Welcome to the next installment of my “Idiot’s Guide to the Oyster Card,” which I started last Friday to help you out if you’re moving to London and don’t want to look like a tourist trying to navigate the city. Last week I discussed how to buy your Oyster card and use it at the tube station gates; today, I’ll explain how to add to your Oyster card balance, as well as where else you’ll be able to use it.
1. Tap your Oyster against the yellow pad for a second or two until you see the touch-screen register your Oyster balance.
2. Select the onscreen button for top up/pay as you go. (“Topping Up” is the oft-used phrase for adding to your account balances, Oyster or otherwise)
3. On the next screen, select the button representing the GBP pound amount you want to add (displayed in 5 or 10 pound increments). Or, you can select the button “Another Amount” and drop the applicable amount of change into the machine or charge to your debit or credit card.
4. If charging to your debit or credit card, just insert it into the reader to the right and use the keypad to enter your PIN if applicable.
5. Regardless of whether you pay with cash or card, you’ll be asked to then tap your Oyster card against the yellow pad to officially add the additional amount to it and thereby complete your transaction.
When using one of these kiosks, bear in mind that not all of them accept cash. The narrower ones are usually debit/credit card only, and the ones accepting paper and/or coins are at least twice as wide. You’ll also see a digital screen above each one specifying which form(s) of payment are accepted.
You can use the Oyster card on London buses as well. When you step aboard, you’ll see the same yellow Oyster pad under the bus driver’s window. Tap it (remember to hold it there, though, until you hear the beep) and look to the little digital screen to the left to see your remaining balance. In the case of the bus, then, you pay one flat rate from the start, so do not need to tap again when you exit the vehicle.
You might also need to seek out the yellow Oyster pad on some Overground train platforms in the event you take the tube to a station that services both Under- and Overground trains and you need to transfer between the two. In the case where you’ll be going from the tube train directly to the ground-level platform rather than exiting the station altogether, you won’t be able to tap your Oyster on the exit gates to register your destination (which thereby determines your deducted balance). Rather, you’ll have to tap it on the pad found on the train platform aboveground to ensure the proper amount is deducted from your card given the distance you’ve traveled. If you forget to do this, your Oyster will automatically be deducted the maximum fare (4 pounds, last I was aware).