Oyster Card now costs £7 non refundable--Best prepaid contactless debit card alternative

Transport for London (TfL) recently changed what they charge to get an Oyster Card to £7, and that's also now not refundable (turned into credit after one year or refunded when you give back the card).  Cards bought/issued before the date of change will still be refundable or get the £5 returned in credit (except the Vistitor Oyster sold abroad which never refundable/converted to credit).  The £7 fee is a one off cost (cards and loaded credit don't expire), it's still an unwelcome change. 

Yes you can use a contactless payment card to travel without paying any fee, but I don't like getting out any of my main payment cards (or a fancy phone with a contactless wallet feature) in a public place.  I want a card that I can put in my travel wallet with tickets, railcards etc, which I can get out when going through gates/getting on buses

So, it is clearly now better to get a fee-free prepaid contactless debit card (and this will also work on many buses outside London, too).  I would prefer one that is simple to load and reload (ideally standing order or phone banking to just push funds to the card), and ideally one that doesn't need a mobile app to operate (too many apps on my phone already, and not all apps can be made to work on chromebook/Amazon fire tablet).  Managing via a web browser is fine.

So far, my options seem to be 
  • FairFX GBP travel card (although they may have some operational restrictions on contactless, I have asked them a question to confirm)
  • Curve OG  (as a "front end" card to my other cards--may need an app to set up but looks like it can be configured and then app removed)
Any other suggestions?

I don't need a regular ticket (I only travel a couple of days per week, mostly off peak), so a Citymapper PASS card is not appropriate (they charge a £1 per week fee if you don't have a weekly pass setup).  I did look at getting a "payment card ring" as these would be a cool solution but the few available cost around £100 and need replacing every 3 years as the embedded payment card details expire. 

The £7 fee will still be a better option for some:  if you live outside London, travel to London frequently by train off peak, and are eligible for certain railcards, then you can have an Oyster card set up to include an offpeak discount. Details on the TfL website (sorry as a newbie here I can't post a direct link).  This isn't possible with any contactless payment card.  (Yes you can buy, in some cases, a railcard discounted travelcard rail ticket including all day travel in London, but that is not available for all or a perfect solution in all cases).  Eligible railcards are Senior/16-25/26-30, HM Forces/Veteran, Disabled, and Network Southeast GOLD card annual season tickets (if the season ticket doesn't already include London travel).
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  • edited 19 September at 2:25PM
    daveyjpdaveyjp Forumite
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    edited 19 September at 2:25PM
    Why faff with a Forex card or Curve?

    Open new current account and use the card just for TFL journeys.  Starling will do.

    I can see Oyster disappearing and moving towards an app with linked payment card so discounts, railcards, daily caps etc can be incorporated. 
  • MilesT6060842MilesT6060842 Forumite
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    Thanks, but I don't need a new current account, happy with the one I have;  most new current accounts either need you to do a transfer (paycheque/debits), or pay a lot in per month, or are app based, none of which appeals to me.

    And I want an additional card to minimise risks of it being lost/pick pocketed (by keeping a low balance topped up weekly as needed), definitely not using my main current account card for travel!

    So the question remains:  Other free options for prepaid contactless debit, ideally not needing an app?

    Agreed TfL want to reduce oyster use--they will have to do some work to enable the "exceptions" on contactless.  Oyster remains the card of last resort for people who can only use cash/buy weekly bus tickets to manage their spend/have some special discount (Children, Senior, Disabled, Job seekers, TfL Staff/families, etc.).

    TfL missed a trick when they set up the hire bike scheme--the "key" you can buy to make picking up a bike quick and easy should have also been set up to work like an Oyster card as well.  It's very similar technology, just packaged as a keyfob instead of a card.  Barclays used to make/sell a contactless keyfob which worked on TfL (bPay) but stopped (and you did have to pay £15 for a 3 year usage, same issue as the payment finger rings).
  • daveyjpdaveyjp Forumite
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    The new current account doesn't need to replace your existing account, you are allowed more than one.  It is app based, but any type of card you are looking at will need an app to enable you to transfer funds, check balances dtc

    Starling does not require any minimum monthly payment and you can transfer a minimal amount to the account just to use for TFL payments.  You then use the Starling contactless card like any other.

    We opened a Starling account for foreign travel and paid for all public transport using the card, no issues whatsoever.
  • MilesT6060842MilesT6060842 Forumite
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    Thanks.  I think I discounted Starling as an option because it needed an app, and when I looked quickly it looked like it needed a transfer/minimum payment as well, interesting to know that Starling doesn't need a transfer/minimum monthly payment.

    Thinking about it more fully, though (and writing this for the benefit of other readers), the other disadvantage of a "current account" based solution is the bank will want to do a full KYC (know your customer) check and likely a credit check as well.  That's a bit overkill for what I want the card for, whereas a prepaid "travel money" type card (e.g. FairFx) typically won't do either as they generally won't accept a reload in cash over the counter (and therefore can tell the authorities where the money came from). 

    (I have had FairFX cards--multiple currencies--in the past when I was travelling a lot, and was happy with them at the time; doesn't need an app although their reload process is a bit clunky).
  • jon81ukjon81uk Forumite
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    I think you are over thinking this.
    Either use an Oyster card you already have, or accept you need to pay £7 and you'll get that back next year.
    Or just use the debit/credit card you already have. The risk is no different to using it in Tesco.
  • edited 20 September at 8:11PM
    Neil49Neil49 Forumite
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    edited 20 September at 8:11PM
    As the post above mentions Tesco, how about the Tesco Clubcard Pay+

    Ok, it needs an app but it's as basic as a debit card can get and it's not a bank account. 

    https://www.tescobank.com/clubcard-pay-plus/

    I appreciate your requirements for a basic card (I've got an Oyster card) but otherwise I would use my Monzo card which I use for day to day transactions and have less than £100 on. 
  • MilesT6060842MilesT6060842 Forumite
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    jon81uk said:
    I think you are over thinking this.
    Either use an Oyster card you already have, or accept you need to pay £7 and you'll get that back next year.
    Or just use the debit/credit card you already have. The risk is no different to using it in Tesco.
    Two facts:
    1/ I don't have an Oyster at the moment (I have a citymapper pass card which now costs me £1 per week because I don't need a weekly pass and they levy a fee if you don't buy a weekly pass)
    and
    2/ TfL have changed the rules and the £7 IS NOT credited back in a year (the previous £5 charge was credited).  It's a £7 charge just to obtain a Oyster card, and I think I can do better than that, especially since contactless can be cheaper to use and works better across the network and beyond.

    And I don't want to expose any of my current main debit/credit cards to increased risk of pickpocketing on public transport or take them out of my main wallet (which is inconvenient, I like to keep things in one place). 

    The theft risk is significantly different to using a card in e.g. Tesco (and, for shopping at Tesco, I can buy discounted Tesco gift cards as an employee benefit from my current employer, so that's what I use there, so not needing a payment card and Tesco Pay+ isn't that attractive).
  • edited 21 September at 12:45PM
    jon81ukjon81uk Forumite
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    edited 21 September at 12:45PM
    jon81uk said:
    I think you are over thinking this.
    Either use an Oyster card you already have, or accept you need to pay £7 and you'll get that back next year.
    Or just use the debit/credit card you already have. The risk is no different to using it in Tesco.
    Two facts:
    1/ I don't have an Oyster at the moment (I have a citymapper pass card which now costs me £1 per week because I don't need a weekly pass and they levy a fee if you don't buy a weekly pass)
    and
    2/ TfL have changed the rules and the £7 IS NOT credited back in a year (the previous £5 charge was credited).  It's a £7 charge just to obtain a Oyster card, and I think I can do better than that, especially since contactless can be cheaper to use and works better across the network and beyond.

    And I don't want to expose any of my current main debit/credit cards to increased risk of pickpocketing on public transport or take them out of my main wallet (which is inconvenient, I like to keep things in one place). 

    The theft risk is significantly different to using a card in e.g. Tesco (and, for shopping at Tesco, I can buy discounted Tesco gift cards as an employee benefit from my current employer, so that's what I use there, so not needing a payment card and Tesco Pay+ isn't that attractive).
    Your opening post stated "...recently changed what they charge to get an Oyster Card to £7, and that's also now not refundable (turned into credit after one year or refunded when you give back the card)" so I thought from what you'd said the fee becomes credit after a year.
    Having looked it up myself it does seem to be non-refundable.

    The theft risk of the gift cards is even worse than a credit/debit card, if you lose them its like cash, you'll never get it back. If your debit card is lost or stolen the bank will investigate and usually refund unauthorised spend. Whereas you'll never gift cards and cash back if they are lost or stolen.

    I've used my credit card as well as Apple Pay via iPhone and via Apple Watch to pay for travel, for groceries and other shopping and never felt at risk. Currently using my Apple Watch for TfL travel as it is easier, no need to get a card out, so my wallet stays in my bag. But previously I was using a credit card, just getting it out tapping and put it away in my pocket, no issues or risk of theft at all.
  • giraffe69giraffe69 Forumite
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    • You can use a credit card £0.00
    • You can use a debit card £0.00 provided they are contactless as most are
    • You can get one attached to another account which you can open in addition to whatever accounts you have
    • You can use a mobile phone as long as it is smart at £0.00
    • You can pay £7 for an Oyster Card which is a one off payment
    It's hard to understand why anyone would get excited about such a small amount but if you can do better than a one off £7 without any of the above solutions then why don't you?
  • martindowmartindow Forumite
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    MilesT6060842 said:
    1/ I don't have an Oyster at the moment (I have a citymapper pass card which now costs me £1 per week because I don't need a weekly pass and they levy a fee if you don't buy a weekly pass)
    and
    2/ TfL have changed the rules and the £7 IS NOT credited back in a year (the previous £5 charge was credited).  It's a £7 charge just to obtain a Oyster card, and I think I can do better than that, especially since contactless can be cheaper to use and works better across the network and beyond.
    If you cancel your citymapper card saving £1 per week you could justify getting an Oyster card which you would pay off in less than two months.  It's not the most MSE but it would give you the card just for use on the tube that you are looking for.

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