Video: Oyster Oddities - Are You Paying Too Much For Your Journey?

Geoff Marshall
By Geoff Marshall Last edited 24 months ago
Video: Oyster Oddities - Are You Paying Too Much For Your Journey?

You tap in, catch your train, and tap out the other end. And that's that. Or is it? When using your Oyster, everything isn't always as it should be.

Did you know that an off-peak journey outside of zone 1 is charged differently by different franchises? Did you know that the Overground can be treated as both National Rail or tube/DLR depending on what other services are used? Watch the video above to see some strange Oyster fare charging in action, and how you can use them to your advantage.

Some examples were just too complicated for us to go and make a video of. Here's one which we'll try to explain to you as simply as we can, highlighting that while Oyster and contactless fares are the same, the capping ISN'T always the same.

If you use Oyster, it works out the charges at the time of when you touch out, and assumes the 'worst' about any further travel you might make that day. Contactless looks at all your travel together at the end of the day when it is processed, and works out the cheapest way to charge you for all the travel in one day.

So... a journey from Upminster (Z6) to Oxford Circus (Z1) off-peak on Oyster costs £3.10. If you then make three more zone 1 tube journeys at £2.40 each, that's £7.20 you've paid — £10.30 in total. If you then go home from Bond Street to Upminster, that's £3.10 again and that'll hit the Oyster cap of £11.80 (zones 1-6).

However, do exactly the same on a contactless card and it'll charge you the zone 1-2 cap of £6.50, plus two £1.50 zone 3-6 extensions — a total of just £9.50.

Finally, here's a comparison table, showing you how different parts of the Oyster network charges you different prices for a zone to zone 4 journey.

If you know of an example where it's cheaper to break a journey, or break an out of station interchange (OSI), or go a different way to get a cheaper fare, let us know in the comments.

Last Updated 10 May 2016

Continued below.

Geoff Marshall

It's also worth noting that Thameslink, Southern and SouthEastern (who are voted the WORSE for customer satisfaction in London: are all in the most expensive column. They charge you the most, yet people are the most unhappy with them.

Tube Geek

Geoff, have you moved then? Last I knew you lived in the Ealing area and Ealing Common was your local station, not Penge East/West

Mike Whitaker

There are actually EIGHT different scales of fares for travel within zones 1-9. This includes SEVEN different actual fares for a single from zone 8 to zone 1. I've put up a full list at

Daniel Coelho

There is something i dont really understand: ive realized recently that i am being charged £2,90 from Wapping to Caledonian Road, changing at Highbury and Islington. I did this because i was assuming that entering and leaving at zone 2 wouldnt cost me more than traveling between zone 2 to 1. Now, does this make sense or am i being too dim?

Geoff Marshall

For those of you that want to see how the different National Railway companies in London use different 'scales' for their different Oyster fares, Mike has created this excellent article and map here which shows you how they vary! ...

Tube Geek

Geoff, have you moved then? Last I knew, you lived in the Ealing area and your local station was Ealing Common, not Penge East or Penge West!

Sophie Edward

Yes it really annoys me that for my journey Camberwell to Charing Cross underground station it costs different if I go Loughborough Junction to Charing Cross (£4.30 peak fare) or Denmark Hill to Charing Cross (£2.70) - both are change to Bakerloo line at Elephant

Steven Henson

Have you seen the new Oyster fares to Gatwick Airport. They are very odd. Gatwick to Clapham Junction in zone 2 is £6.50 off peak but Gatwick to Wandsworth Road, also zone 2, is £8.60.
Also, it's cheaper to break your journey at East Croydon. Gatwick to East Croydon is £3.00 then East Croydon to either Clapham Junction or Wandsworth Road is £2.50.

Trevor van der Merwe

Oyster is way to complicated to keep track of and frankly its impossible to find out from the website where the savings really are...just buy a travel card with your rail fare. Far simpler and cheaper

Peter Young

Some OSI anomalies have been removed. When London-wide National Rail use of Oyster was introduced, those interchanging between South West Trains and the Underground at Vauxhall were being charged more on pay as you go for their entire journey than the sum of the fares for the two separate legs. This arose because of Vauxhall's position on the zone 1 & 2 boundary. However, after a year or so, the fares charged for though journeys via Vauxhall were changed to the lower figure without any need for complex touching and retouching.

As far as l know, Oyster charging is based on tables which show the fare from each place to everywhere else. So it's not surprising if they contain a few anomalies. It also means TfL can adjust them. I recommend that, if your journey is charged at a higher rate than the sum of the cost of its separate legs, you pursue a formal complaint through TfL's full procedure. If that doesn't produce a result, you should then take your complaint to London TravelWatch.