Oyster Card vs Contactless: A Comprehensive Guide to London

As the hustle and bustle of London’s vibrant city streets captivate you, the decision between the Oyster card and Contactless payment method becomes an essential factor of your journey.

In the labyrinth of the city’s extensive transit system, these two systems stand as reliable cornerstones, guiding both locals and tourists alike through the city’s veins.

This article is your navigator, offering a comprehensive, detail-rich comparison between the Oyster card and Contactless payments to inform your transit decisions and enrich your London experience.

The Oyster Card: A Closer Look

The Oyster card is the key to London’s vast public transportation network, including buses, the London Underground (the Tube), Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground, TfL Rail, trams, and most National Rail services in London.

It’s a plastic smartcard you can use instead of paper tickets, giving you a swift, hassle-free travel experience.

You can top it up with cash or a credit or debit card at a ticket machine, online, or at Oyster Ticket Stops and Visitor Centres.

The Perks of the Oyster Card

The Oyster card is laden with benefits designed for a seamless London journey. A defining feature is the price capping.

When using an Oyster card, the total cost of your daily travel is limited, or ‘capped’, to a predefined amount, which varies based on the zones you travel through. This ensures you never pay more than the cost of a day ticket.

It also offers the flexibility of adding Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes. If you’re a regular commuter or plan on using London’s public transportation network extensively during your visit, these passes can be a cost-effective choice.

Contactless: A Glimpse into the Future

Contactless payment is a newer addition to London’s transport payment methods.

It allows passengers to tap their contactless credit or debit cards, smartphones, or other wearable technology on card readers at the start and end of their journey.

Contactless comes with the boon of convenience – no need to worry about topping up your card balance or standing in queue at ticket machines.

Why Choose Contactless?

Like the Oyster card, Contactless also offers price capping, ensuring you never pay more than the price of a day ticket or a week ticket, depending on your travel patterns.

This weekly capping is a unique feature to Contactless and not available with an Oyster card.

Another standout feature of Contactless is the ease of mobile integration. With Contactless, you can tap and go using your mobile phone or wearable device.

It integrates well with digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, which adds another layer of convenience to your travel.

Oyster Card vs. Contactless: The Showdown

Now, let’s dive deeper into the comparison. While both the Oyster card and Contactless payments offer numerous benefits, there are key differences that may swing your decision.


For the occasional visitor or tourist, the Oyster card may feel a bit cumbersome, as it requires initial purchase and constant top-ups.

In contrast, Contactless, with its tap-and-go approach, offers simplicity and ease of use. There’s no need to worry about the remaining balance or queues at the ticket machine.

Price Capping

While both systems offer daily price capping, Contactless also extends this to a weekly cap.

So, if you’re in London for a week or more and plan to travel extensively, Contactless may offer a cheaper option.

Travelcards and Bus & Tram Passes

Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes can only be added to an Oyster card. So, if you’re looking to purchase these, the Oyster card is the way to go.


Navigating London’s extensive public transport system requires a companion that’s reliable, easy to use, and cost-effective. Both the Oyster card and Contactless payment methods offer unique advantages.

While the Oyster card brings the flexibility of adding travel passes, Contactless promises effortless journeys with its tap-and-go feature and weekly price capping.

Your choice depends on the duration and nature of your stay, your travel habits, and your preference for convenience and flexibility.


  1. Is it cheaper to use an Oyster card or Contactless?
    Both Oyster cards and Contactless payments have daily price caps, but Contactless also includes a weekly cap, potentially making it a cheaper option for extensive travel over a week or more.
  2. Can I use both Oyster cards and Contactless on all London transport?
    Yes, both Oyster cards and Contactless payments can be used on the Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, trams, and most National Rail services in London.
  3. Can I use a credit card instead of an Oyster card?
    Yes, if your credit card is contactless-enabled, you can use it to pay for your travel on London transport instead of an Oyster card.
Photo of author



A heavy gamer, there's nothing that Faith loves more than spending an evening playing gacha games. When not reviewing and testing new games, you can usually find her reading fantasy novels or watching dystopian thrillers on Netflix.

Read more from Faith


Apps UK
International House
12 Constance Street
London, E16 2DQ