Not Using your Oyster Card? Refund It!
29th July 2021
If there’s one thing we can’t stand at RIFT, it’s watching money sit around wasted when it should be back in your wallet. For example, that old, forgotten Oyster card you’ve had no use for in over a year could be holding your cash hostage. You can get back the balance on it, along with the deposit you paid for the card itself.
It’s not even hard to do. You just have to know how to claim it, which far too few people do. That’s why there’s well over half a billion pounds stored on those cards around the UK, unused in at least a year. According to TfL, there are over 82 million disused Oyster cards out there, carrying a grand combined total of £286 million in Pay As You Go credit. Add to that the wasted £267 million in deposits on those unneeded cards and you get a ridiculous £553 million going begging.
So here’s what you can do about it. If you’ve got an unwanted Oyster card taking up valuable space in your wallet, you first need to check how much cash it’s carrying. You can do this really easily online (you’ll need to register your card on the TfL site if you haven’t already done so). Alternatively, you can check the balance at the machine in any convenient Underground station.
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Once you know how much you’ve got on the card, put some thought into whether you’re ever actually going to use it. A lot of us have shifted to working from home over the last year – or at least aren’t travelling nearly as much. If you don’t have any travel plans in the near future, there are probably better things you could be doing with your Oyster cash. Just log into your Oyster account, choose the card balance you want to free up and hit the refund button. You should be able to get the balance pumped directly back into your bank account.
Other options include applying via post, emailing TfL using their form here or hopping on the phone by calling 0343 222 1234 with your Oyster card in hand. You’ll need to read off the number on the back. If you’ve only got a tenner or less sitting on the card, you can even get it refunded directly at a station. There’s an “Oyster refund” option in the ticket machines you can use for this, which should give you your balance back in cash.
The next thing to think about is whether or not you even need to use Oyster these days. That fiver you forked over when you first got the card was a deposit, not a purchase price. If you ditch the card altogether, you can get that money back. If you got the card after the 23rd of February last year, you can only do this if you’ve had it for at least a year, though.
Obviously, don’t do this if there’s a chance you might live to regret it. Honestly, though, contactless payments via bank cards or phone apps make Oyster basically redundant for many people.
With a lot of us having built up a collection of old Oyster cards over the years, it’s quite possible you’ll find yourself with a surprising amount of cash stacked up on them. As always, when in doubt, make sure to follow the most important RIFT Rule: whatever you do with your cash, don’t leave it going to waste in someone else’s hands.
If you've been travelling for work then use our free tax refund checker to find out if you're owed money back.