How to save money on transport in London

July 4, 2022 Icon 6 mins read
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London isn’t cheap. This is no more true than when it comes to public transportation. With fares slowly creeping up, you might be looking for ways to save money. Here’s a few tips and tricks to save money on transport in London, whether you live there, or you’re there for a visit.

Get an Oyster card

When the Oyster card was introduced, it was futuristic. It replaced paper Travelcards and bus tickets, acting as one solution for nearly all the transport in London.

These days, a lot of people see the Oyster card as a bit old-fashioned. Now that debit and credit cards allow contactless travel, you might wonder why anyone would bother with an Oyster card.

Oyster cards have a few advantages over contactless cards that you might not realise.

Oyster cards help you to keep track of your travel spending and they support concessions.

If you are a student living and studying in the capital, an 18+ Oyster card can save you 30% on adult-rate Travelcards and Bus and Tram Pass season tickets.

Another advantage of the Oyster card is that you can apply concessions to it. Speaking of which…

Get a Railcard and save money on transport in London off-peak

Railcards are available to anyone aged between 16 and 30 years old. There are also Disabled Persons Railcards, available to people with certain disabilities that make getting around more difficult.

Railcards give you a third off all tickets at the point of sale. This isn’t just useful for weekends away, it’s useful for day-to-day travel. Railcards are a good way to save money on transport in London.

The Railcard discount does not apply to peak travel (you will still have to pay an adult fare for that), but it can save you a lot of money when travelling off-peak. You must keep your Railcard on you at all times when on a journey that requires Railcards.

A little-known advantage of the Railcard is that it not only lowers fares by a third, it also lowers the daily off-peak cap on your Oyster card by a third. This means that once you have spent £9.30 on your card at the weekend, or outside peak times on weekdays, the system will no longer charge you to use public transport in London. Handy if you want to do a bit of weekend sightseeing!

How to add my Railcard to Oyster card

Adding your Railcard to your Oyster card is easy. Once you have your Railcard, go to any Tube, London Overground or Elizabeth line station, or an Oyster Ticket Stop, and ask a member of staff to apply the discount to your Oyster card. Once they have verified the information on your Railcard, you are good to go. Please note that you cannot add a Railcard to your Oyster card online. You also cannot add a Railcard to a contactless payment card.

Bear in mind that the conditions of carriage on the card require you to keep the card with you wherever you go. Consider investing in a card wallet for your Oyster and Railcard, or keep the Railcard somewhere that you won’t forget. If you fail to show your Railcard on demand, ticket inspectors may charge you a penalty fare.

Making sense of Oyster and Contactless capping

Capping is designed to ease the strain on your bank account when travelling in London. For adults in London, the daily cap for adults travelling between Zones 1 and 6 is £14.10, while the weekly cap is £70.30. This means that in any given week, you will never spend more than £70.30 on travel.

As previously mentioned, some concessions can affect your cap at different times, but this is true for most people. This is handy to know, because it means you never need to top up your card with more than £70.30 on any given week.

Travel on buses, trams and rail services counts towards your cap. This includes Elizabeth line, Thameslink and DLR. Bear in mind that Riverboat services and Emirates Air Line do not count towards your cap. Bike hire also does not count towards your cap.

If you want to save money on transport in London, capping is a good way to do it.

Can the Citymapper Pass help you save money on transport in London?

Citymapper have made headlines recently for “complementing” TfL’s Oyster pass with their own all-in-one private solution. (This article is not sponsored by Citymapper, by the way!)

The Citymapper Pass is essentially a prepaid debit card that gives you a subscription to almost all modes of transport in London. Pricing starts at £34.70 a week, which is less than half the price of a weekly Zone 1-6 Oyster Travelcard, and the weekly Oyster cap.

The Super Pass gives you unlimited access to Tube, Bus and Rail services between Zones 1 and 6.

The more expensive Super Duper Pass (£40.70 a week) additionally gives you unlimited access to 30-minute Santander bike hire. It also gives you £10 credit for black cabs, ride hailing, and e-bikes and scooters by Lime. At the time of writing, Citymapper promises that more modes and providers are coming soon.

If you need to travel a lot, and you’re a multimodal user who lives in the suburbs, the Citymapper Pass might be a good way to save money on travel costs.

For example, let’s say you live in Zone 6 and have to do peak time travel into and out of Zone 1 more than 3 times a week. At £5.50 a journey, that will cost you upwards of £33 per week on rail fares alone.

Of course, this isn’t factoring in any buses you may have to take. Nor does it factor in any other means of transport you may have to use.

In this case, a Citymapper Pass might be useful for you, since it could save you up to £20 on peak fares.

However, it’s best to do your own calculations and weigh up the pros and cons. The closer you live to Zone 1, the lower the benefit of the Citymapper Pass. And of course, there’s no point in paying for something you’re not going to get full use out of.

Let’s recap

  • An Oyster card can help you save on your travel
  • If you’re aged 16-30 or disabled, a Railcard can save you 1/3 on off-peak fares
  • Take advantage of capping
  • A Citymapper Pass might be more cost-effective than a standard Oyster or Contactless card. Work out how much you spend on travel every week to see if it’s worth it.
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Robert Edwards

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