Why use pay as you go?

When you use pay as you go you only pay for the journeys you make.

This means you can:

  • Travel all over our network (including most National Rail services in London) at all times, secure in the knowledge that you have a valid ticket
  • Change your mind about where, when and how you travel without having to buy another ticket

You don't have to plan the cost of your journeys in advance - we'll work it out for you.

You can pay as you go on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line, River Bus and most National Rail services within London.

In Zones 1-9, pay as you go fares are cheaper than buying paper single tickets. And if you make a lot of journeys in one day the total cost of your daily travel will be capped, so you'll pay less than the equivalent Day Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass.

If you use contactless, you can also benefit from weekly capping (up to 7 days travel ending on a Sunday). Weekly caps are charged at the same rate as an equivalent 7 Day Travelcard.

Oyster or contactless?

If you have a contactless card that is accepted on our services, you can start using it straight away. We also accept some mobile phone applications and other contactless devices. You don't need to top up in advance or register with us.

If you're travelling with other people, each person must have their own card. You can't share the same contactless card to pay for travel.

If you have an Oyster card, you can put money on it and then use it as you travel.

See where to top up pay as you go on Oyster.

Pay as you go credit on your Oyster card never expires - it stays there until you use it. Once you've used up your credit, simply top it up to use again. If you don't use up all of your pay as you go credit you may be able to get it refunded at a Tube station ticket machine or a Visitor Centre.

How to use pay as you go

On Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line, River Bus and most National Rail services in London:

  • Touch your contactless or Oyster card on a yellow card reader to start a journey. A fare will be deducted
  • At the end of your journey, touch out with the same card on a yellow card reader - doing this means you'll be charged the correct fare

If you don't touch in or out you might be charged a maximum fare and risk a penalty fare. Find out more about touching in and out.

For some journeys you may need to also touch your contactless or Oyster on a pink card reader. Find out more about:

On bus and tram services

Just touch your contactless or Oyster card on a yellow card reader at the start of your journey. You don't need to touch out when you get off. If you make another bus or tram journey within an hour of touching in on a bus or tram, your second journey will be free.

Peak and off-peak

We charge higher fares at the busiest times of the day.

Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail services in London

  • Peak fares apply Monday to Friday (not on public holidays) from 06:30 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 19:00
  • Off-peak fares apply at all other times and if you travel from a station outside Zone 1 to a station in Zone 1 between 16:00 and 19:00, Mondays to Fridays

London Overground between Euston (National Rail station) and Watford Junction

Peak fares only apply at the following times:

  • Southbound: from Watford Junction towards Euston, Monday to Friday from 06:30 to 09:30 (excluding public holidays)
  • Northbound: from Euston to Watford Junction, Monday to Friday from 16:00 to 19:00 (excluding public holidays)

Off-peak fares apply at other times.

Gatwick Express

There is no difference in the fares between peak and off-peak.

Bus & tram

The fare on bus and trams is the same at all times, regardless of when you travel.

One more bus journey to get home

You can't use cash to pay for your bus fare. If you don't have enough credit on your Oyster card to pay the £1.50 fare or your Bus & Tram Pass or Travelcard has just expired, you can make one more journey on a bus.

You must then top up your pay as you go credit to clear the negative balance before you can use your Oyster card again or before you can renew a Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass. Find out about cash free buses.

Potential pay as you go savings

7 Day Travelcards

If you travel four days or fewer a week, pay as you go is cheaper than buying a 7 day Travelcard.

This is true for unlimited journeys each day if your travel includes Zone 1. You can use a mixture of bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail services where pay as you go is accepted.

Customer example - Nadiya

Nadiya is coming to London on business. She's flying in to Heathrow then staying in central London for four days. With meetings planned across the city she'll be making multiple journeys by bus and Tube to visit clients.

Nadiya pays £62.30 for a 7 Day Travelcard covering Zones 1-6, knowing that this will cover all the journeys she makes.

Day one: She travels on the Tube from Heathrow in Zone 6 to Zone 1 at 08:00. During the day she makes four more journeys on the Tube within Zone 1

Days two and three: She travels on the Tube from Zone 1 to Zone 4 at 08:00 and back again at 16:00. She also makes four bus journeys each evening

Day four: She makes five Tube journeys in Zone 1 from 10:00 to 15:00, then travels to Heathrow in Zone 6 on the Tube at 21:00

If Nadiya had used pay as you go?

Day one: Although the total cost of all the journeys she made totals £14.70, she is only charged £12.50 which is the Zones 1-6 cap

Days two and three: Although the total cost of all the journeys she made totals £13.80, she is only charged £9.80 which is the Zones 1-4 cap.

Day four: Although the total cost of all the journeys she made totals £15.10, she is only charged £9.60. This is the Zone 1-only cap of £6.80, plus a £2.80 off-peak single fare to Zone 6.

So Nadiya would only have paid £41.70, saving £20.60 compared to the cost of a 7 Day Travelcard, while enjoying the flexibility that pay as you go provides.

If you only make two journeys a day on the Tube every weekday, pay as you go is cheaper than buying a 7 Day Travelcard. This is true for travel on Tube, DLR and London Overground in Zones 1-9.

Customer example - Cynthia

Cynthia lives in Zone 4, works in Zone 1 and commutes by Tube. She has a young family and rarely socialises after work and only occasionally travels into London at weekends. Cynthia likes to ringfence her spending on travel to and from work, so buys a 7 Day Travelcard. This allows her to know exactly what her weekly spend is, while giving her the flexibility to make additional journeys at no extra cost. A Zones 1-4 Travelcard costs £49 a week.

If Cynthia had used pay as you go?

  • When travelling during the busiest times Cynthia would pay £3.90 for each Tube journey
  • For a return journey each weekday she would pay £39, which is a saving of £10 a week
  • If she wanted to make additional journeys (for example at the weekend) she could make two more Zones 1-4 journeys and still pay less than the cost of a 7 Day Travelcard

So Cynthia would save money using pay as you go while giving her some flexibility to make additional journeys on the few occasions she needs to. In addition, she won't pay for any journeys if she needs to take an unexpected day off.

Day Travelcards

Pay as you go is cheaper than buying a one day ticket. If you make many journeys in a day, the cost of your travel is automatically capped.

This is true for unlimited daily travel in Zones 1 to 9. You can use a mixture of bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail services where pay as you go is accepted.

Customer example - Jonathan

Jonathan is visiting London and plans to make a variety of journeys in one day in Zones 1 and 2. He assumes a Day Travelcard will give him the flexibility to travel as much as he wants and provide the best value.

He plans to make three off-peak Tube and two bus journeys. He buys a Day Travelcard for £12.70 - this makes him feel that he won't pay any more if he wants to make some extra journeys.

If Jonathan had used pay as you go?

  • The total cost of his individual journeys would have been £10.20
  • However, as soon as the cost of his travel reached £6.80, his fares would have been capped and he would not have been charged for any more travel that day in Zones 1 and 2

So, using pay as you go would have been £5.90 cheaper, while providing the same flexibility of a Day Travelcard.

Bus Oyster roundel logo

7 Day Bus & Tram Passes

If you make 14 or fewer journeys a week on buses and/or trams, pay as you go is cheaper than buying a 7 Day Bus & Tram Pass.

This is true for travel on all buses displaying the red roundel and trams.

Customer example - Darren

Darren works in central London and travels on the number 8 bus to and from his home in Bow and the office each weekday. He also usually works in a central London café most Saturdays and Sundays, so takes the same bus there and back at the weekend.

Darren doesn't like using trains so cycles wherever else he needs to go, and buys a 7 Day Bus & Tram Pass for £21.20.

If Darren used pay as you go?

Darren knows he never makes more than 14 journeys a week - though sometimes he'll make fewer if he isn't needed at the café at the weekend. 14 pay as you go bus journeys cost £21, so he would make a modest saving of 20p using pay as you go. However, for those weeks when he's not needed at the café, he'll save £3 each day.

When NOT to switch to pay as you go

Travel a lot in London? It may cost you less to continue buying Travelcards or Bus & Tram Passes. For example, you will be better off buying a 7 Day Travelcard if you:

  • Commute to work and make two or more Tube/DLR/London Overground or TfL Rail journeys which include travel in Zone 1 each day Monday to Friday, and make two or more journeys each day at the weekend
  • Only travel in Zones 1 and 2 five days a week, and reach the Zones 1-2 daily cap each day

You will also be better off buying a 7 Day Bus & Tram Pass if you:

  • Make 15 or more journeys on bus and trams within a week
  • Travel at least five days a week and reach a cap on each day