Why Does Tapping In With Contactless Take Longer Than With Oyster?

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 12 months ago
Why Does Tapping In With Contactless Take Longer Than With Oyster?

It's rush hour. The queue for the ticket barriers crawls forwards. Every time a little bit of momentum picks up, it immediately collapses. Why's it going so slowly? Well, we have a theory...

Contactless lagging behind

Eagle-eyed commuters will have noticed that those using contactless to tap in take fractionally longer to tap in with, compared to those using Oyster Cards. Or does it? We talked to an anonymous insider — we take transport delays very seriously — to check whether it was just a figment of our (very) over-active imagination.

They confirmed our deepest held suspicions — that by a gargantuan few hundred milliseconds, contactless takes longer.

Which begs another question. Why? Contactless is the newer technology — it shouldn't be lagging behind Oyster, which has been around since 2003.

It turns out that there are two separate types of technology at play here. Contactless cards have a different type of chip and the whole system takes a little bit longer to energise. Oyster reigns supreme... for now.

A life-hack from the pre-contactless days. Photo: rashbre rashbre

Can we go deeper?

However, might there be more at play here? There are a couple of ways people can pay using contactless. Some use their bank cards. Others their phones. And then there are those who use smart watches.

The latter two might take longer than contactless bank cards. They both come in multiple different makes and versions, all of which may have different performance criteria. Then there's the issue of people opening the right app to get the thing to load in the first place.

Contactless has a 'loading' issue of its own. Namely, getting the card out of your wallet — a necessity for so many considering the amount of people trying to avoid card clash.

Yes there are the thoughtful commuters, who are prepared and have already whipped their card out and are ready to go by the time they reach the barrier. However, there are also those less on-the-ball, who erroneously believe it's ok to make everyone behind them suffer as they slowly finger past half-filled coffee chain loyalty cards.

Does it even matter?

Look. We're talking about milliseconds here. A second a day is lost at most. However, seconds add up. A second a day makes five seconds a week. If you're wedded to London and never take any holidays — like us — that's 260 seconds a year. Or four minutes and 20 seconds (insert generic stoner joke here).

So for those of you who care about your lost yearly minutes, use an Oyster card, and use it proud.

Last Updated 18 May 2018