount to £10, although the threshold trigger remains £20, so no one should ever have more than £30 of unused credit on their card.
People who use Contactless bank cards do not need to maintain a balance on their account, as their card is debited for fares without an account needing to be set up first.
Although Oyster cards are declining in use in favour of Contactless payments, there is still a sizeable minority of users, especially parents offering cards to children.