You've had a long day at the office. Finally it's over and you tiredly get to the packed tube station for your rush hour commute home. You tap in at the barriers, when you suddenly realise you're not going home this evening. You're meeting a friend for dinner nearby. You tap back out and a horrible vision appears. A brief flash on the barriers: £7.80.
"BUT I DIDN'T EVEN GO ANYWHERE!"
Alas it matters not. Tapping in and out at the same station is pricey.
It's to stop people gaming the system. If you tap in at a station, you can't pass your oyster card back to your mate behind, the system won't accept two consecutive tap ins. However, it WILL accept them if the two are broken up by a tap out. So to discourage that, there's a hefty fee involved with doing so. Even if that means some innocents get caught in the crossfire.
The story doesn't quite end there however. If you then tap into another train station within 45 minutes of this original mishap, the original penalty will be deducted... as long as you haven't gone on a bus or a tram in the meantime.
Furthermore, this whole affair is a lot less pricey if you wait two minutes to tap back out. Then it will cost you just the usual minimum pay as you go fare from that station.
If you tap in and out at the same station after 30 minutes — say you travel across London only to realise you forgot your keys so have to go back to your original station — your balance is taking a serious hit. The system will assume you've done two incomplete journeys and charge you for both of them. This costs a grand total of £15.60, and probably the cancellation of your plans to visit the pub that evening.
But all is not lost. Talk to a member of staff at the time, and it should be possible to get a refund, as long as you haven't actually been doing anything naughty.
There's a complete list of the rules on TfL's website.
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