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As I understand Oyster cards, you swipe them on the station you enter, and the station you leave (for simplicity's sake, I'm only considering the Underground). As in you don't swipe them when changing underground lines (maybe you do on some stations though?).

So if there is a variety of ways you could have gotten between A and B and one is more expensive, what are you charged?

(I've heard something about pink validators?)

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You'll need to touch a route validator if you take the "unusual" (aka cheaper) route so it knows you did (eg avoiding zone 1). Someone can hopefully point you at the full details from the TFL site –  Gagravarr Sep 8 '13 at 18:34
    
Also see: Oyster Card - how does it actually work? –  Ankur Banerjee Sep 8 '13 at 18:40
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Note that the answer @AnkurBanerjee gave is true only given your assumption about the just the underground. If you start mixing in buses or Tramlink into your journey, you need to touch your Oyster card at other phases of your journey too - which will increase the total cost. –  Andrew Ferrier Sep 9 '13 at 13:54
    
Yes you do swipe them when changing lines at some stations however these will be obvious as you'll need to get through barriers. The validators are more for unusual situations where you're walking between two stops, or a smaller station is unmannedm, or a station is shared with non Underground trains. If you're in central London and just doing standard journeys I doubt you'll have any issues. –  TheMathemagician Sep 13 '13 at 16:30

1 Answer 1

Fares on the London Underground are charged according to "zones", with some zones being cheaper than others. So in certain instances, yes indeed it's possible to construct a cheaper fare itinerary by avoiding costlier zones such as Zone 1.

At the start and end of every journey, you're expected to tap the yellow card readers to register your entry and exit points. Separate pink card readers are used as route validator to register whether you used a cheaper route. These are present at:

There are pink card readers on or in between London Overground platforms at:

Blackhorse Road
Canada Water
Gospel Oak
Gunnersbury
Highbury & Islington
Kensington (Olympia)
Richmond
Stratford
West Brompton
Whitechapel
Willesden Junction

There are pink card readers on the platform at Rayners Lane and Wimbledon Tube stations.

You can check whether you can construct a cheaper fare using the Single fare finder.

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I'm going to be living in Zone 1, so I guess that it won't really make a difference day to day? –  Jonathan. Sep 9 '13 at 15:15
    
There is also a cap on daily usage, so although some journeys could be done cheaper via a different route, the daily cap prevents you from going over a set amount regardless of how many journeys are made, which is useful to know! tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14837.aspx –  user8385 Sep 12 '13 at 16:26
    
@Jonathan. the using-zone-1 fare will always be the same or greater than the not-using-zone-1 fare, for routes with a choice, so yes if one end is in Z1 it won't make a difference whether you pink-validate or not. –  AakashM Sep 13 '13 at 9:53
    
I must've been through Rayner's Lane a hundred times, and have never seen the pink scanner. I shall have to hunt for it! –  Polynomial Oct 8 '13 at 16:08

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