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A group of 4 teenage girls will visit London for two days and want to use a travel card for both days. But a paper travel card is £12 per day and the cap on an Oyster card is about £6.50 for the day. Only one of the girls has a contactless bank card.

Now is the question, where can you buy such an Oyster card and how do you get your deposit and left over money back after the short visit?

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    Last summer (Aug 15) I bought it at the tube information centre in St. Pancras station. I paid it with a plain old mastercard (with chip). As for the refund I cannot answer, I kept it as a souvenir :) – orique Jul 7 '16 at 7:01
  • I don't get the fuss about the "contactless bank card". AFAIK everyplace that accepts bank cards accepts also non-contactless bank cards of some sort, and in some places contactless bank cards wont work. Did you mean that only one of them has a bank card at all? – Bakuriu Jul 7 '16 at 12:10
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    @Bakuriu I think the contactless comment is in regards to how it can be treated as an oystercard; you tap it on the gates and it logs the same was as the oyster card system (same single price, same daily/weekly cap etc). – ajfstuart Jul 7 '16 at 12:30
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    But my wolf will eat my goat. – djechlin Jul 8 '16 at 5:51
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You get an Oyster card from the machine at a tube station. As for the refund

Oyster Card Refunds

The £5 deposit you pay for an Oyster card is refundable along with any pre-pay (Pay as you go) money left on the card.

Before you claim a refund, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’ve used your Oyster card on a Pay as you go basis and it’s not loaded with a weekly Travelcard or bus pass then it’s transferable. And the money doesn’t expire so you can give it to a friend, relative or anyone else to use.

If you don’t know anyone who might want to use an Oyster or you don’t plan to return to London, you can get back your unused money.

Where to get a refund in London

Your £5 deposit and up to £10 of Pay as you go money can be refunded at any London Underground (tube) station ticket machine

If you have more than £10 of Pay as you go money refunds are available at TfL Visitor Centres.

If you have an online account with TfL, refunds are available online.

Once you get your Pay as you go credit and deposit refunded you will no longer be able to use the Oyster card.

How to get a refund after leaving London

If you can’t visit an underground station before you leave, send your Oyster card and photocopied proof of name and address to TfL:

Oyster Refunds
4th Floor
14 Pier Walk North
Greenwich
London SE10 0ES

Refunds by post will be sent by cheque (£) or by bank transfer to your bank accounts (UK addresses only).

If you have any questions, contact TfL Customer Services on 0343 222 1234 (open daily 8am–8pm).

Last updated: 5 January 2016

Source

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    Please don't post text as images. It's completely inaccessible to the visually impaired and to search engines. And, if you already have the web page open, copy-pasting the text is much easier than manipulating a screen shot. – David Richerby Jul 7 '16 at 14:57
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    Note that I got my refund in King's Cross back to my Czech debit visa card. So this worked for non-UKs easily and I didn't get GBP 3.45 or how much it was in change. – yo' Jul 7 '16 at 21:12
  • This is only theory. In practice we decided to loose the money in the oyster card after minutes of an unfruitful debate with the TfL representative at the airport :( Alas, I don't remember the reason why he refused to refund... but it was as constructive as a Vogon argument. – yota Jul 8 '16 at 12:32
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Note that there is a specific option for a Visitor Oyster card. This is the same as a normal Oyster, but you pay a small fee (£3) to buy it instead of a deposit (£5) on a regular Oyster.

One big advantage of a visitor Oyster is that 11-15 yr olds can get the child discount without needing a Zip photocard. According to https://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/help/visitor-oyster-card/ :

Children aged 11 to 15 can also use a Visitor Oyster card and benefit of the Young Visitor discount – this can be added by a member of the staff at most Tube stations in London and offer children 11 to 15 years old half adult pay as you go rate for up to 14 days.

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    One comment: members of staff at Tube stations are hard to find! They don't have ticket offices any more, so (as I understand it) you have to find someone at the gates, and get them to come over to a ticket machine where they can authorise this sort of thing. – AndyT Jul 7 '16 at 9:32
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    There are still ticket office at major stations – mike_dowler Jul 7 '16 at 10:05
  • Victoria doesn't have one. Neither has London Bridge. But you can easily get one of the Tfl guy to help you out. – DumbCoder Jul 7 '16 at 13:57
  • Though if you are at Victoria there is a TfL Visitor Centre in the rail station that is manned and can do this. I think LHR and LGW, as well as King's Cross, also have them. – Dennis Jul 7 '16 at 14:16
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In January 2016, you could not get a refund within 48 hours.

During our visit to London on the 1st of January 2016, we found out you can not get a refund for your Oyster card through a machine at the station within 48 hours of buying it. This was confirmed by a Transport for London employee, but I could not find this requirement in writing, now or then.

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On the site of the London Travel card you find the prices of the travel cards and the Oystercard caps for the same zones.

Travelcard Prices (these are subject to change and prices are controlled by TFL)

Select type Day Anytime Price Off Peak Day Price
Adult Zones 1-2 £12.00 £12.00
Adult Zones 1-4 £12.00 £12.00
Adult Zones 1-6 £17.00 £12.00

Oyster Card Capped Prices

Select type Day Anytime Price Off Peak Day Price
Adult Zones 1-2 £6.40 £6.40
Adult Zones 1-4 £9.20 £9.20
Adult Zones 1-6 £11.70 £11.70

So yes, you are right to want an Oystercard for two days use of a travel card, even if you do not get the deposit refunded.

You pay a £5 refundable deposit to get an Oyster card. You can get an Oyster card at any tube station as well as at several other locations.

This site explains the refund.

If you don't have a contactless and Oyster account, you may be able to get a refund from a Tube station ticket machine if your card has:

No more than £10 pay as you go credit
No valid season ticket

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It might be worth noting that these days any contactless credit or debit card can be used in place of an Oystercard. You will be charged the same as if it were an Oystercard. However, teenagers may not yet have their own bank account and debit card, and not all cards are contactless.

If you have multiple cards make very sure that you choose one and only one card to travel with. Otherwise you may be charged two penalty fares for touching in with one card and out with a different one!

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    The warning about choosing only one card is important. In particular, you can't just touch your wallet to the contactless reader since it might not read the same card every time. (The same is true if your wallet contains both your Oystercard and contactless credit/debit cards.) – David Richerby Jul 7 '16 at 14:59
  • In the question I specified that only one of the girls has a contactless bank card, the travel plans were to much short notice for the others to get one. – Willeke Jul 7 '16 at 15:58
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If you are eligible for any concessionary discount (child, railcard, &c.), DO NOT use contactless, since you will be charged the full fare. Instead, always obtain an Oyster card and register your entitlement to a discount at a ticket office (National Rail stations in London can usually do this).

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You can get an even cheaper version of the Oyster Card if you're buying it online before arriving in London. Check this guide (to airport transport from Stansted) where there's some info about the online version of the oyster card: http://londontravelhacks.com/transport-stansted-airport-london/

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    That article references VisitBritain. They charge a £3 activation fee, and they add shipping costs. For my country (The Netherlands) that would make it £5. Cheaper than buying it in a vending machine (£7.50 IIRC, although I see people in other answers mentioning £5), but your milage may vary. Also note that this is for the slowest delivery. – Jan Doggen Feb 9 '17 at 8:49

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