Contactless payments come to London

Articles, LondonUnlocked, New ProjectsEditor

Contactless payments - the way to make a quick and easy payment for a product or service without entering a PIN - has now come to Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in the capital. The system has been in place for over a year on London buses. Contactless works the same way as with Oyster cards, with commuters having to touch in and out at the beginning and end of each journey. And the service doesn't begin and end with bank cards. Due to the ubiquity of the technology that sits beneath the system, people can already make payments with a range of other devices including their phones, wristbands and other wearables.

Card clash

As with the buses, commuters need to be aware of the dangers of card clash - effectively paying more than once for the same journey due the fact that instead of waving a single card on the reader, the whole wallet is used (containing several contactless cards). There are ways to mitigate against this, but the easiest is simply to keep your intended payment card or device separate.

Daily capping

Contactless payments will be subject to daily capping. As with Oyster PAYG, travellers taking multiple journeys will not pay more than the cost of a Day Travelcard. And a new Monday to Sunday cap is also being introduced for those using contactless cards with the best value over the course of the week automatically calculated. This is an advantage which Oyster doesn't have.

What are the dangers?

Card clash is the big issue, although education campaigns have helped drive down incidences on London buses. Fraud through card theft is probably the other large concern (allowing thieves to spend £20 a time on transactions until the card is cancelled) - although, thankfully, the figure for this has been very low over the last year or so.

The future

The gradual switch from Oyster to Contactless will save TfL a significant sum as banks look after the administration of the scheme. It also puts power and choice in the hands (or phones, or wrists) of the system's users - us. Time to get tapping.