How does Oyster capping between different zones work?

We're going to make one trip from Heathrow to zone 1 and then to travel in zone 1 only. As shown in this table travels between zones 1-6 are capped at £12,00. Travels in zone 1 are capped at £6.60.

My question is: will one trip from Heathrow to Zone 1 qualify the whole day as "Zones 1-6"?

If so, then it's cheaper to return Oyster card after arriving to zone 1 (£3.10 off-peak price) and then use a new Oyster card which will be capped at £6.60. (£6.60 + £3.10 = £9.70).

PS. Unfortunately (for this question) I didn't travel a lot in London (only two rides a day, ride to/from Heathrow included), so I could not prove nor disprove MJeffryes's answer).

  • 1
    No point in returning it. You will get the £6.60 cap in Zone 1 even if your oyster is zones 1 - 6.
    – Gayot Fow
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:31
  • If I travel in zone 1 only, yes. But what about the day with one ride from zone 6? @GayotFow
    – Neusser
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:45
  • Then you would get charged for for the Zone 6 cap. Think about it, any other way would not make sense and the Rail and Underground Panel would be flooded with complaints.
    – Gayot Fow
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:53
  • Answer below from @MJeffryes summarises it nicely.
    – Gayot Fow
    Jan 16, 2017 at 10:58

1 Answer 1


The Oyster system is designed to give the cheapest possible fare in the vast majority of cases. From TfL's fare information page:

As you travel, the system combines all the zones, times and fares recorded on your Oyster card so it can calculate the cheapest cap to apply. This means that sometimes you could be charged a cheaper off-peak cap even if you've travelled during the peak. This is because the system calculates the cost of:

  • All the journeys you made during peak times
  • All the journeys you made during off peak times

It then adds these together to work out which cap would offer the best value.

This isn't exactly referring to your situation, but it is similar. The Oyster system is designed to find the best combination of caps to minimise the fare paid.

  • 1
    So, the card will be charged with £9.70? Okay, I'll check it out and report.
    – Neusser
    Jan 16, 2017 at 15:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.