There is a way, if you can adjust your working patterns, to typically save several hundred quid per year in your cost of commuting to work.

The question is, are you in a position to work from home at least one day per week?

Many employers are increasingly interested in allowing some level of remote working, and frankly, many employees are quite keen on it, thanks to the ability to get some solid work done in a quiet environment.

Some people find domestic distractions too tempting, but personally, I found that spending a few minutes on domestic chores as a break from the keyboard was no more time consuming than the interminable office chatter and kitchen gossip.

So, assuming you can work from home one day per week…

If you buy a monthly travelcard covering zones 1-3, that works out at a cost of £1,784 per year (£148.70×12). If however, you work from home 1 day per week, then the cost of switching to paying £7.70 each day by contactless card payments come to £1,478 per year — a saving of £306 per year.

If you can work from home two days per week, the saving jumps to £675 per year.

The caveat is that this is based on an assumption of a 48 week working year due to not paying for commutes during holidays, and not traveling at weekends. But even some weekend travel isn’t going to eat deeply into the annual saving.

So obviously, this is good for you, but how to sell it to your employer?

Assuming your employer is still unaware of the fairly widely accepted benefits that many companies find in allowing some level of remote working, there is another approach to take.

“Dear boss, can I have a pay rise, that doesn’t cost you anything to give me?”

A zone 1-3 commuter working from home one day per week could be argued to be getting the equivalent of a pre-tax pay rise of around £500 — at no cost to the employer.

It’s unlikely to be a total freebie for the employer, as they may need to make changes to their IT systems to allow remote working, and may insist on installing some sort of BYOD software on your home computer to keep company documents safe from your, ahem, domestic web browsing habits.

Then again, if you’re working in a typical office, your home computer is probably considerably better than the one they force you to use at work.

Not all travel cards show a saving from working from home (or the local cafe), and it mostly benefits people commuting within the zones closest to the centre of London.

The cart below shows the calculations.

(Figures in red indicate that there’s a net loss from switching to daily tickets)

 ContactlessOyster CardTravelling 4 days per weekTravelling 3 days per week
MonthlyAnnualCost for
48 weeks


Cost for
48 weeks


Zone 1 only£6.60£126.80£1,320.00£1,267.20£254.40£52.80£950.40£571.20£369.60
Zones 1-2£6.60£126.80£1,320.00£1,267.20£254.40£52.80£950.40£571.20£369.60
Zones 1-3£7.70£148.70£1,548.00£1,478.40£306.00£69.60£1,108.80£675.60£439.20
Zones 1-4£9.50£181.70£1,892.00£1,824.00£356.40£68.00£1,368.00£812.40£524.00
Zones 1-5£11.20£215.90£2,248.00£2,150.40£440.40£97.60£1,612.80£978.00£635.20
Zones 1-6£12.00£231.20£2,408.00£2,304.00£470.40£104.00£1,728.00£1,046.40£680.00
Zones 1-7£13.00£251.20£2,616.00£2,496.00£518.40£120.00£1,872.00£1,142.40£744.00
Zones 1-8£15.50£296.90£3,092.00£2,976.00£586.80£116.00£2,232.00£1,330.80£860.00
Zones 1-9£17.20£329.10£3,428.00£3,302.40£646.80£125.60£2,476.80£1,472.40£951.20
Zones 1-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£330.70£3,444.00£4,416.00-£447.60-£972.00£3,312.00£656.40£132.00
Zones 1-9 + Shenfield£28.60£392.50£4,088.00£5,491.20-£781.20-£1,403.20£4,118.40£591.60-£30.40
Zone 2 only£6.60£94.90£988.00£1,267.20-£128.40-£279.20£950.40£188.40£37.60
Zones 2-3£7.70£94.90£988.00£1,478.40-£339.60-£490.40£1,108.80£30.00-£120.80
Zones 2-4£9.50£104.90£1,092.00£1,824.00-£565.20-£732.00£1,368.00-£109.20-£276.00
Zones 2-5£11.20£126.00£1,312.00£2,150.40-£638.40-£838.40£1,612.80-£100.80-£300.80

Zones 2-6

Zones 2-7£13.00£164.00£1,708.00£2,496.00-£528.00-£788.00£1,872.00£96.00-£164.00
Zones 2-8£15.50£223.20£2,324.00£2,976.00-£297.60-£652.00£2,232.00£446.40£92.00
Zones 2-9£17.20£223.20£2,324.00£3,302.40-£624.00-£978.40£2,476.80£201.60-£152.80
Zones 2-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£223.20£2,324.00£4,416.00-£1,737.60-£2,092.00£3,312.00-£633.60-£988.00
Zones 2-9 + Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40
Zone 3 only£7.70£94.90£988.00£1,478.40-£339.60-£490.40£1,108.80£30.00-£120.80
Zones 3-4£9.50£94.90£988.00£1,824.00-£685.20-£836.00£1,368.00-£229.20-£380.00
Zones 3-5£11.20£104.90£1,092.00£2,150.40-£891.60-£1,058.40£1,612.80-£354.00-£520.80
Zones 3-6£12.00£126.00£1,312.00£2,304.00-£792.00-£992.00£1,728.00-£216.00-£416.00
Zones 3-7£13.00£164.00£1,708.00£2,496.00-£528.00-£788.00£1,872.00£96.00-£164.00
Zones 3-8£15.50£223.20£2,324.00£2,976.00-£297.60-£652.00£2,232.00£446.40£92.00
Zones 3-9£17.20£223.20£2,324.00£3,302.40-£624.00-£978.40£2,476.80£201.60-£152.80
Zones 3-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£223.20£2,324.00£4,416.00-£1,737.60-£2,092.00£3,312.00-£633.60-£988.00
Zones 3-9 + Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40
Zone 4 only£9.50£94.90£988.00£1,824.00-£685.20-£836.00£1,368.00-£229.20-£380.00
Zones 4-5£11.20£94.90£988.00£2,150.40-£1,011.60-£1,162.40£1,612.80-£474.00-£624.80
Zones 4-6£12.00£104.90£1,092.00£2,304.00-£1,045.20-£1,212.00£1,728.00-£469.20-£636.00
Zones 4-7£13.00£118.70£1,236.00£2,496.00-£1,071.60-£1,260.00£1,872.00-£447.60-£636.00
Zones 4-8£15.50£199.70£2,080.00£2,976.00-£579.60-£896.00£2,232.00£164.40-£152.00
Zones 4-9£17.20£199.70£2,080.00£3,302.40-£906.00-£1,222.40£2,476.80-£80.40-£396.80
Zones 4-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£199.70£2,080.00£4,416.00-£2,019.60-£2,336.00£3,312.00-£915.60-£1,232.00
Zones 4-9 + Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40
Zone 5 only£11.20£94.90£988.00£2,150.40-£1,011.60-£1,162.40£1,612.80-£474.00-£624.80
Zones 5-6£12.00£94.90£988.00£2,304.00-£1,165.20-£1,316.00£1,728.00-£589.20-£740.00
Zones 5-7£13.00£118.70£1,236.00£2,496.00-£1,071.60-£1,260.00£1,872.00-£447.60-£636.00
Zones 5-8£15.50£199.70£2,080.00£2,976.00-£579.60-£896.00£2,232.00£164.40-£152.00
Zones 5-9£17.20£199.70£2,080.00£3,302.40-£906.00-£1,222.40£2,476.80-£80.40-£396.80
Zones 5-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£199.70£2,080.00£4,416.00-£2,019.60-£2,336.00£3,312.00-£915.60-£1,232.00
Zones 5-9 + Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40
Zone 6 only£12.00£94.90£988.00£2,304.00-£1,165.20-£1,316.00£1,728.00-£589.20-£740.00
Zones 6-7£13.00£118.70£1,236.00£2,496.00-£1,071.60-£1,260.00£1,872.00-£447.60-£636.00
Zones 6-8£15.50£199.70£2,080.00£2,976.00-£579.60-£896.00£2,232.00£164.40-£152.00
Zones 6-9£17.20£199.70£2,080.00£3,302.40-£906.00-£1,222.40£2,476.80-£80.40-£396.80
Zones 6-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£199.70£2,080.00£4,416.00-£2,019.60-£2,336.00£3,312.00-£915.60-£1,232.00
Zones 6-9 + Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40
Zone 7 only£13.00£118.70£1,236.00£2,496.00-£1,071.60-£1,260.00£1,872.00-£447.60-£636.00
Zones 7-8£15.50£199.70£2,080.00£2,976.00-£579.60-£896.00£2,232.00£164.40-£152.00
Zones 7-9£17.20£199.70£2,080.00£3,302.40-£906.00-£1,222.40£2,476.80-£80.40-£396.80
Zones 7-9 + Watford Junction£23.00£199.70£2,080.00£4,416.00-£2,019.60-£2,336.00£3,312.00-£915.60-£1,232.00
Zone 8 only£15.50£199.70£2,080.00£2,976.00-£579.60-£896.00£2,232.00£164.40-£152.00
Zones 8-9£17.20£199.70£2,080.00£3,302.40-£906.00-£1,222.40£2,476.80-£80.40-£396.80
Zone 8 + Watford Junction£23.00£199.70£2,080.00£4,416.00-£2,019.60-£2,336.00£3,312.00-£915.60-£1,232.00
Zones 9 (Brentwood) – Shenfield£28.60£298.00£3,104.00£5,491.20-£1,915.20-£2,387.20£4,118.40-£542.40-£1,014.40

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16 comments on “How to save on your tube commute costs
  1. John Usher says:

    Seems to be largely negative if you live outside Zone 3?

  2. Deb Fishburn says:

    Would be interesting to see a similar study based on travelling outside of peak times, and the value of the travelcard for those who arrive early, or leave late.

    • Ian Visits says:

      I did a quick look at off-peak travel, but it didn’t seem that significant a factor — unless you have a railcard which gives you a one-third discount after 9:30am.

  3. Sykobee says:

    Yeah, my employer started offering 2 days a week towards the end of last year (so 2016 wasn’t all bad!) so I’m making a nice saving. Especially as I never bothered with the travelcards…

  4. Bio bop says:

    In practice, most monthly travelcard users will buy fewer than 12 in a year.

    Sometimes they line up quite nicely with holidays, or weekends, leaving a gap where you don’t buy coverage.

    • Sykobee says:

      Very rarely without planning (and school holidays can ruin those plans, as they force your hand with taking time off – luckily these align with bank holidays quite well).

      So most monthly users will get between 8 and 10 a year (and likely will auto-get a monthly before realising they have a holiday in that month), and the rest will either be weeklies or PayG, so the WfH people will be saving even more money than the tables above. The annual travelcard takes holidays, etc, into account hence it looks cheaper, but on a per-day basis…

      Note that companies can allow regular WfH up to three days a week before they have to reclassify your working situation, so if you can wrangle that…

  5. George says:

    This analysis implies you take no journeys at the weekend

  6. Robert says:

    Will you be doing something similar for rail only London Terminals tickets? For example how many days a week of work makes it worth while buying a monthly or annual ticket which is point to point.

    Also worth noting that, at least for rail annual season tickets, that they also are an annual gold card giving reductions on many journeys in the old Network South East region.

  7. Phil says:

    Are you sure about the figures for the cases that exclude Zone 1? For example for Zones 2-4, your figure of £1,824 is the same as for Zones 1-4.

    The Zone 2-4 single is £2.40 peak so for 48 weeks it is 2 x 2.40 x 4 x 48 = £921.60.

  8. Phil says:

    Ok. I guess the point I am making is that someone who makes a single return journey Zones 2-4 for 4 days per week for 48 weeks will spend £921.60 per year which is a small saving over the annual season ticket. I will shut up now.

  9. Haider Ali says:

    Please solve my problem 🙂

    I live in Woodford and work at a West Middlesex Hospital. I take tube from Woodford to Shephard’s Bush station, and then a bus from Shephard’s Bush to the hospital.

    And then again the bus to get back to Shephard’s Bush station yet again to get to the tube to get home in Woodford. It is quite a long journey but moreover it seems expensive given the prospect of buying a travelcard.

    The problem is, there are two options in buying the travelcard. One is for Zones 1-4 which costs around £188.20 and the other is for Zone 2-4 which costs around £108.30.

    Woodford is in Zone 4 while Shephard’s Bush is in Zone 2. So which travel card should I buy?