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Tips for Buying and Using the Oyster Card in London

Last updated: April 14, 2024 - Written by Jessica Norah 314 Comments

London is one of the top travel destinations in the world, but navigating this large city can be overwhelming for a first time visitor. Using an Oyster card, a credit card sized transport smartcard, is an easy way to save time and money if you are planning to use public transportation in London.

An Oyster card can be used on just about every form of transport within London including the Underground (“Tube”), public buses, trams, and rail services within the city. Our goal is help you decide if an Oyster card is a good fit for you and to help you effectively use your card on public transportation in London.

First we’ll cover the main types of Oyster cards that are available, how to choose the best one, and how to buy an Oyster card.

Then we’ll talk about where you can use them, how to use them for travel, how to recharge the cards, registering your card, and note important travel exclusions for visitors.

Finally we’ll cover special issues such as how to get refunds, avoiding double payments, available discounts and concessions, the alternative option of using contactless cards, the use of pink readers, and tips for those traveling with children. 

Oyster Card London travel card public transportation

Table of Contents:

What is the London Oyster Card?

An Oyster card is a credit card sized card that can be used to electronically pay for travel on London transport. All you have to do is load the card with credit, and then you can use it for nearly all your public transport needs around London without having to buy individual tickets.

Why You Should Buy An Oyster Card in London?

The best reason to get an Oyster card is cost savings and convenience! It is significantly cheaper to travel in London using an Oyster card than it is to purchase individual tickets for each trip. The only reason you would want to just buy individual tickets is if you are only using public transportation once or twice during your stay.

However, the average visitor will use public transportation multiple times each day and the Oyster card can save both time and money. As an example, traveling offpeak from Zone 1 to Zone 2 on the Tube will cost you (as of March 2024) £2.70 using an Oyster card versus £6.70 if you buy a single ticket. So you’d pay more than twice as much if you bought individual tickets versus using the Oyster card! 

An Oyster Card will also save you money compared to using a Bus & Tram Pass to ride the buses and trams, which don’t accept individual tickets or cash any longer.

Visitor Oyster Card London

Oyster cards also have a capping system, which can save you even more money. There is a maximum amount that you can be charged on a daily basis (days run from 4.30am to 4.29am the next day) for traveling in different zones. After you exceed that amount in one day, your travel is free for the rest of the day. 

Capping varies based on the zones you travel in, but for example, for peak travel in Zones 1 & 2, the maximum daily fee is £8.50 (as of March 2024). So no matter how many times you travel on public transport using your Oyster card in London’s zones 1 and 2, you will never be charged more than £8.50 a day.

As of September 2021, Oyster cards also have a weekly cap. This runs from Monday to Sunday, and means you will never pay more than the weekly cap for travel. For Zones 1 & 2, the weekly cap is £42.70 (as of March 2024). So you will never pay more than that for public transport in Zones 1 & 2 from a Monday to the following Sunday.

An additional cost saving benefit for families is that children under the age of 11 (up to four), can travel for free on London’s public transport if in the company of an adult holding a valid Oyster card.

In terms of practicality, it’s a lot more convenient to use an Oyster card when traveling in London.  They’re accepted on nearly all forms of London’s public transport network, and you just swipe them on the Oyster reader to validate your transport. You don’t have to keep fiddling with loose change or buy individual tickets – an option that isn’t always available anyway. For example, on London buses there are no facilities to buy tickets onboard or at most bus stops.

If you’re interested in learning about all the different types of transport options available, check out Laurence’s post which gives an overview of all the major London transport options . There are a lot of ways to get you around London! 

Using Oyster Card by_-2

Types of Oyster Cards

There are two main types of Oyster card: the standard Oyster card and the Visitor Oyster card . We’ll talk about each and their primary differences to help you decide which is the best fit for you. 

Standard Oyster Card versus Visitor Oyster Card

The standard Oyster card is a credit card sized piece of blue plastic. The Visitor Oyster card is the same format, but is more elaborately visual, with an artistic design.  Other than external appearance, the standard and Visitor Oyster cards offer the same functionality in terms of transport options and are used in the same way.

They can both be recharged (topped up) and are designed to be a transport card that you can keep and use for a prolonged period of time. Both cards also allow you to obtain a refund for any unused balance (see more on obtaining refunds later in the post).

The main differences are the fee for obtaining the card, ability to use travelcards with the card, offers attached to the cards, and where you can buy them.

Fees. First, in terms of fees, the blue standard Oyster card has a £7 deposit. Until 2020 you could claim this back when you were done with the card. From 2020, this £7 is added to the card as credit one year after activation and can no longer be refunded (but you can use it for travel credit). The Visitor Oyster card has a non-refundable £5 activation fee. 

NOTE: Currently, in terms of activation fees, the Visitor Oyster Card saves you £2 in fees per card. If you don’t plan to return to London, the Visitor Oyster Card is a better deal in terms of fees.

Travelcards. The standard Oyster card allows visitors to add travelcards  and bus and tram passes onto the card and the Visitor Oyster card does not. This is unlikely to matter for those staying for only a short time in London, but if you are staying a week or more in London, you may want to consider loading a 7-day London Travelcard onto a standard Oyster card. These are useful if you are visiting London for a week or more and are planning on doing a lot of travel, as these allow you to travel for an unlimited number of journeys within certain zones for a fixed price.

For example, a 7 day zone 1 & 2 travelcard will cost you £42.7 at current prices (prices as of March 2024). If you consider that the fare cap price for daily use in these zones is £8.50, then a week of travel hitting that cap every day would cost you £59.50. In that scenario, a travelcard could save you £16.8.

Note you can purchase travelcards without having an Oyster Card if you purchase them in advance. So if you are staying for 7 days or more you might consider them as it will avoid the Oyster Card deposit or fee.

The Bus and Tram passes can be a good choice for those ONLY using bus and/or tram travel in London. But you’ll probably still save money using an Oyster Card.

The Visitor Oyster card does not support travelcards, presumably because most visitors are in London for a shorter period of time, and the added complexity of choice that the travelcard system adds outweighs the potential benefits for most visitors.

Discounts and offers. The Visitor Oyster card is designed for travelers to London and the card can be used to obtain a number of discounts throughout the city on food, shopping, attractions, theatre tickets, and other London experiences. Currently, the main discounts appear to be transport related with discounts on travel if you use the IFS Cloud cable car, Thames Clippers River Bus, and river boat cruises on the Thames.

You can see a list of Visitor Oyster Card current discounts at the bottom of this page .  The standard Oyster card does not have these perks or discounts.

The decision over the Visitor Oyster card versus the standard Oyster card comes down to the difference in fees, whether or not you want to add a travelcard, if you plan to take advantage of the discounts associated with the Visitor Oyster card, and convenience of purchase (discussed in the next section).

Both these cards give you full access to the majority of London’s public transport network, including the London Underground (Tube), city buses, Docklands Light Railway, and many overground trains, including the Gatwick Express train from Gatwick Airport. 

Oyster Card London travelcard public transportation

How to Buy an Oyster Card

Y ou have a number of options for purchasing an Oyster card for your trip to London, including online, in person, and as part of the London Pass. The ways to purchase the standard Oyster card and the Visitor Oyster card differ and are noted below.

Visitors wanting to obtain a pass before they arrive in London should plan ahead and consider buying the Visitor Oyster card online before their trip.

The standard Oyster card can be purchased online , but can ONLY be shipped to a UK address (free shipping). 

The Visitor Oyster card needs to be purchased online before you visit London and is available for shipping worldwide. Be sure to allow at least a week or two for international shipping.

You can purchase a standard Oyster card on arrival into London. You can buy the standard Oyster card from places throughout London, including at most major tourist arrival points such as London’s Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport.

They are for sale from Underground ticket machines, Oyster ticket stops (a series of businesses around London, see Oyster map here for nearest location), London Overground ticket offices, train station ticket offices, and London Transport Visitor Centres. 

Visitor Oyster cards can also be purchased in person, but not once you are actually in London. You can buy them from overseas travel agencies and some UK visitors’ centers. They are also available onboard Eurostar trains traveling to London and at Gatwick & Stansted airport.

As part of the London Pass

Until October 2023, you could also purchase the Oyster card as part of a London Pass purchase , killing two birds with one stone. The London Pass came with the option to include a Visitor Oyster Card. However, this is no longer possible and you must purchase the Visitor Oyster Card separately from the Visit Britain online shop .

If you previously purchased a London Pass with the Travel Pass option, your Visitor Oyster Card will still work as described. The credit does not expire and you can keep reloading them if you run out of credit.

A London Pass is still a fantastic way to save money on London attractions (read our full London Pass review here), giving you free access to over sixty of London’s top attractions, as well as some skip the line privileges. Highly recommend checking it out, especially if it is your first visit to London.

red bus oyster card London public transportation

How to Use an Oyster Card to Travel Within London

We’ll cover where you can use your Oyster card, how to use it at the stations, how to add credit to your card, and even how to get a credit refund. These are the same for both the standard Oyster card and the Visitor Oyster card.

Where you can use your Oyster Card

Travel within london.

An Oyster card covers the majority of public transport options in London, including buses, trams, Underground Tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), TfL Rail services and London Overground services in Zones 1-9, all suburban national rail services in zones 1-9, Thames Clipper River Bus services, and the Cable Car service which runs between the Royal Docks and Greenwich.

This essentially means that almost all tourist attractions and hotels can be easily reached via public transportation with the Oyster card and you can get to all the major rail stations within the city if you are planning a rail journey to another part of the country or to an international destination.

Using Oyster Card by_-4

Travel to Airports

You can currently use the Oyster card to travel to and from Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and London City Airport.  The Oyster Card is not currently valid for Stansted Express or services to London Luton airport, Stanstead airport, or London Southend airport. 

You can use an Oyster card to travel via Underground from all Heathrow Terminals, which is the most cost effective way of getting from Heathrow Airport into London. You can also use it on the new Elizabeth Line rail service, however, the fares to use this train are higher than the regular Underground trains.

You can use your Oyster Card to use train services from Gatwick Airport to central London. You can also use your Oyster card to get to and from London City Airport, via the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

You can also use the Oyster card for some additional express train services, which include Gatwick Express at Gatwick Airport and Heathrow Express at Heathrow Airport. Note that these services are much more expensive than the other train services so you will want to make sure you have enough Oyster Card credit or use your card for an alternative method of transport. 

For much more information and tips on airport travel, check out this guide to getting from London airports to London .

Exclusions you should Know

As mentioned above, the Oyster card does not cover travel to all of London’s airports. Oyster cards are not accepted on East Midlands Trains, Grand Central, Hull Trains, Virgin Trains, or London North East Railway services. Essentially, you cannot use your Oyster Card for rail or bus services where the journey starts or finishes outside of London, with a few specific exemptions .

If in doubt about whether a trip is covered, ask a badged member of staff at a station.

There are some popular tourist destinations inside and near London that you might want to visit, and wonder if you can use your Oyster card to visit, such as Hampton Court Palace, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, and Windsor Castle. 

For Hampton Court Palace, you can use your Oyster card to travel to it, as it is in Zone 6 and can be reached by train or bus.

For the Harry Potter studio tour , you can use your Oyster Card to travel via National Rail train to the Watford Junction station and then you can take the studio tour shuttle (free for visitors with tickets) to the film studios in Leavesden (must have a studio ticket purchased in advance). Or you can just book a tour that includes your ticket and direct transfers from London.

For Windsor Castle, you cannot use your Oyster card, as Windsor Castle is outside London. But there are regular trains between central London and Windsor. Upon arrival into Windsor, you can walk to Windsor Castle and other local attractions.

London Oyster Card

How to Use the Oyster Card for Travel

Using an Oyster card is very easy and it is the same whether you have a standard Oyster Card or a Visitor Oyster Card . All the forms of transport that accept an Oyster card have a large circular yellow reader that you just have to touch your card onto. For access to tube stations, this card reader controls the turnstiles or gates.

For most journeys in London, including London Underground Tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), rail journeys, and Thames Clippers boats , you have to touch a yellow reader both when entering and exiting the station/dock. 

In most cases it is hard not to tag the card as you exit, because the majority of these stations have a gate to exit that is activated to open with your Oyster card. However, not all do, so it is important to remember to tag off. The reason this is important is because fares vary based on distance, so if you don’t touch out, the system will assume you have gone the maximum distance, and may charge you a much higher fare than you need to pay.

When you touch the Oyster reader, it will show either a green light or a red light. A green light indicates that you have sufficient credit for your journey. At gated stations, this will open the gate or allow you to proceed through the turnstile. If the light is red, this indicates that you do not have enough credit, and you need to purchase more credit before you can continue your journey. If you have enough credit and think there is something wrong with your card, find a staff member to assist you.

For  bus and tram journeys which are fixed price, you only need to touch the Oyster reader at the start of your journey when you board. Do NOT touch out when you get off a bus or tram, or you will be issued with an additional fare. For more information on each form of public transportation, check out Laurence’s post that covers the basics of all forms of London public transit .

How to Top Up Your Oyster Card

There are a number of options for topping up (aka recharging or reloading) your Oyster Card, or adding more travel credit. The easiest way is at London Underground Tube, London Overground or TfL Rail stations, where you can use ticket machines to top up your card.

Simply touch your card to the yellow reader at one of these machines and follow onscreen instructions. Don’t forget to touch your card to the reader at the end of the process to check to ensure the top up is correctly applied.

You can also add credit in person at a ticket desk in a station or Visitor Centre or at a Oyster Ticket Stop within the city. You can also register your card online , and top it up online using a credit or debit card. For a long time this was only possible with a UK address, but this has now changed and the system accepts international addresses as well.

Using Oyster Card by_

Adding a Travel Card

If you purchase a standard Oyster card, you can add travelcards to your Oyster card if you would like to pre-pay for your travels. The most common reason a visitor would use this option is to add a 7 Day Travelcard. These can be added at ticket machines at Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail stations or ticket offices at London Overground, TfL Rail and National Rail stations, London visitor centres.

If you have registered your standard Oyster card, you can also add travelcards online .  

Getting a Refund on your Oyster Card

When you leave London, you have the option to get a refund for your Oyster Card for any unused credit that is left on the card. You can also keep the card for a future visit as the credit never expires. If you had a Visitor Oyster card and may return to London, this might be a better option as the activation fee of £5 is non-refundable, so that money is lost. For a standard Oyster card, the £7 deposit is added to your card as credit a year after activation, so you should definitely hold onto it for a future trip to London. The credit is added automatically when you take a journey between a year and eighteen months after buying the card.

If there is less than £10 credit on your Oyster card, you can get this refunded at any Underground Tube station Oyster machine. Just follow the on-screen instructions. Note that 48 hours needs to have elapsed from the time you first used the Oyster card in order for you to be able to get your refund. If you get a refund from an Oyster card machine at a station, your card will also be canceled, meaning you will lose the £5 activation fee if you have a Visitor Oyster card.

If you think you may be back to London, a better option to obtain refunds for those with either type of Oyster card is to go to a TfL visitor center . Here they will be able to refund the credit on your card, but they will return the card to you in working order, meaning you will be able to use it again. This way you will not need to pay an activation fee on your next visit.

Finally, you can apply for a refund by post, by sending a letter to TfL Customer Services, 14 Pier Walk, 4th Floor, London SE10 0ES, United Kingdom. Refunds are issued in the form of a GBP cheque, which may be problematic to cash for visitors who are not from the UK. I’d suggest avoiding this option if possible, and getting a refund in person at a visitor center if you can.

You can read all about the various options for getting a refund on your visitor Oyster card here , and standard Oyster cards here .

Note that if you have unused credit on an Oyster card, another option is you can give the card with unused credit to a family member or friend who plans to visit London. This is a particularly good idea for those who do not plan to return to London and forgot to get the credit refunded before they left the city.

Registering and Protecting your Oyster Card

Standard Oyster cards can be registered online on the TfL website. It is highly recommended that you register your card so that you are better protected in case of theft or loss.

Unregistered cards will not be eligible for refunds in the case of a card being lost or stolen. Those with registered accounts can also use their accounts to track their travel, check their card balance, top off their card, and purchase travelcards online.

Visitor Oyster cards can NOT be registered and protected. Visitors should therefore be protective of their cards and treat them like cash.

I have an Issue with my Oyster Card 

For help with an issue, I would check the website for help first or ask a staff member at a London transport station or ticketing office. If that doesn’t work and you still need assistance, you can call the Transport for London hotline at +44 343 222 1234  (8am to 8pm GMT) and choose the Oyster card option. Note that fees may apply for the call.

travelers using Oyster Card London travel card public transportation

Things to Be Aware Of Concerning Oyster Cards

Here are some more things to know about Oyster Cards! Most of this won’t apply to you as a visitor, but some of the information may be important, especially for those traveling with children.

Contactless cards as an Alternative Option 

I n recent years the Oyster card system has been upgraded to support new “contactless” card technology. This allows users who have a contactless payment card to use this to pay for their journey, rather than buying a ticket or Oyster card. You can read about the different types of payment option for London’s transport and how Cash vs. Oyster Cards vs. Contactless Cards compare in this article we wrote.

Contactless cards can be a particularly good option for those who already have a credit card or debit card with contactless technology that does not incur international transaction fees when used in the UK. 

Avoiding “Double scanning” and “Card Clash”

Since some people have both Oyster cards and contactless enabled payment cards in their wallets or billfolds, there is a possibility that multiple cards could be scanned at once. The main thing to be aware of is that if you keep your Oyster card in your wallet or billfold, and don’t take it out to scan it, if your wallet also contains a contactless debit or credit card then the Oyster reader will not know which card to charge, which may result in you being charged more than once for your journey. 

To avoid this happening, we recommend taking out the card you intend to use and only scanning that. Read more about avoiding card clash here .

Pink Card Readers

In London there are often multiple routes that you can take between two locations, some of which are cheaper than others. For example, when traveling across London, it can be cheaper to avoid Zone 1. In order for the system to know which route you are taking, there are a small number of pink card readers that you can touch your Oyster card at certain Overground and Underground stations. These inform the system of your route, to help ensure you pay the right fare.

Note that pink card readers do not validate your journey nor do they charge you, so you still need to be sure to use the yellow card readers at the beginning and end of your journey.

We have rarely used (or even saw) these and it is likely that most visitors will not be using these but we wanted to point this out for those who really want to save money. For more information on pink card readers and locations you can find them, see the official website he re .

Discounted Fares with Oyster Card

There are a number of discounts and concessions available for people who meet certain requirements or are part of a certain demographic; however most of these discounts are only possible for London or UK residents. There are potential discounts for students, seniors, children, those seeking jobs, disabled travelers, and veterans. Most of these require applying for and obtaining a special photocard to receive free or discounted travel in London.

If you think you may be eligible, you can check out the various London transport discounts and concessions online   BEFORE deciding to purchase a Oyster card. Visitors traveling with children should check out the next section.

Special Tips for Families Traveling with Children

Oyster cards can be a great value for families traveling with children, and many public transit services are free for younger children. Families with children age 11 or older should be sure to examine discount options prior to their trip. Find out more details here .

Here are some tips for using the Oyster card for families with children:

  • If you are traveling with children, they are eligible for discounted travel on London transport. The amount of discount depends on their age. For those age 11 or older, you will need to apply for either a Zip Oyster photocard for them to receive the discounted travel, or have a young person’s discount added to a normal Oyster card.
  • Children under age 11 c an travel for free with a parent or guardian holding a valid Oyster card on Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services. You will need to see a member of staff at stations with barriers in order to get them in and out of the station on your card. 
  • A Zip Oyster photocard is primarily designed for London (and to an extent, UK) residents, and entitles the holder to free travel on all buses and trams in London, and half price fares on other TfL services in London. It can be applied for from overseas, although given the administration fee, the Young Visitor discount usually makes more sense. Apply here .
  • A Young Visitor discount is designed for visitors to London. It gives 50% off adult-rate pay as you go fares and daily caps on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services. A Young Visitor discount can be applied to a standard Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card by a member of staff at any Tube, London Overground or TfL Rail station. It lasts for 14 days, but can be renewed if staying for longer.
  • Children aged 16 -17 can also apply for a Zip Oyster photocard, which entitles them to half-rate travel on all TfL services.  A Zip Oyster photocard can only be applied for online. If you live in the UK, it takes a week to process. Applications from outside the UK must apply at least four weeks in advance. Full details and the application process can be found here .

Oyster Card London public transportation

London transport prices and policies are always changing, so be sure to check for the most updated prices and policies regarding public transportation fees and Oyster cards online at the Transport for London website before your trip to London!

So there you have our information and tips on buying and using an Oyster card in London! It may sound a bit complicated but once you have one, Oyster cards are easy to use and to recharge. If you’re visiting London, you can plan in advance and purchase your  Visitor Oyster card online now!

Have you been to London? What was your experience using public transportation in London? Did you use an Oyster card?  As always feel free to ask us any questions you may have about using an Oyster card or just any questions about travel in London.

Tips for buying and using the Oyster Card in London to pay for public transport

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Sandra Post author

April 29, 2024 at 1:59 pm

We would like to purchase a Visitors Oyster Card for our time in London, May 14-17. However, we leave home on May 4th and have left it too late for it to be delivered to our home. We would like to have it delivered to our hotel in Scotland. We are there from May 5-10. When trying to order online we put in the date we leave the hotel and the hotel address, but the site doesn’t seem to want to accept either our phone number or the hotel phone number? We have sent an email to VisitBritainShop and waiting to hear back from them. Can you suggestion any options for us? We’ll be arriving in Heathrow from Scotland on May 14th. If we have the card with us, we’ll be saving the cost of travelling on the tube from Heathrow to our hotel near Victoria station. I suppose the one alternative would be for us to purchase a regular Oyster card when we arrive in Heathrow.

Laurence Post author

May 2, 2024 at 5:02 am

Yes, hopefully you are able to get an email reply or call VisitBritian to help with the online purchase issue with the Visitor Oyster Card. It may be because it is a UK address so they may not allow you to purchase it. But if you are not able to get it in advance, you can purchase a regular Oyster Card from either a ticket machine (look for one with an Oyster card image on it) or from a ticket staff member at Heathrow Airport or another Underground station. You can also get them in certain other shops in London.

Hope you have a great time in London!

Vicky Post author

March 9, 2024 at 12:15 pm

Looking for some advice. I.am staying withy daughter in Watford for 4 days. We Intend to spend 2 days in London. How.much do you think I will need.on my.oyster card to cover the cap for the 2 days. I understand that as my daughter is nine I won’t have to.pay for her.

Jessica & Laurence Norah Post author

March 9, 2024 at 5:06 pm

Happy to try to help. So the amount you will need will depend on what zones you are traveling in each day. Are you planning to go back and forth from Watford to central London on those 2 days? Or are you planning to spend 2 of those days overnight in London and want to use the Oyster Card then? You can use an Oyster Card to pay for the train into London (Watford Junction is the last stop on that line and the furthest you can go using an Oyster Card).

And yes, as long as you daughter is traveling with you (and you have a Oyster Card or ticket), she can travel for free. I would just have a photo ID with her birthdate on you inc ase they check her age.

Best, Jessica

Kara Post author

March 7, 2024 at 1:59 pm

Hello, We will be traveling to London from the US in April. My husband and I have Oyster cards from a recent visit, and plan to top them up when we get to Heathrow and prior to taking the Elizabeth line to our lodgings.

We have 3 children traveling with us. On the day we arrive, they will be 13, 10 and 10. During the week, they all have birthdays and turn 14, 11, 11. I was thinking of getting the eldest a regular Oyster upon arrival and getting the young visitor discount applied (at Heathrow?) I am assuming the 2 youngest can travel free with us until their birthday (mid-trip) and then we can buy them their own cards. Is that right?

Please let me know if you recommend that or ordering 3 Visitor Oysters prior to the trip. The cost to ship 3 Visitor Oyster cards to the US seemed a bit high. Thank you!!

March 7, 2024 at 11:20 pm

Happy to try to help. So yes, topping up the Oyster cards for you and your husband already have should be no problem. You should be able to do this at Heathrow Airport at one of the machines.

Wow, three kids with birthdays all in one week during your trip! So yes, the 13 year old will need to either have a card (or a ticket) the full time. And you can wait until the 10 year olds turn 11 as they can ride for free as long as they are with you until their birthdays. And yes, you can have the Young visitor discount applied at any TfL ticket window. For applying the discount for your eldest, there are staffed windows at Heathrow Airport so you should be able to do it there. You’ll just want to have photo IDs with their birrthdates for the kids.

With the Visitor Oyster Cards you do save £2 on activation fees per card (compared to regular Oyster Cards) and there are some other potential discounts, but since you live in the US, the shipping cost will make them cost about the same as the regular ones. So if you order them online , the main advantage is that you’d have them already and not need to purchase them or add credit. So it can save you a bit of time so that is worth it for a lot of people. But in you case, you would still need to apply the Young Visitor Disocunts with a staff member so it doesn’t save you much time.

So either situation would work in your case, you can pre-order the Visitor Oyster Cards (I would order them at least 2 weeks before your trip) and then just apply the Young Visitor discounts while in London for the kids. Or you can purchase the regular Oyster Cards in person once you arrive at Heathrow and apply the 13-year-olds Young Visitor Discount that first day. Then you can apply the other two later in the week once needed for the younger two.

Since you’ll have 5 cards, it can be a good idea to put a little sticker or label on the kids’ cards so you know which ones have the Young Visitor Discount applied as they will all look the same if you are storing them together.

Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any further questions as you plan your trip to London!

Nichole Post author

February 27, 2024 at 10:53 am

We are traveling to London in May. We will be there three days. We will ride buses some, but we will mainly ride the tube. We will use the underground from the airport but also the Heathrow Express to Paddington. We have two kids, both under 11. Last time we visited we just did contactless payment with a credit card each time we went through, but I am thinking an Oyster card would save us money. How much money would you advise me to put on a card per adult? Each day we will travel around London, attending a musical and a play at the Globe. We also will run around different playgrounds.

February 27, 2024 at 9:29 pm

Hi Nichole,

So using an Oyster Card and using a compatable contactless card both allow you to take advantage of the same daily caps so there is really no difference in most usage. Now, you can get the Young Discount Oyster Cards, but in your case (given you kids are both 10 or younger) as long as you are traveling at all times with your kids, then they can travel for free with you on most forms of transport in London including the buses and Underground. For the kids, they just need to be with you and you should have proof of your own payment (contactless card, Oyster Card, or ticket) and have a photo ID of the kids in case their age is checked. When going through barriers in the Underground or in train stations, you can go through the family ones at the end, sometimes these need to be opened by a TfL employee.

If your kids are going to be traveling on their own for any reason, then it makes sense to apply for an Oyster Zip Photo Card so they would be eilgible for free travel. But I am guessing your kids are too young to be traveling on their own in London! But on future visits when they are over 10, it would probably make sense to get them Oyster Cards so they can still get free travel.

The Underground will save you money to get to and from London instead of taking the more expensive Heathrow Express. But yes, the quickest and most direct way is going to be the more expensive Heathrow Express service if you need to get between the airport and Paddington Station quickly. But the Elizabeth Line (the newest line) also can get you to Paddington and is less expensive. You can use an Oyster Card or contactless on the Elizabeth line as its part of the regular TfL services. So I would check the schedule and see if that might be a better option.

For the Heathrow Express, the best way to save money is to buy an advance ticket for that as it is always cheaper to buy an advance ticket (currently £25/person same day and £15 if booked in advance so a big savings!). Children aged 15 years and under travel free in Express Class (or Business Class if you buy Business Class tickets) when accompanied by a paying adult. Proof of age may be requested. But if you don’t buy an advance ticket, then yes you can use an Oyster Card or contactless payment.

In terms of an amount of credit you would need, if you do get Oyster Cards (and pay for the Heathrow Express tickets seperately), about £27 per person (£54 total) should cover all transport in central London. So maybe I’d put £30 on two cards. The daily current cap for zones 1 & 2 are £8.50 but there is going to be a slight increase in March. Now if you are also going to use your Oyster Card also for your transport to and from the airport I think it is about £12/person for the Elizabeth line or £25/person for the Heathrow Express each way, so you’ll need to add credit for that. You can also of course also use extra Oyster Card credit on future visits. But that should also give you an idea on what you’ll spend on public transit while on your trip either way.

Hope that helps and I hope your family enjoys your time in London!

February 28, 2024 at 4:37 am

Thank you! I sounds like just using our current American credit card for contactless payment is probably the easiest way to go since they are both capped? I don’t see any need for our children to have something at their ages. I will check the Elizabethan line for at least the way from the airport. The morning we fly out we leave at 7:45, so time is essential. Thanks!

February 28, 2024 at 10:17 am

You’re very welcome. Yes, the caps work the same for both (just make sure each person uses the same card throughout the journies). Yes, in most cases, it doesn’t make sense to apply for the kids until they are over 10 as that is when they would no longer automatically get the free travel with you. So in future trips it would make sense to apply for the Young Visitor Discount.

Yes, check out the option for the Elizabeth Line to see if that works as that can save you a money even if you just use it one way. And pre-book the Heathrow Express if you are taking it as that will also save you money.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful trip to London!

Kimberly Post author

February 12, 2024 at 4:12 pm

Hi, I’m traveling to London with a few friends, and have a question about the charges being capped with the oyster card. You mention that the express train from Heathrow and Gatwick is quite a bit more expensive. Does the cap not apply to some forms of transportation?

February 13, 2024 at 8:52 pm

Hi Kimberly,

Yes, that is a good question. So the capping for Oyster Cards (and other methods of payment) only applies for bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and National Rail journeys within London. I believe the capping systems covers everything operated by TfL (Transport for London) as they are the issuer of the Oyster Card.

It does not apply to special services like Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express which are not operated by TfL. However, you can still use the Oyster Card to travel on these services, but the capping doesn’t apply on this services. These high speed direct services are faster but more expensive.

If you are looking for cheaper options, then you can use the regular Underground service or the Elizabeth Line. There are also a number of regular bus services that operate between Heathrow and London as well, althought these will take longer and tend not to run routes that are as convenient for tourists. We have a guide to getting to and from the London airports that might be helpful if you want to know all your options.

Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any further questions.

Sherry Sage Post author

January 26, 2024 at 9:02 am

Your websites have been so helpful with my trip planning!! Just so you all know (and someone else may have already mentioned this, I didn’t read all the comments) I called The London Pass this morning because I could not find how to add the Oyster Pass to my 3 day pass! Found out they no longer offer the Oyster add-on, as of Oct 2023!

January 27, 2024 at 3:35 pm

Thanks so much for letting us know. We did not know that the London Pass has stopped giving customers the option to add the Travel Card (Visitor Oyster Card) to their passes. We just confirmed that they did indeed stop offering this option about 2 months ago. This is a bit disappointing that this option has been taken away for visitors.

For those looking to add a Visitor Oyster Card to their London Pass, you can order the Visitor Oyster Card in advance online before your trip from the official Visit Britain tourism shop. Or you can buy a regular Oyster Card once in London. We give more details about where you can purchase them above in the article.

Note, that for anyone who purchased a London Pass with a Travel Pass prior to this change (such as in 2022 or 2023), you will of course still receive your Visitor Oyster Card and any that you received will still work just the same as before. Oyster Card credit does not expire and you can keep loading old Oyster Card with credit.

Thanks so much Sherry for bringing this to our attention and we will try to work on updating our content tomorrow about this change. If you have any further questions as you plan your trip to London, just ask!

Dusica Post author

November 27, 2023 at 2:59 am

I am coming to London for four days and I don’t know which card to buy. I will mostly be in zone 1-3 and will travel several times a day. Which card should I buy? Which card would be the most advantageous for unlimited travel for four days?

Thanks, Dusica

November 29, 2023 at 4:16 pm

So either the Visitor Oyster Card or regular Oyster card will work for you. These both have an automatic daily cap so however much you travel in Zones 1 – 3, the maximum you will be charged for travel on TfL buses and tube services will be £9 per day. So for four days that would be £36.

Just note that if you also plan to take any trips outside of zones 1-3 (e.g., Heathrow Airport), to factor that you’ll need a bit more credit than that.

I am not sure if you were also thinking about the London Pass as well, or just about the Oyster Card?

Hope that helps!

Kaido Post author

November 15, 2023 at 6:22 am

Kinda difficult question. Will be in London for a week from Tuesday. Mostly will be in Zone 1 to 3. If I understood for adults in that case would be best solution blue Oyster with weekly travelcard (for sure will travel more than 3 times per day). However question about 12year old: Would be possible to have blue Oyster with 50% travelcard? Thank you for information.

November 15, 2023 at 12:00 pm

For the adults, the blue Oyster with a weekly travelcard would be the best option given the days you will be in London, as long as you are traveling regularly within London during that time period.

There is no 50% children’s travelcard, but you can have a Young Visitor discount applied to a blue Oyster card by a member of staff which would give 50% off adult-rate pay as you go fares and daily caps on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and most National Rail services (see the Young Visitor Discount section of this page: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/11-15-zip-oyster-photocard#on-this-page-5 ).

“If you don’t live in London and you’re visiting with children who don’t have an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard, they can get discounted travel for up to 14 days with the Young Visitor discount. Add the Young Visitor discount to an Oyster card to get: 50% off adult-rate pay as you go fares and daily caps on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and most National Rail services The discount can be added to a standard Oyster card or Visitor Oyster card by a member of staff.”

So for the above for a 12 year old, you can have it applied to either a Visitor Oyster Card or one you buy once in London (regular Oyster Card), it doesn’t matter which. Now if you want one of the 11-15 Zip Oyster Photocards, those have an administration fee and require an application and ideally you need to apply at least a month before you need it. So I don’t think that would be an opton for your trip if you are leaving next week and are more designed for those who live in the UK.

The Young Visitor discount applied to a regular Oyster card should work out cheaper than them using a weekly adults travelcard for sure, as the discount is also applied to the daily and weekly caps.

Hope this helps! Jessica

Stephanie Post author

October 2, 2023 at 11:17 am

My family is going to be traveling to London in the spring. We will have children between the ages of 5-10 with us. Do we need to purchase an Oyster Photo ID Card for each of them, or are our Oyster Cards sufficient for children + adult? We will all be traveling on public transportation together wherever we go. I have seen conflicting information: some website say that all children ages 5-10 need the photo ID card and other say it’s just for children traveling alone. I don’t want to be caught off guard when we arrive.

October 2, 2023 at 4:37 pm

Hi Stephanie,

So if all the children will be age 10 or younger, than they can travel for free with you as long as they are with a paying adult. Up to 4 children can accompany each paying adult. So if you have an Oyster Card, up to 4 children under age 11 can travel with you. And yes, they can only travel with a paying adult, so they can’t travel on their own at that age without their own ticket or pass.

It is a good idea to always carry a photo ID for children (especially older ones, such as their passport) that has their photo and birthdate on it for use with discounted or free travel or tickets as a valid ID may be needed. When going through turnstiles, kids can go through with you or head to the wider wheelchair/family/luggage exits and normally there is a staff member around to help everyone get through if you need assistance.

If any of the children will be 11 years or older by the time of your trip to London, then they’ll need their own Oyster Card or to buy individual tickets etc. You can get the Young Visitor Cards for older children, but this generally only makes sense for people living in London or spending an extended amount of time in the city and using public transit.

Yes, I would always recommend double checking any information you read online with the Transport for London (Tfl) website as there is a lot of outdated or bad info online:

Here is info as of today directly from the Tfl website:

“Children under five travel free with a fare-paying adult. If your child is under 11, they can travel free on Buses and trams, Tube, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and some National Rail services. They must be travelling with an adult who is using pay as you go, or has a valid ticket (excluding Group Day Travelcards). Up to four children per adult.”

Most of the most common forms of public transit are free for younger kids traveling with adults using an Oyster Card includes buses, Elizabeth Line, and Underground “Tube” trains. However, for any forms of transport where children do not get free travel, you’ll need to buy the kids separate tickets (there are almost always child rate tickets available for those ages). This includes transport that you can use the Oyster Card for such as cable cars, airport express services, Thames river boats, etc. For any of those types of services where you can pay using your Oyster Cards, you’ll need to buy the kids their own tickets as needed.

Hope that helps! Jessica

Alexandra Post author

September 20, 2023 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for your useful article We are traveling for five days to London from Heathrow airport.Our hotel is in zone 2. What is your opinion?can we use visitor oyster card or travel card ?

September 21, 2023 at 7:48 am

Hi Alexandra,

So yes, you can use the Visitor Oyster Card to travel from Heathrow Airport to Zone 2 in London. We generally take the London Underground (Tube) but there are several ways you can get from Heathrow to Central London, and you can r ead about more about those options here .

If you are going to use the Visitor Oyster Card, you need to make sure to order it in advance. If you are planning to get a London Pass, I would just order your Oyster Card with the London Pass (add the Oyster Travelcard option). But if you are not planning to get a London Pass, you can order it on its own (the best prices are if you order it here ).

If you are referring to adding a travelcard to an Oyster Card, this wouldn’t make sense for your trip as it is too short to get any advantage of using any of the travelcards. These are generally just designed for people planning to travel for 7 or more days every day.

September 8, 2023 at 11:24 am

This article has been so helpful! I do wonder, though, which card/card combination is worth it for my situation.

My family and I will be staying in London for about 7 days. We will be spending most of our time in Zones 1-2, but we are planning some day trips out to places like Windsor. Would it be best to purchase the Visitor Oyster Card with a London Pass, or would it be better to just go with the Oyster Card and Travelcard and purchase a London Pass separately? Just want to make sure that we won’t be using more money on transportation costs than we need to considering we’re traveling to places that we can’t use the Oyster Card nor the Travelcard.

September 9, 2023 at 9:53 am

I think that it probably does not matter too much in your case. Your three options, as long as it is at least a couple of weeks before your trip and you live outside of the UK, would be to purchase the Vistor Oyster card in advance (you can do that here via official UK tourism website ) and have it mailed to your home, you can purchase the Visitor Oyster Card as part of the London Pass , or you can just wait and buy a standard one at a station or shop in London.

The differences between the standard and Visitor Oyster Card are pretty minimal, you can read more about the small differences above in the article. But if you are going to purchase the London Pass anyway (given you are in London for 7 days, the pass is probably going to save you money), then that might be the easiest option. Just because you can add it to your order and it will be maield to you and arrive with credit already included. So if you purchase a 6 day London Pass, it will come pre-loaded with generally enough credit for 5-6 days of travel and you can add more as needed to your card as you go.

If you decide not to purchase the London Pass and want the card in advance, then I’d buy via Visit Britian tourism shop (link above) as they offer a small discount on the activation fee. If you are leaving for your trip in less than 2 weeks, I’d just wait until you arrive in London so you don’t need to worry about shipping times or delays.

And yes, it is good that you know that you will need to buy train tickets separately to go to Windsor or anywhere else outside of London as the Oyster Card only works in London. But your Oyster Card can be used on pretty much all the main public transport options within London itself so I suspect if you plan to take the Underground or buses, you’ll be using it on most days. We generally use ours 2-4 times a day when staying centrally in London and doing sightseeing.

September 9, 2023 at 4:20 pm

Would it be more economical to put a Travelcard for Zones 1-2 on a standard Oyster, or just the pay-as-you-go of either the standard or visitor version?

September 10, 2023 at 8:29 am

The answer is that it will really depend on how much travel you plan on doing. A single journey in zones 1&2 is £2.80. The daily cap for Zones 1&2 is £8.10, so the cap kicks in on the third journey.The weekly cap and travel card price for zones 1&2 is £40.70. That’s the same as around 15 tube rides, or five days of at least three rides a day. So if riding at least three rides a day for at least five days, then a travelcard can start to save money. Otherwise you can just pay as you go and rely on the daily cap to keep prices down.

Ravita Post author

September 8, 2023 at 9:08 am

Hi good day; I will be coming to London with two other adults and we are staying a total of nine days and leaving on the 9th day. We will mostly be doing things in central London so I was thinking the travel card sounded like the better option but; that will cover of course only 7 days. Do you have any advice on what options we can take to our travel options for the nine days; or for the additional 2 days please. Thank you!

September 9, 2023 at 9:38 am

For the Oyster card, there is both a weekly and a daily cap, so you never pay more than a certain amount. For example, travelling in zones 1 and 2, you would never pay more than £8.10 per day, or £40.70 for a week (Mon to Sun) based on current rates. This is actually the same price as a travel card. So as you are there for nine days, which will include a Mon-Sun 7-day period, I think you would get the same price result whether you do the travel card or not.

So you can add the 7 day travel card to the Oyster Card and it will be valid for that specific period and it will just work per journey on the other two days. But the travel card just gets added to your Oyster Card, you can use a machine at a station to do this. Then for the other two days, you would just need to add credit to your card that would be taken off as you go.

But in your specific case if just traveling within those zones, it probably will make little or not difference for you, whether you decide to add the travel card or not. So you could just add credit for your 9 days and it would probably come out to be about the same. So I would just go with whichever is easiest for you. Just remember that each individual person in your group would need their own Oyster Card.

Hope that helps and enjoy your time in London!

ravita Post author

September 9, 2023 at 11:44 am

Lana Post author

August 18, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Hello, Can I have both credit (pay as you go) AND a travelcard loaded onto a regular Oyster card at the same time? Here is the reason for my question: I will be visiting London for 6 days with my family. I’d like to get a 7 day travel card for Zones 1-2 for visiting all the tourist sights, but I will also need to pay for trips from/to Heathrow and to Watford Junction. So, my reasoning is that the travelcard will cover all my trips in Zones 1-2, and then the credit will cover the Heathrow and Watford Junction trips. Is such a combo possible? Is the system smart enough for such a combo? Or should I just opt for pay as you go? Thank you in advance!

August 19, 2023 at 9:46 am

Yes, you can use both a travelcard and Oyster credit at the same time on an Oyster Card. When travelling outside the zones covered by the travelcard it should automatically deduct the correct fare from the credit balance on your card. So you will just want to make sure that if you just have the travel cards for Zones 1-2 that you also have the credit needed to cover the other journeys outside of those zones such as to the airport and Watford Junction.

Hope that helps, and wishing you a wonderful trip to London with your family! Jessica

Juanita Post author

July 16, 2023 at 3:06 am

Hello, we are travelling to London for 6 days in August/September, but we leave Australia on 16 July 2023. If we order the visitor oyster card with the london pass, can we pick it up in London. It will not arrive before we leave home. Can we arrange for it to be sent to a hotel in Paris?

July 17, 2023 at 10:56 am

Hi Juanita,

So for the London Pass with Oyster travelcard, there is no longer a place in London to pickup the passes. The London Pass itself is a digital pass only now but the Visitor Oyster Card is a physical pass. It needs to be purchased outside of London.

So, yes, you could have it sent to your Paris hotel. I would recommend calling and asking them first to make sure that is OK to receive mail as a resident and the correct address to use.

Otherwise, you can purchase the London Passes without the travelcards, and just pick up the regular Oyster Cards once you arrive in London, whether at the airport or train station.

Hope that helps and wishing you a great trip to London!

Maria Post author

July 6, 2023 at 1:44 pm

Thank you for all this really helpful information! Could you help me clarify one thing with the Visitor Oyster card? We are a family from Sweden with two children between 11-15. I understand that we can add a Young Visitor discount to a Visitor Oyster card when we get to London. But – and this might be a stupid question – since the cards are payed in advance, how do we get the refund for the sum that we already have payed? Kind regards Maria

July 8, 2023 at 4:50 am

So you can definitely add the Young Visitor discount to your card when you arrive in London. This does not cost you anything extra.

In terms of the payment you have already made, that is just for the cards themselves and for the added credit to the cards. The fares are calculated every time you actually use the card when touching in and out on public transport. So as adults, more will be deducted from your cards when you touch in and out compared to your children, as they will only have the child fares deducted. So that credit on them will still be used in the same way, whether you choose to apply the Young Visitor discount or not. So you still need to have the credit on all the cards for them to work. Does that make sense?

If at the end of your trip, you still have a lot of credit left on the cards and you don’t plan to return to London, then you can get the credit refunded on them. See section in article above about the various ways you can get refunds and link to Tfl pages on refunds for Visitor Oyster Cards. Or you can use the cards whenever you return to London as the credit does not expire.

July 9, 2023 at 7:07 am

Right, I should have figured it out how it works. Now it all makes sense:) Thanks for your reply and for your very informative website. Best regards, Maria

July 9, 2023 at 9:03 am

No worries, happy we could help. The Oyster Card can definitely be confusing especially if adding discounts or travelcards to the card.

Wishing you and your family a great visit to London!

Felix Post author

July 5, 2023 at 6:13 pm

Thank you for the very useful article. We will be arriving at Heathrow terminal 4 and need to get to DoubleTree by Hilton Docklands hotel. Can you please suggest the best way to get there?

July 6, 2023 at 4:12 am

So unfortunately your hotel is not in the most convenient place in terms of going to and from the airport by public transport.

We’d recommend taking the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow Airport towards Abbey Wood from Heathrow Terminal 4, then changing onto the Jubilee Line at Bond Street, getting out at Bermondsey and then taking the bus to the hotel. Unfortunately, there isn’t a very close tube stop to the hotel so you’ll need to take a bus or taxi for the last section of your journey.

You also have the option to take a direct taxi or take a public bus.

July 6, 2023 at 8:34 am

Thanks a lot for your response, Jessica!

Paul Post author

May 17, 2023 at 8:31 am

Please, can anyone tell me if there is a published Kilometer per £1 figure i can use for an Environmental impact calculation on my Oyster Card usage? Any help gratefully received.

May 18, 2023 at 1:21 am

It would obviously depend on the type of transport (Underground train, bus, Overground train, DLR, etc.), fuel type used, and length of your trip. It would not have that much connection to price since bus trips are the same no matter how far you travel (although more so with trains). So you would need to calculate it as you would any type of public transit usage anywhere by finding out the carbon emissions per km/mile and then calculating out your specific usage to get a good estimate.

Some websites that might be useful are the Tfl (environmental reports section) or general carbon calculators geared to the UK such as the one by the World Land Trust here .

Sheila/Bob Post author

May 12, 2023 at 8:49 am

Hello, we are traveling to London for 2 days in June then to Dover for a cruise. Flying into Heathrow and Staying at The Tower Suites. We were advised to take Heathrow Express to Paddington then underground via Circle line to Tower Hill then walk rest of the way to 100 Minories (hotel). We planned on walking to most of the sights but wondered since the Trooping of the Colors occurs the only full day we’re there how difficult will it be to get on the underground or busses? We will also take the Circle Line Via Liverpool Street to Kings Cross St. Pancras, and then take the Southern Line (Ramsgate) to reach destination at Dover Priory. And our return to Heathrow will be covered by the cruise line. So in a nutshell, would it make sense for us to purchase the oyster card? TIA for your help.

May 16, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Hi Sheila & Bob,

So taking the Heathrow Express can sometimes be quicker but in your case the added cost for the extra speed doesn’t really make much difference. So you would save money and take about the same time if you took the Underground train (“Tube) Picadilly Line from Heathrow to Gloucester Road, then change to the District Line towards Upminster and get off at Tower Hill. Then walk to your hotel.

If you were staying in the Paddington area then the Heathrow Express would make more sense, but in this case I honestly don’t think it’s worth it. You can of course take the Heathrow Express but it is more expensive.

For Trooping of the Color, yes, London will be busier (especially around the Westminster area) but you should still be fine to get around. I would just leave extra time if exploring in that area. The Household Calvary Museum and Royal Mews are both likely to be closed on that day but I don’t expect other places will be closed but always good to double check opening dates/times.

Laura Pellikan Post author

May 11, 2023 at 10:14 pm

Hi Jessica,

Thanks so muc for your helpful article. My fmily of five is traveling to London this coming June and we are staying in Twickenham (Zone 5). We are planning one day trip to Watford for the Warner Bros. tour and it’s pretty pricey to take the train from Zone 5 to Zone 9. Would you recommend that we hire a driver for this trip vs. taking the train since the cost of 5 people might be just as much or more than hiring a driver? We also plan to go back and forth to central London for 2 days in addition to the day to Warner Bros. Can you please recommend an amount that we should have on each of our Oyster Travel cards for the three days? One day to Watford and the other two days to central London. We will be traveling Heathrow on our 4th day and I’m not sure if it makes sense to take the train again vs. hiring a driver due to our family’s size. I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

May 16, 2023 at 11:42 am

Sorry for the delayed response.

So if you book train tickets in advance you should be able to book a groupsave ticket from Twickenham to Watford. I’m not sure of the ages of your group but assuming 2 adults and 3 children a day return groupsave ticket is currently around £100. So if you can find round-trip private transport for less than that, that would make sense.

Bear in mind that the Oyster Card offers convenience but is not usually the cheapest option for overground train (regular trains, not the Underground “Tube” or buses) travel as it charges same day single fares whereas if you book specific trains in advance you will usually save. Since you are staying out of central London and going to a place where there is not Underground travel, then it may make more sense to just buy train tickets for those journeys.

Off peak train travel from Twickenham to London is £5.7 each way for adults when using an Oyster Card and half that for children if you load the young visitors discount card to their oyster card. So you will need at least £25 on the adult cards. Oyster Cards are easy to add credit to by using the Underground machines.

So for travel from Twickenham to Heathrow, the cheapest option is probably the bus that goes from there to the airport, I think it takes about 30 minutes. You could use your Oyster Cards. But since you are staying fairly close to the airport, you might want to check against prices for getting a taxi which might be better in terms of convenience but would be more expensive.

Hope that helps! Jessicaf

Peter Kowarc Post author

May 6, 2023 at 3:38 pm

Thank you for the great informations about the (visitor) Oyster Card. Please help me answering my tricky questions, I´m searching the net since days, but I can´t find any answer. We are going to London for 3,4 Days in June, 2 adults , 2 girls at the age of 15, arriving and departing at Gatwick South Terminal. First I wanted to buy just normal oyster cards at the airport and top them off with about 60 to 70 pounds as we wanna go with gatwick express both ways. Then I was thinking of using contactless payment on our debitcards, even the girls have their own. But anyway, how can we get the young visitor discount for them at the airport? I´ve read that you have to go to a member of the staff of the london transport system, but first we have to reach London, right? How can we travel with Gatwick Express with two of the four cards having the discount already added on? At all, Is there any discount for children at the Gatwick Express? Can the children use the contactless payment of their debitcards with a young visitor discount and how can you add it on their debitcards (again, especially in Gatwick)? I really haven´t found any answer on this questions so far. And the last question is the following: If there´s a large amount on the oystercard back at Gatwick on the departure, how do I get the refund? I´ve read that there´s no visitor center at Gatwick? I hope you can help me, thank you so much, Peter from Vienna

May 11, 2023 at 9:22 am

So normally you would make a choice between an Oyster card or a contactless payment card, you wouldn’t do both. You have to touch the card to the reader when you travel, and you would want to use the same method each time you travel to take advantage of the daily and weekly cap system.

For your daughters, they would definitely want to use a physical Oyster card as you can apply the young persons discount. You can’t add it to a contactless card currently, it has to be added to a physical Oyster card. Unfortunately this cannot be added at Gatwick Airport, as outlined on the TFL page here . For this reason you also can’t get a refund at Gatwick as far as we know as there isn’t a visitor centre. So you would have to handle that prior to leaving central London.

I would instead recommend just buying train tickets to and from Gatwick. You can save by skipping the Gatwick Express and just booking a regular train ticket, it’s a tiny bit slower but a lot less expensive. You can see our guide to getting to London from Gatwick here .

Once you reach London you can then buy and start to use your Oyster cards.

Have a great time in London and let us know if you have any more questions!

Joy Post author

May 3, 2023 at 8:08 pm

Thank you for the detailed information about traveling in London. I plan to visit London in early June with my 16 year old for two weeks.Appreciate it if you can give us advise on oyster card purchases. We will be staying at Mercury hotel Paddington station the first night and move to Morton hotel for the rest of days. Already booked Harry Potter related sight seeing and plays at Palace theatre as my kid is a Potter fan.

We arrive at Heathrow airport early in the morning 6am. Can I purchase oyster ticket and SIM card right at the airport? I bring Youtrip card issued in Singapore, a contactless debit Mastercard, can I use it instead of Oyster card? Will I enjoy the same benefits, ie a foreign issued contactless card same as England issued card? If I purchase oyster card, what type you recommend as we stay next to Russel square tube station and plan to take tube 10 days in our two weeks journey in London. Thank you very much for your time.

May 4, 2023 at 9:55 am

We’re glad to hear you found our guide useful! So yes, you can purchase SIM cards at the airport and also Oyster cards. There is normally a SIM card vending machine at the airport as well as Oyster cards. If not, SIM cards are easy to find in supermarkets and locations across the city.

For your contactless card, yes, a foreign issued contactless card should work just fine. You will just want to check with your card issuer that there are no foreign transaction fees as this can add up. However, if there are no fees for overseas spending then it would be just as easy to use, and the same benefits would apply as using a UK card, i.e. daily and weekly capping.

If you still want to get an Oyster card, you can get these at most tube stations and also at Heathrow. I’d suggest loading it with around £30 to start with and then seeing how you go.

Have a great time in London and do let us know if you have any more questions.

Jessica & Laurence

Diane Zoretic Post author

May 3, 2023 at 12:47 pm

We are only going to be in London for 2 1/2 days in August 2023. We are staying in Kensington and think the best way to the hotel from LHR is by train to Paddington and transfer to subway Paddington Underground and go to High Street Kensington and a short walk to hotel. We know it is NOT good on hop on hop off bus. Is it better to get a Visitor Oyster Card or Standard Oyster? Thanks

May 4, 2023 at 9:51 am

So it doesn’t really make a lot of difference, the main difference is that the Visitor Oyster Card costs £5 and the standard Oyster card costs £7. For the standard Oyster Card that money does get applied as credit, but only 12 months after you’ve started using the card, so it’s not much use to your average visitor. With the Visitor Oyster Card you can also order that in advance but since this costs a bit for the shipping you might as well just get the standard Oyster card when you arrive.

Otherwise, the cards function in the same way, so when you’re in London you wouldn’t notice any difference between them.

I hope this helps!

Have a great time in London.

May 4, 2023 at 10:09 am

Thanks so much for your prompt reply. This is very helpful. This card sounds very similar to the Metro card in Washington DC. The adventure begins…

Kathy Blankenship Post author

May 20, 2023 at 1:32 pm

Does the $5 fee for the Visitor Oyster card get applied as credit like the Standard? Trying to decide if I need to order the Visitor card in advance or not. If I reload an oyster card with a credit card, will I get charged a credit card fee?

May 21, 2023 at 9:48 am

No, the Visitor Oyster card fee does not get applied as credit. It’s worth noting though that the credit for the standard Oyster card is only applied 12 months after purchase, and even then, only if you actually use the card between 12 months and 18 months from purchase. So for most visitors this doesn’t actually apply.

There’s no credit card fee from Oyster for reloading your card, however you will need to check with your credit card provider if they charge a fee for using their card abroad in a foreign currency. We always recommend travelling with a card that allows for spending overseas without any fees as they can add up a lot.

Best, Laurence

Carmen Post author

May 1, 2023 at 3:32 am

Hello! Thanks a lot for the detailed information. I have a doubt: I am going to stay in London for 6 days + plus arriving day with Eurostar. Probably taking public transport like 2 to 3 journeys a day. What is most convient (cost wise) “Oyster card” or “Travelcard”? Thank you!

May 1, 2023 at 12:43 pm

It is hard to say without knowing specifically how many times you will use it and what days. So, I think for 6 days you should just get an Oyster Card and load it with some credit (maybe start with £20 and you can top up if needed).

The difference with loading a Travelcard or not onto an Oyster Card for that period of time is not going to be large and it is more simple to just use credit.

Wishing you a great visit to London!

Angela Post author

April 27, 2023 at 1:01 pm

This is great information and helps clear up a bit of confusion between the regular Oyster card and the Oyster Visitor card. The only part that seems to be off is your article says neither can be used for transport from London to Windsor Castle. You absolutely can use your Oyster Visitor card for transport from London to Windsor if you purchase your card as an add on to your London Pass. Windsor Castle, in which admission is already covered by the London Pass, is outside of London and beyond the coverage of standard Oyster Cards. However, with the London Pass you get tickets for the train between London’s Paddington Station and Windsor Central Station, located directly opposite Windsor Castle, but only if you purchase the travel option with the London Pass.

This information is also on the bottom of the “Why get a London Visitor Oyster card” page on the London Pass website in the link below.

https://londonpass.com/en-us/london-transport/travelcard-validity

It’s one of the many reasons I always get the London Pass when I come to London every few years 🙂

April 28, 2023 at 11:46 am

So glad you have found our London travel articles helpful. So, yes, the London Pass for many years did include travel to Windsor from central London if you went via a certain route. However, that was removed about 1 year ago and the London Pass does not currently include travel to Windsor. The information you saw on the website was out-of-date and incorrect.

We told London Pass about that sentence you found on their website and they have removed that sentence after we pointed it out. They also reconfirmed with us that the London Pass does NOT currently include travel to or from Windsor. However, they do hope to add the Windsor travel perk back to the London Pass in the future. So you should of course double check before your next visit.

We actually are traveling with my family who are visiting us here in London, and we used the London Passes yesterday to go to Windsor Castle. We bought train tickets to get to Windsor, but used our London Passes for the actual visit to Windsor Castle. One thing to note is that with the London Pass, you can only use it to enter Windsor Castle in the afternoons. This is actually nice as it tends to be much less busy in the afternoons than in the mornings when you have a lot of the groups and schools visiting.

Anyway, hope that helps and you can visit our London Pass review article for more information.

Hoping you get to visit London again soon!!

Lisa Post author

March 24, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Hi! All of these tips are so useful. I am confused–we are arriving in London next week and I realize that it is too late to get the Visitor Oyster Card. Is it possible to get the Visitor Oyster card at the airport or when we land at the airport? Thanks in advance. We are staying in Mayfair and not going that far–Westminster, London Tower, Churchill Rooms–do we need the Oyster visitor or the regular Oyster?

March 25, 2023 at 9:50 am

Yes, it is probably too late to order a Visitor Oyster Card as you need to purchase that in advance and have it mailed to you. You can’t really buy it once in the UK.

However, you can just get the regular Oyster Card once you arrive. If you are arriving into Heathrow Airport, you can buy it at the Underground station there (or the airport Visitor Centre) if you plan to use the Underground (Tube) to travel into London from the airport. Or you can buy it at any Underground station once you are in London.

As noted above in the article, in terms of using them, the Visitor Oyster Card and a regular Oyster Card are pretty much the same in terms of travel. So either work the same.

Yes, those locations are all fairly close together so you should not need too much credit on your cards, the biggest journeys will probably be back and forth to the airport if you plan to use it for that. Just note that each person needs a separate card.

Hope that helps! Laurence

Karen Farrell Post author

March 14, 2023 at 4:44 pm

Excellent article. I am researching how to top up an Oyster Card I purchased in 2019 and will want to use again in May 2023. However, whenever I click on the Register your Oyster Card button it refuses to accept my IP address. So when you say that I can register from anywhere in the world, that is not yet true. It will not let me top up an Oyster card from Canada.

So what do you think the best solution is? Should I purchase a Visitor Oyster Card from Canada online for my husband and simply top up the card I have now when we arrive in London?

Let me know thanks Karen

March 15, 2023 at 9:20 am

Yes, I think it is currently only allowing you to register Oyster Cards from a UK IP address as I am also not able to do it (in Morocco at the moment). Our note in the article is that you can use a non-UK mailing address to register the card (or you were as of last time we checked). But it appears you still need to do it from within the UK. Note that Visitor Oyster Cards can’t be registered.

But I would just top up your Oyster Card once you arrive into the UK. It is easy to do at ticket machines at all Tube, London Overground and most Elizabeth line and National Rail stations. So I would do that for the card you already have. If you are taking a Underground train from Heathrow for example, you can add credit at a machine at the airport Underground station.

For getting a second card, you can buy a standard Oyster Card once in London or order a Visitor Oyster Card now from Canada and have it shipped to you with credit already on it. Whichever you prefer.

Hope that helps and just let me know if you have any further questions.

March 15, 2023 at 10:45 am

Thank you Jessica for explaining the nuance between having a non-UK email address and still being in the UK. I understand now.

I will take your advice and top up my existing Visitor Oyster Card when we arrive in the UK. Have a supplemental question…..our Canadian VISA cards are all contactless cards with a chip in them. If I am reading your article and the TFL website correctly I can just use my credit card instead of buying a 2nd Visitor Oyster Card.

Is it possible to use a Canadian VISA card as a contactless card on the London travel system? I know it can be used in taxi cabs but was wondering if I can use it like the Oyster Card on Rail and subway trains.

I really appreciate your response and all of the information you have provided. thank you Karen

March 18, 2023 at 11:33 am

You’re very welcome.

Yes, that is true. Your credit cards should work if they are contactless for the Tfl public transit. Essentially you use it the same as an Oyster Card. So you could indeed just top up your old Oyster Card and use a credit card for your husband instead of buying a new Oyster Card. You both just need one card (or either kind) each to use.

Rusty Young Post author

March 13, 2023 at 2:53 pm

This is a truly excellent article. We are taking our first international trip since Covid. The trip in 2019 was to France. I read several of your Travel Cats post for that trip and they were truly helpful. When I saw Travel Cats in the google search results I “ran” to open it.

My specific question: After reading your excellent post et. al. I have a question about contactless payment. That seems like it is probably the best option for our group of 5 that will be in London for a few days. Specifically are you aware of any issues with using contactless US issued credit cards for travel. I note the Tfl site says “most” cards work.

Any guidance you’re able to offer will be appreciated.

March 15, 2023 at 8:57 am

So glad that our articles for France were helpful in planning your 2019 trip! And glad you have found us again in planning your trip to London.

So, yes, that is correct in that most cards will work. As long as you have a recently issued credit card from a major company (e.g., Visa, Mastercard) that has a Contactless Symbol on it (could be on the front or back), it should work for contactless payments for public transportation. Each person would need to have and use a seperate credit card.

I imagine your credit cards should work fine (if as above), but you can always get Oyster Cards if you find that any of your cards are not working so I would not worry too much. The London Underground also accepts some mobile payment apps now as well.

On a somewhat unrelated note, is also a good idea to bring Pin-and-Chip credit cards (and to set and know the PIN) as these are often necessary in automated machines in the UK and the rest of Europe for paying for things like parking, fuel, and public transit tickets. I think most U.S. cards are now Pin-and-Chip but not all.

Hope that helps and wishing you a great trip to London – just let us know if you have any further questions as you plan your visit!

March 15, 2023 at 1:45 pm

Thanks so much Jessica. Also thanks for the reminder about the PIN. That was on my list but I kept forgetting. For your reference for purchases PIN are still not needed in the US. If you use your credit card at an ATM for a cash advance then you need a PIN. Or so I’m told. I’ve never tried.

Samantha Goodman Post author

March 13, 2023 at 2:03 pm

Hi! You may have addressed this previously… Our family will be in London for 5 days (there are 4 of us). We plan on doing a lot of walking, and probably won’t use the Tube too much. But, does each one of us need their own oyster card or can we use one card for all of us?

March 15, 2023 at 8:42 am

Hi Samantha,

Yes, as noted, each person would need to have their own Oyster Card (or ticket or contactless payment card). You can’t use the same card as you need to tap in and out for each journey.

If you decide to get Oyster Cards, I would just put a low amount on each to start and you can always top them up later and add credit.

Ann Pedley Post author

March 10, 2023 at 10:18 am

What an excellent article on buying and using the Oyster card, thank you for it! Two questions 1) we are planning on taking the tube from Heathrow to Victoria station. I understand that we catch the Piccadilly line then change at Hammersmith to the eastbound District line to Victoria. When we make that change do we have to tap our card on exiting the first ride and tap on as we go onto the next line? 2)We will each have a piece of carry on luggage, do you think we will be OK taking the tube with them? Many thanks for your help! 🇨🇦

March 11, 2023 at 8:41 am

Glad that you found our article useful. Happy to help to try to answer your questions.

1. So, yes, you can change at Hammersmith. However, you might find it preferable to stay on the Picadilly line to Gloucester Road, then you would have the choice of either the District Line or the Circle Line eastbound to Victoria. You will tap your Oyster Card to get through the barrier at the beginning of your journey at Heathrow and then again to exit at Victoria. You do not need to tap your card in between when changing lines as you don’t want to completely exit the Underground stystem or the stations in between, just follow signs to the line you want to connect to (e.g., District Line or Circle Line) and get on the next line. So for the Underground trains, no matter how many changes you make, you just tap at the very beginning and very end of the journey.

2. Yes, there is normally plenty of room to get onto the Underground trains with luggage. There aren’t luggage racks but you can just hold it next to you if sitting or standing. Many stations have elevators/lifts but not all, so it is best if you are able to carry it up and down stairs and onto esclators. So as long as you are able to physically carry your own luggage, you should be fine.

Jaana Mäkelä Post author

March 9, 2023 at 4:01 am

Dear Jessica Thank you for all the good advice. I’m considering to use contactless paying with my credit card when visiting London with a friend in April. Is it okay only to tap twice with one card for us both on tube or bus etc.?

Best wishes, Jaana from Finland

March 9, 2023 at 4:07 am

Yes, most European credit cards (as long as they are Pin and Chip) will work to use the contactless paying option. However, both you and your friend would need to use separate credit cards to travel together. It would work the same as an Oyster Card. For example, for trains and Underground, you need to tap to start and at the end of your journey. For bus journeys you just need to tap once. You can can find more about different payment options here .

If you tap twice on the Tube at the same place, it will just tap you in and out. It keeps track of the length of your journey by where you tap it so it won’t work if you try doing it twice. You then won’t be able to tap out to get out of the barriers (and will then likely be charged more for the longest possible journey since it won’t know where you started).

So you’ll want two cards, one for each person, whether they are credit cards or Oyster Cards. So if you only have one credit card, one of you could use a credit card and the other an Oyster Card.

Hope that helps and wishing you a great visit to London! Jessica

Kim Stanich Post author

March 1, 2023 at 5:14 am

Thank you so much for the information you have provided. I have a couple of questions I was hoping you could answer. We are a family of three (2 adults and a 13 year old) who will be arriving March 24th in the morning hours. I will purchase our oyster cards at Heathrow and use the tube after reading your article. We cannot get into our flat until 4:00. What do travelers do with luggage during the time between landing and checking in? Since we will be traveling overnight from the US I don’t want to plan too much for the first day. Can you recommend some first day sites to see close to Hammersmith? I also wonder how many days I should purchase for the London Pass? We will be in London for 8 nights. This is our first trip overseas and I want to see as much as possible.

March 1, 2023 at 7:15 am

Sounds like an exciting first trip overseas!

Yes, I think you will all likely all be tired, especially a 13-year-old. So I would definitely agree that a relaxed day would probably be best and then you won’t be worried too much about sightseeing. But since you have a number of hours before you can check in (a definite disadvantage to having a flat versus a hotel), then having a loose plan is definitley a good idea.

So if you can’t store it with the flat manager, you should probably look into a luggage storage service like Nannybag, Stasher, or Luggage Hero – they have lots of locations around London. You can book online or with an app. Basically, they connect you with a business that will store your luggage for you. You can find out more options here .

I honestly can’t think of anything specifically in Hammersmith as it is a bit far out of central London. I am not sure what part of Hammersmith you’ll be in but you would not be too far from the Kensington area, where you could visit places such as the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, or Kensington Gardens. The gardens are free to visit and they are full of various gardens, memorials, fountains, galleries, kiosks, etc. and even seasonal boating. The two museums are donation-only but you do need to book free tickets in advance which is easy to do online on their websites. Also lots of shops in Kensington including Harrods. So those could be some options if you want to stay near Hammersmith that day.

Another option would be to go from the airport to central London and get off the Tube there and store your luggage near your stop. You’ll probably be coming in on the Piccadilly line so you can check the stops there. But some stops you might consider would be Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, or Hyde Park – all those stops would have a lot of attractions, dining options, parks, etc. within walking distance depending on what you would want to do. Then you could collect your luggage after you are finished sightseeing and head to Hammersmith to check-in to your apartment.

It is hard to say but normally you get better value with longer passes, so a 6-day pass might be a good fit if you have 8 days. However, it really depends on what you want to see and do, and are you spending any time doing day trips outside of London? You can see our London Pass review for some tips. If you want to send me a list of the places you are wanting to go, I can give you my advice on which might be best for you.

Hope that helps and just let us know if you have more questions as you plan your trip to London!

casey wilder Post author

February 27, 2023 at 8:22 am

Greetings. I sent you an email but will also post here. We are crossing the pond from Texas. 5 siblings up in age. We will be in London , Liverpool, Scotland. London May 22-26 and again June 4- 7. What is best advice for purchasing Oyster card? I’ve read of a Rail strike that has me losing sleep. I’ve read this article which is incredibly written and very informative. Thank you for that. We are flying into Heathrow and Staying at Premier Inn Archway. The way I read it, an oyster card should get us to Archway station. Please advise as I am the Coordinator and am fielding questions from the rest of the group. I have also sent them link to your article. Thanks for your patience and see Y’all soon. Casey Wilder

March 1, 2023 at 6:13 am

I replied to your email yesterday but I will also reply here as this information may help other readers who are planning to travel to London.

So glad you have been finding our travel blog helpful in planning your upcoming trip! Sounds like an exciting trip. Happy to try to help.

So yes, if you want to get Oyster Cards to use in London, you would need one for each person so 5 in total. They only work in London and a few short trips just outside. So you would still need to also buy a train ticket to get to St. Albans – you can get to the very north part of London on the Underground or Overground using your card but then I think to get on the train connection (Thameslink I think) you would need to purchase a regular train ticket. I would think a ticket from say Kentish Town to St. Albans would be about £10-£12.

You can buy the Oyster Card at one of the Underground Card stations or ticket offices at Heathrow Airport (if arriving into Heathrow of course) when you arrive, once you are in London, or you can buy a Visitor Oyster Card in advance and have it mailed to your home before the trip. The easiest for most people is to just buy it at the airport, especially if you plan to take the Underground from Heathrow airport into London.

Laurence has a guide on the different ways you can get into London from the airport, depending on which you are flying into, probably either Heathrow (the biggest) or Gatwick if coming from the U.S. You can read that here .

For your Oyster Card, I would probably recommend starting with around £25 to £30 per person in credit on your card. You can then top it up at most stations if you start getting low on credit. Since you are staying at the Archway Premier Inn, you will need to take public transit to reach most of the popular attractions in London. The good new is that you are only about a 2 minute walk from both a Underground (Tube) station and a bus stop. So I would expect you would be taking it at least twice a day most days unless you also plan to use taxis/rideshare services. Although you should be within walking distance of pretty leafy Hamstead Heath and its loverly park (Parliament Hill is a great viewpoint there and worth a visit on a nice day) and the Keats House (if you happen to be a fan of the poet it’s worth a visit).

It is also an option to include an Oyster Card as part of a London Pass purchase (it comes preloaded with a certain amount of credit depending on the length of your pass). If you are spending several days sightseeing in London and plan to hit a lot of the major attractions (e.g., Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls, Tower Bridge, Shard, Zoo, etc.) you will likely save money with the London Pass so I would check that out anyway. We have an article about the London Pass that might be helpful to help you decide if it is worth it for your trip or not.

I would not worry too much about the rail strikes (and all the other many strikes we are having in the UK), they are pre-announced usually 2 weeks or more in advance so you can at least plan around them. There is really not much you can do but they have been going on now for months and people find ways to still get around (e.g., taking a bus instead of the train). I hope they are not happening when you come but you can check online before your trip to check so you can be prepared. I think all the ones planned for March have recently been announced. They are easy to find out just doing an Internet search for something like “UK rail strikes May 2023” at the beginning of May.

Anyway, hope that helps and just let us know if you have more questions as you plan your trip to the UK!

Craig Wetter Post author

February 4, 2023 at 10:33 pm

There are going to be 3 people in our group. Do each of us need a London Pass/Oyster Card?

February 13, 2023 at 7:22 am

So yes, the London Pass (attractions pass) and Oyster Cards (public transport card) are separate things but each person would need to have their own cards or passes. The only exception would be if one of the people in question was a baby or young child.

So you would need 3 London Passes and 3 Oyster Cards. If you are planning to use the London Pass , you can purchase the Oyster Card with it before you leave for your trip. You can do that online here . You just need to click on the Add Oyster travelcards option when purchasing your passes.

Hope that helps and just let me know if you have any further questions as you plan your visit to London.

Cheryl Post author

January 31, 2023 at 11:51 pm

Jessica, thank you so much for all the wonderful bits about the different cards and packages. It’s many years since I was able to spend time in and around London and have a new ‘glich’ to my previously running around… this time I’m going through the hoops to being a small (Yorkie) service dog. In crowds and on elevators she rides in her backpack so hopefully she will go through gates and stiles as part of me. This time back I want to get around more using the buses and try a find a canal tour or trip as I’ve not done that yet. I come into Heathrow early on 29 Jun and return on 4 Jul. I would like your advice on how best to avoid lines and large groups of tourists waiting to purchase tickets. I would like to go on the Eye just once and see the London canals, add in a trip to Hampton Court Palace and maybe figure out how to get from Bermondsey where I’ll be staying out to Gravesend to see the Pocahontas state. At this stage in my life I am a disabled American vet who prefers to avoid loud noise and crowds.. I’ve seen lucky enough to live for short bits (year here, 2 there) in England so I’ve seen most of the normal tourist circuit sites so this time I just want to ‘come home’ and see some bits that got left out before and at a more selective and leisurely pace. Because I’m a disable US vet I don’t think I qualify for any special discounts. It would be nice to run up to Ipswich for Sunday service but not sure how well public transport can get me there and back. I’d like to walk to Mall one last time and maybe find a cafe close to St James Park. Seeing something at the Globe is a priority as well as a play but haven’t picked one out yet. Maybe slide in the V&A museum, the science museum and one more run through bits of the British Museum. A treat would be getting out to Kew Gardens/National Archives but don’t know how everyone will react to my service dog… I wish I could be a resident of the UK but as that’s not likely I will make this return trip without Sami if need be but would enjoy the trip more if I could bring her with me.. what’s your take on traveling around town with a small (mostly held) service dog? Your honest and open thoughts would be very much appreciated.

February 1, 2023 at 5:22 am

It sounds like this will be a a very important trip to London for you. I used to work in the VA system with vets so can definitely understand not wanting to be around crowds and loud noises, etc.

So for the question of whether to travel with your dog or not…I think it is going to first be very important if your dog will qualify as a guide dog in the eyes of airlines, UK authorities, etc. If so, you will need to make sure that you have all the proper documentation and follow all the laws/rules regarding entry. If not, it can be very difficult to bring an animal into the UK and I would recommend against it as it is pretty difficult and often requires quarantine.

I would start with the UK Government Page on Bringing in Animals and on Guide Dogs: https://www.gov.uk/bring-pet-to-great-britain/guide-dogs

Then I would check out UK organizations’ pages around guide dogs and disability such as Assistance Dogs UK https://www.assistancedogs.org.uk to get more information and perhaps to get some contacts for which you can ask specific questions.

I think as long as your service dog is well-trained and looks like it is acting as a service dog (e.g., for example wearing a vest and special leash) people in the UK will generally not question it. A guide dog should be permitted just about anywhere people are permitted as it is the law. So I don’t think you would have issues at most attractions, cafes, etc. if you tell them it is a service dog.

Many of the places you are thinking about visiting are popular places and will have crowds. For instance, with the London Eye, you will be inside an enclosed mostly glass pod with a number of strangers for about 30 minutes. So only you know if this kind of situation is comfortable or not. But in Kew Gardens, it is very easy to wander around and escape people as you wish. Same really for Hampton Court as it is a big place. The V&A is always crowded because it is free but you can avoid the most popular bits if you wish.

Some of the places you want to visit are on passes, such as the London Pass, but others are free or they are not included on the passes. I would probably jut recommend booking individual tickets in advance as that is probably the best way since you are not going to a lot of the main tourist sites like Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, etc. Most attractions allow you to book tickets online and often for a specific entry time so you don’t wait in line for more than 15 minutes.

Veteran discounts are not that common in the UK (unlike the US) and certainly there would not be many discounts for a foriegn veteran in the UK. There are discounts for disabled individuals (and for their carers/companions) in the UK at many places but it depends on the disability and what proof you might need to show. I would check with individual attractions on what kinds of discount tickets they offer (this info is often available online).

Anyway, hope that helps a bit. I would seek out further advice on the issues around service dogs and bringing in animals into the UK. There are various organizations that should be able to help you more with that piece.

Wishing you a wonderful return to London!

Anton John Post author

January 31, 2023 at 10:17 pm

Hi, Need your advice on purchasing an Oyster Card . I will arrive Heathrow on the 2nd of June 2023 at approx. 5pm. Accommodation is at Bromley by Bow. Intend to use Tube to the Bromley station from Heathrow. Will be in London until the 4th of June. On the 5th June at appox. 9am will be going to Gatwick Airport from Bromley. Intend to use Tube. Back in London on the 14th June evening. Back to Bromley from Gatwick by Tube. Will be in London until the 16th June and checking out from Hotel on the 17th June for Heathrow. Intend to use Tube to Heathrow. Would appreciate any advice on purchasing the Oyster card.

Thanks . Have a pleasant day.

February 1, 2023 at 5:31 am

So happy to try to help.

So the good thing about the Oyster card is that it automatically works out the lowest fares for you, which will be the lower of a single fare, a daily cap or a weekly cap. This is based on where you travel, what time you travel and which zones you pass through. So we would just suggest getting an Oyster card and topping it up.

If you are not sure how many specific rides you will be taking, we generally recommend starting with £20 to £30 and then you can always top up your credit later.

The only thing to note is that the Tube (the Underground) does not run to Gatwick Airport. You can use your Oyster card to pay for a single train ride to Gatwick on either the Southern, Thameslink, or Gatwick Express services. The latter is more expensive (although a bit quicker) so I would avoid that one if you are looking for the lowest fare.

Gia Post author

January 24, 2023 at 6:06 pm

Hello Jessica, and thank you so much for all this info on the cards. I am flying from Canada into and from Gatwick and staying in London for ten days. I am not quite clear what would be the best way for me to get the Visitor Oyster card for myself and a Youth Visitor card for my son who is 15 so that we could start using the cards right at Gatwick . We will need to get from Gatwick and back to Gatwick from the hotel we are staying not far from Victoria Coach Station. We are also planning to visit museums and other attractions in London as well as go to Oxford, Cambridge and Bath. Please advise. Thank you.

February 1, 2023 at 4:37 am

Happy to try to help and glad that you are finding our guides helpful!

So the only way to get a Visitor Oyster card is to order it in advance of your trip for delivery to your home. However, as you are flying into Gatwick you can just buy an Oyster card from the Transport for London (TfL) ticket desk. They will also be able to load the young persons discount onto your card there. As you need to visit the desk to load the discount, there’s no real advantage to buying the Visitor card in advance unless you feel there are specific benefits on it that you will be able to take advantage of.

The Oyster Cards (no matter what kind) only works in London. So for places outside of the city, such as your trips to Oxford and Cambridge, you will need to buy rail tickets separately. It is easy to travel by train to all three of the cities you mention. I would recommend booking at least a couple days in advance to ensure you get a seat reservation (sometimes with same day tickets, you don’t get a specific assigned seat, and you may find yourself standing or sitting separately if the train is full).

Wishing you a wonderful trip to the UK!

February 4, 2023 at 3:14 pm

Thank you so much! This is helpful to know. How much is an Oyster Visitor card now for an adult and for a 15 year old ?Is there a TfL desk at Gatwick? Is it easy to spot? Also, what would be your recommendation for getting to Comfort Inn Bloomsbury Hotel from Gatwick if it is not by cab. What train should be used and which stop would be the best to get off ? Thank you so much!

February 13, 2023 at 7:15 am

A Visitor Oyster Card can be bought prior to arrival in London as well as at Gatwick airport. It costs £5 (plus shipping to your home destination), and you can choose to preload it with between £10 and £50 of credit. A standard Oyster card costs £7, so the Visitor Oyster Card is slightly better value if bought in person.

There is no child version of either card, however, for your son you can buy the Visitor Oyster Card and then load a Young Visitor Discount onto it. This is valid for 14 days and will save your son 50% on all his fares which is well worth doing. This can be done in person at any desk, including at Gatwick Airport. You’ll need both yourself and your son to be present, and you might need proof of age like a passport.

We’re not aware of a Comfort Inn in Bloomsbury. There is a Comfort Inn in Kings Cross, or a Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, which might be what you mean? They’re not far apart though.

Assuming it’s the Holiday Inn, we’d suggest taking the train from Gatwick. The Southern Train service costs about £12.50 and you can pay with your Oyster card, just scan in at the ticket barriers. The train terminates at Victoria train station, and you can then get the Victoria line tube to Euston, from where the hotel is about a 10 minute walk. If you are staying at the Comfort Inn in Kings Cross, it’s the same process but you’d take the Victoria line an extra stop to Kings Cross and then it’s a four minute walk.

A taxi will of course be a more direct solution but it will be more expensive and probably slow given the London traffic.

Kiley Black Post author

January 7, 2023 at 3:28 am

Thank you for the excellent information. One quick question – we have 3 adults and 1 child traveling. I know the child needs a separate youth Oyster card but can the adults share one visitor card or do I need to get one for each of us?

Cheers! Kiley

January 7, 2023 at 3:32 am

Glad you are finding the information helpful! So yes, you would need 1 Oyster Card per person (whether it is a standard Oyster Card or Visitor Oyster Card).

Now, you could use someone else’s Oyster Card if you were not traveling at the same time (e.g., borrowing someone’s card for the day or using unused credit on a card of someone from a prior trip). But if traveling together, then it will confuse the system as it will see the same person starting a new journey. For transit where you need to tap out (like the Underground) only one person would be able to tap out, etc.

So yes, one card per person 😉

Anthony Ayiomamitis Post author

November 13, 2022 at 6:17 am

Dear Jessica,

Your post is truly excellent.

I have a question which I do not believe may have been addressed: for someone with an early morning flight (07:50 AM) out of Gatwick, what is the cheapest available option from a cental location such as King’s Cross/St Pancras Station to Gatwick South?

I would assume that one must leave by 04:00 AM at the latest and what options are available at this strange hour?

A heartfelt thanks for your time and assistance!

November 13, 2022 at 11:05 am

Hi Anthony,

So glad to hear our guide to using the Oyster Card in London has been helpful.

You shouldn’t have a problem finding either a train or bus that early that will get you to Gatwick Airport for leaving central London around 4am. You won’t be able to take the Underground services, but there are overland trains and coaches that normally operate that early. It does depend on your specific date as most services have different hours depending on the season and whether it is a weekday, weekend, or holiday. So be sure to put in your specific date when checking timetables.

Gatwick has one major train station with a number of routes running into central London that you can reach via Kings Cross/St Pancras station. I think Thameslink, Southern, and Great Western operate services to Gatwick. There should be train services at 4am. It looks like most of the trains around that time typically take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1.5 hours from St Pancras to Gatwick Airport. This is probably the best option in terms of balancing speed and cost.

The fastest option is the Gatwick Express, which takes 30 minutes to travel non-stop to London Victoria. Trains generally run every day from 5am to 00.30am, with departures every fifteen minutes. So in this case you couldn’t leave until 5am, which should still give you enough time but if you want to leave at 5am, then I’d choose a different option. Gatwick Express would also be the most expensive option.

There are also a number of coach services that offer bus transfers to and from Gatwick airport. The most popular options are the  National Express service and the easyBus service, which operate from both the north and south terminals at Gatwick Airport. These normally operate all day and night but I would check the exact timetables for your date. These will be your cheapest option but the slowest as the buses take about 2 hours or a litle more to get from Victoria Station (where most buses depart) to Gatwick Airport.

You can buy tickets at the station or online such as on Trainline for all of these services (both coach and train). With most train services you will save money if you book your ticket in advance and know the specific train and time you want. It is also possible to use your Oyster Card credit on the trains (not the coaches) but you will probably spend more buying same day so we would probably recommend booking in advance if you know the specific train you plan to take.

Finally, there is of course also the option of booking a cab or rideshare service. If you want to do that, I would just be sure to pre-book it given the early hour. This would be the most expensive option but the most convenient in terms of door to door service.

Anyway, hope that helps give you a clear idea of your options. Just let us know if you have any further questions.

November 13, 2022 at 8:53 pm

A huge thanks for the detailed and thorough reply!

November 15, 2022 at 5:36 am

You’re very welcome, Anthony. Have a great trip to London!

Lucas Post author

October 29, 2022 at 12:24 am

Hello, thanks for so many information about how Oyster cards work and how to use them. Really helpful. I’ve got only one question regarding daily caps. How to buy/ activate them, instead of normal pay-as-you-go charges? The plan is to buy an Oyster card right after arriving at the Heathrow Airport. How it looks – step by step – using a ticket machine to buy the card and activate daily cap? Thanks!

October 30, 2022 at 9:22 am

The good news is that you don’t need to do anything to activate the daily caps, it happens automatically. The system figures how much you have travelled over the day and the week, and you are charged that amount. Of course, this does mean that you can sometimes pay more to start with as you are charged a single fare, but then if you have overpaid it will recredit you the next time you tap in. So you don’t need to do anything regarding the daily caps, it just happens automatically.

To purchase the card is straightforward, you just need to find a machine which dispenses the Oyster cards (it should say Oyster or have the Oyster Card photo on the machine), and follow the on-screen instructions. It is easy to do and you can ask a staff member if you have issues. You will also need to add the amount of credit you desire, depending on how long you plan to stay in London and how often you plan to use public transit in the city. Generally we recommend £5 to £7 per day of planned travel as a starting point if you are unsure of how much credit to add. You can always add more credit using the machines later if needed.

Part of the amount you will need will be determined by how you plan to get to and from the airport as this is often the furthest trip visitors make and the options range a lot in price. We recommend taking the regualar Underground option if budget is a concern. There are a few options for getting from Heathrow Airport into London, as outlined in our guide to getting to and from various London airports . You can take the Picadilly Line Underground, the Elizabeth Line (formerly known as TfL Rail but rebranded in May) or the Heathrow Express. You can use the Oyster Card for all of those. In order of price, it’s Underground (~ £3 – £6 depending on time of day), Elizabeth Line (around £11) and the Heathrow Express (around £25, but you can sometimes get much lower fares by booking well in advance).

Hope that helps and let us know if you have any questions!

October 30, 2022 at 11:34 am

Hello again! Thank you very much for this quick response. Now I understand how it works. Just to be sure, once I reach a daily cap amount, other journeys made later on the day will be free of charge, no matter how many of them I will make, is that correct? Thanks, Lucas

October 31, 2022 at 8:35 am

Glad our response has been helpful. So with the daily (and weekly) caps, they are applied automatically. So there would be a maximum charge. The actual daily cap amount depends on the zones you travel in (and excludes special services like Heathrow Express train).

So yes, after you have met the daily cap amount in travel, you should not be charged further for that day of travel. However, since the system (for Underground tube and trains) doesn’t know how far you will be traveling that day, you still need to have a minimum balance on your Oyster Card to do the journey as it only knows your journey once you get off the train (buses however are all the same price). So for example if you are only traveling in Zones 1 and 2 that day, the system doesn’t know you will not be traveling to say Zone 5 on that journey until you tap off as you exit the station.

And yes, the number of journeys doesn’t matter for the caps as long as they are within the hours of the daily cap (and within the same zones of the daily cap you want).

I know it sounds pretty complicated, and the details are fairly complex, but in practical use I think you’ll find it pretty easy once you start using it. Public transit is a fairly easy way to get around London and is definitely the cheapest option for any places that are not within walking distance. There are staff at all the larger stations that you can also ask questions of if you have any issues. You can find more on using it and the daily caps by zones here: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/tube-and-rail-fares/pay-as-you-go-caps .

Rachel Brown Post author

October 14, 2022 at 1:05 pm

Hello, My family and I are planning a trip to Europe the summer of 2023, mostly landing in the UK. We want to spend a day in London (or 2) and I am trying to understand the best and cheapest way to travel. I was thinking of getting eurail pass that will allow us to get a lot of places as we are starting in Germany, then to Paris, then the UK.

Does it make sense for us to buy the eurail pass and then get the Visitor Oyster card for the stay in London? We will have 3 people over 18, one who is 16 and one who is 11.

Also, I’m having a hard time figuring out what train to use on the eurail to travel around London. Or should I use the public transportation via the Visitor Oyster pass?

Another question…. I read in your article that we should purchase the cards before we arrive. What about the 11 year old and the discounts? Do I buy him a pass and then have someone add the discounts once we get there, or wait to purchase his card?

Last question… 🙂 How do I know where the zones are?

Thank you so much for your article. It was super helpful.

Sincerley, Rachel

October 14, 2022 at 7:58 pm

Happy to try to help you with planning your European trip.

In terms of buying a train pass like the Eurail, I think it will depend on how many train trips and where you plan to go exactly to figure out if a Eurail pass would be a good value for you or not. They have become more complicated over time as seat reservations are often required for many of the high-speed trains and night trains and there can be additional seat reservations costs, including on the Eurostar (Paris-London). So I would plan out your itinerary and then decide where you plan to take the train and then calculate the cost of the individual tickets versus the Global Eurail Pass (which is the only one you could use for all 3 countries). Or if you are doing a lot of train trips within Germany, the Germany Eurail Pass could be an option (your 11 year old would travel for free there with a paying adult).

So you can’t use the Eurail passes to travel once you arrive in London. But you can get to London by taking the Eurostar train from Paris (just note you need to make seat reservations in advance with your pass and that there is a seat reservation fee). The Eurail reservation booking fee is pretty high (30 euros I think) so I’d definitely compare prices with the pass versus just booking it directly yourself.

In London, most of the public transit is part of the Transport for London (Tfl) system. So you can either get an Oyster Card, buy individual tickets at the stations, or you might be able to use your credit card to travel using contactless payment or a mobile app. Each traveler needs their own card, ticket, or payment method. An Oyster Card can be a really easy option, especially if traveling with kids.

If you decide to get an Oyster Card, you can either buy a Visitor Oyster Card in advance or you can purchase the standard Oyster Cards once in London. If you are considering buying a London Pass , you can include the Oyster Card as part of your pass.

So for the youth discount for your 11 year old, you would not want to do the Zip card as that requires applying in advance and paying an admin fee (£15 I think). For such a short visit, you would end up paying more for that option. But you can apply a Youth Visitor Discount to an Oyster Card for your child.

If you don’t live in London and you’re visiting with children who don’t have an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard, they can get discounted travel for up to 14 days with the Young Visitor discount. This will give them 50% off on most adult fares in London including the bus, Tube, tram, and London Overground. The discount can be added to a standard Oyster card or Visitor Oyster card by a member of staff at any Tube or London Overground station or Tfl Visitor Centres (except Gatwick Airport). The eligible child must be present when you apply for the Young Visitor discount.

For the London zones, you can find the maps on the Tfl website ( https://tfl.gov.uk/maps/ ) or just do a web seach for “London tube map zones”. Most people stay and visit attractions in Zones 1-3 but some attractions like Hampton Court are further out (Zone 6). Heathrow Airport is also Zone 6.

Hope that helps, Jessica

Nancy Shumar Post author

August 4, 2022 at 9:16 am

Your article is the most complete and helpful that I’ve read! Thank you! I’m visiting London for a week in September and I’m thinking of purchasing both the Oyster card and London Pass. However, I want to visit special exhibits at the Palaces that require reservation times for admittance (Jubilee jewel exhibits). Do I have to purchase admission tickets separately in order to reserve an admission time, or may I use my London Pass for Windsor and Kensington?

August 7, 2022 at 12:37 am

So glad that our Oyster Card and London Pass articles have been helpful in planning your trip. Now the London Pass allows you standard entry into most attractions. For some London Pass attractions/museums/tours, you do need (or it is highly recommended) to make a reservation but many of the attractions do not take reservations for those with the London Pass. This currently includes Windsor Castle.

If exhibitions are free or part of the normal tickets, then they would normally be included. However, if they require a special ticket and are separate from the normal standard entry areas, then you would need to have a separate ticket to visit. Sometimes you can buy this separately, but other times you would need to buy the full ticket to access the exhibition (e.g., London Pass would not really be useful for entry since you have to buy a separate ticket).

It just depends on the specific attraction and exhibition. For instance, the current exhibition about the Queen’s Coronation at Windsor Castle appears to be included with the standard ticket. But it sounds like the exhibition you are referencing may require a special ticket. So I would contact the attraction with the exhibition directly for that information if it is not available on their website and to specifically ask about if you have a London Pass.

Also just note that for visiting Windsor Castle, you will need to book a separate regular train ticket to Windsor since it is outside London and currently you can’t use the Oyster Card to travel there.

Patricia Post author

August 4, 2022 at 6:29 am

Hi, does anyone know if I add young visitor discount to my Oyster card will the child (14) get a physical ticket. Thanks

August 4, 2022 at 8:35 am

Hi Patricia,

The young visitor discount needs to be added to a separate Oyster for the child, so you will need two Oyster cards, one for yourself and one for your child with the discount applied. So yes, they will have a physical Oyster card of their own.

Katie Post author

July 21, 2022 at 10:58 am

Thanks for the good information. I will be traveling to London and staying 8 days. For 2 of those days I’ll be traveling to and from Heathrow to Zone 1 and for another 1 day I’ll be traveling from Zone 1 to Kew’s Garden in Zone 4. Which would be the best Oyster card for me to purchase?

July 21, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Glad you are enjoying our London articles!

It really doesn’t make any difference. If you are flying into Heathrow I would probably just buy the Oyster Card once you land. You can buy it at the airport Underground station, and if you are planning to take the Underground train (Tube) into London then that’s usually the easiest thing to do. But either the standard Oyster Card or Visitor Oyster Card will work the same. You need to charge the card with credit, which will be deducted depending on the trip duration and destination. Generally, based on 8 days of travel, I’d say £40 would probably be a good amount of credit to put on the card and you can always top it up if needed.

Note that the Heathrow Express and Elizabeth Line services from London Heathrow also accept the Oyster Card, but these are more expensive so will use more credit. So if you are trying to save credit, the Underground (Picadilly Line) is the best value option, although it does take a little longer.

Natalie Post author

July 21, 2022 at 4:35 am

Good day Jessica, Thank you so much for the insightful information 🙂 Could i please ask your advice…My husband is going to London for 1 month, leaving in September for training for work and i will be joining him for the month. So essentially we will only have the weekends in that month to do sightseeing of attractions in London as he will be working in the week, would a 10 day London travel pass be a good idea? Must the travel pass be used over 10 consecutive days or is it possible to use the pass for any 10 days within the month? Trust this make sense. Thank you. Kind regards. Natalie.

July 21, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Hi Natalie,

Glad you found the information useful! So the Oyster card is basically a prepaid pay as you go card for London’s public transportation. You can add a travelcard to it that is valid for a certain number of consecutive days, but in your case you would just want to buy the standard Oyster card, top it up, and use it when you want to travel. The Oyster system is set up with daily caps so you always pay the lowest overall fare depending on usage. You can buy the Oyster Card at almost all the London Underground (Tube) stations in London (including airports) or you can order the Visitor Oyster Card in advance if you prefer.

Now, if you are asking about the London Pass , which is a sightseeing discount pass for London attractions, then if you buy that pass you can also get the Oyster card with it if you buy it in advance. However, the London Pass is valid for consecutive days and once you use it the first day, you need to use it over the period that you bought it for. For example, if you bought a 10 day pass you have to use it in those 10 days. But you can use the Oyster Card until the credit runs out, and you can also recharge it / add more credit if you run out of credit. Oyster cards do not expire.

Hope that helps, just let us know if you have any more questions.

July 22, 2022 at 12:02 am

Thank you so much Jessica, I really appreciate your assistance immensely. Keep well. Natalie

Margaret Post author

July 3, 2022 at 10:29 am

Hi. I am coming to London with my 16 and 17 year old. We will be arriving on a Sunday evening and returning the following Saturday. We are flying and out of Heathrow and staying in South Kensington so plan on getting the Picadilly line there. We also hope to visit Hampton Court Palace and other things around central London. What would you recommend for our travel? Oystercard or Travel pass? Many thanks.

July 4, 2022 at 5:25 am

Hi Margaret,

Happy to try to help with your upcoming trip to London.

Generally an Oyster card is going to be a better option. It is likely that most of your travel will be around central London, with some trips such as Heathrow and Hampton Court being in Zone 6. When you buy a travelcard, you have to specify the zones, and it wouldn’t be cost effective to buy a 6 zone travel card for only these trips – they are more designed for daily travel in the zones you buy it for. So an Oyster card with the daily cap system will most likely be the best option for your trip.

If you are purchasing a London Pass for your trip, you can add the Visitor Oyster Card to the passes order. It will come with a set amount of credit which is dependent on the amount of days you buy the pass for, but you can add credit as needed. Or you can pick up regular Oyster Cards after you arrive into London at Heathrow Airport.

Hope that helps, and wishing you a great trip to London!

July 4, 2022 at 8:35 am

Thank you Jessica. You have made that all very clear for me. Looking forward to our trip to your lovely city. Kind regards, Margaret

Brenda & Paul Harrow Post author

June 23, 2022 at 9:03 pm

Hi Jessica, Your blogs are very helpful thank you. The Oyster Card /Travel cards have been quite confusing. to decpiher We are coming to Guilfford ,London , for a wedding in August. W are in having to train to Putney initially . I inadvertantly bought 2 tickets through to Farnham on SWR thinking it was the correct route and less expensive to book ahead. but costs were high when I found out afterwards that Putney was only 15 mons from London. and I wasn’t aware about the Oyster Card then. 3 questions please? 1) Can I still use these tickets and stop off in Putney Station anyway as they are non refundable ? 2). After the wedding , we have 24 hours spare in London before returning to NZ and want to take advantage of sight seeing as much as possible before flying out of Heathrow., so which 3 star accomodation would you recommend we choose , presumably in Paddington (?) to give us easy access to the attractions in London ,and the fast express to Heathrow ? 3) Would you recommend the Oyster Card for 3 train trips? 4) I think I read some where the TFL although it takes longer is dearer than the fast express, although both can accept the Oyster Card, correct? cheers Brenda

June 24, 2022 at 5:43 am

Glad that you have found our posts about London useful in planning your trip. Happy to try to help. I am not sure I fully understand all of your questions but I will try to help as much as possible.

1. So I am not sure what you mean by stop-off in Putney. The National Rail conditions of carriage say that you are allowed to “start, break and resume, or end your journey at any intermediate station along the route of travel on Off-Peak tickets unless the ticket restriction for the journey you are making does not allow it”. In our experience, normally you can get off at any train station assuming it’s a normal stop on the route of the ticket you bought, however it is not clear from your comment if you also intend to get back on to go on to Farnham. That may or may not be allowed depending on your specific ticket. It should have information in the ticket details and for specific questions about your ticket you should probably contact the rail company directly.

2 – We actually have a guide to where to stay in London here . That has a lot of options across a range of price points. You might consider checking out the Best Western Plus and the Westbourne Hyde Park as a starting point in that area. Both of those are about a 5-minute walk from Paddington.

3 – For train travel (if you mean national rail services) specifically it is normally better to book advance tickets as the Oyster card normally just charges a same day single fare.

4 – There are a few options for getting to Heathrow from London, as outlined in our guide to getting to various London airports from London here . You can take the Picadilly Line Underground, the Elizabeth Line (formerly known as TfL Rail but rebranded in May) or the Heathrow Express. You can use the Oyster Card for all of those. In order of price, it’s Underground (~ £3 – £6 depending on time of day), Elizabeth Line (around £11) and the Heathrow Express (around £25). If you book well in advance (more than 90 days) you can in theory get Heathrow Express tickets from around £5.50, but these tend to sell quickly

Hope that helps and wishing you a wonderful trip to London!

Shivangi Post author

June 18, 2022 at 1:16 am

Thank you for such a detailed article. This is like one stop shop for all the oyster card information. I am a little undecided about which card to buy because my stay is very short, only 4 days. So essentially my travel is to n fro from Heathrow Airport on day 1 & 4. And unlimited travel within zone 1&2 on all 4 days. Could you suggest me which card would be most economical. Thanks much!

June 18, 2022 at 10:34 am

Hi Shivangi,

In terms of an Oyster Card, either the standard Oyster Card or Visitor Oyster card would work exactly the same way. So you could get one in advance (Visitor) or just buy one at the airport (standard). I’d probably recommend just getting the standard card once you arrive into London. You can use it for your travel to and from the airport and for all your travel in central London.

You wouldn’t need any travelcards or anything as you are only staying 4 days.

Given where you plan to travel, you’ll likely spend £35 to £40. For taking the Undeground from Heathrow to central london is £5.50 peak, £3.50 off peak. Daily anytime cap is £7.70 for travel within zones 1 & 2. So for the airport plus 4 days of travel, you’ll probably want to put £30 or £35 on your card and then you can top it up at an Underground machine if needed.

June 19, 2022 at 5:12 am

Thanks a lot Jessica! This was really helpful.

Rebecca Post author

June 17, 2022 at 1:45 pm

We will be headed to UK in July. My tentative plans are as follows: Arrive LHR and head into London to our hotel in Victoria then visit Buckingham Palace for the changing of the Guard -> Trafalgar Square->Covent Garden -> Parliament St -> Big Ben -> Westminster Abbey for Evensong ->hotel. Other than getting from Heathrow to our hotel is this all walkable? Should we purchase Oyster cards? The next day we plan to take the ferry from Westminster to Greenwich and then to the Tower of London -> St. Paul’s Cathedral -> Kensington Palace. The last day we plan to go to Windsor Castle. I thought I read somewhere that there is a way to use your Oyster Card to lower the cost to travel to Windsor – maybe not get on a non-covered service as far as long as possible? Given this itinerary do you recommend purchasing the Oyster card?

June 18, 2022 at 10:18 am

Hi Rebecca,

So your time in Wstminster is definitely walkable, you wouldn’t need to use transport for that as everything isn’t too far apart in that area.

From the airport, you probably want to take the train (Elizabeth Line) to Paddington Station for the most cost-effective option. You can use an Oyster Card for that but it is the same price to just buy a ticket.

St. Paul’s Cathedral to Kensington Palace is a bit of a distance. I’m not sure if you mean to take the ferry back there too, but there isn’t a very convenient stop near the palace itself. The closest pier is probably Westminster but from there it’s a 1 hour walk. So you might want to take the Underground (Tube) from St. Paul’s, it’s about a 23 minute journey via the Central Line.

I’m not sure there would be any significant saving to using the Oyster card to get part of the way to Windsor as you would still have to pay for the Oyster fare to wherever you went. The train from Paddington is quick and convenient, so that would be our recommended option. (In the past, if you had the London Pass, you could use it to get free transport to Windsor, but that stopped recently although the Pass still gives you free entry).

The preferred payment option would be a contactless credit card or Apple / Google Pay, because then you don’t have to pay for the Oyster card. This would only work in your favor if your card doesn’t charge transaction fees. We use the Chase Sapphire , but there are a few options.

Otherwise you will have to spend £5 for your Oyster Card. It’s non-refundable, although the £5 does turn into credit on the card after a year, which likely isn’t going to be much use to you. A single off-peak journey from St. Pauls to West Ruislip (for Kensington Palace) is £6.30 in cash, or £3.50 off peak using cash / contactless. However, add on the £5 fee for the card and that’s £8.50. So unless you are making a few journeys on the card it’s not going to be worth it.

Jwala Salim Post author

June 13, 2022 at 10:08 pm

I’m travelling to the UK for 6 months. Which card is preferred as I will be travelling between zone 1 & 3 daily ?

June 14, 2022 at 8:14 am

If you are going to be travelling in London every day, then you will be best off with an Oyster card with a travelcard on it. You can buy a travelcard which is valid for 1 month and renew, or you can buy one which is valid for a period between 1.5 months and 10.5 months. This will work our cheaper than daily or weekly caps if you use it daily.

I would wait until you are in London and buy your Oyster Card – they are available to purchase at pretty much any London Underground station. Then you can purchase the travelcard at any of the machines that accept the Oyster Card and apply it to your card.

You will definitely want to register your Oyster card online to protect your purchase.

Sam Post author

June 12, 2022 at 3:18 pm

HI Jessica , You blog is usefull and with rich information, thanks for sharing this!!:) Anyway, i still have some concerns. My family of 2+2( 12 and 10 y.o) We want to to stay at London for 9 days including the visit for one day to Windsor, one day to Oxford and one day to Bath. Total of 6 days for London but not one after another.

1. I’d like to take Oyster card for my 12 y.o child(50% discount) and to use Apple and Google pay for me and my wife on our phones. My 10 y.o. kid will pass with me. Can i do it in such combination?

2. If i buy 7 days travelcard from Wednesday to Tuesday, how is it exactly done with Apple and Google Pay? For child’s Oyster is clear. Should i purchase in such case the Oyster card also for me and my wife anyway?

3. If i buy 7 days travelcard for zone 1&2 and i go to Watford Junction (Harry Potter destination), then how it will be deducted from the card, though i top up only the amount for one week like 38.40 pounds. It’s not clear the calculation in such case.

Thanks in advance

June 13, 2022 at 4:24 am

Glad to hear that our post has been helpful and yes, London travel can be a bit complicated, especially if traveling with children and going out of the London zoning.

1 – yes. Children under 11 travel free on TfL services when accompanied by a fare paying adult. This works for Oyster cards and contactless payment methods. More information here . You just need to head to the wider barriers (normally labelled for luggage / disabled users) and you might need to let staff know. The only thing we would say is that you might want to carry proof of age for your 10 year old just in case anyone challenges you, this is especially the case if they look older than their age.

2 – As far as we are aware you can’t use a travelcard on a contactless card, you can either buy a paper travelcard in advance, or add one to an Oyster card in London

3 – A travelcard is a fixed price which you pay up front, so you pay £38.40 for the travelcard and it will cover all your travel in Zones 1&2. When you travel to Watford Junction using the Oyster card, you will need credit on the Oyster card to cover the journey there and back. Peak time fares are currently £11.20 each way, off-peak is £8.10 each way. In this case though you would actually be better off buying a day return at the train station. A peak day return is currently £19.80 and and an off-peak day return is £13. The Oyster card always charges a single fare, but if you are going by train there and back on the same day, a day return ticket will normally be cheaper.

Anyway, hope that helps and wishing you a great trip to London!

June 16, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Jessica, thank you for detailed reply. If you don’t mind just to take quick look at my trip plan at London. Do you think is it good or not? And where it should be changed

02.08 -Tuesday —— Oxford Street + Disney Store + Hamleys Toy Shop, Regent Street, London, UK Trafalgar Square Piccadilly Westminster Abbey ??? Big Ben – London Eye SEA LIFE Centre London Aquarium

03.08 -Wednesday Madame Tussauds London Camdan The Regent’s Park Little Vencia + Paddington(Floating pocket park)

04.08 -Thursday euston station-watford junction Harry potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London Harry Potter, Platform 9 and ¾ FREE Holland Park HydePark

05.08 -Friday Science Museum Natural History Museum Victoria and Albert Museum Stamford Bridge

06.08 -Saturday Windsor Castle

07.08 -Sunday ——- Buckingham palace The British Museum chinatown + coventgarden M&M’s World London Apple store coventgarden Forbidden planet London Transport Museum St. Paul’s Cathedral

08.08 -Monday ——- The Roman Baths Stonehenge

09.08 -Tuesday —— Oxford

10.08 -Wednesday —- HMS Belfast Millennium Bridge Tower of London Tower Bridge Borough Market Sky Garden

June 17, 2022 at 5:15 am

You’re very welcome!

Your drafted London itinerary looks fine to me. I would just make sure that for each day you calculate how much time you want to spend at each place to ensure you have plenty of time. On some days you list a lot of places and it just depends on how long you plan to spend at each one. This is especially important to consider with children as they will likely need breaks and more flexibility.

Normally we would recommend a London Pass and grouping together visits so that you can take advantage of the savings from the pass. But as you have it laid out, this wouldn’t make sense as you are leaving London and visiting a number of non-pass attractions in between. So this means you want to be more careful about checking to see if reservations are needed as some places require pre-booked tickets or time slots.

Here are just a few notes on your specific itinerary:

-The Elizabeth Tower (where the Big Ben clock is located) is currently closed to the public. Not sure when it will reopen and I beleive it is only open to UK residents. But you can see it and the Houses of Parliament from the outside. -When you list Buckingham Palace on Sunday in your itinerary, are you planning to book a ticket to visit? Or just see it from the outside? If just wanting to see it from oustide, might want to just do it on Tuesday as you would be nearby on your way when walking between Tralfagar Square and Westminister Abbey. – On your last day (Wednesday), I’d recommend visiting the Tower of London first as it can get very crowded. We recommend showing up before it opens to get in line so you are one of the early people inside to visit the Crown Jewels (otherwise that part can be unpleasant when it is very crowded). You can see our guide to the Tower of London for more tips.

Farah Post author

May 30, 2022 at 3:37 pm

I topped up 2 oyster cards with £38 each and they finished in 4 days! I only went between zones 1 and 2. Do you know how they could have finished so fast? I only used the tube and not that much either.

I tried to get the young visitor discount but the officer at the tube station said it’s not much of a difference so he didn’t apply it to my 15 yr old daughter’s card.

May 31, 2022 at 5:01 am

So if traveling in zones 1 & 2 only, the daily cap is £7.70 and the weekly cap (Monday – Sunday) is £38.40. Full list here: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares.pdf

It is important to use the same card and touch in and out when traveling so you don’t get overcharged, however it definitely sounds wrong that if traveling only in zones 1 & 2 that the cards ran out in 4 days as £38 is much more than the daily cap for 4 days. Is it possible that you used it outside these zones or that you used it for a service like the Heathrow Express train (this is about £20).? If so, that may be why you were charged much more than anticipated.

But if not, I would recommend contacting someone from TfL directly to ask them what has happened and I’d also consider registering your Oyster Card (if a standard one, Visitor ones can’t be registered) if you are going to be in London longer. You can find their customer service contact info here: https://tfl.gov.uk/help-and-contact/

The Young Visitors Discount offers a 50% discount on most travel, so I don’t think the officer was correct. Regardless, it is not up to them to decide if the discount is worth it, if you want it applied to the card then they should be happy to do so. Again, would need to reach out to TfL with specifics of this.

Hope this helps and hope you are able to figure it out with the TfL.

Hua Post author

May 20, 2022 at 5:23 am

I was wondering how to purchase a child oyster card for my 14 y o? Since our family lives in US, it looks there is no way for me to get him a photoed 11-15 oyster card.

May 20, 2022 at 5:54 am

So the photo version of the Oyster card for young people, known as the 11-15 Zip Oyster card, is primarily designed for London residents. The TfL website doesn’t make it very clear, but you can actually apply for this from outside the UK and pick it up at a visitor center, but there is a fee of around £15. So this is probably only going to make sense if you are planning to be in London for a longer period of time.

A better option though in most cases is the young visitor discount. This gives 50% off adult-rate pay as you go fares and daily caps on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most National Rail services. A Young Visitor discount can be applied to a standard Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card by a member of staff at any Tube, London Overground or TfL Rail station. So you could have this applied once in London. It lasts for 14 days, but can be renewed if staying for longer.

You can purchase the Visitor Oyster Cards in advance and have them shipped to you in the U.S. (either just the Oyster Card or as part of the London Pass with Travel) or you can wait and buy the standard Oyster Cards once in London. With either, you can have the Young Visitor discount applied for your son once in London.

May 21, 2022 at 2:50 am

Thanks so much for the detailed response! It is really helpful!

Eunice Post author

May 15, 2022 at 7:38 am

My sister and I will be traveling to London, and surrounding area, in June. From Heathrow we will be traveling to Colchester, using public transportation, and on from there back to London area. We will be using Oyster cards. We are arriving at Heathrow airport on different airlines. I arrive first and will then determine which terminal she will arrive at. When using Google maps to get directions from the airport it wants to know which terminal we would be leaving from. You have said that the Underground tube is the best means of transportation from Heathrow. Is the Heathrow Express the Underground tube? Can we get on that from every terminal? Since we don’t know which terminal she will be arriving at I don’t know how to plan travel from there. I’m also getting confused with symbols. How can I determine which is Underground tube, tram, DLR, London overground, bus, National Rail service, or TFL Rail?

I am a planner and want to be prepared with as much information as possible before we travel so we can enjoy our time there.

May 16, 2022 at 7:09 am

Yes, you won’t know the exact terminal or gate probably until the flight lands as things can change last minute even if one is given. So it probably makes sense to have a place where everyone meets up. It sounds like you plan to go meet her once she arrives.

So the Heathrow Express and the Underground/Tube are different. The Heathrow Express is a fast direct train service to Paddington train station, which currently costs around £22 per person each way and takes around 15-20 minutes. The Underground (often referred to as “The Tube”) is the metro system which takes 40 minutes to an hour depending on where in London you are going, and costs between £3 and £6 per person each way depending on the time you travel (peak times between around 6.30am and 9.30am are the more expensive options). You can use the Oyster Card for either service, but just not that the Heathrow Express service will use up a good chunk of credit if you choose that option.

The Heathrow Express departs from Heathrow terminals 2 & 3 as well as Terminal 5. The Underground departs from Terminals 1-5.

It is free to transfer between the terminals, so you can get to any terminal either by walking between the terminals or by taking the train. You can see more about transferring between terminals here: https://www.heathrow.com/at-the-airport/airport-maps/travel-between-terminals

In terms of recognizing the symbols, they are color coded. All underground stations have an obvious underground logo which is a red circle with a blue stripe through it and the words “Underground” written on it. The DLR is similar but uses a turquoise circle. The Overground has an orange circle. Tfl-Rail is a blue circle. The tram is a green circle. All of them state what service they are on very clearly at each station and on transport maps, so it is not too hard. Overground services with national rail are a little different, with the logo consisting of red zig zag lines, but it will always be clearly marked which service is which. As long as you know the name of the service you are looking for, you should be able to pretty easily follow signs. If in doubt, you can ask any of the airport staff for help.

Duha Post author

May 5, 2022 at 2:26 pm

Can I and my husband both use the same card as we plan to visit London together? Cheers!

May 6, 2022 at 3:00 am

No, you can’t share the same Oyster Card as it will not work. You need to be able to tap on and tap off on most forms of public transit so that the appropriate amount is charged. You also need it to get through barriers. So you will each need a separate Oyster Card in London.

Now, if you were traveling separately on different trips you could use the same card, but you can’t if you are traveling together. So you will want one card for each person.

Hopefully that makes sense, Jessica

Lin Sisson Post author

May 4, 2022 at 10:17 am

I’m still confused. I arrive in London and stay overnight before heading to the Costwolds for a week. Then arrive back in London on July 9 to stay near Waterloo station. I plan on day 2 to go to Hampton Court, day 3 will use transportation to get back and forth to a tour day Day 4 tour to 7 sisters an Brighton (transportation included) Day 5 Tower of London and, probably, Westminster Abbey with show at night Day 6 Windsor castle with show at night Day 7 Vic & Al and Kensington Palace Day 8 going to Bath—public transportation to get to and from Paddington Day 9 a walking tour in Hempstead Day 10 tour in Piccadilly and tea at Wolseley Hotel with play at night Day 11 head home back to Heathrow

Do I get visitor card or Oyster card?

May 5, 2022 at 5:51 am

Happy to try to help. I am not exactly sure what you are confused about, is it whether you should buy a Visitor Oyster Card or a regular Oyster Card?

There are very little differences between them. They work the same way. The main differences are the initial cost and how you can purchase them as described in the article. The Visitor Oyster Card has to be purchased in advance and you can have it mailed to your home address before your trip. The regular Oyster Cards need to be purchased in London.

But once you have them, they work in exactly the same way on public transit and both can have credit added as needed.

Hope that helps and let me know if you have any further questions.

Naomi Post author

May 1, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Hi, we would love your advice for an upcoming trip— I’m about to purchase London Passes for my husband and I, but I’m debating getting the Visitor Oyster card with it or getting a regular Oyster card with added travelcards when we get to the Heathrow station.

We are staying near Charing Cross for our whole trip, and our day trips and London travel are kind of scattered throughout. I know that even for our day trips we will probably be making one round trip to the departure point for our tour departure point/main train. Here’s our itinerary:

Day 1- morning arrival to Heathrow, travel to and around zone 1 Days 2-4 – around zones 1-2 Day 5- day trip out of London by train Day 6- around zone 1 Day 7- zone 1 in the morning and afternoon to Harry Potter studios Day 8 – morning in zone 1-2, afternoon bus tour Day 9- day trip out of London by train Day 10- Zone 1 Day 11- day trip out of London by train Day 12- day trip out of London by bus Day 13- back to Heathrow

What’s the best card combo for this kind of trip? Thank you so much!

May 2, 2022 at 3:55 am

In terms of getting the Visitor Oyster Card with the London Pass or waiting to get the regular Oyster Card when in London, it doesn’t really make a big difference. There is no cost savings to buying it with your London Pass, it is just convenient as you’ll have it when you come to London.

If you are getting the Visitor Oyster Card it will come with a set amount of travel credit (the amount depends on length of the London Pass), but if you run out, you can add to that using the Underground machines. If you buy a card in London, I’d maybe start with £30 each and then added as needed since you are not sure how much trips you’ll be making as you’ll be out of London on day trips for several days of your trip.

For the London Pass, just remember that it is only valid over consecutive days, so you will want to group together all the included attractions and visit them on consecutive days. So it looks like this may be Days 1 to 4 for you? Or maybe Days 1 to 6 with not using it on Day 5? So keep that in mind when making your itinerary.

For the Warner Bros Harry Potter studio tour , you can use the Oyster Card to get the train out to Watford Junction but the card won’t work beyond that. Then at Watford Junction you can just take the shuttle to the studio. Or the day tours include your transport to the studio as part of the tour and will start and end in London.

Rachel C Post author

April 19, 2022 at 11:21 am

Hello and thank you for compiling all this information — I still have some questions.

My family of four (kids ages 13, 15) plans a stay in London for 32 days and will use the Tube in Zones 1 & 2. We currently have 4 Oyster Cards that do not have any credit on them (we had purchased them in 2020 while young visitor discounts were not offered).

1) For the kids: I see the young visitor discount is only valid 14-days. Is that something I can renew? Or is there a better way to keep our costs down? I understand that there are no young visitor travel cards to add to an oyster card. However, due to our timeline, is the Zip card better, I know there is an application fee but would that be worthwhile for us if we cannot renew the 14-day pass? We are US citizens visiting the UK.

2) For the adults: I assume our best bet is the monthly travel card added to our Oyster Cards.

3) Could you walk us through the process of updating our current oyster cards? I assume I need to do the kids’ cards in person (but can I use the existing Oyster Card)? For the adults is it easiest to register our cards online and add the month-long travel card?

Thank you so much for all your patience with these extra questions. I appreciate it!

Warmly, Rachel

April 20, 2022 at 5:58 am

Glad our info has been helpful and sounds like you a very long trip to London coming up!

So, these are some tricky questions to answer as some of it depends on how much you plan to use the cards, but there are some options. Also, it depends on what type of Oyster Cards you already own. You definitely want to bring those with you when you return to London.

1 – TfL confirmed with us this morning that you can renew a Visitor Oyster card young persons discount once the 14 days has expired, so that is probably going to be the easiest and most cost effective option. You would need to buy the Visitor Oyster cards first though (unless the Oyster Cards you have are already Visitor Oyster Cards), which is cheaper than a Zip Oyster Card.

The other options would be a Zip Oyster card which costs £20 then fares vary, but the daily cap is £1.60 off peak and £3.85 peak for zones 1-2.

Another option is a 7 day child travelcard for children aged 11-15 from here . It’s a physical travel card which costs £19.20 for 7 days of travel in zones 1 and 2

Probably the easiest option is likely going to be the Visitor Oyster Card with the young persons discount as it’s just pay as you go. The 7-day travelcard might work out to be cheaper if you do a lot of journeys, but this would require some calculations and likely won’t be a big savings difference in the end.

2 – Yes, most likely a monthly travelcard would be the cheapest, but bear in mind that there is weekly capping. So for example in Zones 1 &2 , you would not pay more than £38.40 for travel from Monday to Sunday. Four weeks hitting the cap would be £153.6. A monthly travel card (which is a month rather than 28 days) is £147.50. So it is a bit cheaper, but not a lot. You just have to be sure you will be using it enough to actually make the cost worth it, as it might work out cheaper just to rely on the caps. As a general rule of thumb, you need to be travelling a couple of times a day every day to start hitting the caps. So if you aren’t likely to be using the tube every day, then just using a normal card and the weekly cap system might end up being slightly cheaper. The monthly cards are designed for daily commuters.

3 – This will depend on if you have normal Oyster cards or Visitor Oyster cards. A normal Oyster card is blue, whilst a visitor oyster card has a pattern and the word London on it. If you have a normal Oyster card, you would need to purchase Visitor Oyster cards for your kids as you can’t add the visitor Oyster Card young persons discount to a normal Oyster card as far as we are aware. You also need to order and buy them before you visit as they aren’t available in London. If you have normal cards, you should be able to register these online then you should be able to add travel cards / credit to them if this is the route you want to go down.

For your adults cards (whether regular or Visitor), you can also add the week or month long travel cards, regular credit, and top up your Oyster Cards at one of the Underground station machines once in London. It is pretty simple to do. You can also get assistance from staffed ticket booths as well.

April 21, 2022 at 6:02 am

Hi Jessica, Thank you so much for fielding these extra questions… you are so kind to detail all these options! Yes, this has been super helpful for us!

We have the regular Blue Oyster Cards so we’ll go ahead and order Visitor Cards for the kids to get the young passenger fares for them. And with the adult cards, we’ll mull that over a bit. I appreciate your taking the time to sift through the details.

April 21, 2022 at 7:19 am

You’re very welcome and glad that was helpful. It is all a bit complicated because of the number of options and restrictions, especially when talking about options for kids.

At least with the adult Oyster Cards there is no hurry as you can do it before you leave or once you get to London. Wishing you a safe & fun trip!

October 20, 2022 at 5:02 am

Hi Jessica, Just a quick update. Everything went very well with the first round of “Young Visitor Discounts” being applied to our children’s cards. The attendant said we’re able to apply the discount again when this one expires, but need to do it at a different station. For half-priced fare, we’re willing to do that!

Thanks again for the kind assistance. We’re thoroughly enjoying our time in London and have read a number of your articles. I appreciate all the detailed information!

October 21, 2022 at 4:31 pm

So glad to hear that your experiences in London with using the Oyster Card and applying the Young Visitor Discount has been a good experience! Wishing you a wonderful rest of your time in London!

Jim Vatter Post author

April 14, 2022 at 1:55 pm

My wife and I (both 81) and our 16 year old grandson are traveling to London from US for 6 days and then off to Paris via Chunnel for three days. Already paid for transfers from airport which is probably a mistake but we are old. Planning normal visits – Tower, Parliament, BM, City Tours, evening plays, Stone Henge, etc. Is there a senior discount and/or a Zip Oyster discount for grandson. Can Visitors Oyster facilitate getting into Tower or other difficult venues. Should we buy Oyster in advance. What a great source of information you provide. Thank You Jim

April 15, 2022 at 6:26 am

Yes if you do get the Oyster Cards, they are pretty easy to use to get to and from London from the airport (Heathrow or Gatwick). But obviously you won’t need that if you are using private transfers.

So in general, I don’t think it would be worth it for you to apply for the discounted Oyster Cards. Most of the discounted cards are geared to those who live in London rather than visitors.

The child travelcard is only for those 11-15 so their grandson would not be eligible. There is a Zip photocard for ages 16-18 that gives you a 50% discount on adult fares, however, there is a £20 fee to apply. So the cost savings may not be worth actually taking the time to apply to collect the card. You can see more and apply here: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/16-plus-zip-oyster-photocard?intcmp=55578

For seniors, there is a 60+ London Oyster Photocard but it is only for London residents. There is also a senior railcard which gives 30% discount on train travel to over 60s, which can be applied to an Oyster card but this costs £30 per year for one person so again will probably not be worth it. The railcard does not apply to Eurostar trains either.

The Visitor Oyster Card does have some discounts but these are mainly to restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues rather than the big attractions like the Tower of London. But there are currently discounts available at Kew Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. You can see a list here .

At some individual attractions, you may find there are ticket discounts for seniors or those under 18 (although generally 16+ is considered an adult at many attractions). For instance, at Westminister Abbey, you could get a discount as part of the 65+ group and your grandson could get a child ticket (as under 18). So just make sure you have photo IDs with birthdates on you when going to such places where you are elgiible for discounts – they are unlikely to verify your ages but they may verify your grandson’s age.

If you want to get a Visitor Oyster Card, you do need to purchase them before your trip and have them mailed to you. However, if you want to just buy the standard Oyster Cards, you can wait to purchase these once you are in London. You can purchase them from the machines in most Underground stations in London. With 6 days, I’d probably recommend starting with £35 to £40 on each card and then you can add additional credit if needed (you can just add credit using the machines).

For getting out to Stonehenge, I’d recommend booking a guided tour for that day trip. You can take a regular train to Salisbury (~2 hours) and then get a bus to Stonehenge, but then you are limited to what else you can do that day. With a tour, it is likely to visit other places such as Bath, Cotswolds, or Avebury so it makes a bit more of your day. You can read this article on visiting Stonehenge for ideas.

Also, I would highly recommend making bookings for any must-see attractions, tours, or entertainment in advance of your trip. With COVID, lots of things that did not require reservations in the past are now saying that pre-booking and reservations are highly recommended (and sometimes required).

Anyway, hope that helps! Wishing you a great trip to London and Paris, and just let us know if you have any further questions as you plan your trip.

claudia ros Post author

March 24, 2022 at 6:55 am

Hello!!! I’ve been reading your post and it has really helped me with this maze of London transport possibilities!!!! But I still have some doubts… Next July, I’ll be travelling from Argentina with my husband and two teenage daughters (14 and 17). We’ll be arriving at Heathrow, staying in London for 9 consecutive days, then going to France and returning to London to catch our flight home from Heathrow 3 weeks later. After reading many websites, I came to the conclusion that the best option for us could be to buy a common Oyster Card with a 7-day Travelcard zones 1-2 loaded onto it and buying it at Heathrow Underground Station, but I have some doubts: 1) How much EXTRA cash do I need to charge onto each card so the journeys from and to Heathrow and other zones outside 1-2 are covered? (We’re planning to go to Warner Bros.) 2) Can I get a Young Person’s Discount loaded onto the Oyster card for my 14-year-old? Should I also load a 7-day Travelcard onto her Oyster card? 3) I read one of your answers above saying that “you would no longer need to buy a travelcard, as from September 2021 an Oyster card has a weekly cap which is the same as the 7-day travelcard price.” This confuses me!!! Should I load a travelcard or not?

Many many thanks for your post and I would really appreciate it if you could help me with this!!!!

March 24, 2022 at 7:58 am

Hi Claudia,

Glad that our articles are helpful to you in planning your upcoming trips to the UK and France. So although London has a great public transit system, it can be complicated, especially with a family, to figure out what might be best for you. It depends a lot on how much you plan to use public transit and where in London you plan to travel. As the travelcards in particular are geared to residents rather than visitors, but since you are going to be in London for longer than a week, you might consider them.

1 – The best way to figure this out is to use the single fare finder, which you can see here ( https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/find-fares/tube-and-rail-fares/single-fare-finder ). Fares vary depending on time of day, so for example from Heathrow to Central London is £5.50 for an adult single fare during peak times (6.30am – 9.30 am), and £3.50 off peak (at all other times). For Watford Junction (for Harry Potter) an adult Oyster fare is £11.20 for peak and £8.10 off peak.

For getting to Watford and visiting Warner Bros Studio, you can see our guide to doing the Harry Potter Studio tour .

If traveling from London to France, you might find our London to Paris travel guide useful in booking that travel.

2 – You can apply what is known as a Young Visitor Discount to your daughter’s Oyster Card. This can be added by a member of staff to a standard Oyster card, and will give them 50% off pay as you go fares (including the weekly cap for 14 days). You can see instructions for this under the Young Visitor Discount section of this page ( https://tfl.gov.uk/fares/free-and-discounted-travel/11-15-zip-oyster-photocard?intcmp=55575 ). You will need to scroll past the section on Zip Oyster Cards. With this discount you wouldn’t need the 7 day travel card for her, and there aren’t (as far as we are aware) any young persons travel cards

3 – So the answer to this varies a little depending on when you are visiting. The weekly cap for Oyster is the same as the price of a seven day travel card. However, the weekly cap on Oyster runs from a Monday to a Sunday, whilst you can start a travel card on any day of the week and use it for seven consecutive days (assuming it’s a weekly travel card).

So if you were arriving on a Monday and using the Oyster card, there would be no benefit to a weekly travel card. However, if you want to start your travel card on any other day of the week, it does still make sense to use a travel card.

Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any questions about your upcoming travels to the UK or France!

April 15, 2022 at 8:28 am

Thank you so much, Jessica!!!!! You’ve been really really helpful and kind in asnwering with so much detail!!!!

April 15, 2022 at 11:19 am

You are very welcome and just let us know if you have further questions as you plan your trip to London!

Andras Post author

March 12, 2022 at 4:21 am

First, thanks for the great posts! I have questions according Oyster cards. 1. I read that the registration for app and TFL website is only for UK residents. Is it still valid? It sounds a very stupid limitation for a card recommended for tourists… In this case what happens if I give eg. my hotel address during registration (as I read on other sites)? Could it cause any problem later (ie. recharge won’t work)? 2. Recharging Oysters: – Is it possible to manage and recharge more cards from one app (3 family members)? If I could register somehow… – What is the simplest method to recharge Oysters?

thanks, Andras

March 13, 2022 at 10:29 am

1 – It looks like this has actually changed relatively recently. We just tried the website with a USA address and it worked and allowed us to create an account to register a card. So you *should* be able to register with your international address and get access to the website. The regular Oyster Cards were actually really designed for Londoners (regular users of the public transit system) whereas the Visitor Oyster Cards were designed for tourists so that is why typically travelers would not register them and have been prevented from doing so. You still can’t register a Visitor Oyster Card (no matter where you live), only the standard ones. I would use your real address, rather than a hotel address as it may be used to check against the address used for your credit card. To be honest, as people who live in the UK, we don’t really use our online account much except to sometimes check our balance (you can also do that at the station) but we have our cards registered to protect against loss/theft/damage. So it doesn’t make a huge difference for the average visitor but is good to do if you can.

2 – Yes, you can add multiple cards to the app, including contactless cards and Oyster cards, and then charge them.

3 – You can recharge them using the app/website, but it’s also really easy to recharge them at any the Underground Stations (Tube stations). Any ticket machine with a big yellow circle on it will let you recharge an Oyster, it is a pretty simple process. You can recharge them by credit card or cash. Some machines are credit card only, others are card and cash. We normally top ours up at the station machines.

March 16, 2022 at 6:55 am

many thanks for the quick and detailed answer!

bye, Andras

Kelsey Post author

March 9, 2022 at 7:42 am

Your replies and blog post about the Oyster Card have been incredibly useful! The best I’ve seen with such clear instructions and responses. Thank you.

March 9, 2022 at 7:48 am

You are very welcome and thanks for taking the time to leave such a nice comment! If you have any questions as you plan your trip to London, just let us know 😉

Rachel Post author

February 6, 2022 at 7:36 pm

Hi! This article is great! My boyfriend and I are traveling to the UK (from the US) this summer and will spend a day and a half in London. We plan to use the bus a little and will need a one way trip to Heathrow airport. Can we share a visitor Oyster card, just scanning for each of us? Or do we need to each purchase our own pass? I understand if you purchase them online in advance of your trip there is some savings? (Sorry if it’s a silly question). I hope you both are having a wonderful holiday! I have been enjoying your monthly newsletter. Your travels sound amazing!! Thank you!!

February 6, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Yes, an Oyster Card is great if you are planning to use London public transit quite a bit during your stay. You can’t share an Oyster Card, you will need one card per person. On some forms of transportation, you need to scan it to both enter and exit (Underground Tube stations) and only one person can use each.

The best way to get to and from Heathrow airport in London for most people is by the Underground (Tube). You can use your Oyster Card for this journey. You can see this post for best ways to get to and from Heathrow .

If you are arriving into Heathrow and plan to take the Underground into London, then I’d just purchase an Oyster Card there at the Underground station after you arrive. The fees for both cards (standard vs. Visitor) are now the same so it doesn’t make too much of a difference. Hopefully you will return to London some day so keep your cards for a future visit.

Also since you are only there a short time, if you have a contactless credit card, you may be able to use that instead of an Oyster Card to pay for your travel in London. You can see more about that here .

Hope that helps and just let us know if you have further questions as you plan your trip to London!

Hank Post author

December 12, 2021 at 4:10 pm

I just came across your site today — a lot of great information. But, so much to take in. My questions are simple. We (2of us) are planning our first trip to London in May 2022. We will be there approx 10 days. I was thinking the Oyster card was the best option and adding the 7 day travelcard to it. Is that the right choice? If so, should I just wait to purchase both at Heathrow since I can not buy the Oyster card here? Can I do that at Heathrow? Thanks so much!!

December 13, 2021 at 5:51 am

That does sound like the best option, but you would probably no longer need to buy a travelcard, as from September 2021 an Oyster card has a weekly cap which is the same as the 7-day travelcard price. So you just use the Oyster card as normal, and it will never charge you more than the travelcard price for journeys from Monday to Sunday. So you’d just need the Oyster Card, one for each of you. A travel card has the advantage that you can start it on a day of your choosing, but as you are visiting for 10 days it is likely that you will get the weekly cap during your stay anyway.

And yes, you can buy the Oyster card at Heathrow Airport (you can buy the standard Oyster Card from the ticket machines at the Underground Station, there are also staff there who can help if you have questions). The standard Oyster Card is not available for pre-purchase outside of the UK, but you can buy the Visitor Oyster Card from outside the UK, you can order the Visitor Oyster Card online and they can deliver it to your home before you leave. But if you plan to take the Tube into London from the airport, I would just wait to get the standard Oyster Card when you arrive into Heathrow.

December 13, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Thank you so much.. You have been so helpful. I am so glad I ran across your page!

Martina Post author

November 19, 2021 at 9:25 pm

Great article! I’ve just two questions for you as I’m going to move to London and I will have to use twice a day both bus and tube for zone 1 & 2. Can I buy a 7-days/monthly pass for both bus and tube on the same Oyster card? Also, except for the 7-days pass, which as I understood is Monday-Sunday, is there another type of pass which is related to the trips even if they are not in the same week? (e.g. 10-days pass). Many thanks

November 21, 2021 at 6:54 am

Hi Martina,

Sure, happy to try to help. And since you are moving to London rather than just visiting, you’ll want to look at the card designed for London residents rather than visitors.

For your first question, yes, the 7 day pass applies for both Bus and tube on the same card. If you are just doing a weekly pass, you can also use contactless or an oyster card without the travel card, as the weekly cap price is the same as the travel card price. Currently the weekly cap for Zones 1 – 2 for Monday to Sunday is £37, which is the same as the travel card price.

There isn’t a 10 day pass, however if you are going to be travelling a lot you would probably benefit from either a monthly or even an annual travel card. A monthly travel card for zones 1&2 is currently £142.10 and an annual pass is £1480. Those can definitely save you quite a bit, depending on whether or not you’ll use them this is a list of all the fares: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares.pdf

Hope that helps, and wishing you a smooth move to London!! Jessica

Dave Post author

October 5, 2021 at 1:07 pm

This is a great article and a great site all around. We’ll be headed to London for the middle of Oct for 10 days. What are your thoughts on using the Oyster Card on an iphone? Is it the same as the physical card? We’ve used this with great success in New York and Chicago. Dave

October 7, 2021 at 1:29 am

As far as we know there is no fully mobile version of the Oyster Card yet. So you do need to have a physical Oyster Card. There is an Oyster Card app as well, but that only allows you to manage your physical Oyster card and do things like top up a balance rather than being a virtual Oyster card. Note the app only supports standard Oyster cards rather than the Visitor version.

Now, if you prefer a mobile way to pay instead, you can use Apple Pay on your iPhone to pay as you go, using a form of payment such a credit card attached to your Apple Pay account. Contactless payments can be a good option if you have a card that doesn’t charge you for foreign transaction fees. You can read more about the difference between Oyster and contactless for payment here .

Note, that if you are also planning to get a London Pass (for visiting attractions), that the London Pass now has a fully mobile version that you can purchase and use on your phone through the app (or just download and save on your phone). We’d also do recommend printing out the QR code for your London Pass as well to bring along just in case for any reason the phone app isn’t working or your phone runs out of battery.

Jenise Flowers Post author

October 4, 2021 at 1:13 pm

I recently purchased a senior rail pass for my November trip to London. It says I can get a 30% discount on my oyster and travel card purchases. Do the machines at the underground station at Heathrow have a way to include the discount in the price of my Oyster card and travel card? If not, how do I obtain the discount?

October 7, 2021 at 1:22 am

So you can add your discount to an Oyster Card at Tube and TFL stations, but you just need to go to a ticket counter and show your railcard. There is a ticket counter for the Underground at Heathrow, so you should be able to do it there. So I’d try to talk to one of the staff there to get it there before you begin your travels on the Underground.

Have a great trip to London! Jessica

Caroline Post author

September 27, 2021 at 12:52 am

Thank you so much for this information. After trawling the Internet for a non-confusing London travel guide, I found this to be super informative, easy to read and really helped me understand my options for travel in the capital. We’ve just returned from a weekend away using these guidelines and everything ran beautifully. Keep up the good work!

September 27, 2021 at 6:08 am

Hi Caroline,

Glad you found our London articles helpful in planning your trip! And glad that you had a great weekend away in London 😉

Anna dundas Post author

June 2, 2021 at 9:14 am

Glad I found you – planning a post covid retirement break in March, staying at a youthhostel( (already booked 😀), so 5 nights before return trip to Edinburgh. I am planning best yes of my time, and this is just what I need. Grateful thanks xxxxx

June 2, 2021 at 9:58 am

Glad you are finding our travel blog content helpful in planning your visit to London. Just let us know if you have any questions as you plan your trip!

Joel glover Post author

May 23, 2021 at 10:26 am

Do we need individual cards for husband and wife?

May 24, 2021 at 10:25 am

Yes, you will both want your own individual Oyster Cards in London. You can’t share the same one if you are traveling together.

Christina Post author

February 9, 2020 at 8:59 am

Hello! My husband and I are traveling to London from the US. We will spend three days in London, take a train to Manchester stay a few days then take a train to Newcastle and stay a few days then work our way back through Manchester and fly out from London over a period of 16 days. Is the Oyster card valid throughout England? What would be the Best Buy for us. We will also be paying for a day cruise on the clipper and Emirates.

February 9, 2020 at 9:02 am

Hi Christina,

The Oyster Card is only works in London and the London area. So it won’t of course work if you are going to Manchester, Newcastle, or any other place in England or the UK outside of London. But once you have it, you can keep it and it is valid as long as they continue the Oyster Card system. So if you leave London and then return again at the end of your trip, you can use the same card both visits, as well as future visits.

The Oyster Card as noted can be used to pay for just about any type of public transportation in London, and this includes the Thames Clipper River Bus services and the Emirates Air Line cablecar service.

For your train services to places outside London like Manchester and Newcastle, you’ll want to book separate train tickets. You can check scheduels and buy tickets online from sites like thetrainline.com .

Kimo Kelly Post author

January 19, 2020 at 12:03 pm

My wife and I are veterans of dozens of trips to London and the UK. (We are mid- seventyish). We have two Oyster Cards which are probably two or more decades old. We have used these and London Travelcards before. We will be in London for eight days beginning in mid-June. My question is: should we use the Oystercards or should we purchase Travelcards instead? We will not be arriving at an airport but will need to get to Heathrow upon our departure.

January 20, 2020 at 5:28 am

Yes, Oyster Cards were first introduced to the public in June 2003 and any cards issued since there *should* still work if they are in good condition. Although I would definitely check in once you are at a station to make sure it is still reading properly and to check to see if you have any credit remaining. If you have a regular Oyster Card (not a Visitor Oyster Card) you can just add a travelcard onto the Oyster Card itself.

However, this will not work for a Visitor Oyster Card as the travelcards can’t be added directly to the card. So in that case you can just add credit and use it as needed, or you can purchase a separate travelcard if you’d rather do that.

The travelcards are designed for those who are going to be using public transit often throughout the week (e.g., Londoners who commute) so it may or may not save you money over just paying per journey with the Oyster Card (which also provides a daily cap). I’d consider how many times per day you plan to use transit, which zones you’ll be traveling in, and approximate costs for each journey compared to a 7 day travel card and you can compare.

Marion Aquilina Post author

November 7, 2019 at 11:48 pm

Good Morning,

me and my husband are going to visit London between the 11th December to the 15th December 2019. I would like to ask you some questions please.

1) What is the capping of a regular oyster card for 1 day ( The capping is for each type of transport for example 1 day capping for buses, 1 day capping for the tube etc.) (Is there any capping for using the tube and buses during the same day? For example: you take the Piccadilly line Tube from Heathrow Airport to Central London and than during the rest of the day you use the buses)

2) If I buy a regular Oyster card from an underground machine and let say I will top up with 30 pounds (can i pay with a credit card?). If yes! then for example at the end of my holiday I have 15 pounds left on my regular oyster card, can I get the refund topped to my credit card using the underground machine or i have to go to a visitor customer service to get refund on my credit card?

Thanks and Regards

November 8, 2019 at 4:02 am

Hello Marion,

1.) For the daily caps on an Oyster Card, it depends on the zones you are traveling through. But it looks like the rate for unlimited travel with an Oyster card between Zones 1 and 3 is currently £8.20 per day. A daily cap is calculated over 24 hours for pay as you go journeys that start at 04:30 and end on 04:29 the next day. If you are traveling further on any of those days (for instance to Zone 5) then your cap would be higher for that day. All fares and caps are listed on the Tfl website.

2.) Yes, you can use a credit card to pay for the credit at a machine. If you need a refund from your Oyster cards, and it is less than £10 of credit on each card, you should be able to do it at any Oyster Card credit machine at an Underground station. If it is more than that, you will need to do it in person at a TFL Centre or by mail. I think the machines will dispense the refund credit in cash, but I imagine it is a check if by mail. I am not sure what the refund options are if you do it in person. See links above in the Refunds section of the article for more info from the Tfl website.

November 8, 2019 at 4:27 am

thanks very helpful

Anne Helmstadter Post author

October 24, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Hi! A lot has changed since I was last in London. Very helpful information here! I am travelling to London with my family (husband and 15 yr old and 17 yr old) in December. We fly into Heathrow and are staying in New Eltham for a week. What is the most efficient way to get there? It looks like it’s time consuming to go into Central London and switch trains. What do you recommend for the Oyster cards for the teens? Since I have a good 6 weeks before the travel dates is it worth it to apply for the youth photo Oyster cards for them? It looks like it might be a nuisance to go pick them up. We will be going into central London to sightsee every day and it looks like new Eltham is served by the Southeastern train line. Appreciate any advice you can offer! Thank you!

October 25, 2019 at 6:01 am

Yes, New Eltham is not super convenient for going back and forth to central London as it is about a 45 to 1 hour ride and most involve changes. Southeastern Railway is the main train line and yes most trips into central London are going to involve changes. Buses are also an option but again, it depends on where you are staying and where you are going, but most journeys would require changing buses and these journeys will often be slower than the train/Underground.

From Heathrow, the most convenient option is to probably take the Piccadilly Underground line to Charing Cross station to switch to the Southeastern rail line to reach the nearest station where you are staying (e.g., New Eltham station). But I’d always check TFL for any closed lines/stations while you are in London. You can use an Oyster Card for this journey.

For getting an Oyster photo card for the teens, I think yes, it depends on the cost savings and convenience. Since you are going to only be in London for 1 week and if they are not going to be convenient for you to pick up and starting using on arrival, it may be easier to just get them regular adult Oyster cards and these you can either be ordered in advance (and have delivered to your home before your trip) or purchased at the airport. If you are purchasing a London Pass , they can also be added to your London Pass order.

In terms of Oyster Card credit, you can always add more later, but I’d estimate £10 to £12 per day per person if you will be traveling between Zones 1 and Zones 4 (New Eltham) each day. The Oyster Card caps your daily spend each day and I think the current cap is £10.10 for usage from Zones 1 to 4 so you can travel as much as you want within those zones and it shouldn’t go over that price. It may be a bit more on days when you travel outside of those zones (e.g., airport).

For sightseeing, since you are in New Eltham, I’d recommend maximizing time on at least a couple of days with attractions that are easy to get to. A day in Greenwich is pretty convenient from New Eltham and there are several attractions and museums there and is an easy area to spend a day exploring. Other things that may be of interest are Eltham Palace and Chislehurst Caves. If you are planning on getting London Passes, most of these attractions are included I believe.

Dan Workman Post author

October 3, 2019 at 10:51 am

We’ll be visiting London for 4 days and then on to Copenhagen. Due to our early (6:30 AM) departure from Heathrow we believe it will be best to stay at one of the airport area hotels and travel daily into central London. This is based on our understanding that the Underground doesn’t start running on Sundays (departure day) until 6:00 AM. The London Pass is a definite purchase, however, I’ve read that Visitor Oyster Cards aren’t valid for the Heathrow Express. Is this correct? If so, what would be your recommendation for traveling daily from a Heathrow hotel in the morning to London attractions and then back to Heathrow each evening. Thank you for all the wonderful advice which we’ve already gleaned from your blog. We’ll be using our arrival day to take a leisurely sightseeing bus tour around the city, then tackling your three day plan. Really looking forward to our trip.

October 4, 2019 at 11:37 am

So glad that you will be using our 3 day London itinerary to help guide your trip to London.

The Oyster Card (Visitor or standard) is valid for payment on the Heathrow Express. You probably were reading outdated information elsewhere online as it has not always been possible to pay for the Heathrow Express train with the Oyster Card.

However, while you can use the Visitor Oyster Card to use the Heathrow express train, note that this service is much more expensive than taking the Underground, bus, or normal train into London. So be sure you have enough credit on your cards or consider an alternative method of transport if you are on a tighter budget.

I would personally not recommend staying near Heathrow to explore London for your first 3 days, I’d recommend choosing an area somewhat central to London to avoid traveling back and forth and wasted time. This will give you a much better experience in London. But since you have such an early flight, it would make sense to perhaps stay at a Heathrow Airport the night before you leave for Copenhagen. So if you have 4 nights in London, I’d recommend spending your first 3 nights in an area of central London and then your fourth and final night near Heathrow.

Claudia Post author

September 10, 2019 at 8:10 am

Hi, I have a couple of Visitor’s Oyster cards that I bought in 2012. Can I still use them? What about the difference in initial fees? Also, once there can I buy train tickets (to Harry Potter studios) in advance with the Oyster card? Thanks!

Jessica Post author

September 11, 2019 at 10:04 am

Yes, you should be able to use your old Oyster Cards if they are still in working order. If for any reason they are not working, you can probably exchange them at a tfl centre once in London.

You can check credit once in London and see what the balance is on your Oyster Card, and then add credit as needed at the machines.

You can travel with your Oyster Card to Watford Junction (you don’t buy train tickets with the Oyster Card, you just scan it as your ticket, you just need to have the right amount of ticket). From there you have to get a bus to reach Harry Potter Studios (cash only). You MUST have pre-purchased and reserved tickets for that day to board the bus or enter the Harry Potter Studios. They often sell out days in advance so I would book those now if you know what date you plan to visit.

For more help, see our guide to visiting the Harry Potter Studios for all you need to know to plan your visit.

Tinne Post author

August 19, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Hi, some valuable information on your website, thank you for that! I still have some specific questions. I was not aware that August 26th is a bank holiday in the UK. We arrive at that specific date with the Eurostar in St.Pancras with 5 people of which 1, age 15. We will be staying until August 30th. I forgot to order travelcards online, it is now too late for a mail delivery to Belgium, oops. Guess that means that I need to buy transportation cards in London. Will there be a ticket office open on bank holidays in St Pancras where we can buy Oyster cards or travel cards? I read that you can by Oyster cards on the Eurostar train, but some people say to not buy them there. Is it possible to help me out on what the best option will be to travel around London for 5 days in zone 1-3 (we stay near metrostationTurnpike Lane) and where to by cards at arrival in London? Thank you so much for your help!

August 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm

You should be able to purchase Oyster Cards once you arrive at the Kings Cross St Pancras Underground station. It is not far from where you will arrive from the EuroStar arrivals area.

There is usually a staffed ticket booth and machines where you can purchase an Oyster Card. But even if the ticket booths are closed, the machines should still work (even if it is a holiday). If you are not sure where to go, just ask a station staff member and they can point you in the right direction.

For 5 full days in London, I would suggest putting £35 or £40 onto each Oyster Cards and that will likely last you the full time. It just depends on how much you use it and what kinds of trips you take. Each person will need their own card. If the initial credit is not enough, you can use the machines in the Underground to add more credit as needed. Just keep track of your balance each day.

Mary Virginia Orna Post author

August 18, 2019 at 11:00 am

I would like to purchase a standard oyster card for use in zones 1 and 2 over a period of 11 days. I also need to travel from Heathrow to Greenwich on both the first and last day of my visit. Within the time period, I would also like to add a 7-day travel pass to the card. How would I go about doing all this in the most economic way? Thank you.

August 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

A lot of this will come down to how many journeys you take per day, as the Oyster card has built-in caps for daily journeys, and individual fares are also quite inexpensive.

For Zones 1-2 travel, the daily cap is £7 on Oyster. So you can travel as many times as you like in Zones 1 & 2, and the maximum you will pay is £7. A single fare is £2.90 (peak) and £2.40 (off peak). A 1-2 zone travelcard is £35.10.

If you travel off-peak only twice a day in Zones 1 and 2 for a week, the total cost would be £33.60, which is less than the travelcard.

So you definitely need to be sure you will be using the system more than twice a day on average for the duration of your travelcard.

If you do get a travelcard, as you are primarily travelling in Zones 1 and 2, you would only want a travel card that covers those two zones. Then, when you travel outside of your travelcard zone, or when the travelcard is expired, it will just use the PAYG credit on your Oyster card. If the travel card is active, the Oyster system will just deduct the difference. For example, if you had a 1-2 zone travelcard, and you travelled to Heathrow (zone 6), the travelcard would cover you for up to zone 2, and you would just pay from your Pay as you go balance for the journey from 3 – 6.

So if you decide to get a travelcard, you could just get it when you first buy the card, and it will then activate. It will work when you are within the right zones, and at other times you will just use your PAYG credit.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it though, at the end of the day you are probably only talking about a couple of pounds difference overall! They Oyster system is pretty clever with its built in capping, so you should never end up spending a great deal of money.

You can use the Oyster Card to pay for your transport fare to and from Heathrow Airport. We recommend using the Underground to get to the airport (rather than the much more expensive Heathrow Express option) as it will save you a lot of money.

Joan Post author

August 13, 2019 at 5:50 pm

Some valuable information here , answered a lot of my questions, but I do have a couple of questions. With a one day London travel pass can the Oyster card be used only that one day? We will be in London three days but have only the Sunday to sight see can we add to the Oyster card ?

August 14, 2019 at 4:13 am

Yes, if you buy a 1 day London Pass with the Oyster Card included (London Pass + Travel option), you can continue to use your Oyster Card for the rest of your trip.

As explained, the Oyster Card is a travel card and it works on credit. If you purchase it with the London Pass, it will come with a set amount of credit, but you can “top it up” and add credit to it if needed. It doesn’t expire. You can even use it again on a future trip to London.

Note that London Passes + Travel for children (age 5 to 15) do not include an Oyster Card, but a paper travel ticket. So if you are traveling with children age 15 or less, I would skip the travelcard included with their 1 day London Passes and just get them separate Oyster Cards since you will need them for 3 days.

August 16, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for getting back to me with your helpful answers to my questions. Your advice here gives some great help and a big time saver ,so glad I found you . Thank you Joan

August 12, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for all of the information! I just want to clarify and make sure my plan sounds right.

2 adults. We arrive Thursday morning (at Heathrow) and leave Sunday morning (St. Pancras; Eurostar to Paris). I will have time to get a visitor card, but I’m thinking I’ll just wait and get the regular one there.

I can buy the cards at Heathrow, and then use to take underground to our hotel (Piccadilly line, I think?). From there, we can use in London (not planning any trips outside that I’m aware of). Then on Sunday, I’m assuming I can use to go to St. Pancras and from there get a refund for the two cards? Would they be able to put the money back on my credit card versus cash? How much time should I add to get a refund at St. Pancras before needing to board the train? Will there be a person there, or can I use the machine for a regular oyster card?

Thank you for all your help!

August 13, 2019 at 4:10 am

Your plan to purchase and use the Oyster Card all sounds fine. Yes, you can either purchase a Visitor Card in advance and have it sent to your house or purchase one in London at Heathrow at the Tube station.

If you need a refund from your Oyster cards, and it is less than £10 of credit on each card, you should be able to do it at any Oyster Card credit machine at an Underground station. If it is more than that, you will need to do it in person at a TFL Centre or by mail. I think the machines will dispense the refund credit in cash, but I imagine it is a check if by mail. See links above in the Refunds section of the article for more info from the Tfl website.

Hope that helps and wishing you a great trip to London! Jessica

Bogdan Post author

July 7, 2019 at 9:10 pm

Hi, great info, thank you for your efforts. It seems London’s transportation system is more complex than its weather.. anyways, I’ve most probably missed some details, and I apologize if it’s going to be redundant, but I would appreciate your help with the following: 1. I am about 9 days for my trip to London, and if I buy now online an oyster card, it might not arrive in time – is there no way to pick up a previously paid visitor card from Heathrow? For a single card probably I wouldn’t mind, but I need 4, as this is a family trip. I do not want to pick it up together with some other pass from the location you mentioned, our time is limited to 3 (full) days. 2. When I checked some webpage on the best ways of travelling from Heathrow to Southwark, a taxi or uber trip is described as being ‘excruciatingly slow’ (?) – is this maybe referring to travelling at peak hours? Regardless the very early arrival inherent to the vast majority of transcontinental flights, I plan to leave the airport at 11am. Am I correct in assuming that ‘excruciatingly slow’ no longer applies for this time of the day?’ Any suggestion? Is the underground more convenient? Best, Bogdan

July 9, 2019 at 10:21 pm

Thanks very much, and we will certainly try to help. To answer your two questions:

1 – This is correct. There is no way to pick up a prepaid visitor card, but you can still buy an Oyster card in person at the airport (or any underground station). For the London Pass, if you choose to buy that, you can opt for the mobile version if you don’t want to pick it up.

2 – Traffic in London is bad most of the time, and especially so during the day. So even at 11am it is indeed likely to be very slow for parts of the journey. The underground will be faster as it does not have to contend with the traffic, so it is our recommended option if possible.

I hope this helps! Jessica

Allison Post author

July 6, 2019 at 9:32 pm

Hi, My mom and I will be traveling to London- do we each need to get an Oystercard? Or can we just get one card and double tap it each time we travel? Thank you for the information! -Allison

July 7, 2019 at 8:06 am

Hi Allison, If you are planning to travel using an Oyster Card in London, both you and your mom would need to use a separate card. You can’t use the same card for two people at the same time. Best, Jessica

Lori Post author

June 24, 2019 at 8:30 pm

Thank you for the great info on London transportation. I will be in London for 4 days with my family. If we buy the oyster card, should we even bother getting tickets for the hop on hop off bus? What would be the advantage of the hop on hop off bus?

June 25, 2019 at 6:44 am

Hi Lori, So the Oyster Card is obviously good for regular public transportation (Underground “Tube”, bus, trams, etc) and the HOHO buses are sightseeing buses that go past and stop near popular tourist attractions (e.g., Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, V&A Museum). They include either pre-recorded or live commentary (depending on the bus and company) you can listen to during the ride. So they would be used differently.

Public transit is often the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B but sightseeing buses are best for sightseeing and seeing highlights from a bus as they follow a tourist route. They also allow you to get on and off as much as you want within a specified time period.

So you definitely do not need to get tickets for the HOHO buses in London. If you have an Oyster Card you can get around easily and that would be the quickest and cheapest way to travel from place to place.

Note that if you get a recommended London Pass then it comes with both an Oyster Card and 1 day tickets for a hop on hop off bus.

Charles Post author

June 19, 2019 at 9:45 am

We will be arriving Friday night at Heathrow but will not have our 7-day London Passes/Oyster Cards until Saturday. We are a family of five; children are 18,11, 8. What is the best option to get from Heathrow to the Covent Garden area? Do we (the 2 parents) and the 18 year old each buy a 2-ride Oyster card (one for the return trip a week later) for the Underground? Thanks. Charles.

June 19, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Hi Charles,

You have a lot of options on how to get from Heathrow Airport into central London and you can see more about each of those here: https://www.findingtheuniverse.com/get-to-london-from-airport/#How-to-Get-from-Heathrow-Airport-to-London

You don’t want to get a Oyster Card since you will be picking up one on Saturday (you pay a fee to get an Oyster Card). I’d probably recommend taking the Underground (Tube) into London and just buying single tickets for that specific trip. Then the next day you can use start using your Oyster Cards for all your travels.

All children under age 11 can travel for free when accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket or pass.

Leanne Post author

June 11, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Hi Jessica, I have found your article brilliant in that I have come to a greater understanding of how to use oyster cards and the different options they provide. Your way of writing is so easy to understand! So, myself and my partner must travel to London next week and are only going to book things now… Ideally we would love to purchase the London Pass travel card but when it would be shipped to us, we would have already arrived in London. I understand that you can collect it at an address in London however I do not wish to do that as we are staying there for a short period of time and it is out of the way for us. My question is if I purchase the London Pass via online mobile phone and then bought an oyster card separately, how much would have been loaded onto the oyster card had I bought it in the London Pass deal do you know? I am trying to figure out how much to preload it with for travel around London city and also to include enough for return airport transfer.

Hoping you can help!

June 11, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Yes, you can definitely do that. You can get the London Pass mobile pass and download one to each of your smartphones. You will then need to present it at each attraction.

You can get the Oyster Card at the airport, most Underground stations, Tfl offices, etc.

For the London Passes, the Oyster Cards do come preloaded with a set amount of credit, but the amount is different for each pass and depends on the number of days (e.g., an Oyster Card with a 2 Day London Pass comes with a different amount than a 5 day London Pass). How many days are you planning to stay in London? I can check on the Oyster Card amount for you.

June 12, 2019 at 7:53 am

Hi Jessica, Thanks for getting back so quickly! We are staying for three days and flying to Stansted.

June 12, 2019 at 8:36 am

The 3 Day London Pass comes with an Oyster Card preloaded with £25 per adult card. You can always add credit if you need more, but that might give you a good idea of how much to add when you get your card.

Note that the Oyster Card cannot currently be used for travel to and from Stansted Airport. You can see details about how to get to and from each London airport in our London airport travel guide .

Chris Hartman Post author

May 5, 2019 at 5:22 am

I have found your blog so helpful in preparing for our upcoming trip to London. You write so clearly and with great detail. Thank you! My question has to do with timing between arriving at Heathrow and being able to check into our rental flat. We arrive at 6 am but we cannot check in until 2 pm. We are able to drop our luggage off at 10:30 for a fee. But even so, after getting through customs and retrieving our bags, we should still have a few hours time. I plan on purchasing Oyster Cards at Heathrow and we plan to use the tube as transportation to the flat. Besides getting something to eat at the airport and hanging around until 10am, do you have any other suggestions?

May 5, 2019 at 5:58 am

So glad you are finding our London articles helpful in planning your upcoming trip to London.

Ah, yes, the issue with arriving on early flights/trains can be what to do with one’s luggage. One suggestion might be to leave your luggage somewhere else once you arrive into London that is either near your rental flat or in a convenient transport hub in central London. For example you can store luggage at most of London’s main train stations (e.g., Euston, Victoria) as well as in some stores and coach stations for a few pounds a bag, and these often are open beginning at 7am or 8am. Check out this article for info about left luggage locations around London.

If you are able to leave your luggage earlier, say by 8am, then you can head out for a nice breakfast or start sightseeing right away. Of course, many London attractions don’t open until 9am or 10am, but not having your luggage will free you to head off to whatever part of London you want to visit that day. Since you know you will be up and about early, it might be a good day to visit a busy attraction that you want to arrive a little before it opens to be in line to avoid later crowds/lines (e.g., Windsor, Kensington Place, Tower of London). Or it might be a nice day to do a day tour that has you heading out of town and leaves the city early.

It can also be a nice time to stroll through some of the city’s pretty gardens or parks, or get uncrowded views of places from the outside like Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. I’d just be sure to check the forecast and have whatever you need for the day (e.g., rainjacket or umbrella) with you so you can enjoy the day.

Tracy Post author

April 29, 2019 at 10:50 am

Oh my goodness! Your website is the best! Thank you for all this detailed info. I searched through many of the questions and your responses trying to find and answer so you wouldn’t have to repeat yourself, but didn’t find it. Sorry if it is there and I missed it. I am going to buy the visitor Oyster card in advance if I can get it in time. If not, I will buy at the airport. My plans will include a day trip to Windsor (I know it won’t work) and a day trip to WB studios (where it will work). My question is it seems like I should be buying all my tickets, including the Heathrow Express (where it will work) in advance because it’s cheaper, but then the Oyster card doesn’t work – correct? I’ve already paid. Do I need to book tickets for Windsor and WB in advance? I don’t know what my return times will be. Should I pay extra for the anytime tickets? If so, then for WB, I’m not using my oyster. Will tickets be sold out. SO CONFUSED! So very grateful for your assistance and will definitely link through you to make purchases for anything I am going to. WITH TREMENDOUS GRATITUDE! Tracy

April 30, 2019 at 1:35 am

The Oyster Card will work now on the Heathrow Express so you can use it there, just note that will be more expensive than taking the Underground (also covered by Oyster Card). If you want to take the Heathrow Express, it may make sense to buy less expensive advance tickets if you can get them to save money, but otherwise you can use your Oyster Card to pay on arrival.

You can use your Oyster Card to travel via National Rail train to the Watford Junction station and then you can take the studio tour shuttle (small fee) to the film studios in Leavesden (must have a studio ticket purchased in advance). Or you can just book a tour that includes your ticket and direct transfers from London. You don’t need to book that far in advance for the train ticket and you can’t pre-book the shuttle, but you MUST have the Harry Potter Studio Tour tickets booked in advance or you won’t be allowed on the shuttle or in the studio. It books out in advance. You can see our guide to the studio here .

May 2, 2019 at 6:36 am

Thanks, Jessica!

Katja Post author

April 15, 2019 at 4:36 am

Hello! Great blog, love all the info you provide. I have a questions for you concerning the contactless card and travellling with a 10 y.o. Can he still travel for free, even though me and hubby will both be using the contactless bank card instead of an Oyster card?

April 15, 2019 at 7:58 am

Hi Katja, A 10-year-old can currently travel for free on buses and trams only w/o a card, but is eligible for child rate tickets on just about every other form of transport without any sort of card. But if you want him to be able to get free travel on Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, and most National Rail services, you need to apply for the Oyster Zip Card . Hope that helps. Best, Jessica

April 15, 2019 at 9:23 am

Thank you very much, Jessica! Yes, that helps a lot!!!!

Wishing you a great week! Greetings from Slovenia!

April 15, 2019 at 9:30 am

Hm, well, we do have a problem… we are going to London in two weeks time, and it says on the website that you have to order the card 4 weeks in advance. So, I guess we’ll just have to buy a standard Oyster card for him :/

April 15, 2019 at 9:43 am

Hi Katja, A good option might be for you and your husband (or one of you) to use Visitor Oyster Cards instead of using your credit cards, and then he would get free travel without needing to buy a card.

Or you can purchase him a Visitor Oyster Card in advance and then you can have the Young Visitor discount applied to the card once you arrive. The discount can be applied by tfL staff in person at most Tube stations, the 8 Visitor Centres, Victoria National, and Rail station ticket office. But the Visitor Card has to be purchased before you arrive in London to get this discount. But you would probably save more money just having him travel for free with an Oyster Card you are using.

Angie Post author

April 1, 2019 at 9:50 am

Thank you for your helpful article. I would like some clarification and help for our upcoming trip needs. We arrive next week to London and have 3 children: 12, 14, 16. We do not have time to apply for the young oyster photo card and so would like to purchase the young visitor discount oyster card (which lasts 14 days) when we arrive. What I do not understand is whether we need to bring photos of our children to get these cards. What are the requirements to purchase the young visitor discount oyster cards? thank you

April 1, 2019 at 11:20 am

There is no specific Young Visitor Discount Oyster Card, you will need to purchase a Visitor Oyster Card before your trip to London and then have the discount applied once you arrive.

The discount is available for children age 11 to 15, so it will work for your 12 and 14 year old. The Young Visitor discount gives your child half adult rate pay as you go discount for up to 14 days.

From the tFL website: “If you’re travelling with children aged 11-15, buy a Visitor Oyster card before you leave home and, when you arrive in London, you can ask a member of our staff to add a Young Visitor discount to a Visitor Oyster card at: most Tube stations, our 8 Visitor Centres, Victoria National, and Rail station ticket office.”

You don’t need to bring photos, but you may be asked for an ID to prove the child’s age, particularly if they look older. So I’d just have their passports on hand when you have the discounts applied to their cards.

Teresa Post author

March 17, 2019 at 6:12 pm

Great article! A couple of questions: Does the Zip Oyster Photo Card cover travel on the Tube or only buses and trams? Can London travel cards be added to Zip Oyster Photo Csrds? And we are able to order those all before our trip?

March 18, 2019 at 6:30 am

Hi Teresa, It depends a lot on the age of the child as they are more important for older children in terms of benefits than younger children. So children under age 11 get free travel on London buses and trams already without a card (and on the Tube when accompanied by a paying adult), so the Zip Oyster photocards are primarily for additional discounts and when a child under age 11 may need to travel on their own. But for those age 11 to 15 they allow for free travel on buses and trams plus child rate fares on Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and Emirates Air Line. There is also a 16+ one that provides discounts. So I would be sure to read the Tfl guidelines carefully for whichever of the cards you are interested in applying for.

Yes, you do need to apply for them in advance. If you live outside the UK, you’ll want to apply at least 4 weeks in advance of your trip as the cards take awhile to process.

March 18, 2019 at 8:24 am

Thank you! My daughters are 14 and 16, so they would qualify. I went to read the guidelines, and it states that they travel at half fare on the tube. It looks as though it’s not preloaded on zip cards, and is something we need to do once we arrive in London. Am I reading this correctly? My main goal is to have as much done in advance to maximize our vacation time. Can the travel card for attractions be added? I appreciate your help!

March 18, 2019 at 8:57 am

So yes, for your 14 year old daughter, the Zip Cards would give her free travel on buses and trams, child rate fares on Tube, DLR, London Overground, and on TfL Rail and Emirates Air Line, and 50% off most fares on National Rail services. There are fewer benefits with the 16+ card.

The Zip cards do need to be applied for in advance, it is easy to do in advance but you need to have their information and photos ready. Note that there is currently a £15 administration fee to apply for a card. So I would weigh the cost benefits for these. If you are going to be in London for a month these will likely save you money but unlikely to save you much if only going to London for a few days.

The photocards do not include credit when you purchase them (at least not to my knowledge) but you can add travel credit to them and certain travelcards once you have them online or in person once in London. The card does not need credit for free travel (e.g., bus and tram travel for a 14 year old with card), you just need to tap in and out with them. I believe you can add travel credit to the cards via your online account you create to get the photocard.

These photocards only are for Tfl travel and are not relevant for attraction entry. For attraction passes, you will want to get something like the London Pass . You can purchase that with Travel for children but it does not come with the Zip photocard option.

Carl Cruz Post author

January 7, 2019 at 2:18 am

Definitely needed this information now. Thank you for posting all this detailed info for my vacation to London!

January 7, 2019 at 9:36 am

Hi Carl, Happy to hear that and wishing you a great vacation in London! Best, Jessica

ALEXANDRA PAPADIMITRIOU Post author

December 19, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Thank you for the wonderful article. I’ve been to London twice. Both times I’d bought a london pass and travelcard before arriving. I wanted to ask if the oyster card that I got with the London Pass expires.

December 20, 2018 at 3:46 am

Hi Alexandra, No, if you keep the Oyster Card, you can still use any remaining credit on the card when you return to London. Or you can reuse the card by refilling it with credits if there are no credits remaining. So I would hold on to them so you don’t have to get a new one if you plan to return to London. Best, Jessica

Alexandra Papadimitriou Post author

December 20, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Thank you so much for the useful information ????

German from Argentina Post author

November 1, 2018 at 4:24 pm

Excelent article! However, I still have a few doubts. Suppose I arrive at Heathrow and depart from Gatwick 9 hours later on the same day. So, I buy a standard Oyster at Heathrow, take the tube to downtown, see London’s main attractions and head to Victoria Station. Once there, I touch the yellow circle at the gate in order to access the train leaving for Gatwick. Once I am on the other side of the gate, will I be able to access the “TfL Visitor Centre” ? Or is it on the other side of the gate? In other words, how do people ask for a refund if they need their cards to pay for the last ticket? I know that it will have been 9 hours from my first usage, but does the 48 hour limitation apply to ticket machines only, or will I still be able to ask for a refund in person?

November 2, 2018 at 8:30 am

You can actually get a refund for the Oyster Card at Gatwick Airport, so once you are already at the airport.

Here is the current info from the Tfl website:

“At Gatwick Airport you can only get a refund for any unused pay as you go credit and the Oyster card deposit up to a combined value of £15. To do this, go to the rail ticket desk in the Onward Travel area in the South Terminal. This is the only place at Gatwick Airport where you can get a refund if you return your Oyster card.” I am not sure of the hours of this desk so you may want to call and check if you are planning to visit late in the evening or early in the morning.

Yes, I believe that the 48 hours limit only applies to the machines, so I don’t think the machines will be able to refund you. I believe the Visitor Centres can refund at any time and will return the balance to your debit card or pay in cash. There is also the option to mail by post your card with its remaining balance to Tfl from outside London and they will refund you by a mailed cheque in GBP (probably not a good option for you!).

November 2, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Thank you Jessica! It’s good to know that there’s a ticket desk at Gatwick where I can ask for a refund, and also that they can return the balance to my credit card, where it will be automatically converted to pesos or dollars (because I won’t be able to use pounds in Italy, where I’ll be heading next). Thanks a lot!

Fandy Alina Post author

October 29, 2018 at 4:34 am

Unbelievable Information on the Oyster Card in London. Thank you for this excellent guide!

October 29, 2018 at 7:56 am

Hi Fandy, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and so happy to hear your found our Oyster Card tips helpful. Do let us know if you have any questions about your upcoming trip to London. Best, Jessica

Julie Post author

October 20, 2018 at 1:37 am

Hi there, you mentioned that “They are also available onboard Eurostar trains traveling to London and at Gatwick & Stansted airport.” Where can I confirm on this? I am travelling to Paris from London (2-ways) on Eurostar and would like to buy a Visitor Oyster Card on the train. That would be the most convenient and cost efficient for me. Thanks!

October 20, 2018 at 9:27 am

Hi Julie, As far as I know you can still purchase a Visitor Oyster Card on Eurostar trains traveling to London. However, things do change from time to time, and it is a good idea to confirm if you want to buy them aboard the train. To confirm, I’d contact EuroStar by phone or email with this question (can see their contact details here ) or send them a message via their social media pages to be sure they will be available aboard your particular route. If you find out they are not, please do let us know and we will edit our information for future readers.

If for any reason they are not, we’d recommend purchasing the Visitor Oyster Card online before your trip.

October 28, 2018 at 3:34 am

Hi Jessica, I called Eurostar and the agent initially said the Oyster Card is not available on their trains. After I told him that this information is published online, he double checked and said it is sold. He said it is a Visitor Oyster Card for 5 pounds with no credits though? Like what you wrote, I thought Visitor Oyster Card can only be bought outside of London OR together with London Pass only.

Another thing I read online was if you want the free transport to/from WIndsor Castle, you need to purchase the London Pass TOGETHER with the oyster card (not London Pass alone), not sure how true this is? Have you any idea on this?

I also called Gatwick Airport Concierge Counter (South Terminal) and a lady said they are only opened at 9am; hence we will not be in time to get an Oyster Card. Again she advised that it is Visitor Oyster Card?? With loaded credits though. She advised that if not we can get single tickets at Gatwick train station. As we will reach 5am in the morning, do you know if the staffed counter will be opened then? If yes, can we get a standard Oyster Card from the counter? If not, is it possible to get a standard Oyster Card from the automated machine at the train station? We are not in time to buy one online and have it post to us. 🙁

Thanks in advance!

October 28, 2018 at 7:19 am

1. Yes, as we note, it would be the Visitor Oyster Card that is sold aboard the EuroStar as you will be outside of London, which is why they can sell it. You won’t be able to purchase it after you arrive in London (except for as part of the London Pass + Travel package in person). If you purchase the Visitor Oyster Card aboard the EuroStar, you will have to then add whatever credit you want to it to use it.

2. No, that information is incorrect about Windsor. You just need a valid London Pass and to follow the instructions as outlined in the London Pass guidebook and website to use the FREE transport to Windsor Castle. You can use an Oyster Card, but it will charge you.

3. Yes, Gatwick is located outside of London and sells the Visitor Oyster Card as noted in our article. Or you can purchase a single train ticket or the standard Oyster Card from an automated machine at the transport station there. Sounds like the concierge hours are different than those listed online, so getting a card there may not be an option given your travel times.

Given your situation, I would have recommended purchasing the London Pass + Travel before your trip and having it delivered to your home before you trip. But since you didn’t do that, I would recommend purchasing the London Pass online (to save money) and picking it up for free once you get to central London. For the Oyster Card, you can get the Oyster Card with the London Pass + Travel option or pick up an Oyster Card while you are at Gatwick. There are few differences between the two cards, unless you want to use the discounts that come with the Visitor Oyster Card.

Enjoy your time in London and Paris!

Michael Post author

October 16, 2018 at 9:26 am

hi Jessica, just read your article, but I’m still not sure how to do best. this sunday I’m heading from heathrow to wembley stadium and afterwards from wembley stadium to gatwick. just these two rides. is there a better/easier solution than arrange and using oyster card for this purpose? kind regards, michael

October 17, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Hi Michael,

An Oyster Card or contactless card is probably the best option as they will save you a small amount on the ticket prices (although it depends on the time of travel), but you can also just buy individual tickets.

So you have three main options for public transit. 1) Oyster Card (Visitor cards must be purchased in advance, regular ones can be purchased on arrival); 2) If you have a contactless credit card or debit card you should be able to use it to pay for your travel. Many cards issued from the UK and Western Europe work, some other international cards work as well. They work similar to an Oyster Card, and you can find out more here ; or 3) You can purchase 2 individual tickets to each destination. You can purchase tickets directly from machines at the station and many of the larger stations also have staffed desks where you can purchase them from an agent.

If you decide to purchase an Oyster Card, you can get a refund for any extra money at Gatwick Airport before you leave if you wish, or save it for your next visit to London.

Hope that helps and enjoy your time at Wembley! Jessica

Cosmin Post author

September 18, 2018 at 4:47 am

Hey Jessica,

We’re planing a trip to London in November (2 adults) . It should be around 2-3 days for London sightseeing. I’ve read your recommendations on the 3-day London sightseeing as well as the London Pass explanation article. Beautifully written!

I do have a couple questions, regarding the Oyster Card :

1. Can you please (re)explain the capping logic? After 6.80 pounds transactions I can still move around for free?

2. Is the same applicable for other zones, likes Zone 6? 3. How much money would I need on an Oyster card for a 2-3 day London trips considering this 6.80 cap?

Thanks in advance and keep up the good work, Cosmin

September 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

So happy you found this helpful!

1. So basically if you are using an Oyster Card (or contactless card) the card will stop charging you for traveling within Zones 1 and 2, which at the moment is £6.80. Now, if you are also traveling within other zones, then the point in which it will cap is higher. You can learn more about capping here . 2. There is capping for all zones, but it is a higher rate as you include more zones. Most of London’s most popular attractions are within Zones 1 & 2. See link above for the capping rate details for the different zones. 3. £20 person should be fine if you are staying in Zones 1 & 2 for 3 days. If you are using it to get to and from an airport, you should check that fare on the Tfl website and add it as well. But you can always add money, and most Underground stations have machines where you can do this.

Just a reminder that if you are visiting Windsor Castle and have a London Pass, you can get free travel there and back to central London without using you Oyster Card. You just have to follow the rules outlined in the guidebook and website.

Wishing you a wonderful upcoming trip to London!

cosmin Post author

September 19, 2018 at 6:47 am

Thanks for the reply and taking the time to answer all questions very thoroughly. I’ve got a better picture of the whole transport logic based on your article and your comments. Wishing you all the best and a big HI from Romania.

Keep up the good work, Cosmin

Carlos Post author

September 8, 2018 at 6:52 pm

Hello and thank you in advance. I am planning to visit London from October 4 to 7. I will be staying in zone 1 and will visit only areas in zone 1 and 2 but need to go back to Heathrow airport. Which is the best card to buy and how much does it cost? I would appreciate your assistance Best Wishes Carlos

September 9, 2018 at 3:40 am

Either the regular Oyster Card or Visitor Oyster Card would work for your trip. You can purchase the standard Oyster Card at the airport, or you can purchase the Visitor Oyster Card in advance (or as part of the London Pass ).

The cost will depend on how many trips you take and the time of day. But it will be a maximum of £6.80 a day on your Oyster Card (but it depends how much you travel within the Zones each day) and it will be between £3-£5 per trip to the airport if you use the Underground (the cost depends on the time of day).

So you might start with an Oyster Card with a credit of £25 or £30 and then add any additional credit if needed later on your trip.

Shahmeran Post author

August 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm

Last time I was in London, most of the tube stations were not equipped to top off Oyster cards with cash. I want to use cash, as my US bank will charge me foreign transactions fees (a fixed fee + a percentage of the total) if I use my credit or debit card.

I have been trying to locate a map/directory of Oyster ticket stops where I can use cash and an actual human to top off my card. TfL claims to have such a map, but I can’t get it to work. I’ve tried using various London addresses, yet no ticket stops are identified on the map. I can’t use their geolocation feature, as I’m not currently in London. I just want to enter a London address and find the nearest ticket stops. The process shouldn’t be this frustrating and difficult.

August 16, 2018 at 2:14 am

Hi Shahmeran, Sorry you are having such a difficult time finding this information. I don’t know of a map that states which stations allow you to pay/top up by cash but most of the largest stations will have machines that accept cash. Also most of the larger station have manned ticket counters.

If you want a guarantee of a person, you can plan to stop at one of the stations with a tfl Visitor Centre, you can find a list and hours here: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/getting-around-london/visitor-centres

If you need more specific information, I’d contact tfl , you can call them or send them a message via Twitter or Facebook.

Hope that helps and wishing you a great journey to London! Jessica

Dawn Pearson Post author

August 14, 2018 at 5:03 am

HI Jessica Fab article, thank you.

I just have one question I am not sure about. I’m arranging to buy a London Pass and Visitor Oyster card for my friends to collect from my home. They will first go to Hampton Court Palace (from Waterloo), and return to Waterloo after visiting HCP. Then they’ll do tours of London. Will they have to top up the Oyster card for the return leg from Waterloo to HCP?

many thanks Dawn

August 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

If they are purchasing the London Pass + Travel together, then the Visitor Oyster Card will come with some preloaded credit. The amount depends on how many days the pass is valid, and you can check that amount here .

So for their trip to Hampton Court Palace, that will use a certain amount of credit (currently either £5.50 off-peak or £8.00 peak times) from their Oyster Card. But they should still have credit to keep using it to explore more of London after returning to Waterloo.

But if they run out during their trip, they will need to top if off and can add credit at any time.

If you are worried about your friends not knowing how to do it, I would just tell (or show) them how to check the balance of their cards and top it off if needed at a station so they know how to do it. It works the same as any other Oyster Card.

Neha vora Post author

July 25, 2018 at 5:46 am

Hello, We are visiting London in August and will be in London for 3 days before proceeding to Edinburgh, I have already been to London many years back, wherin i have seen the major attractions, but want to see the SHARD and just roam around

DO i buy a one day london pass along wiht oyster card, and on other days just top up my Oyster card, since i will be able to do hopin hop off and the cruise in one day , and other days roam at my own leisure

also suggest , whether we should opt for tube travel or shuttle service from Airport to Earls court ( where our Hotel is ) and whether online purchase of oyster card will be valid for travel from Heathrow to Earls Court

July 25, 2018 at 6:26 am

Yes, I would recommend the 1 day London Pass if you are planning to visit The Shard, do the HOHO bus, and Thames river cruise all on the same day. It will also give you the opportunity to visit or revisit a lot of the other attractions in the area if you wish. The London Pass covers over 60 attractions so it is likely there are many you have not visited yet or may want to see again.

Yes you can use the Oyster Card to travel from Heathrow to Earls Court (or anywhere else within London) via the Underground (“the Tube”).

You can purchase the London Pass + Travel option that will include both the London Pass plus the Visitor Oyster Card. Your other option is to purchase just the London Pass and purchase the Oyster Card at the airpot or once in London. In your case if you want to use your Oyster Card from the airport, I would recommend ordering the London Pass + Travel online and having it delivered to your home before your trip so you can start using it as soon as you arrive at the airport.

You can top up any Oyster Card as you travel around. You can top up a card at most Underground and Overground machines or if you need help, you can ask an attendant.

If you are traveling to Edinburgh, you might want to check out our London to Edinburgh travel guide .

Victor Chan Post author

July 20, 2018 at 12:30 am

HI Jessica, We have 24 hours in London ( stopover ) and we plan to visit London city.

We have few questions:- 1) Can we get the refund of deposit and balance if we purchase the normal London Oyster card for less than 24 hours.? 2) As you mentioned that the daily cap is GBP 6.60 ( Zone 1 – 2 ) How much will be the daily CAP if we first travel from Heathrow airport to the city and then later move around London zone 1 & 2? What will be the total charges? How much amount do you suggest to top up in the Oyster card?

July 22, 2018 at 1:06 pm

1.) Yes, you should be able to apply to get a refund on the deposit and any remaining balance on your Oyster Card. 2.) The fare would be £3.10 per person from Heathrow (outside of 6am to 9am where you pay £5.10 since it is peak travel time in London) and then it will be capped for all the Zone 1 & 2 journeys and the cap is currently at £6.80. You’ll need to also pay the same fare (£3.10 or £5.10) to return to the airport. So you should be OK with putting £15 on your card (or £4 more if you are traveling at peak times to or from airport). But you may want to put a pound or two extra just to be sure. 3.) Note that the fares are capped within a midnight to midnight GMT period so the above assumes you are traveling all within 1 calendar day. If you are traveling on 2 separate days (e.g., spending the night in London and then returning to the airport the next day), you’ll need to calculate for each day.

Victor Post author

July 22, 2018 at 6:28 pm

HI Jessica, Thank you for your prompt reply. You have provided us a very useful and details information about the Oyster card. It will help us a lot during our visit to London in October. Thank you very much.

Leslie Hegwood Post author

July 9, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Hello! This is such an amazing article! We are planning our very first trip to Europe and I have another question for you. We will be landing at Heathrow then headed directly to Kings Cross for a train to Edinburgh for a couple of days. We will then head back to London where we will spend about 6 days with one day headed to Portsmouth. We are thinking of getting the London Pass for our time in London but do you have any advice on how to arrange transportation to Portsmouth? We’d like to see the war ships and stone henge. I appreciate any help you can give us.

July 10, 2018 at 5:01 am

1. If you are looking for any tips for what to do in Edinburgh we live nearby and have a ton of content such as this top Edinburgh attractions post and this post about lesser known attractions in Edinburgh .

2. The London Pass is great for saving on sightseeing, and you can see our London Pass review here. If you enjoy warships, be sure to check out HMS Belfast (free with London Pass) and you might enjoy this list of military related sites in London .

3. To Portsmouth, you have a few options (train, bus, rental car, join a guided tour), but I would probably recommend taking a morning train from London. It is about a 2 hour train and the nearest train station to the historic dockyard is Portsmouth Harbour. If you are interested in visiting a lot of the attractions at the harbor, you might want to check out this discount pass that includes entry into 11 different sites at the dockyard.

4. Now, you might want to see if you think you have enough time to do both Portsmouth and Stonehenge in one day or if you’d rather do them on separate trips. It will depend on how long you want to explore Portsmouth. You can squeeze them both into one day but it will be a busy day. So you could leave Portsmouth in the afternoon by train and head to Salisbury (closest train station) and then take the Stonehenge Tour bus which stops at the train station (as well as in Salisbury, Old Sarum & Stonehenge). Then in the evening could take a train back from Salisbury to London. Note that Stonehenge has recently implemented a timed entry system so it is recommended that you book your tickets in advance.

5. If you decide to do Stonehenge on a separate day from Portsmouth, you have a few options, you could take the train from London to Salisbury and get the shuttle as noted above, take the Stonehenge Express bus from London , or you could join a guided bus tour. There are a lot of tours from London to Stonehenge and most also makes stops in other places like Salisbury Cathedral, Bath, Windsor, and/or Oxford. You can see some examples of these tours here and here .

6. I would recommend purchasing any train tickets in the UK in advance as advance prices are almost always less expensive (often 40% to 60%) and if it is a train that allows seat reservations, you can have a guaranteed seat. We often use: https://www.lner.co.uk/

Hope this helps and please let me know if you have further questions as you plan your trip to the UK! Jessica

Sarah Post author

April 29, 2018 at 2:09 am

Great informative article, thank you!! Hubby and I will be travelling to London for the first time later this year aa part of our uk trip and plan to purchase the oyster card when we arrive at heathrow airport. As you have suggested I will register the cards using my relatives uk address. I have a few questions please. We will be arriving at heathrow airport around 6am. Will there be an oyster card cashier open at that time of the morning? If not how do we purchase one at heathrow airport, register and top up? We will be landing in terminal 2 as far as i know. Do you know if there is an oyster cashier or ability to purchase at this terminal. We will most likely be very sleep deprived from travelling from australia so as much info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help.

April 29, 2018 at 6:26 am

Hi Sarah, Glad you have found our Oyster Card tips helpful for your trip! The Heathrow Visitor Centers and manned ticket windows at the Heathrow Underground stations may not be open that early, but you can purchase the Oyster Cards (standard ones) at most Underground ticket machines. Heathrow currently has three London Underground stations – one for Terminals 2 and 3 and one each at both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5. To register a card, you need to set up an online account and then register the specific cards online. You’ll buy the card with some credit so you don’t need to top up right away. You can top up as needed via ticket machines, manned Underground windows, or online (if you are able to register the cards).

If you want to have a Oyster Card in hand when you arrive, you might want to consider a Visitor Oyster Card instead as those can be mailed to you in Australia before your trip. However, these cannot be registered if that is important to you.

Hope this helps, and wishing you a great visit to London! Jessica

Cordelia Post author

March 16, 2018 at 2:41 am

I really appreciate this guide to Oyster Cards, the most comprehensive one around! Comes in really handy for my upcoming trip to London this April!

It would be real helpful if someone could help clarify: Visitor OysterCard vs Regular OysterCard. 1)Other than the non-refundable fee $5(Visitor OysterCard) and refundable fee $5(Regular OysterCard), is there any difference in the fare charges when using Visitor or Regular OysterCard? For instance, as stated in the write-up, traveling from Zone 1 to Zone 2 on the tube will cost £2.40 off-peak using a Visitor Oyster card. For the Regular OysterCard, will it cost the same (£2.40) or will it be charged as single ticket rate (£4.90)?

2)I understand that the Visitor OysterCard comes with a daily cap eg. $6.60. Does the same daily cap apply to Regular OysterCard? Or there is no cap for it?

Looking forward to hearing from the Experts!

Regards, Cordelia

March 16, 2018 at 10:28 am

Hi Cordelia,

So glad your found our articles about the Oyster Card and London travel helpful!

1. ) No the fare charges are the same for them both. Basically the usage for both is the same across the two Oyster Cards. 2.) The daily caps are the same for both the regular and the Visitor Oyster Card.

The big differences other than the refund-ability of the fees is that the Visitor Oyster Card (but not the regular card) can be pre-ordered and delivered worldwide before your trip and the Visitor Oyster Card has extra discounts on attractions/food/shops. Whereas the Regular Oyster Card (but not the Visitor Card) can be registered online if you live in the UK and you can add Travelcards to it (although you wouldn’t likely do this unless you are staying in London for 7+ days).

Hope this helps, and just let us know if you have further questions! Jessica

March 16, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Thank you Jessica for the prompt response. It has been a great help to the planning of my trip to London!

Keep up the great work!

February 27, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Wonderful information! But still a little confused..lol..We are visiting London in May for 7 nights and arriving at Heathrow and staying near Earl’s Court. I understand I can buy an Oyster card at Heathrow and use it on the Tube to our accommodations near Earl’s Court. I just am not sure which to buy..as the Zone thing still has me a little confused.If we purchase an Oyster card (at the airport) and add the 7 day Travel Card to it,I understand that only covers Zone 1 & 2. And the airport is in Zone 6. Would we have to purchase something additional that covers Zone 6?. I am quite positive we will just have the 2 trips in this zone.I hope this inquiry makes sense..:)..Thanks in advance for any advice!

February 27, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Hi Lisa, Yes, so what you said does make sense. And you can indeed buy an Oyster Card (the standard one, not the Visitor one) at Heathrow airport and can also add on a 7-day Travel Card for Zones 1 & 2 at a ticket machine. But you can still use the Oyster Card anywhere it is valid as long as you have additional credit on it, but the Travelcard portion is only applicable to travel within Zones 1 & 2 as it provides unlimited travel in those zones. I would not buy a Travelcard that covers additional zones if you are only planning to visit them once or twice as the price jump is pretty significant and almost all the main tourist attractions in London are in Zones 1 & 2. If you are traveling outside of Zones 1 or 2, you’ll need to have additional credit on the Oyster Card to cover that travel or you can of course just buy a ticket separately..

Note that the above only applies to the standard Oyster Card, not the Visitor Oyster Card which comes with pre-loaded credit and does not allow you to add Travelcards. Both cards work in all zones throughout London.

To determine if the Travelcard is a good deal, I would estimate how often you plan to travel to see if it makes sense to get the Travel Card or not. It really depends on how many journeys you plan to make each day using public transit. If you plan to use it multiple times a day, then the Travel Card makes sense, if only a couple times a day you are probably better off without the Travelcard on the Oyster Card.

Hope that helps! Wishing you a great trip to London, and if you are looking for sightseeing ideas, you might find our 6 day London itinerary helpful.

February 27, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Thanks so much,Jessica!..It makes sense now..the Oyster has coverage for zone 6 as long as I have enough credit.As for the Travel Card I think we will be using public transit alot..even if it is just for going for a ride to see different parts of the city thru a window.We are also planning a 3 day London Pass for some of the attractions re:Tower,Thames cruise etc…but we are really still in the planning stage :)..Again,thankyou for such a quick reply and also for the itinerary! Every bit helps! 🙂

February 27, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Hi Lisa, You’re very welcome and glad to help! Yes, the London Pass is great if you are planning to visit a lot of attractions and one of our favorite city discount passes. If you are ordering the London Passes online, I find the accompanying guidebook really helpful for planning out time with the Pass. Feel free to reach out if you have further questions as you continue to plan your vacation! Best, Jessica

Florina Saladin Post author

February 4, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Hi there Thank you so much for taking your time to give these precious, detailed informations. The Oyster websites and all other websites should learn from you (; All my questions were answered and now, unfortunately being too late to get a visitor oyster online, the only issue left is if I can buy two “normal oysters” plus a “kid 15 years old oyster” as well somewhere at Kensington station around 6 pm on a Monday… or if we should try to take care of that at Luton airport right after arrival around 11 am next Monday. What do you suggest? All the best, Florina

February 5, 2018 at 8:13 am

Hi Florina,

Thanks so much for your kind words and I am glad you found our information on Oyster Cards helpful and useful!

I think either should be fine as the travel centre will be open at Luton and if that is convenient for you, it can be an easy place to purchase the Oyster Cards. You can’t use the Oyster Card though until you reach London as Luton is a little outside the travel area, but you can start using them once you arrive in London.

But you can also get them at Kensington train station and you can purchase them from a machine or from an attendant if you need any help. I think there is a ticket window at the station that is staffed until around 8pm on weekdays. But if not, there will be staff in the station to help with any info until very late if you have any issues with the machines.

BTW, You can still get a Visitor Oyster Card if you are also planning to buy a London Pass , if you order the London Pass + Transport option. For adults, the London Pass comes with a pre-loaded Visitor Oyster Card (children’s passes come with a receive a paper off-peak Travelcard). If you order online and choose the “pick up in London option”, you can pick up both your London Pass and Visitor Oyster Cards at their redemption desk in central London.

Wishing you a great trip to London! Jessica

connie Rabenold Post author

January 12, 2018 at 12:34 am

OMG!!! Am so happy and thankful I found your website while searching for info on oyster card. Thank you for taking time to explain extensively the pros and cons. Your info and tips are so helpful. and so simply put; very easy to understand. We’ll be in London on Feb 15, – 20, 2018.; we’re with a 7 days London and Edinburgh tour but we’ll arrive London 2 days ahead and will be on our own.. I will read more of your website to read your suggestions on places to see while in London during the 2 days before the tour and the “free time” during the tour.. Thank you for unselfishly sharing your knowledge. Take care, more power to you and Laurence.

January 12, 2018 at 7:53 am

Hi Connie, Thank you so much for your nice comment and I am so glad that the information helped you better understand the Oyster Cards. We have loads of London and Edinburgh related content on our blogs that should help. For those 2 extra days in London when you are not on a tour, I’d see what your tour plans are and see what else you might want to do. There are some wonderful free museums in London for just about any interest (e.g., National Gallery, British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, London City Museum, Imperial War Museum), loads of great theater and music in the West End, and walking tours can be a great way to get a good introduction to the city. You can take a look at our 2 day London itinerary and our 6 day London itinerary which give you more than enough ideas on attractions you might want to see in those 2 days. If you plan to go into a lot of paid attractions, I’d consider a London Pass which can save you money in attraction fees. Feel free to ask us any questions as you plan your free days in London and wishing you a great trip to the UK! Best, Jessica

Deborah Fung Post author

December 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Thank you for all the great tips and posts about the Oyster Card and getting around London! I am trying to apply for an Oyster Photo ID card for my 13 and 16 yo before our March 2018 trip to London. States that it takes 4 weeks. When try to complete “Create an account” on Oyster website, it does not allow US zip code.

Are we able to get a non-visitor Oyster card and load a 7 day travel card for them with the child discounts when we get to London? If so, should we do it at Heathrow airport when we arrive? (then we can take tube to our hotel?)

Also, any recommendations on where to stay if we want to use the most out of our London pass (also many thanks for your itinerary recommendations using a London Pass!) Appreciate any advice you have, thanks!

December 26, 2017 at 6:47 am

Hi Deborah,

Hmmm, you should still be able to create an account to order the Zip Oyster Cards for your children as long as they will both be under 18 at the time of your trip. The directions for overseas visitors says: “You need to apply online and you’ll need to collect it from a Visitor Centre.” I just tried and was able to put in United States details with no problem. In fact, the postcode is not required to sign up. Make sure you have the “Are you currently living in the UK? *” marked as “No” and enter your country of residence. Maybe try creating an account again? Here is the link below:

https://photocard.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/showLogon.do

You can’t get them shipped to your home as an overseas person so you will need to pick them up. Also you can’t register an overseas regular Oyster Card (although you can purchase a standard Oyster Card once in London) as an overseas visitor. But you should be able to order and process your children’s Zip cards online and track them. Let me know if you are able to get it to work. If it is still now allowing you to create the account, I would give them a call or email them for assistance because you should be able to do so.

Now if you are not able to do the above for any reason, you can get a Young Visitor discount applied to a normal Oyster card once in London. And yes, I would check the centre hours with regards to your flight arrival time, but you should be able to pick up the Oyster Cards at Heathrow Airport at one of the two Visitor Centres (I know you can’t get these discounts at Gatwick according to the website, but should at Heathrow).

If you’ve already read our suggested 6-day London itinerary , you can see we recommend a lot of different neighborhoods in London. Since you’ll have Oyster Cards, anything within a 30 to 35 minute commute by public transit to Westminster is a really central and great spot in London for this itinerary. Of course the further away, the better the prices may be. I would first start looking and finding hotels and accommodation that fit your budget and style. Then narrow down by checking locations from the central area (for example use Westminster Abbey as the point of reference) using Google maps and see if you can find something within a 35 minute public transit commute.

Note that the London Pass will be increasing in price soon so I’d recommend ordering them now online to get the current prices. There is also a current holiday sale online (up to 20% off) until the 27th!

Hope this helps and let me know if you are able to get the child Zip Photocards ordered online through the TfL website.

December 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Hello Jessica I tried your link and it worked! Better than through website itself. However, when I tried to apply for my 16 yo though, the fee was 20 pounds! Seems quite unreasonable, so I wouldn’t recommend for your travellers. Thanks for the other additional information in your reply. Your information has been invaluable. So grateful for your quick reply. Happy New Years!

December 26, 2017 at 3:16 pm

You’re very welcome and so glad it worked! Um, yes, sounds like the fee is not worth it for a short trip. Probably a better solution for those staying in London for a few weeks or longer to get their money worth. Was the fee the same for both of your children?

Happy to help and wishing you a wonderful trip to London!

Happy New Years! Jessica

Nat Post author

November 6, 2017 at 12:35 am

Hi Jessica, Thanks for the amazing information ypu have shared on this website regarding the oyster card and other travel cards.

I am planning a trip to London from Asia this December with two 4 yr olds. I would be grateful if you could detail me which card I should use to explore London city attractions and parks. Do we need to get a London pass as well or just the oyster card? Do I need to purchase it online before the trip? We will be there for 2 weeks. Please suggest an itinerary for our 2 week stay in London. We plan to stay at Wembley.

Thank you for these great informative posts.

November 7, 2017 at 1:38 am

Hi Nat, Glad that our posts about the Oyster Card and London Pass have been helpful. Now, for your children, since they are 4 years old, they will travel for free on public transit within London with you so they do not need a pass as long as they are traveling with an adult with an= valid Oyster Card. For adults, regarding public transit, you can purchase an Oyster Card in advance online or get one once you get to London. You also have the option to purchase it as part of the London Pass package. All these options are described in the article above with links to where it can be purchased.

Now, the Oyster Card is only for travel on public transit within London, it does not get you into any museums or attractions. For that you can purchase a London Pass. You can purchase the London Pass online in advance and have it delivered to your home before your trip and it is valid for 1 year. Or there is one place you can purchase it in-person once in London. The London Pass can be purchased just as an attractions pass, or you can also add on the Travel Option to it so that it also come with an Oyster Card. If you are planning to get both the London Pass and the Oyster Card, then it is probably most convenient to just order the London Pass + Travel package for you and any adults traveling with you. The kids, since they are only 4, again will get into most London attractions for free so they do not need a London Pass or Oyster Card.

In terms of things to do in London, we don’t have a 2-week itinerary, but we do have a 6-day itinerary that should keep you busy for at least a week and with kids, you’ll have to go a bit slower that suggested in the itinerary. Here are a couple of posts about the London Pass and a London itinerary to help you plan:

London Pass review & tips: https://independenttravelcats.com/tips-using-buying-london-pass-worth/ London suggested itinerary w/ walking maps: https://independenttravelcats.com/london-itinerary-6-days-in-london/

Hope this helps & happy travels to London! Jessica

November 7, 2017 at 2:58 am

That is awesome Jessica. You just made it so simple for us. I spent days looking at various websites which confused me more and more. Now I know I just have to get London pass with travel card and I will choose either Smartmobile option or pick up at London. Thank you for your excellent suggestions on how to tour in London. I will consider that for sure. Thank you once again!

November 7, 2017 at 7:53 am

Hi Nat, You’re very welcome, glad the information was helpful. If you want to do the London Pass with travel Card, you will need to either purchase it online (which you can then pick up in person in London for free with email confirmation) or purchase it in person once in London. You won’t be able to purchase the Mobile version for smartphones as it does NOT currently include the travel option since the Oyster card is a physical card. So the travel option available with the standard physical card purchased online or in person. Hope that makes sense and wishing you a great trip to London. Feel free to ask if you have any further questions! Best, Jessica

November 7, 2017 at 6:36 pm

okay..point well noted Jessica. Thanks!

Barb Post author

October 22, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Excellent job! Before I read your article, I read through various online articles (some clearly outdated) and became increasingly confused. Upon reading yours, I have a much better understanding of the various options (still a bit challenged on the “best” way we can leverage the various options given our travel plans – but at least I understand the options).

One question that I’m not clear on – when the discounts are calculated does it combine all types of eligible travel types/modes to determine the caps? Or for example are the caps determined by each transportation mode, i.e., are Bus trips a separate calculation from Underground trips, and separate from Light Rail trips, etc.?

Thank you for the great post!

October 23, 2017 at 3:37 am

Yes, the public transportation system in London is vast and a bit complicated in terms of options. And yes fares, tickets, routes, etc. change fairly often but we do try to keep the information as up to date as possible! Now for your question about the Oyster Card caps, the answer is a bit complicated. But if you plan to use the Underground, bus, and light rail then you can check the link for the capping rates for All services below. However, if you were only using the Bus & Tram (doesn’t seem likely based on your comment), then there is a different capping system for Oyster Cards. Information on both are below:

From the Price capping site ( https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/oyster/using-oyster/price-capping )

“The cap you’re charged depends on the type of transport you’ve used. There are different caps for:

1 – All services (bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail and most* National Rail journeys in London) 2 – Bus & Tram (bus and tram journeys only)”

Based on the above information and further research, we can see that:

For 1, all service, price caps are: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares.pdf . Journeys made on buses and trams are included in the caps. ( https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/fares/tube-dlr-lo-fares?intcmp=43916 )

For 2, If you only use the Bus and tram, there is a different cap: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/fares/bus-and-tram?intcmp=14944

Helen Pelosi Post author

October 22, 2017 at 12:03 am

Hi Jessica, how wonderful to find you! I have read all your info and the comments from others all very helpful. We will be in London in January for 7 days ( 2 couples from Australia) we arrive in London from Edinburgh by train and staying in Clapham. We will be sightseeing in London ( a friend who lives in London will be showing us around) but plan one day to visit friends near Reading . We will be flying home from Heathrow. I am thinking from your information that a regular Oyster card would be our best option.? Questions Can we buy the Oyster Card in Edinburgh ? Will we be able to use it to travel to Reading? What is best option to get to Heathrow? You suggested buying tickets online? What is difference in cost for Edinburgh to London? Best regards, Helen

October 23, 2017 at 3:31 am

Glad that our information on the Oyster Card and public transportation in London has been helpful. I will try to do my best to answer your questions.

1. You can’t physically buy the Oyster Card in Edinburgh as it is only sold in London. For online orders, it is only shipped to UK addresses. You might be able to order the standard Oyster Card and have it delivered to an address in Edinburgh and pick it up. However, it would probably be easier to just pick it up in person once in London at a vending machine or ticket office (you can buy it at most Underground, National Rail stations, Oyster ticket shops, visitor centers etc.). Alternatively, the Visitor Oyster Card, you can purchase it online and have it shipped anywhere including Australia (although you can’t buy it once you are in London). 2. No, unfortunately, the Oyster Card can only be used within London (Zones 1 to 9) so you will need to purchase a regular rail ticket to travel from London to Reading and back. 3. It depends where you traveling from in London that day, but the fastest way is generally the Heathrow Express and the cheapest way is the Underground. If you are trying to save money, I’d take the Underground to Heathrow and you can use your Oyster Card. The Oyster Card is not currently valid on the Heathrow Express. 4. For train tickets you can generally save money by booking train tickets in the UK in advance. The price differences can vary but generally lower fares are posted about 3 months or so in advance and tend to get more expensive the closer to the time, although there are of course exceptions.

Hope this helps, and wishing you and your travel partners, a great trip to Edinburgh and London!

Debbie Post author

September 27, 2017 at 4:43 am

I am travelling to London from Kent in October with my 12 year old daughter. We arrive Friday evening and Leave Sunday afternoon. My head is spinning with travel options – last time I went to London I just gave 30 pence to the bus driver. If I tell you what I plan to do perhaps you can tell me (in words of one syllable) if it is viable/sensible? OK, the plan is to: 1 .Buy return rail tickets on line in advance 2. Buy 2 blue oyster cards with £20 on each online. (Staying in Kings cross, Shopping in Oxford St., Camden etc.) 3. Go to ticket office when we get to London Bridge and have staff put child discount on 1 oyster card for my daughter. 4. I know I can use my debit card but I would rather be waving around my oyster card in public than my debit card! Any (simple) advice appreciated 🙂

September 27, 2017 at 5:22 am

Yes, traveling in London can be confusing as there are so many options and so many types of public transit. A good and bad thing! I think getting an Oyster Card is a good choice for you and I think your plan sounds like it would work fine. The only things I would add is that 1.) check out whether a Zip Oyster Card or just applying a child discount to a regular Oyster Card would be a better value for your daughter, and 2.) I would be sure to register both of your Oyster Cards online once you receive them in the mail to better protect them in case they are lost, stolen, or damaged.

See specific answers below to your questions:

1. Yes, buying train tickets in advance can definitely save you money in the UK! 2. Yes, I’d get a regular Oyster Card for you (not a Visitor one since it sounds like you live in the UK) and then you can top them off as needed at the Underground stations if you use more than the £20. For your daughter, I’d check the difference online between applying for the Zip Oyster photocard versus the Young Visitor discount applied to a normal Oyster card. As she is 12, a Zip Oyster Card (she could use until age 16) would give her free travel on any bus or tram in London plus child rate on most other forms of transit (Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line and most National Rail services in London). 3. Yes, that is a good plan if you want to apply a child discount to a normal Oyster Card. If you get a Zip Oyster card, it should work just like the regular Oyster Cards and you should be able to top them off in self-service Tube machines, at ticket windows, or online. 4. Yes, definitely can be safer. I’d register your Oyster Cards online once you have them to better protect them if lost or stolen and then you can also track your credit, top them off, and get other information online from your account.

Hope this helps, and wishing you a fun and safe trip to London! Jessica

Tamara Post author

September 4, 2017 at 11:48 am

This information is so awesome! Thank you so much. Next month, my husband and I are traveling to London, then to Southhampton for a cruise. We will stay in Paddington for 2 days, then 1 night in Southhampton before the cruise. Since Southhampton isn’t in the city of London, would we be able to travel from Paddington to Waterloo with the Oyster card, then take a train to Southhampton that I heard about? Not sure how that works.

September 4, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Hi Tamara, Ok, so you are staying near Paddington station in London and then heading to Southampton correct? You can use the Oyster Card to travel from Paddington to Waterloo station but you can’t use it to get to Southampton as it is way too far outside of London. So once you get to Waterloo, you will need to purchase a regular train ticket for your journey onto Southampton (you can buy at the station or book in advance online). Normally it is cheaper to book in advance online if you can. Have a great time in London and enjoy your cruise – we were just in Southampton about a week ago 😉 For tips on things to do in London you can check out our 2 day London itinerary and our more detailed 6 day London itinerary . Best, Jessica

September 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Thanks so much. Any tips on what train we should select in Waterloo for our trip to Southampton? I will definitely check out the two day London itinerary. Anything fun to do in Southampton?

September 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Hi Tamara, Any Overground train will be about the same and takes about 1 hour 15 min to 1 hr 30 min- just depends on the date/time and which station you want to arrive into in Southampton. You can put your details into the Transport for London journey planner for the options. We were actually there on our way to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight so don’t have any recs but I would stop in at the tourism office for some suggestions and a walking map. Enjoy your trip, Jessica

soo Post author

August 13, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Is it cheaper for me to load a 1 month travel card into my Oyster card as I will be staying in London for almost 7 weeks? Most travels will be in zones 1 and 2 with a few days to zone 4.

August 14, 2017 at 11:25 am

Hi Soo, It depends on who much you are traveling and I would compare the daily fare X the number of times you think you’ll be traveling each week and then compare that cost against the 1 month travel card to see which will be the better value for you. If you are making a few trips each day on public transit then you’ll probably save money with a monthly Travelcard. If you already have a registered Oyster Card, you can purchase and add the Travelcard online or at a station. Best, Jessica

Subodh Mehta Post author

August 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm

The best-written description and advice I have found so far about Oyster cards. Thanks a lot, Jessica and Laurence, is really useful. I am taking a trip to London with my wife for 5 days in September in two parts. Oyster card seems a very good option. Not sure about London pass as I have read opposing views on the pass.I will explore this site further for other parts of Europe too.

August 12, 2017 at 1:43 am

Hi Subodh, Thanks for taking the time to comment. Glad that you found this article useful and glad it helped you decide about whether or not to get an Oyster Card for your trip to London. The London Pass is typically a good value and will save you money if you plan to visit a number of attractions. However, it depends on your time in London as it has to be used on consecutive days. So if you are in London for 3 days and then 2 days, I would recommend checking out the 3-day London Pass . The potential money savings increases with the pass duration. Enjoy your trip to London! Best, Jessica

Sue K Post author

July 1, 2017 at 7:41 am

We are two couples travelling together in our 60 s we have Oyster cards from our previous visits Is it possible for us to load our cards before we arrive in London We will only be there 4 days but in the past found plenty of use for them was hoping to load on line if possible. Cheers Sue

July 1, 2017 at 7:43 am

The short answer is that it depends but you are probably not able to add credit online unless you have a UK address. If you have a Visitor Oyster Card, then there is no way to top them up online. However, if you have a standard Oyster Card then you can register them online and top them up when logged into your account; however, I believe you need to have a UK address to be able to have an online account. If you have a UK address, you can find out more about that here .

If you are not living in the UK (or purchased a Visitor Oyster Card), it is easy to top up your Oyster Card at any of the Underground stations through the machines. This is what I would recommend doing as it is very easy to do it at the machines and probably quicker than registering and topping up online if you don’t live in London or visit that often.

John Post author

June 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

Hi. You cover an enormous amount here on London Oyster cards but there is one more little thing please. I have a visitor Oyster card from a previous trip. Now my wife and I are heading to London for 4 days. Can we both operate off the one card or does my wife need her own. Obviously if we use just one we will need to top it up with more credit than if just I use it. It would mean we don’t need to get a standard Oyster card on arrival and not pay 5 pound ( even though it is refundable – just less hassle using just one ).

June 18, 2017 at 6:31 am

Hi John, Glad this was helpful to you. In terms of your question about two people using one London Oyster card, unfortunately only one person can use a Oyster Card at a time to travel. If you are traveling at separate times, you could potentially then share the same card but if you are traveling together you cannot as it will tag on and off every time you swipe it. So your wife will need to get a Oyster card or buy individual tickets to travel with you. In terms of current fees, the blue standard Oyster card has a refundable £5 deposit that you can have refunded when you are done with it. The Visitor Oyster card has a non-refundable £3 activation fee. So if you want you can get the £5 deposit refunded to you at the end of your trip. The great thing about both cards is that you can save them and use them on future trips and just keep adding credit. Hope this helps and have a great time in London! Best, Jessica

Carrie Johnstone Post author

May 25, 2017 at 6:22 am

Hi there! Great article but I’m still confused as to which one will be best. We have two adults, one 17 and one fifteen year old. We will be traveling to London from Edinburgh on a train. We will have a half day after the train, and 4 full days of site seeing and leaving Sunday morning from Gatwick (so to be able to get to Gatwick would be helpful). I’d like to be able to ride during the busy times so we can get to the sites early. I’ll probably buy us all a 6 day London Pass as well. Do I need a Visitor or Standard Oyster card? Do I need a Travel card for a trip of that duration since I’m not there a full week? What are your recommendations?

May 25, 2017 at 7:55 am

The differences between the two Oyster Cards can be confusing. Since you are in the city for less than 7 days and won’t need to use the travelcards, there is not a whole lot of difference between the two types of Oyster cards for adults. If you are already buying the London Passes, I’d just purchase the London Passes + Travel for the adults.

However, for the kids, since they are over 11, they are not eligible for free travel on your cards, but as noted in the post, you can apply to get them special IDs (Zip Oyster photocards) so they receive free and discounted travel in London. You do need to apply for this ahead of time (4 weeks or more in advance if based outside UK). I would recommend doing that if you can. However, if you do not/cannot apply for the Zip Oyster photocards, you can choose to just get them a regular Visitor Oyster Card (would come with the London Pass for your 17 year old), use the off-peak child travelcard (it also comes with the London Pass for 11-15 year olds, but does have some time restrictions), or purchase child tickets as you go. The first will save you time as you just tap it and go (and refill as needed), the second one gives you the child rates but is restricted during peak hours (if you are traveling during morning rush hour you may need to purchase a separate ticket), or you can just pay for tickets as you go (may save you money vs. the Oyster card, but takes more time). There is currently no regular Oyster Card for kids.

The Oyster cards can be used to get to Gatwick (underground and National Rail) from central London (e.g., Kings Cross, Victoria Station) and it is pay as you go so I’d advise traveling during off-peak hours if you can to save money. The cards can also be used on the Gatwick Express train to the airport; however, it costs £19.80 for a single journey.

Since you are coming from Edinburgh, it is easy for you to either pick the passes up in London on arrival or you can have them mailed to you beforehand (if you were flying in it is often better to have them beforehand so you can use them to get into the city).

Hope this helps and hope you have a great time in Edinburgh (our current home!) and London,

Arnaud Post author

April 17, 2017 at 11:18 am

Great tips! There is one thing that would need to be updated on your article. Fares with the Oyster Card have been changed since you published this, the daily fee is now £6.60, while a 7-day pass costs £33. I really like your blog!

April 18, 2017 at 4:23 am

Hi Arnaud, Thanks so much for the updated prices. I have updated the post with the new Oyster Card pass fees – £33 for a 7-day pass and the daily cap of £6.60. ~ Jessica

Kevin Post author

January 5, 2017 at 6:57 am

Great info! We will be traveling with two 10 year olds for a week in April. Would it be worth it to preorder the child oyster card (zipOyster I believe it’s called)? We will mostly remain in London, but we will need to take the train in from Gatwick and are planning a day out to the Harry Potter studios. I’m wondering if it would be worth the 20 pounds to be able to tap in and out rather then have an attendant let them through. Thanks for any help!

travelcats Post author

January 5, 2017 at 7:31 am

Glad you found our London Oyster card post helpful; it can be a bit tricky! Note that you can take the Underground (Tube) to Watford Junction station with the Oyster Card to connect to the Warner Brothers Studio Harry Potter Studio tour shuttle without needing to buy any tickets.

In your case, my guess is that the cost savings will probably be similar to the £20 you spend on the Zip Photos Cards for 5-10 year olds, but it depends a bit on which service you take from Gatwick as the Gatwick Express is the most expensive and the other Rail trains are less expensive for both adults and children. I would examine how much it will cost you to buy the tickets at full price and then how much at the child rate in the few instances you plan to travel outside of Oyster card coverage. You can check single fares for tickets here . The other thing to double check is whether or not the Visitor Center at Gatwick will be open when you arrive into London as you’ll need to pick up the Zip Photocards if you apply for them; so for instance if you arrive late at night into the airport you won’t be able to use them for your Gatwick travels. In terms of getting through barriers, we have never had much problem with staff letting people through as most stations are well staffed at gated stations and there is often a wider aisle lane that is unlocked designated for wheelchair users/families/dog owners etc. in case there are no staff handy. If you decide not to get a Zip card for your children, I would also recommend always having proof of their ages handy just in case you need to show they are under 11 years of age. You may get asked to verify their ages if they look older for the child-rate train tickets. Best and happy travels to London! Jessica

Different Shores Post author

November 20, 2016 at 12:26 am

Very useful guide. I needed this when I was in London. I didn’t know what to do so just paid contactless everywhere and got charged loads…

November 20, 2016 at 5:13 am

Glad you enjoyed it and hope it helps you on your next trip to London. Although if you used a contactless payment card on yoru list trip, the fares and capping is similar to an Oyster card so you were probably charged the same as if you used an Oyster card, but it is good to check it out before your next trip! Best, Jessica

Sally@Toddlers on Tour Post author

November 18, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Great advice on how to use the Oyster Card. Often these public transport cards have so many rules and regulations it just becomes too hard for the traveller.

November 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Hi Sally, Yes, with a city as big as London with so many public transportation options, it can be a bit complicated. Although I do have to say that having an Oyster card makes it a lot easier (no purchasing of individual tickets or needing to wait in line for tickets) than in many cities. Hopefully this post will help future travelers use their Oyster cards in London! ~ Jessica

Anisa Post author

November 18, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Wow this is definitely the most comprehensive post I have read on Oyster cards. I travel to London frequently and I didn’t even know there was a visitor card. I have the regular Oyster card and I did not know a lot of this. Thanks so much for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

November 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Hi Anisa, Yes, there are the two main types of Oyster cards, but they essentially work the same way. One of the advantages of the standard Oyster card is that you can add the travelcards and passes which can be great if you are staying in London for a week or more. If you have a UK address, I would recommend registering your card to protect it in case of theft or loss if you have not done so already. This also allows you to do more things online like track your travel and add credit! Best, Jessica

annette charlton Post author

November 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Thanks for all this info! I seem to collect Oyster Cards… we bring them home after each trip from England but don’t always remember to pack them in the suitcases when returning. Because we are a family of five I am inevitably buying one or two more each trip for the kids. I have a fortune in UK pounds sitting in my top drawer on all our Oyster Cards… LOL !!

November 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Hi Annette, Yes, it sounds like you are probably losing money on Oyster cards so you may want to just get the refunds for the unpaid balances before you leave each time if you have that many cards. Also, if you have children, you can be getting significant discounts on their fares (or they could be riding for free on you Oyster card) depending on their ages. A lot of visitors don’t know about the discounts or how to claim unused credit. Enjoy your next trip to London! Best, Jessica

Paul and Carole Post author

November 18, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for this useful information, we are visiting for 5 days in April so will Pin this for future reference! Thanks for sharing. #TheWeeklyPostcard

November 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Hi Paul & Carole, Since you guys live in the UK, you probably have a contactless card that will work on the London public transit. It essentially works the same as an Oyster card but you can just use your own card you already own. If you already have an Tlf account for an Oyster card, you can simply add your contactless card to it as well. Here is a link to Laurence’s using Contactless versus Oyster card for London transit post which may be useful before your trip. ~ Jessica

November 19, 2016 at 3:02 am

Thanks for the tip regarding the contactless card didn’t know that. Will check out Laurence’s post. Thanks again for the tip!

November 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

You’re very welcome. That article should help you decide whether an Oyster card or a contactless card is best for you as there are some situations where contactless isn’t a good option (e.g., if you are eligible for a discounted fare). ~ Jessica

Anda Post author

November 18, 2016 at 1:01 pm

I don’t think the Oyster Card existed when I was in London. It’s the first time I hear about it, but it seems like a very convenient way to use London’s public transportation. Great information!

November 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Hi Anda, I think the Oyster card was first introduced in 2003 although pretty limited in its use back then. Until recently about 80% of public transit was being done with an Oyster card, but now they are starting to decline in use. Transport for London introduced contactless card readers in 2015 and hope to push those now and phase out cash, paper tickets, and Oyster cards. However, contactless cards only work if you have one and not all international contactless cards are compatible and many charge international transaction fees, making Oyster cards still the better option for many travelers. One thing is certain, things just keep changing! ~ Jessica

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Tourist Card for London: How to buy it?

Find all the information about tourist cards for London in this article: prices, options, characteristics, and so much more!

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October 28, 2023

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If you are planning to visit London and you want to save time and money while hanging out in this emblematic city, getting a tourist card can be a great option. These cards offer discounts and free access to many of the most popular attractions in London, as well as the possibility of using public transportation at no additional cost. There are different types of cards for London. Some of them are aimed at specific attractions, while others include additional discounts in restaurants and stores. In this article, we are going to explore all the possible options and help you pick the one that best suits your needs.

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Buy an international eSIM for traveling to London with 5% OFF. Code: MYESIMNOW5

What tourist cards are available in London?

London is a city full of beautiful places to see that brings together millions of travelers every year. To help you during your trip and make the most of your stay, many tourist cards offer a wide range of benefits, such as discounts on places of interest, unlimited public transport, and free entrance to museums and galleries. These cards are a great option for those who want to save money and time while exploring the city.

We recommend you check the information below, to learn more about some of the options you have available.

London Pass

This is a tourist card that offers free entry to more than 80 popular London attractions, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Westminster Abbey. It also includes access to double-decker tour buses and cruises on the Thames. The London Pass is available for periods of 1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 days, and it also comes with discounts at selected restaurants and shops.

London Explorer Pass

The London Explorer Pass is another tourist card that offers free entry to some tourist attractions in London, which you can actually choose from a list of more than 20 monuments, marvels and sites . You can also enjoy discounts at favored restaurants and stores. The London Explorer Pass is available in 3, 4, 5, or 7 attraction versions.

The eSIM card for London

This tourist card, but the eSIM or Virtual SIM card for London is a very necessary tool for travelers. It will let you avoid the expensive international roaming service or rent uncomfortable pocket WiFi and connect to the internet all the time for an incredible price. You will find more information about it at the end of this article.

What attractions do tourist cards for London include?

London tower

Tourist cards for London offer a wide range of attractions and activities included in their price. Most of them offer free access to the most emblematic places in the city, such as Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye, the British Museum, and more. Also, some tourist cards offer discounts for additional restaurants, shops, and tours.

It is important to tell you that each tourist card has different terms and conditions, and also different durations. So, it is important that you carefully check each option and pick the one that best suits your needs.

How do I activate and use the tourist card for London?

Once you have bought your London tourist card, the activation process is really simple. Most tourist cards are activated when they are scanned at the first attraction or public transport used. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that most tourist cards have an expiration date and are only valid for a certain time.

Which tourist card is better for kids?

The eye of London

If you are traveling with kids, it is very important to pick a tourist card that includes attractions that are great and interesting for kids. For example, the London Pass offers free entry to points of interest such as the London Zoo, the Natural History Museum, the London Aquarium, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, all of which are popular with children. It also offers a free children’s map with activities and games to enjoy along the way.

Another popular option is the London Explorer Pass, which lets visitors choose from a selection of popular attractions to create their own personalized schedule. Kids can enjoy attractions such as the Tower of London, the Thames River Cruise, Kensington Palace, and more.

Do tourist cards for London include public transport?

When you have to decide which tourist card is best for you, it is important to consider if you’re going to need public transportation and whether it includes it or not. Because this is a huge benefit, you can save a lot of time and money than if you decide to buy the tickets separately. Also, using public transport, you can easily reach the attractions included in the tourist card and improve your experience in London.

Although most cards have this service included, it is important to know that some tourist cards may have limits on the time you can use public transport. For example, the London Pass offers unlimited travel on public transport during the card’s validity period , while the iVenture Card includes a limited number of public transport journeys depending on the type of card you purchased. If you are interested in learning more and getting additional information, we invite you to read the following comparative table:

eSIM card for London: which is the best one?

If you are planning to travel to London, you need to be connected all the time during your trip. So, instead of buying a local SIM card or an expensive international roaming service, we recommend you get the Holafly eSIM card for London .

With it, you will be able to activate it on your cellphone and connects to the internet with a cellular network that covers all United Kingdom using the Vodafone network, one of the best cellular operators in the country. One of the main advantages that the Holafly eSIM card offers is that it lets you keep your number.

Finally, the amount of data that this eSIM card offers is one of the main differences between its competitors because instead of paying for a limited GB of cellular data, with the Holafly eSIM card you will have unlimited data during your whole trip to London. You can choose from 5 to 90 days, depending on how long you are going to stay in London.

You may be interested to know about the best eSIMs for Galway .

How to pick the best tourist card for London?

To pick the best card for London, you have to consider many factors. We recommend you pick the one that best suits your needs and travel preferences.

Keep in mind the following aspects:

  • The duration of your stay: consider the number of days you are going to stay in London.
  • The attractions you want to visit: each tourist card has different attractions, pick the one that best suits your needs.
  • Price: make sure that the card you choose suits your budget.

If you are also worrying about the internet, with the eSIM card we previously mentioned, you won’t have to worry about that anymore.  With it, you will be able to connect to unlimited cellular data during your trip.

Our recommendation

If you are planning your trip to London, a tourist card and an eSIM card are great companions. With a wide variety of attractions and benefits, you can visit most tourist places without having to worry about prices. Also, the Holafly eSIM card offers the best way to connect to the internet all the time.

If you are interested in acquiring an Holafly eSIM card and a tourist card, we recommend you click on the following link and make your purchase! Easy as pie. Get your eSIM and tourist card, and enjoy your trip to London!

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Do you need a visa to go to the United Kingdom?

James March

Jun 25, 2022 • 3 min read

Group of people walking along cliff edge looking at city views. Edinburgh Castle in the distance

Here's the visa info you need for a visit to Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland © Andrew Merry / Getty Images

Traveling between England , Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland reveals both the shared culture and distinct local flavors that contribute to the UK . Save for the occasional inconvenience of long lines at passport control and security, entering and leaving the UK was fairly straightforward in the past. Now, due to Brexit, information on visa requirements has changed for EU citizens and immigration restrictions are often on the news in the UK. It's essential to check with your local British embassy, high commission or consulate before leaving home.

What you need to know about visas in the UK

The UK government has a handy online guide to help you check if you need a UK visa . Britain is not a member of the Schengen Zone, so you will need to show your passport when arriving and leaving from a UK border point.

Visas are generally not needed for stays of up to six months for tourism or visiting friends and family. This applies to citizens of the EEA (European Economic Area) nations, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and the USA.

Following Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme is the system that EU citizens who are already living in the UK need to follow, but there is also a family permit you can apply for if you’re a family member of someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. ​​It lets you come to the UK for up to 6 months. You can work and study, and come and go as many times as you want before the permit expires.

Anyone wishing to work, do business or academic research in the UK will need to apply for a visa, as will students wishing to study for longer than six months. The Youth Mobility Scheme , for Australian, Canadian, Japanese, Hong Kong, Monégasque, New Zealand, Sammarinese and Icelandic citizens aged 18 to 30, allows working visits of up to two years, but must be applied for in advance. Those coming from Hong Kong (if you have a SAR passport), Japan, South Korea and Taiwan must be selected in the Youth Mobility Scheme ballot before they can apply.

Tourists from China, India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and many other destinations , will need to apply for the Standard Visitor visa . It lasts six months, costs £100 and must be applied for online in advance of travel. A decision is usually provided within three weeks. Applications to extend your stay must be made before your visa runs out, but there are strict limitations. If you know you want to be in the UK beyond six months, it's best to apply for the more costly long-term Standard Visitor visa, which lasts for two (£376), five (£670) or ten (£837) years.

Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born parent may be eligible for Right of Abode , which entitles them to live and work in the UK. You can only get the right to abode through marriage if you’re a female Commonwealth citizen. Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born grandparent could qualify for a UK Ancestry visa, allowing them to work full-time for up to five years in the UK. You should get a decision on your visa within three weeks when applying from outside the UK and the fee is £531.

British immigration authorities have always been tough; you may be required to demonstrate proof of onward travel or an outbound departure date (for example, a flight booking home), and possibly evidence that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while in Britain.

This article was first published Mar 16, 2021 and updated Jun 25, 2022.

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Stephanie Zito is a professional traveler, self-employed humanitarian consultant and collector of credit card points. She shares savvy travel tips that she’s learned firsthand circling the globe for more than 25 years. She’s a backpacker, expect and premium traveler who’s visited more than 130 countries and all seven continents. Her life motto is “See the world, change the world, have fun doing it!” and her mission is to inspire others along the journey.

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Travel credit cards help you earn valuable points and miles on your purchases. For maximum value, some cards earn rewards not only on travel, but also everyday purchases like dining, groceries and gas. You can redeem these rewards for free or discounted flights, hotel stays or to cover other travel-related expenses.

The best travel cards also come with additional features. Even no-annual-fee travel cards are likely to offer perks like sign-up bonuses, intro APR offers and travel insurance. But for top-of-the-line benefits like airport lounge access, elite status and travel credits, expect to pay an annual fee.

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Bankrate's Best Travel Credit Cards of June 2024

  • Best starter travel card:  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Best for flat-rate rewards:  Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for luxury travel:  The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Best for no annual fee:  Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card  ( See Rates & Fees )
  • Best for foodies:  American Express® Gold Card
  • Best for everyday spending: Citi Strata Premier℠ Card
  • Best for intro APR:  Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
  • Best for point values:  Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Best for practical perks:  Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
  • Best for pairing:  Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Best for hotel bookings: Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card
  • Best no-annual-fee hotel card:  Hilton Honors American Express Card
  • Best luxury hotel card:  Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card
  • Best for transfer partners:  Bilt Mastercard®
  • Best for gas:  Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
  • Best for companion tickets:  Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Best starter airline card:  Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  • Best for expedited security screening:  Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
  • Best for first-year value:  Discover it® Miles
  • Best for fair credit:  Credit One Bank Wander® Card
  • What to know about travel credit cards
  • Tips for choosing the best travel card

Travel credit card perks

How do credit card points and miles work.

  • Expert advice on travel cards

How we assess the best travel credit cards

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Best starter travel card

Image of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Our writers, editors and industry experts score credit cards based on a variety of factors including card features, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers have no say or influence on how we rate cards.

Intro offer

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

We calculate this number by multiplying the card's intro offer by Bankrate's valuation of this issuer's rewards program , showing you how much your points or miles are worth in dollars.

Rewards rate

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠. 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries. 2x on all other travel purchases. 1x on all other purchases.

Regular APR

  • 5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠.
  • 3x 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries.
  • 2x 2x on all other travel purchases.
  • 1x 1x on all other purchases.

What we love: This popular card comes loaded with features that can make it easy even for occasional travelers to offset the modest $95 annual fee without eating into hard-earned rewards. Plus, its rewards program is one of the best, giving you some of the most valuable travel redemptions — through both Chase and transfer partners — and Chase card pairing opportunities if you want to build your card portfolio eventually. Learn more: Why expert Margaret Weck loves using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Alternatives:   If you’re looking for an even simpler travel card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a terrific option. Its flat rewards rate makes it easy to know exactly how much you’ll earn with every purchase and though it can’t match the Sapphire Preferred’s redemption flexibility, it offers more redemption options than the typical travel rewards card. 

  • You earn Ultimate Rewards points with this card — some of the most valuable and flexible rewards around, especially if you pair it with Chase’s cash back cards in the future.
  • The card touts significant long-term benefits like anniversary bonus points and travel credits, as well as travel protections like trip cancellation insurance and a car rental collision damage waiver.
  • Doesn’t offer airline- or hotel-specific perks like free checked bags, elite status or free night stays.
  • The sign-up bonus is decent, but the card has previously offered higher, chart-topping bonus points.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Best for flat-rate rewards

Image of Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

New Venture cardholders can earn 75,000 miles once they spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

2 Miles - 5 Miles

  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2 Miles 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

What we love: It’s a great option for travelers looking for a straightforward rewards program and flexible redemption options. You'll earn unlimited miles on all eligible spending and can redeem not only for travel bookings, but also as a statement credit to cover travel purchases made in the past 90 days. Learn more: Why expert Jacqueline DeMarco loves the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Alternatives: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a higher rewards rate in some everyday spending categories and potentially more valuable points. Chase points are worth 1.25 cents each if you redeem for travel through Chase, while Capital One miles are only worth 1 cent each when you redeem for travel. Plus, Chase rewards are more helpful for occasional travelers since you can redeem as cash back at 1-cent-per-point value.

  • Carries solid perks given its low annual fee, including expedited airport purchase security and hotel experience credits, lost luggage reimbursement and more.
  • Zero foreign transaction fees make this an excellent choice for international travelers.
  • You can’t offset the annual fee with annual travel credits or bonuses alone as you can with some rival cards.
  • The card’s sign-up bonus carries a high spending requirement, so it may be tough to earn if you don’t have large purchases on the horizon.
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs

Best for luxury travel

Image of The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

What we love: Luxury travelers and big spenders will appreciate the bevy of travel benefits, including annual statement credits worth around $1,700, elite hotel loyalty status and access to perhaps the most comprehensive airport lounge access available with a credit card. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Platinum Card® from American Express Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers a taste of luxury at a lower cost than many premium travel cards. You can unlock a generous rewards rate on both travel and general purchases, complimentary access to popular airport lounge memberships and valuable annual travel credits and anniversary miles.

  • Comes with a generous welcome offer and a longer time period to earn it compared to most rewards cards.
  • A robust line-up of airline and hotel partners and related perks make this card truly valuable for travelers.
  • The $695 annual fee may not be worth it if you don’t spend much on travel frequently or can’t take full advantage of the card’s luxury — and often niche — perks.
  • Redeeming and maximizing the card’s credit and benefits requires some legwork and can be a bit confusing.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

Best for no annual fee

Image of Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel

5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

1.25 Miles - 5 Miles

  • 1.25 Miles 1.25 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

What we love: This card offers some of the same advantages as the Capital One Venture, without the burden of an annual fee. It gives you the chance to earn flat-rate miles on your everyday spending and the option to transfer miles to over 15 loyalty program partners to even cover travel purchases outside Capital One — a unique level of redemption flexibility for a starter travel card. Learn more: Reasons to get the VentureOne Rewards Card Alternatives: A general-purpose flat-rate credit card that offers 2X points or 2 percent cash back on all purchases may bring more value if you don’t travel often and aren’t ready to upgrade to a travel rewards credit card with an annual fee. However, the Discover it® Miles earns a flat-rate 1.5X miles that can also be redeemed for cash back at 1-cent per mile, which is unusual for travel rewards.

  • The welcome offer is generous for a no-annual-fee travel credit card.
  • Booking hotel stays and rental cars through Capital One Travel nets you an impressive 5X miles.
  • Unlike several no-annual-fee travel cards, redeeming for non-travel purchases waters down your rewards’ value.
  • Capital One has no major U.S. carrier in its line-up of travel partners.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR after that; balance transfer fee applies

Best for foodies

Image of American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

What we love: Few credit cards are more rewarding for traveling foodies than the American Express Gold Card. Both the food-related annual credits and the rewards rates at restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and on flights booked directly with airlines or via the Amex travel portal are some of the best on the market. In fact, the up to $240 in credits each year alone nearly make up for the annual fee. Learn more: Why the Amex Gold is worth the annual fee Alternatives: If the Amex Gold Card’s annual fee sounds high, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card . It carries key travel perks, high travel and dining rewards rates, and a much lower annual fee.

  • This card features one of the best rewards return rates available on dining, groceries and food deliveries.
  • There is no preset spending limit, so you can enjoy extended purchasing power, and you also have the option to pay off purchases with Pay Over Time if necessary.
  • Although the card touts a solid collection of travel perks, it doesn’t include popular premium card perks like airport lounge access or trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
  • Only eligible airfare earns more than 1X points, while rival cards often earn similar (or higher) reward rates on hotel stays and other travel purchases as well.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.

Best for everyday spending

Image of Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

  • Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com

Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com. Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations. Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • 10X Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com.
  • 3X Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations.
  • 1X Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

What we love: This card’s high rewards rate in everyday bonus categories makes it an especially good choice for occasional travelers and people looking for a standalone rewards card. Its practical bonus categories mean you can earn rewards quickly, even if you don’t actually spend a ton on travel. Alternatives:   As long as you don’t mind buying groceries online, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be an even more lucrative everyday rewards card. That’s thanks mostly to its high point redemption value (1.25 cents per point when you use points to book travel with Chase, versus just 1 cent per point when you book with Citi using the Strata Premier).

  • It’s one of the only travel cards that offers a high rewards rate on groceries, dining and gas, so it should work well whether it’s your standalone card or just one part of your card stack.
  • Its annual hotel benefit carries enough value to potentially offset the annual fee on its own.
  • The annual hotel benefit, though generous, isn’t very flexible: You’ll only get the $100 discount if you book a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) through CitiTravel.com.
  • Based on Bankrate’s latest point and mile valuations, Citi ThankYou rewards carry a lower average redemption value than Chase, Amex and Capital One rewards.
  • Earn 10 points per $1 spent on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked on CitiTravel.com.
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases, at Restaurants, Supermarkets, Gas and EV Charging Stations.
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • $100 Annual Hotel Benefit: Once per calendar year, enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) when booked through CitiTravel.com. Benefit applied instantly at time of booking.
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases

Best for intro APR

Image of Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.

What we love: This entry-level travel card keeps things simple for occasional travelers. It offers simple flat-rate rewards and lets you redeem for a broad mix of travel options not typically available on many travel cards, such as cash back toward purchases with travel agencies,  zoos, art galleries and more. It’s even more valuable if you’re a Bank of America customer and can qualify for a rewards boost through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program. Learn more: Is the Bank of America Travel Rewards card worth it? Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card is another great starter travel card, but, unlike many cards in this category, it lets you transfer your miles to airline and hotel partners, potentially for a higher redemption value.

  • Its easy-to-earn sign-up bonus and intro APR offers give this card good short-term value.
  • No annual fees or foreign transaction fees sweeten this offer.
  • It only offers 1.5X points on purchases, and you can’t transfer points can’t to airline partners for more rewards value, so it may not be as lucrative as competing cards.
  • The top tiers of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards® program may be out of reach for many cardholders.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.

Best for point values

Image of Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠. Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • 10x Earn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠.
  • 5x Earn 5x total points on flights through Chase Travel℠.
  • 3x Earn 3x points on other travel and dining.
  • 1x Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

What we love: Rewards-savvy travelers will be hard-pressed to find a card with better rewards potential than the Sapphire Reserve. Points are worth 50 percent more through Chase Travel, and potentially more with the right transfer partner. It’s a stellar partner for Chase’s cash back cards and stacks on even more value with enough perks to recoup the annual fee without relying on hard-earned rewards. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Alternatives: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers some of the same key perks as the Sapphire Reserve at a much lower cost. Along with a generous rewards rate on both Capital One Travel and general purchases, the card boasts valuable, practical benefits like competitive airport lounge access , up to $300 in annual Capital One Travel credits and 10,000 bonus miles every year on your account anniversary.

  • You can kickstart your rewards bank with one of the most valuable sign-up bonuses on the market.
  • Its top-tier benefits include up to $300 in annual travel statement credits, Priority Pass airport lounge access, exhaustive travel protections and stand-out partner perks.
  • The card’s cost could be a deterrent for some new cardholders, especially if they plan on encountering adding multiple authorized users.
  • You won’t get as many luxury hotel and airport lounge perks with this card as you would with some of its rivals.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®

Best for practical perks

Image of Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

2 Miles - 10 Miles

  • 10 Miles 10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5 Miles 5 Miles per dollar on flights booked through Capital One Travel

What we love: This is the perfect middleground for travelers who want the practical benefits from luxury travel cards without dealing with bloated features and an annual fee upwards of $500. It offers complimentary lounge access, high-earning bonus rewards categories, anniversary credits and bonus miles, which can easily make the card worth it for frequent travelers. Learn more: Capital One Venture X Benefits Guide Alternatives: If a higher annual fee is no issue, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express. It’s a top choice for frequent travelers thanks to its impressive welcome offer and luxury perks like annual travel credits, lounge access and hotel elite status. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® may be better if your luxury travel experience calls for racking up more rewards.

  • Offers anniversary bonus miles and a chance to earn credits worth hundreds of dollars starting at your first account anniversary.
  • Comes with complimentary lounge access at over 1,300 lounges for you and two guests per visit.
  • To earn the anniversary credit, travel must be booked through the Capital One Travel portal. That’s not as flexible as some other cards, which offer credits that cover any travel purchases, regardless of how you book.
  • Lacks some perks found on other premium travel cards like airline or hotel elite status, which can get you benefits like free checked bags or room upgrades.
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more

Best for pairing

Image of Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service 1.5% on all other purchases

  • 5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
  • 3% 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service
  • 1.5% 1.5% on all other purchases

What we love: Not only does it earn 1.5 percent cash back on general spending, but it also has a bonus cash back rate for drugstores and dining at restaurants. And if you pair it with one or two premium Chase travel cards, you could pool your rewards for better travel redemption value.  Learn more: Why I love the Chase Freedom Unlimited Alternatives: If you want to take advantage of even more rewarding cash back categories and remain in the Chase family, consider the Chase Freedom Flex℠ .

  • You can pool rewards with other Chase cards to maximize your earnings.
  • The additional rewards rate offer can add even more cash back to your pocket for the first year.
  • The welcome offer isn’t as competitive as other cards’ offers.
  • Maximizing rewards with this and other Chase cards can get complicated for people who like simple rewards programs.
  • Intro Offer: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
  • Keep tabs on your credit health, Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, alerts, and more.

Best for hotel bookings

Image of Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph Journey℠ Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s $600 toward your next trip.

Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels Earn unlimited 4X points on airlines Earn unlimited 3X points on other travel and restaurants Earn 1X points on other purchases

  • 5X Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels
  • 4X Earn unlimited 4X points on airlines
  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on other travel and restaurants
  • 1X Earn 1X points on other purchases

What we love: It offers a great rewards rate on hotel bookings and gives you a chance to earn a $50 annual statement credit with a $50 minimum airline purchase. Add in a solid rate on airline purchases, other travel and restaurants and this card carries great value as a standalone mid-tier card for occasional travelers. Alternatives: If you want to earn travel rewards but don’t actually spend much on hotels and airfare, the lower-tier Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card is also worth a look. Though it earns also rewards on travel, it boasts a great mix of other practical everyday categories (including gas stations).

  • You can transfer points to Wells Fargo’s new list of airline and hotel partners, including popular programs like British Airways Executive Club, Choice Privileges and more, which could boost the redemption value of your rewards.
  • The $50 annual statement credit offsets more than half the card’s $95 annual fee and should be a cinch to earn if you fly at least once per year.
  • Wells Fargo only offers one other card that earns travel rewards (the Autograph), and there is some category overlap between the two, so they may not be as lucrative as some competing card stacks.
  • The card doesn’t carry some popular travel perks available on other mid-tier travel cards, such as credits for expedited airport security screening or rideshares.
  • Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn unlimited 5X points on hotels, 4X points on airlines, 3X points on other travel and restaurants, and 1X points on other purchases.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Book your travel with the Autograph Journey Card and enjoy Travel Accident Insurance, Lost Baggage Reimbursement, Trip Cancellation and Interruption Protection and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.
  • Earn a $50 annual statement credit with $50 minimum airline purchase.
  • Up to $1,000 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Find tickets to top sports and entertainment events, book travel, make dinner reservations and more with your complimentary 24/7 Visa Signature® Concierge.

Best no-annual-fee hotel card

Image of Hilton Honors American Express Card

Hilton Honors American Express Card

  • Earn 70,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points plus a Free Night Reward after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Card in the first 6 months of Card Membership. Offer Ends 7/31/2024.

Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio. Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations. Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

  • 7X Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • 5X Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • 3X Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.

What we love: This card earns rewards in a terrific mix of everyday bonus categories, so it should be easy to rack up Hilton points even if you don’t spend a ton on hotel bookings. Since it charges no annual fee and provides a few Hilton Honors benefits like Silver status, it’s also a great fit if you’re new to hotel cards and want a single no-annual-fee option instead of juggling multiple rewards cards. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Hilton Honors American Express Card Alternatives: The American Express® Green Card could be more flexible since it lets you earn and redeem rewards on a much wider variety of travel purchases, including airfare and bookings with several hotel brands, not just Hilton. You can transfer points to the Hilton Honors program as well, but the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card may be better if you prefer upgraded Hilton-specific rewards, loyalty status and other perks.

  • Comes with automatic Silver Elite status, which includes a free fifth award night when you book at least four consecutive nights with points.
  • Earns rewards in three of the average person’s biggest spending categories, making it a terrific standalone option for earning Hilton points.
  • A higher-tier Hilton card would earn more on Hilton bookings and could be more lucrative for frequent guests, even with an annual fee.
  • You can only redeem points with Hilton and its partners, which limits the rewards value you earn on the everyday categories compared to a general-purpose cards’ rewards.
  • Earn 7X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with hotels and resorts within the Hilton portfolio.
  • Earn 5X Points per dollar on purchases at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
  • Earn 3X Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card.
  • Enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors™ Silver status with your Card. Plus, spend $20,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year and you can earn an upgrade to Hilton Honors™ Gold status through the end of the next calendar year.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees. Enjoy international travel without additional fees on purchases made abroad.
  • No Annual Fee.

Best luxury hotel card

Image of Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card

  • Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy® 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines 2X points on all other eligible purchases

  • 6X Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®
  • 3X 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2X 2X points on all other eligible purchases

What we love: Frequent Marriott guests looking for luxury card-level perks and elite status should be able to justify this premium card. Along with a terrific rewards rate on Marriott bookings and an annual free night award, you could enjoy generous annual credits for restaurant purchases and Marriott property stays, airport lounge access, elite night credits and more. Learn more: Best Marriott credit cards Alternatives: If you’re looking for top-tier travel perks but want the flexibility to earn and redeem rewards for stays at any hotel chain, consider an elite travel card from Chase or Amex, which can come with generous travel benefits, airport lounge access and the ability to transfer points to Marriott. The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is another lucrative alternative.

  • Outperforms other Marriott cards with its boosted rewards on travel-related categories and 21X points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, thanks to the automatic Platinum Elite status.
  • It’s one of the only hotel cards that includes complimentary Priority Pass lounge access, top travel protections and credits for expedited airport security screening.
  • Unlocking some of the card’s best perks — like Five Suite Night Awards — requires a $60,000 annual spend, which may be tough to reach even for frequent Marriott guests.
  • Unless luxury perks are at the top of your wishlist, the annual fee may not be worth it and a lower-tier hotel card may offer more value overall.
  • $300 Brilliant Dining Credit: Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
  • With Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, you can receive room upgrades, including enhanced views or suites, when available at select properties and booked with a Qualifying Rate.
  • Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Free Night Award: Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you will be eligible to select a Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit. You can only earn one Earned Choice Award per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
  • $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit: Enjoy your stay. Receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card you can receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status. Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.
  • Enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, which offers unlimited airport lounge visits to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. This allows you to relax before or between flights. You can enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
  • With Cell Phone Protection, you can be reimbursed, the lesser of, your repair or replacement costs following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
  • $650 Annual Fee.

Best for transfer partners

Image of Bilt Mastercard®

Bilt Mastercard®

Intro offer is not available for this Wells Fargo credit card.

3x points on dining 2x points on travel 1x points on other purchases Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

1X Points - 3X Points

  • 3X Points 3x points on dining
  • 2X Points 2x points on travel
  • 1X Points 1x points on other purchases
  • 1X Points Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year. When you make at least 5 posted transactions in a statement period using your Bilt Mastercard, you'll earn points on rent and qualifying net purchases.

What we love: Not only is this card is a terrific choice for renters since it earns rewards and waives transaction fees when using it to pay rent, it’s also great for rewards strategists considering the extremely robust travel rewards program. You can earn rewards on travel and dining and your points carry a high value whether you redeem through the Bilt travel portal or one of the many airline and hotel transfer partners. Alternatives: If you like the Bilt card’s travel rewards program but don’t see yourself renting long term, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It earns generously on both travel and dining and also boasts high-value points and transfer partners. If the way you pay rent doesn’t incur credit card payment fees, a flat-rate card may also be worth weighing. 

  • It’s the only card that helps you avoid the fees typically associated with paying rent with a credit card.
  • Offers a solid collection of travel perks for a no-annual-fee card, including trip cancellation and interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement and other high-level travel protections.
  • You can only use rewards to cover rent, toward a future home down payment or for travel and shopping. Cash back isn’t an option.
  • There is no sign-up bonus. Most competing travel cards — even those with no annual fee — offer at least a $200 bonus.
  • $0 Annual Fee.
  • Earn up to 1x points on rent payments without the transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year.
  • 2x points on travel.
  • 3x points on dining.
  • 1x points on other purchases.
  • Earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement period.
  • When renting at a Bilt Alliance property, you can choose to have your rent payments automatically reported by Bilt to the three major credit bureaus each month; Experian™, TransUnion™, and Equifax™.

Best for gas

Image of Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value.

Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans. Earn 1X points on other purchases

  • 3X Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans.

What we love: The Wells Fargo Autograph card is a great option for occasional travelers and households on the go looking to earn rewards while avoiding an annual fee and reduced redemption value for cash rewards. It’s one of a few entry-level travel cards to offer high, year-round bonus rewards for gas, dining, transit and other key travel needs. Learn more: Is the Wells Fargo Autograph worth it? Alternatives: If you’re looking for ways to maximize the value of your rewards, you should consider a travel card that lets you transfer your points to airlines or hotels, like the Bilt Mastercard® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

  • While some issuers only reward travel purchases made directly with airlines or through issuer portals, this card lets you shop around for the best deal on third-party travel sites and still earn extra rewards.
  • Carries decent perks such as rental car collision damage waiver coverage, roadside assistance and Visa Signature® Concierge benefits, like access to Visa’s Luxury Hotel Collection (terms apply).
  • Unlike with traditional travel cards, you cannot transfer your points to airlines or hotels
  • The travel perks and intro APR are weak compared to competing travel-oriented cards’ offers.
  • Select "Apply Now" to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
  • Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases.
  • $0 annual fee.
  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR thereafter.
  • Up to $600 of cell phone protection against damage or theft. Subject to a $25 deductible.
  • Redeem your rewards points for travel, gift cards, or statement credits. Or shop at millions of online stores and redeem your rewards when you check out with PayPal.

Best for companion tickets

Image of Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

  • Earn 85,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets. Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

  • 3X Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • 2X Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • 1X Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.

What we love: The annual companion certificate on Main Cabin domestic flights (taxes and fees apply) comes with this card after the first year is valuable enough to justify the annual fee even if you’re just looking for great Delta perks to make travel smoother with a partner. Plus, the companion certificate is easier to obtain than other airline cards’ since it carries no spending requirement that must be met beyond the card’s annual fee. Alternatives: The American Express® Green Card could be a great alternative since it charges a lower $150 annual fee, lets you earn and redeem rewards on travel with any eligible airline (not just Delta) and offers credits for Loungebuddy lounge access and Clear Plus. You can even transfer points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Boasts several valuable travel perks, including priority boarding, a free first checked bag and specialized annual credits for select rideshare services and reservations with Delta Stays and Resy.
  • Gets you closer to Medallion Status and discounts on in-flight purchases, complimentary upgrades, and more.
  • Its rewards rate on non-travel purchases is lacking — a general-purpose travel card could potentially offer better rewards value and flexibility for rewards travel outside Delta.
  • No longer offers complimentary Delta Sky Club lounge access as of this year, although airport lounge access is a staple perk for premium travel cards.
  • Receive a Companion Certificate on Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean, or Central American roundtrip flights each year after renewal of your Card. The Companion Ticket requires payment of government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Receive $2,500 Medallion® Qualification Dollars each Medallion Qualification Year and get closer to Status with MQD Headstart.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members get 15% off when using miles to book Award Travel on Delta flights through delta.com and the Fly Delta app. Discount not applicable to partner-operated flights or to taxes and fees.
  • Earn $1 Medallion® Qualification Dollar for each $20 of purchases made on your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card in a calendar year and get a boost toward achieving Medallion Status for next Medallion Year.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Receive Zone 5 Priority Boarding on Delta flights; board early, stow your carry-on bag and settle in sooner.
  • Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card Members with an eligible ticket will be added to the Complimentary Upgrade list, after Delta SkyMiles Medallion Members and Reserve Card Members.
  • $350 Annual Fee.

Best starter airline card

Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

  • 2X Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2X Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners.
  • 1X Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

What we love: This card’s anniversary bonus offers enough value to nearly offset the annual fee on its own, so it should be a terrific low-stakes option whether you’re new to airline cards or a regular Southwest flyer looking for a low-maintenance card. Plus, its sign-up bonus value is on par with the value you’ll get with much pricier airline and travel cards. Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus benefits guide Alternatives: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could offer better value overall, despite its $149 annual fee. It carries an annual $75 Southwest travel credit and 7,500 bonus points each year on your account anniversary — more than enough value to justify the higher fee.

  • You’ll automatically earn 3,000 Rapid Rewards points each year after your account anniversary, which could offset much of the card’s already-low annual fee.
  • Delivers the same hefty sign-up bonus as higher-tier Southwest cards.
  • Unlike several travel cards, it doesn’t carry rewards categories for popular everyday purchases like gas or dining.
  • It may not be the best Southwest value for frequent flyers since it poses a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and doesn’t offer perks like upgraded boardings or elite status benefits.
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year.
  • Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

Best for savers

Image of Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card

  • Receive 60,000 online bonus points - a $600 value - after you make at least $4,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • 2X Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases.
  • 1.5X Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

What we love: If you do your banking with Bank of America and qualify for Preferred Rewards status, this card could provide an exclusive 25 percent to 75 percent rewards rate boost. The  rewards rates — 2X points on dining and travel, with 1.5X points on all other purchases — could increase to an incredible 3.5X on travel and dining with an unrivaled flat 2.62X points rate. Learn more: Why expert Sara Coleman loves the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card Alternatives: The similarly-priced Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the best alternatives thanks to its stellar travel protections, yearly bonus rewards and stronger rewards program. However, flat-rate cards like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card or the Discover it® Miles card could be lucrative if you don’t think the $95 annual fee is worth it.

  • The $95 annual fee is relatively affordable for this card category thanks to the up to $100 in yearly airline incidental statement credits.
  • You can smooth out your travel experience with great benefits like credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Attaining the highest rewards rate is not an easy feat, since you’ll need to hold significant funds in Bank of America accounts.
  • This card does not offer a few popular premium travel perks like lounge access.
  • Low $95 annual fee.
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases. No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means you could earn 2.5-3.5 points on travel and dining purchases and 1.87 - 2.62 points on all other purchases, for every $1 you spend.
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center.
  • Get up to $100 in Airline Incidental Statement Credits annually and TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry Statement Credits of up to $100, every four years.
  • Travel Insurance protections to assist with trip delays, cancellations and interruptions, baggage delays and lost luggage.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Best for first-year value

Image of Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

  • Unlimited Bonus: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers—only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.

Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

  • 1.5X Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.

What we love: In addition to the exceptionally valuable Discover Match® , this card combines solid flat-rate rewards with consumer-friendly terms, like minimal fees and an equal value for both travel and cash back redemptions. Travelers who value simplicity will appreciate this card’s straightforward rewards and adaptability — even when you aren’t traveling. Learn more: Why expert Holly Johnson loves the Discover it® Miles Alternatives: The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card carries a more straightforward and still easy-to-reach welcome bonus. The VentureOne card also gives you the option of transferring miles to more than a dozen airline and hotel partners, which could increase the redemption value of your rewards.

  • All miles earned in your first year will be matched at the end of the year, which could make it one of the most valuable first-year offers for no annual fee.
  • Miles don’t lose value when they’re redeemed for cash back, which gives it a leg up over many travel rewards programs for occasional travelers.
  • You’ll miss out on pretty standard travel perks like travel insurance, and car rental damage protection.
  • The rewards structure lacks flexibility; you won’t be able to transfer your miles or use them to book travel.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 18.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.

Best for fair credit

Image of Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Credit One Bank Wander® Card

Intro offer is not available for this Credit One Bank credit card.

Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas Earn 1x points on all other purchases

  • 10X Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • 5X Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • 1X Earn 1x points on all other purchases

What we love: The Credit One Bank Wander® Card is a solid option if you want to earn points on travel but have trouble qualifying for mainstream travel cards. Not only is this card accessible with only fair credit, but its rewards program boasts generously high rewards rates in key travel categories. Learn more: Best travel cards for people with bad or fair credit Alternatives: If you don’t mind putting down a refundable security deposit, consider a no-annual-fee secured card like the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card *. It’s a unique secured card that lets you build credit while earning rewards in a category of your choice (with travel just one of many popular options) as well as grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

  • It’s one of the only travel rewards cards available with a fair credit score, making it a decent option if you want to earn travel rewards as you work on your score.
  • Provides 5X points in travel, dining and gas, plus 10X points on eligible hotel and rental car bookings through Credit One Bank — rare and impressive rates with only fair credit.
  • Its annual fee is high compared to other cards you can get with a fair credit score , so it may not be the best fit if you prioritize building credit over earning rewards.
  • Other travel cards may offer better perks, fewer redemption restrictions and more value, so it may be worth working on your score with a lower-cost card before committing to the costly annual fee.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees

Eligibility and benefit level varies by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Please visit  AmericanExpress.com/benefitsguide  for more details. Underwritten by Amex assurance company.

The information about the American Express® Green Card and Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuers.

Compare Bankrate's best travel credit cards of 2024

What are travel credit cards.

Travel credit cards allow cardholders to earn points or miles on a variety of purchases (typically travel-related), which are redeemable for travel bookings, statement credits, gift cards and more.

The best travel credit cards do more than help you foot the bill for your next flight — travel cards also offer perks to upgrade your entire travel experience. Trip insurance , annual travel credits, concierge services and lounge access are all common benefits. Airline and hotel co-branded credit cards sometimes offer specific discounts and perks for loyalty program members.

Pros and cons of travel credit cards

Although a well-chosen travel card can pay huge dividends, it might not be the right move for every traveler. Before you apply, take time to weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks of travel credit cards .

Tips on choosing the best travel credit card for you

The right travel credit card for you will carry features and benefits that give you the best value. To help you narrow down your choices, here are the steps to choosing the best travel card.

How to choose a travel credit card

1. know how you prefer to travel.

Knowing whether your travel expenses lean toward airfare, hotel stays or a mix of other travel will help you decide whether you should get an airline card, hotel card or general-purpose travel card. A co-branded airline or hotel credit card may be a good fit if you mostly travel with a certain brand and want exclusive privileges to enhance your experience. A general-purpose travel card is better if you prefer to keep your travel options open.

2. Prioritize redemption value

You may have to pick between simplicity and maximum value when comparing cards and rewards programs. Many travel cards offer a standard point or mile redemption value of 1 cent when you redeem toward travel through the issuer portal, but some cards can get you a higher redemption value when you transfer rewards to airline or hotel partners. However, it's common for many travel reward programs to reduce the redemption value toward non-travel options or limit these redemption options altogether. If you prefer simplicity over maximizing rewards, you may want to consider cards that allow you to redeem points or miles at an equal 1-cent value toward general travel purchase credits, cash back or other non-travel options.

3. Match your card to your spending habits

Take a look at your typical spending and find which travel categories and non-travel categories you spend the most in to help you choose a card that offers a high rewards rate for your regular spending. Just make sure you factor in rewards spending caps.

4. Note what's worth the extra money

High rewards rates and valuable travel perks are the biggest reasons to get a travel card, but many of the best cards carry a high annual fee. You could stick with a no-annual-fee travel card (or at least one with around a $99 fee) if you're mainly focused on earning rewards, but you may have to pay up to $500 or more for luxurious perks like airport lounge access, comprehensive travel insurance and hundreds of dollars in annual travel credits .

5. Look toward your next trip abroad

If you travel overseas, check to see if the card you're considering charges a foreign transaction fee. And since some credit cards aren't as widely accepted as others, you'll also want to make sure your credit card will work when traveling overseas . For example, merchants may not accept Discover and American Express cards as widely as Visa and Mastercard. If a trip is coming up in the next three to six months, keep an eye out for the big sign-up bonuses travel cards are known for. As a rule of thumb, the higher the annual fee, the higher the sign-up bonus should be.

Co-branded travel cards vs. general travel cards

Experts typically divide travel credit cards into two categories: co-branded travel cards and general travel cards. Co-branded cards are linked to a particular airline or hotel, while general travel cards offer more flexible reward opportunities. Here’s why and when you might want one or the other.

  • Co-branded cards
  • General travel cards

Co-branded travel cards tend to offer higher rewards rates on eligible travel purchases in exchange for limiting your reward redemption options to just one airline or hotel program . These cards may also feature more specific perks associated with the respective hotel or airline, such as free award nights, complimentary airline elite status or priority boarding — which general-purpose travel cards don’t often carry).

However, you won’t be able to use your rewards with a wide variety of different hotels and airlines like general-purpose cards allow. Plus, despite co-branded travel cards’ typically higher rewards rates, many brand-specific rewards tend to be worth less than the potential value of general-purpose cards’ points and miles.

When to get a co-branded travel card : When you often fly or stay with a specific airline or hotel and want to maximize your benefits with that brand.

General travel cards earn rewards on various travel categories and aren’t limited to a particular airline or hotel. Such cards may lack some of the dedicated perks you’ll find on a co-branded travel card, such as in-flight discounts, but make up for it with rewards flexibility and broader perks like general travel credits, expedited security screening and wider airport lounge access. 

The top travel cards even let you transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, often at a 1:1 rate. Redeeming with some airlines and hotels can even make your rewards more valuable than they would be if you redeemed with the card issuer.

When to get a general travel card : When you have no preferred airline or hotel and want the additional flexibility a general travel card offers. 

Who should get a travel credit card?

A travel credit card is almost always worth it for frequent travelers or anyone who wants to earn rewards toward their next vacation.

If you can save up airline miles, rack up points for free nights at hotels or get discounted travel through your credit card issuer, you’re on your way to significant travel savings. However, the right travel card for you will depend on your travel habits.

Frequent travelers

Naturally, the ideal candidate for a travel card is someone who travels a lot or plans to book several flights and hotel stays per year. However, in some cases, you don’t have to be a frequent traveler to reap the benefits of a travel rewards card. A number of cards offer good rewards rates on general purchases.

Travel beginners

If you’re new to travel rewards, a good place to start is with a travel card that makes it easy to earn and redeem points, without requiring you to navigate a complex rewards program or worry about tiered rewards rates or varying point redemption values. 

Brand loyalists

If you tend to book travel with the same brands frequently or already belong to an airline or hotel loyalty program, a co-branded travel card can offer terrific value.  Airline- and hotel-specific rewards cards often earn a top rate on bookings with the brand as well as exclusive perks like lounge access and automatic elite status. 

Business travelers

Some of the most valuable travel credit cards are business cards . Whether you're a freelancer on the go or the CEO of a Fortune 500, the right travel credit card can help you earn high rewards rates on everyday business purchases. 

International travelers

If you frequently travel abroad, a card with no foreign transaction fees is a great way to help you avoid extra costs on overseas purchases. Plus, if you hate waiting in line at airport security or customs, a lot of travel cards offer statement credits to reimburse you for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees.

Luxury travelers

Luxury travel cards often charge a pretty penny but also offer a ton of value via perks like lounge access and annual travel credits. These perks not only make travel more comfortable, but also often carry enough value to offset the card’s cost on their own.

Still unsure if a travel credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool where you can get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

Here’s how a Bankrate editor chose his travel card

Here’s how a bankrate editor chose his travel card.

With all of this advice in mind, let’s see how a credit card expert made their pick. Here’s Bankrate editor Nouri Zarrugh on how he chose his travel card:

When it comes to earning rewards, I’ve always stuck with cash back cards, preferring the simplicity of knowing exactly how much my rewards are worth and the ease of redeeming for statement credits. Recently, though, I decided I wanted to travel a bit more frequently, and I figured a new travel rewards card could be a great tool to help me earn free trips. When choosing the right card for me, a few major points of consideration stood out: Cost: I didn’t feel like I traveled enough to justify a huge annual fee. Simplicity : I wanted to stick with a single, streamlined travel card and not worry about juggling multiple rewards programs or rewards rates. Perks : While I didn’t need anything too fancy, I thought it might be nice to have a perk like TSA Precheck included, since I hate waiting in long airport security lines. To my surprise, the card that stood out most was the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. Though it carried an intimidating annual fee of $395 ( See Rates & Fees ), I found this cost was more than worth it once I dug into the details. In fact, its benefits were so valuable, I barely needed to worry about offsetting the cost.  Two of its annual perks — a $300 Capital One travel credit and 10,000 bonus miles every year on my account anniversary — are valuable enough to offset the fee on their own. This means as long as I take one flight a year, I can basically break even on the card. Any rewards or perks I get beyond that feel like pure upside. It’s a huge bonus, then, that the card also includes practical benefits like Priority Pass lounge access and a credit of up to $100 toward the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. While I’ve never frequented airport lounges, I see these privileges as essentially free considering the value of the annual travel credit and bonus miles. So, I figure, why not take advantage?  For me, the Venture X strikes the perfect balance: A flat rewards rate that makes it easy to earn miles on everything I buy; flexible redemption through Capital One or via transfer to airlines and hotels, and practical perks I know I’ll use when I travel. I never imagined I’d have a $395 travel card in my wallet, but for me, it’s at worst a coupon for a flight every year, which can nudge me to take that next trip. — Nouri Zarrugh, Editor, Bankrate

Travel benefits may differ from card to card, but some of the most popular travel cards available often feature a few key perks. 

Travel insurance

Travel cards may offer various travel insurances , such as trip delay protection, trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage insurance or car rental insurance. These benefits aren’t worth anything until you need them, but you’ll be glad you have them when your flight is canceled or your luggage gets lost.

Travel credits

Credits toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry are a popular and common benefit on many travel cards. You can typically use this credit once every four years, which roughly corresponds to how long a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry membership lasts. Some cards may also provide an annual credit toward Clear Plus — another expedited security membership. Higher-end travel cards often offer annual statement credits toward travel purchases, and many of these credits nearly offset these cards’ annual fees. 

In-flight perks

Co-branded airline cards typically offer some airport and in-flight benefits on top of their reward-earning capabilities. These can include discounts on in-flight purchases (usually 25 percent back on refreshments and WiFi), free checked bags, flight seating upgrades or priority boarding. 

Free hotel award nights

Co-branded hotel cards may include free hotel award nights annually as part of their benefits. Some cards also add an extra complimentary awards night to your stay if you’ve booked a certain number of consecutive nights. These nights are typically capped at a certain value (sometimes based on the card or your elite status), and may be valuable enough to make up for some cards’ annual fees.

Airport lounge access

One of the most popular (and valuable) travel benefits featured on high-end and luxury travel cards is complimentary access to airport lounges. The lounges you gain access to depend on the card, though co-branded cards will often grant access to the lounge corresponding to the card’s airline. The Amex Platinum card currently offers the best airport lounge access .

If you want to add a credit card to your portfolio for your travel needs, knowing what cards are popular and why people like them can help steer your decision. We regularly stay abreast of these conversations online and noticed two travel cards come up regularly: the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express .

These cards shine because they offer some of the best rates on travel purchases and the most comprehensive set of benefits and perks . Despite their annual fees, what you get in return can far outweigh your costs. And the conversation around these two cards isn’t new: Is the effort of maximizing their perks worth it?

What people say about travel credit cards perks

The Sapphire Reserve is often referred to as the gold standard in travel benefits and protections, and the value of its trip insurance is a big part of that. A member of the Rick Steves Forum remarks on the value of the insurance: “It has pretty extensive coverage wherever I travel … my entire trip is covered as long as I charged any portion of the trip to my card.” This feature is unique to the Sapphire Reserve and sets it apart from other premium cards, which require you to charge your entire trip purchase to the card to have active coverage.

But using trip insurance isn’t always a simple process. As a user in the r/CreditCards forum on Reddit cautions: “Credit card travel insurance in general is very specific on what it covers, and people tend to overestimate just how useful the coverage actually is,” they write. “These are named peril policies, so unless you see your exact situation as a covered hazard the policies won't pay out.”

The Platinum Card from American Express gets a lot of buzz for reasons similar to the Sapphire Reserve. The card gives so many benefits, credits and additional perks that it’s often called a coupon book for luxury travel. But for many people, the value comes down to whether they’re willing to do the work to maximize its features. Another r/CreditCards member says they use the card’s Hilton and Marriott status boosters, rental car company loyalty program automatic status features, Centurion lounge access, hotel and airline incidental credits, membership credits and more. Using all these features helps them offset the annual fee.

While some people love maximizing the card’s features to extract  as much value as possible, others, like this Redditor, think it’s too much work:

“The only benefit the Platinum card really adds is Centurion but only to the [cardholder] … I believe the Platinum is worth [it] at least the first year for the [sign-up] bonus but then it doesn't get much use after that. Trust me the credits are really annoying to use.” — r/CreditCards user

These two premium cards stand out from the rest because they offer the most comprehensive features available to suit your travel needs and protect you from any issues that arise. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is an exceptional option to protect you from travel issues, but make sure you know the fine print. While the Amex Platinum may not be as ideal for travel protections, the credits offered more than offset its annual fee if you can put in the effort to fully maximize them.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned cardholder, your travel card should always work in your favor by offering the features and benefits you’ll actually use and that make your travels more enjoyable. But whether you’re willing to put in the effort to maximize a card’s value is something you’ll need to decide for yourself.

*The quotes and citations included on this page have been verified by our editorial team and are accurate as of the posting date. Be sure to check the issuer's website/terms and conditions for all up to date content. Outlinked content may contain views and opinions that do not reflect the views and opinions of Bankrate.

Credit card points and miles are two of the key types of credit card rewards , along with cash back. You’ll earn points and miles by making purchases with your credit card, but you can typically redeem these rewards for travel, gift cards and more — not just statement credits.

Points and miles tend to be more flexible than cash back, but since their value depends on how you redeem them — and, in the case of travel redemptions, where you’re going, when you book, your fare class and more — it may take a bit more effort to make the most of them.

What are your points and miles worth?

Since many airlines and hotels use dynamic pricing models that continually optimize airfare and room prices, it can be hard to know exactly how much your rewards are worth without doing a little math.

Luckily, you don’t need to be a travel hacker to get a sense of this idea. Before you redeem, you can check your reward redemption value by dividing the cost of a plane or hotel booking in cash by its cost in points or miles. This calculation will result in the cash value of your points or miles.

You can also compare this value to Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations to determine if you’re getting a good deal on your redemptions. Bankrate collected data on hundreds of bookings across dozens of airline, hotel and credit card rewards programs and estimated how much each program’s rewards are worth on average .

  • Airline rewards values
  • Hotel rewards values
  • Credit card program rewards values

The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated reward redemption value for a variety of popular airline loyalty programs. You’ll notice how widely the value varies between airlines, with some offering close to 3 cents per point in average redemption value and others struggling to meet a 1-cent-per-point value.

Keep in mind, however, that these values are averages based on a variety of fare classes, destinations, booking periods and more. For example, while Bankrate estimates Delta SkyMiles carry an average redemption value of around 1.2 cents per mile, they could be worth more or less depending on the details of your booking. 

*Based on weighted average of median point/mile values across economy and first/business class fares.

Like airline miles, hotel points fluctuate in value. The table below shows Bankrate’s estimated point values for some of the most popular hotel brands. 

As you can see, hotel points tend to be worth less than airline and credit card rewards on average, often carrying less than 1 cent per point in redemption value. That said, hotel loyalty programs sometimes offer more favorable exchange rates when you transfer rewards from a credit card rewards program. For example, you may be able to turn 1,000 credit card points into 2,000 hotel points (a 2:1 transfer ratio). 

*Based on median point values across budget, mid-tier and luxury hotel bookings.

Unlike hotel and airline rewards programs, credit card reward programs typically earn points or miles that offer a consistent redemption value when you use them with the issuer. Though the redemption value of your rewards may vary based on how you redeem, each redemption method should offer a consistent baseline value. 

Some credit card rewards programs may also allow you to transfer your points or miles to airline and hotel loyalty programs, which could boost their value considerably. For each major credit card rewards program, we estimate a baseline redemption value (assuming you book for travel with the issuer) and a Bankrate’s Value, which averages the program’s best-value transfer partners.

*Based on an average of the issuer’s five highest-value transfer partners (if available).

When to use rewards vs. cash

To demonstrate when it’s best to use your reward miles versus paying in cash, we set up this example:

We estimate American Airlines AAdvantage miles are worth 1.0 cents. If you book a seat in the main cabin on a one-way flight from Boston to Miami, and it costs either $139 or 21,500 miles, your miles are only worth $0.006 ($139 / 21,500 miles = $0.006). Since your miles for this flight are worth less than 1.0 cents, you may want to save your miles and pay cash for this flight.

But if you book a first-class seat on the same flight for $433 or 31,500 miles, your miles are now worth $0.013 ($433 / 31,500 = $0.013). Since 1.3 cents is higher than our latest valuation, you’re coming out ahead if you use your miles to pay for this flight.

Bankrate experts share their advice on using travel credit cards

It’s important to know how to maximize your rewards and perks. Otherwise, a travel card could end up being a money pit. Here are a few pointers from our experts for making the most of your travel card: 

Combine cards to maximize rewards

Knowing how much you spend in different categories and which merchants are eligible for rewards will help you earn more and build an optimized stack of rewards cards. A flat-rate card is often a great starting point to earn the same rate on every purchase you make. As you build out a rewards strategy, you can incorporate a card with bonus categories to earn even more in your highest spending areas.

Expert Insight:

“For a long time, I’ve used a combination of Chase credit cards known as the Chase trifecta for all my family’s spending…. [I] don’t typically use my Sapphire Reserve for everyday spending and bills. Since it only offers 1X points on non-bonus category spending, I use my Freedom Unlimited to make sure I earn a minimum of 1.5 percent cash back on everything I buy.” “I use each card strategically to earn as much in rewards as possible, then I pool them in my Sapphire Reserve account to redeem them for airfare, excursions, hotels and more.” — Holly D. Johnson — Award-winning personal finance writer and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Maximize your rewards value with transfer partners and issuer travel

Save your rewards for the most valuable redemption options. Travel points and miles often lose value toward non-travel options like cash back, so you’ll want to redeem your rewards for travel through the issuer portal for at least 1 cent per point or mile. However, transferring your rewards to the right airline or hotel partner program is usually worth the extra effort since it could net you even more value.

Expert Insight

“When I redeem my points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, the most I can get is 1.25 cents apiece, which is pretty good. However, if I transfer them to a partner airline’s loyalty program, I will often get much more. For example, I can transfer my points to United Airlines MileagePlus and use them to pay for flights. When I do, I generally get a value of 2 or more cents per point — in line with Bankrate estimates that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth around 2 cents apiece on average when used with the right transfer partner.” — Margaret Wack — Personal finance expert and Bankrate contributor: Why I love the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Make the most of your travel perks

Travel benefits are one of the main reasons to get a travel card, and are often key to making up a card’s annual fee. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure you can take full advantage of these offers . For example, one card’s travel credit may apply to any travel purchase, including airfare, while another card’s may only cover costs like baggage fees or in-flight purchases. 

“This is the year to take inventory of your credit cards and make sure they’re serving you well. If you’re paying an annual fee, look for a card with recurring benefits. Whether it’s annual award nights, waived luggage fees or elite status benefits, these perks can offset your annual fee and make your travels more pleasant … Despite putting minimal spending on my Hilton Honors Amex Aspire card, I keep renewing it every year. That’s because the card provides automatic Hilton Diamond elite status, which can easily offset the $550 annual fee. Recurring card benefits like [these] can save you a lot on travel and are worth considering when shopping for a new credit card.” — Ariana Arghandewal — Travel rewards expert and Bankrate contributor: Five benefits you need from a travel credit card

Plan for the sign-up bonus

The best travel cards come with generous welcome offers, but these bonuses may require a high spend in a short timeframe. That’s why it’s important to consider whether the spending requirement fits with your typical spending habits or whether you need to plan purchases to meet the requirement. Just be sure not to overextend yourself or take on debt you can’t pay back just to earn a bonus — interest and fees can easily eat through any value you’d get.

“Keep in mind that credit card sign-up offers change often. So if you’re interested in a particular card but not blown away by its current offer (there are some for 100,000 points or more that aren’t always worth the trouble), it could be worth your while to wait for a better one.” — Ariana Arghandewal — Travel rewards expert and Bankrate contributor: 6 ways to get bigger credit card bonuses

Look out for limited-time offers, partner perks and other benefits

Keeping an eye out for limited-time offers like extraordinarily high sign-up bonuses, perks with partner services (like rideshares or delivery services) and other reward-earning opportunities is a great way to squeeze the most value from your travel card. Issuers sometimes provide shopping and travel portals and card-linked reward programs for select purchases (like for pre-paid dining or participating merchant spending), which can help you bank extra rewards.

“Keep an eye on your email inbox and rewards portal for any limited-time promotions your issuer may be offering. Many American Express cards feature Amex Offers, which lets you access perks like statement credits for spending a certain amount on specific hotels and other retailers.  Other cards, like the Capital One Venture X, also have occasional promotional offers, such as a credit for 5 percent back on VRBO rentals.” — Lori Zaino — Travel expert and Bankrate contributor: How to maximize credit cards for cheaper accommodations this holiday season

Track your spending and rewards each account statement

Track your favorite stores’ and services’ merchant category codes (MCCs) to fine-tune your spending habits for maximum rewards. If you notice your expenses changing, this practice may also help you notice whether you need to change which rewards cards you carry.

“The first step to optimizing your spending is to take the time to collect the MCCs of stores you frequently shop at. During the process, you might find that some stores in the same chain may have different MCCs, depending on their primary inventory. Even different counters or sections in the same department store may carry different MCCs. You can use this to your advantage if you know one location near you will provide a better cash back rate than the other. These “loopholes” can provide great opportunities to reap cash back on purchases that typically wouldn’t earn rewards.” — Garrett Yarbrough — Writer and credit cards expert at Bankrate: Merchant category codes: How to earn more cash back

Our data: What credit score do you need for the best travel cards?

It’s no secret that your credit score heavily influences which cards you’re likely to get approval for. But how good does your credit need to be to get the best credit cards for travel? We analyzed our data of Bankrate readers who applied for credit cards on our pages in 2023 and compared the approval rates of readers’ different credit tiers.

We found that, on average, 61.9 percent of users with excellent credit were approved for travel cards on our site. Then, an average of 39.5 percent and 19.5 percent of users with good and fair credit, respectively, got approval for travel credit cards they applied to.

If you have fair or bad credit, you still have options for travel credit cards. For example, the Credit One Bank Wander Card caters to people with fair credit — 57 percent of people with fair credit who applied on our site in 2023 were approved for this card , according to our data.

Obviously, the better your credit, the more likely you are to get the card you apply for , but other factors can affect your application. Issuers may also consider your income, recent credit applications, homeownership status and monthly rental or mortgage payment. Keep these other factors in mind with your credit score when you apply for credit cards.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email , find us on Facebook , or Tweet us @Bankrate .

When evaluating the best travel cards, we consider a mix of factors, including how cards score in our proprietary card rating system and whether cards offer features that fit the priorities of a diverse group of cardholders, from earning rewards in popular categories to scoring a large sign-up bonus or high-value perks. Whenever possible, we also feature cards that are available at various credit levels and price points. 

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular cards and scored each based on its rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more to determine whether it belonged in this month’s roundup of the best travel cards.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key factors in our rewards card scoring methodology — our primary scoring category for travel cards — and details we considered when putting together our list of the best travel cards.  

  • Flexibility 15%
  • Customer experience 5%

Great rewards value

The primary criteria for a rewards-earning card’s rating is its rewards value. This includes the card’s average rewards rate, estimated annual rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value and reward redemption value.

To estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings, we first calculate its average rewards rate based on how much it earns in different bonus categories and how closely its categories align with the average person’s spending habits. In other words, we assess whether the card earns rewards at a high rate in the most popular spending categories. 

We use consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get a reliable third-party measure of people’s spending habits. The most recent BLS data estimates average total spending in 2022 was $72,967 per consumer. We then narrow our focus to which purchases are likely to be put on a credit card and earn rewards, subtracting expenditures like housing, vehicle purchases and education. This gives us a total “chargeable” annual spend of around $25,500.  

This includes the following spending by category:

  • Groceries: $5,700
  • Dining out: $3,600
  • Entertainment: $2,400
  • Gas: $3,100
  • Apparel and services: $1,900

Using this data, we assign a weighting to each of a card’s bonus categories. For example, a card’s grocery rewards rate receives a 22 percent weighting based on how much of the average person’s budget is spent on groceries.

We also estimate the redemption value of points or miles from various issuer, airline and hotel rewards programs.

This weighting and rewards valuation allows us to estimate a card’s average annual rewards earnings — how many points or miles you’d earn with a given card if your spending was about average and you used the card for all of your purchases — as well as what those points are worth. We also use point valuations to determine a card’s sign-up bonus value

With these calculations complete, we assign each card a score based on how its average rewards earnings, sign-up bonus value, rewards rate and redemption value stack up against other rewards cards.

The better these values, the higher its score will be, making it more worthy of inclusion in our list and increasing its potential ranking.

Reasonable rates and fees

We also score cards based on how much it costs to keep them in your wallet or carry a balance. 

To start, each card is scored based on whether it offers an intro APR and how its ongoing APR compares to the rates available on other rewards cards. However, the latter rating only has a slight influence on the card’s score and whether the card is included in our list, since rewards card users generally try to avoid carrying a balance.

More important to both a card’s score and its inclusion in our list is how its annual fee influences its overall value. We consider a card’s annual fee in two ways — how it ranks relative to the fees you’ll find on other cards in the category and how it impacts a card’s overall rewards value. 

Cards with an annual fee will always be at a slight disadvantage in our scoring system since annual fees inherently cut into your rewards value. However, if a card offers terrific value via its ongoing rewards and perks, it can earn a high score and a spot in our list even if it carries a high annual fee. After all, the highest rewards rates and most valuable perks are often found on cards with annual fees. 

With this in mind, we rate a card based primarily on how its ongoing rewards value and ongoing perk value (such as annual credits or bonuses) stack up against those of other cards in the category when you subtract annual fees.

That said, we strive to include as many no-annual-fee options in our list as possible since many people would rather not worry about offsetting fees, even if a card carries impressive rewards and perks.

Redemption flexibility

Rewards cards may make it easy to earn a lot of points, miles or cash back, but how easy is it to use those rewards? After all, if it takes a ton of effort to redeem rewards or you can only redeem rewards in a couple of ways, a card may be more trouble than it’s worth. 

As such, we rate each card’s flexibility based on the restrictions it imposes on earning and redeeming rewards. We factor this rating into a card’s overall score and consider it when deciding on a card’s inclusion in our list. 

Flexibility factors include whether a card only allows you to earn a high rewards rate on only a small amount of spending or requires you to meet a certain earning threshold before you can redeem rewards. We also examine whether your points are worth less when you opt for some redemption options over others and whether a card gives you the flexibility to transfer rewards to travel partners.

Valuable perks

We also score each card’s set of features – its perks and benefits — against five tiers of features to provide a rating. 

We break down these tiers as follows:

  • Tier 1 includes fewer features than even standard credit cards (for example, an ultra-streamlined card that offers basic utility and next to nothing in the way of ancillary benefits). 
  • Tier 2 includes the benefits you’d expect on standard Visa or Mastercard credit cards, such as free access to your credit score, car rental insurance and $0 liability for fraudulent charges. 
  • Tier 3 includes “prime card” or better-than-average card features like cellphone insurance, lost luggage insurance, concierge services and purchase protection. 
  • Tier 4 includes luxury features such as airport lounge access, elite status with an airline or hotel and credits for expedited security screening membership programs. 
  • Tier 5 includes the sort of exemplary benefits you’ll find on top-tier luxury cards, such as high-value travel credits, cardholder memberships and other unique and valuable perks.

In evaluating the best cards, we tend to favor cards that offer at least Tier 3 benefits, unless they include other unique features that could make up for less-impressive perks.

And since this list focuses on travel cards, we tend to favor cards that carry travel-centric features like travel insurance, airport lounge access and credits for expedited security screening, instead of more general perks like food delivery credits or shopping discounts.

More information on travel credit cards

Frequently asked questions about travel credit cards, are travel credit cards worth it.

Travel cards can be well worth it since they often have exclusive travel perks like credits for airfare, hotel stays, expedited airport security services and more, as well as complimentary airport lounge access and airline or hotel privileges. However, many of the best travel credit cards come with annual fees. It’s important to at least offset the cost of these cards by taking advantage of the various travel perks and features included on the card. 

What credit score do you need for a travel credit card?

It’s possible to get a travel credit card with bad or fair credit, but most travel rewards cards are geared toward people with good or excellent credit (a FICO score of at least 670, or a VantageScore of at least 661).

Do travel miles or points expire?

Even though many major credit cards earn rewards that don’t expire, you may lose your points and miles if your account closes or isn’t in good standing. However, some co-branded cards’ rewards may expire if you don’t earn or redeem rewards within a certain timeframe (typically 12 to 36 months after the rewards are earned).

Check out our guide to credit card rewards expiration for a thorough breakdown of several popular issuers’ policies.

Are points or miles better on a credit card?

Whether points or miles offer better value will depend on the specific rewards program and how you redeem rewards. One airline loyalty program may earn miles that offer less than 1 cent each in average redemption value while another program’s points may offer close to 3 cents each on average. Similarly, a hotel card’s points may be worth less than half of a credit card issuer’s rewards points. Some programs offer points with only average baseline redemption value but high value when transferred to a partner airline or hotel. 

Ask the experts: Is it a good idea to have multiple travel credit cards?

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Thomas Nitzsche

tourism london visa card

Stephanie Zito

tourism london visa card

Erica Sandberg

tourism london visa card

Financial Educator, Debt and Credit

Whether you should have multiple travel credit cards depends on several factors, including your brand affinity, frequency of travel and ability to pay off your cards in full each month. As a credit counselor, I see many people carrying credit card debt at high interest rates while continuing to make charges to the account for the sake of earning rewards. They lose far more than they earn each month. Having more than one travel credit card could make sense for you if you’re able to maximize your earnings by strategizing spending across each card. Just take into account annual fees and actual interest paid.

Contributor, Personal Finance

If you’re up for managing multiple cards and their benefits, then there are definitely big reward payouts to be had. But if the thought of multiple cards is overwhelming, it’s also a good strategy to have one or two more flexible cards and focus on maximizing your earnings and redemptions until it becomes second nature.

tourism london visa card

Contributor, Credit Cards

Definitely! I currently have two travel credit cards. In addition to the Chase card that I use for my United Airlines purchases, I have the Capital One Venture card for all other airlines. I earn a solid amount of miles on everything I buy with it, so it's an easy go-to for non-travel related expenses.

Article sources

We use primary sources to support our work. Bankrate’s authors, reporters and editors are subject-matter experts who thoroughly fact-check editorial content to ensure the information you’re reading is accurate, timely and relevant.

Global entry: Trusted traveler enrollment program . U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Accessed on Feb. 21, 2024

Discover International acceptance . Discover. Accessed on Feb. 21, 2024.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.

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  • USA: apply for a UK visa
  • UK Visas and Immigration

Apply for a UK visa in the USA

Updated 24 April 2023

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© Crown copyright 2023

This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: [email protected] .

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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/usa-apply-for-a-uk-visa/apply-for-a-uk-visa-in-the-usa

To apply for a UK visa in the USA you need to:

  • apply online
  • pay your fee
  • book and attend your biometric appointment
  • Attend an Application Support Center ( ASC )
  • mail your application

Apply online

Apply online to complete your application and pay your fee.

Book and attend your biometric appointment

Once you have completed your online application you will be prompted to book a biometric enrolment appointment at an ASC . This is to have your photo and fingerprints taken (known as ‘biometric information’).

Alternatively, you can attend a VFS Premium Application Centre (PAC) to provide your biometric information and submit your application. If you choose to attend a VFS PAC , you will need to purchase a Premium Service.

Attending an ASC

You can only attend your ASC appointment on your scheduled date and time. If you arrive on a different date or time, you will not be processed. Do not arrive more than 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment.

When you visit the ASC for your biometric appointment, you must take your current valid passport and a copy of your appointment confirmation letter, which will be sent by VFS Global when you book your appointment.

Cell phones, cameras, and other recording devices are not permitted inside the ASC .

When arriving at the ASC , you must:

  • wear a face covering. Face coverings will not be provided to applicants. All individuals not wearing a face covering will not be allowed entry
  • not bring additional individuals or family members with you to your appointment. Only interpreters, attorneys, or those providing needed assistance to you will be permitted to accompany you
  • follow social distancing guidance when you arrive, such as sitting and standing apart from others
  • not come to your appointment if you are sick or start to feel symptoms of being sick. If you or someone with you appears ill during your appointment, the ASC may require that you reschedule your appointment
  • check the operating status of our offices on the day of your appointment

Visa application process for children under 5

Children under the age of 5 applying for a UK visa from within the United States must attend an appointment at an ASC or a PAC. At the appointment, they will have their photograph taken but will not be required to provide their fingerprints.

Mail your application

Once your appointment confirmation letter is stamped at the ASC , you will have 5 days to mail this, your application form, current passport, UPS return shipping label, and any supporting documents (if you haven’t uploaded them online) to:

VFS Services USA Inc. UKVI Scanning Hub 128 East 32nd St Floor 4 New York NY 10016

All applications must include your current passport with at least one blank visa page on both sides. If your application is submitted without a passport the application will be refused.

The 5 working day priority or 15 working day standard service for processing your UK visa application will only begin once these documents have been received at the above address.

Return shipping

To have your passport or any other documents returned, you must provide a fully addressed UPS prepaid electronic shipping label as we cannot accept non-electronic shipping labels. You must your return shipping label is inside the package, and to keep a copy of the shipping label for your records.

Coronavirus advice for entering the UK

If you are travelling to the UK, you should check what you need to do before you travel and any changes at the UK border .

Read guidance on immigration conditions if you have been affected by travel restrictions because of coronavirus.

You can contact our international contact service provided by Teleperformance who work in partnership with UKVI .

Calls from outside the UK cost £0.69 per minute (plus the local network charge) to call UKVI .

Emails from outside the UK cost £2.74. This includes the initial email enquiry plus any follow-up emails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry. Emails are sent using an online form on our website.

Our English language phone line service is open 24 hours Monday to Friday, with other languages available at times that reflect standard business hours where possible.

Teleperformance staff do not play any part in, or influence the outcome of visa applications. They can provide help with navigating the UKVI guidance online. They cannot provide immigration advice.

Make a complaint

Letters or emails about decisions to refuse a UK visa will not be treated as complaints. If you do not agree with the decision on your visa application, please use the existing appeals channels.

If you have a complaint about how your visa application has been handled, or the conduct of UKVI staff you should read our complaints procedure .

Alternatively, you can send your complaint by email using our international contact service .

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Bangor Daily News

Maine news, sports, politics, election results, and obituaries

Maine’s tourism industry needs protection from credit card swipe fees

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The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set news policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on  bangordailynews.com

Mike Cyr is the owner of Bradley’s 24 Hour Citgo and Car Wash in Presque Isle.

Like many small-business owners in Maine, I have struggled with the high swipe fees that banks charge to process credit card transactions. These fees not only eat into our already thin profit margins but also place an undue burden on our customers. As we head toward peak tourism season, it’s high time that Congress stands up for small businesses and consumers by supporting the Credit Card Competition Act , which will apply pressure from fair market competition to lower these fees.

Maine’s summer tourism industry is a cornerstone of our state’s economy. The natural beauty of our coastline, forests and quaint towns draw millions of visitors each year. In 2022 alone, Maine welcomed more than 15 million tourists , contributing approximately $6.5 billion  to the state’s economy. Tourism supports more than 110,000 jobs in Maine , underscoring its critical role in sustaining local communities and businesses.

However, the impact of swipe fees on Maine’s economy, particularly its tourism sector, cannot be understated. Swipe fees cost merchants and their customers a staggering $172 billion  nationwide in 2023, according to the Nilson Report. These fees have more than doubled over the past decade, becoming the second-highest operating cost after labor for many businesses, the report said. For Maine’s small businesses, which are heavily reliant on the influx of out-of-state dollars during the tourist season, these fees amount to  nearly $340 million every year getting sucked out of Maine’s local economy and sent to Wall Street giants.

The impact of rising swipe fees goes beyond the small-business community. For the average family, swipe fees add more than $1,100 a year  to the cost of goods and services. This is money that could be better spent enjoying the local attractions, dining at our restaurants, or staying at our inns and bed-and-breakfasts. Instead, it is diverted to already profitable banks and credit card companies.

Small businesses in Maine operate on razor-thin margins, especially in the tourism sector, where competition is fierce and the season is short. Every cent that goes to swipe fees is a cent that could have been passed on to customers through lower prices.

The current rates are especially not justifiable when considering that the average cost for banks to process a transaction has fallen. In fact, for debit transactions processing costs have dropped  by nearly 50 percent, from 7.7 cents in 2009 to just 3.9 cents in 2021. Yet, the rates have not been adjusted accordingly, because banks apparently would rather accept the swipe fee rates set by credit card companies than attempt to compete on fee rates with other banks. Major banks cede control of fee rates to Visa and Mastercard who control a whopping 80 percent  of the market and consistently raise fees , despite  record profit margins  and lower costs to process transactions. This price structure allows banks and credit card behemoths to reap unjustified profits at our expense.

The Credit Card Competition Act is a critical step toward addressing these issues. By fostering competition and reducing excessive swipe fees, this legislation would provide much-needed relief to small businesses and consumers alike. Instead of being stuck with accepting a Visa or Mastercard service, merchants would finally have a choice between at least two different networks when routing a transaction. This could instill much-needed competition that could ultimately motivate the major credit card companies to keep their fee rates reasonable and improve their services in order to stay competitive with alternative networks. It would also help merchants save revenue that can be passed on to customers, hold down inflationary price increases and allow small businesses to thrive.

As a small-business owner deeply embedded in Maine’s tourism industry, I urge U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to support this bill. I believe this legislation represents a fair and necessary reform that would promote economic growth and provide tangible benefits to Maine’s Main Street businesses and consumers. Let’s put an end to the excessive swipe fees and ensure that our state’s vibrant tourism industry can continue to prosper.

More articles from the BDN

Visa Infinite: Everything you need to know, from rental car perks to lounge access

Jason Stauffer

Editor's Note

If you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® , United Club℠ Infinite Card or the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card , you may have noticed that it carries " Visa Infinite " branding.

Since only a few cards in the U.S. are Visa Infinite products, we don't blame you if you're a bit clueless as to what this designation entails. In addition to the cards mentioned, there aren't many other Visa Infinite cards that are easy to obtain.

We'll outline the perks of the Visa Infinite program below, but the first thing to know is that Visa Infinite cards are a step up from the more common Visa Signature designation found on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card .

As we review the benefits, remember these are the possible perks available through the Visa Infinite program. Specific issuers can tweak or exclude certain ones, as you'll see with the variation in lounge access benefits.

The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The 10 most valuable World Elite Mastercard benefits

Travel and lifestyle benefits

Global entry application fee credit.

This Visa Infinite program will reimburse you for the $100 fee when you apply for Global Entry . While this program is worth signing up for to breeze through immigration, several other premium travel rewards cards also offer a Global Entry fee reimbursement , so this shouldn't factor too heavily in your decision to get a Visa Infinite card.

Car rental privileges

Cardholders get special discounts at car rental providers such as Avis , National and Hertz and are eligible for various VIP amenities. The Visa Infinite program offers primary car rental insurance (more on that later in the post), so using an eligible card could be a great choice for renting a set of wheels.

Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection

When you book a hotel stay with a Visa Infinite card, you'll enjoy perks such as an automatic room upgrade on arrival (when available), free Wi-Fi and complimentary continental breakfast. Your Visa Infinite card will get you all the benefits available to Visa Signature cardholders, plus an extra amenity at over 200 locations.

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Note that the extra amenity you receive will vary by location. If you're looking for a particular one, it's a good idea to verify what amenity you'll receive before booking.

Visa Infinite Concierge

Like most premium card programs, the Visa Infinite program includes a dedicated concierge service that can assist with travel and dining arrangements, shopping, access to exclusive events and more. You can expect great service and assistance with almost whatever outing you plan. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and can be used domestically or abroad.

Priority Pass lounge access

Having a credit card with airport lounge access can be a game changer, and Priority Pass is the biggest airport lounge network with more than 1,500 locations worldwide. The exact lounge access privileges you'll get vary depending on the card.

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For example, the Sapphire Reserve comes with a full Priority Pass Select membership , which gets the cardholder and up to two guests unlimited lounge visits. On the other hand, the Altitude Reserve card comes with eight Priority Pass lounge visits per year. Each person who visits, whether they're a guest or the primary cardholder, will use up one of these eight passes, so plan accordingly.

Airline incidentals statement credit

With your Visa Infinite card, you may enjoy rebates for certain expenses associated with your flight. Examples include checked luggage charges and inflight food purchases. This benefit isn't included on all Visa Infinite cards, so check your particular card's terms and benefits. For example, the Sapphire Reserve offers an up to $300 travel credit and airline incidental fees are included under eligible charges.

Related: Get perks just for signing up with these loyalty programs

Travel and lifestyle protections

Primary rental car insurance.

Through Visa Infinite, you can get primary coverage* for up to $75,000 due to damage (caused by collision or theft) to a rental car. Visa Infinite cards aren't the only options to offer this coverage — the Chase Sapphire Preferred and a few others do as well — but this is a great perk to have since you won't need to file a claim with your own insurance company in the event of an accident or theft.

Trip cancellation, interruption and delay insurance

Visa Infinite cards offer trip cancellation and interruption insurance.** This includes reimbursement of up to $2,000 per insured trip for nonrefundable expenses when you cancel a trip for a covered reason or when your trip is interrupted or delayed for a covered reason.

tourism london visa card

There's a full list of "covered reasons," but if you're suffering from a serious illness or injury, you can expect this benefit to be offered. In addition, Visa Infinite provides trip delay insurance.*** You'll get coverage for expenses (up to $500 per day) when a purchased trip is delayed more than six hours or requires an overnight stay.

Lost luggage reimbursement

Yet another travel protection Visa Infinite cardholders enjoy is lost luggage reimbursement.*** If your checked or carry-on baggage is lost or stolen on a common carrier, the program will reimburse you up to $3,000 (up to $2,000 for New York residents) per covered trip.

tourism london visa card

You're eligible for this coverage when you pay for at least a portion of the travel with your Visa Infinite card or with the rewards associated with the card. Having lost luggage protection is a great way to relieve stress during a trip. It's frustrating when an airline loses your luggage, but you can at least get some compensation with the right protection.

Extended warranty, purchase protection and return protection

When you purchase a product with a warranty of three years or less, you'll get an extra year of coverage*** for up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per cardholder. This isn't the only coverage option out there; for more options, take a look at our list of the best cards with extended warranty protection .

tourism london visa card

If an item is stolen or damaged within 90 days from the purchase date — and you purchased it with a Visa Infinite Card — you'll be covered for up to $10,000 per claim (up to $50,000 per cardholder). With purchase protection coverage,*** you can either be reimbursed, have the item repaired or get a replacement.

In addition to purchase protection that covers you in the event of theft or damage, the Visa Infinite program offers return protection*** coverage of up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year when you're unhappy with a product and the retailer won't accept a return. To be eligible, you must pay for the purchase with your Visa Infinite card and file a claim within 90 days of the purchase date.

Other protections that may be included with your Visa Infinite card include cellphone protection, emergency evacuation, hotel theft protection and price protection. Check the benefits of your specific Visa Infinite card to find out if it offers these protections.

*Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered, and geographic restrictions apply. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/visa-credit-cards/visa-infinite-credit-cards.html#2 for details. Policies are underwritten by Indemnity Insurance Company of North America. **Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/visa-credit-cards/visa-infinite-credit-cards.html#2 for details. Policies are underwritten by Federal Insurance Company. ***Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/visa-credit-cards/visa-infinite-credit-cards.html#2 for details. Policies are underwritten by Indemnity Insurance Company of North America.

Related: Should you get travel insurance if you have credit card protection?

Bottom line

Like other premium credit card programs, Visa Infinite offers a nice array of benefits for your rewards credit card .

The airport lounge access and primary car rental insurance can certainly come in handy. Other perks like car rental discounts and special treatment at hotels aren't unique to the program, but they can absolutely add to the value you get from your card — not a bad thing if you're paying $550 a year for the Chase Sapphire Reserve .

Related: United Club Infinite Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

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    Capping varies based on the zones you travel in, but for example, for peak travel in Zones 1 & 2, the maximum daily fee is £8.50 (as of March 2024). So no matter how many times you travel on public transport using your Oyster card in London's zones 1 and 2, you will never be charged more than £8.50 a day. As of September 2021, Oyster cards ...

  11. Apply for UK Visa From USA

    Green Card holders or US residents may be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United Kingdom depending on their country of citizenship and the purpose of travel. The UK government has established types of visas that fit every traveler based on their purpose of entry. Citizens of the countries listed here need to […]

  12. Tourism London offering incentives to Stay A Little Longer

    Book a minimum two-night (consecutive) stay at a participating hotel and receive a $100 @tourism_london VISA card upon check in. For more information or to book your stay, visit: https://t.co ...

  13. UK Visitor Visa Requirements for Tourists

    The UK visa policy grants EU citizens and citizens of over 60 other countries the possibility to enter the UK visa-free for up to six months. However, all non-British nationals need to apply for a visa if they intend to stay longer. For example, if you are a US citizen, you can visit the UK without a visa for up to six months.

  14. Best ways for visitors to pay

    Pay as you go (paying only for the journeys you make) is the easiest way to pay for travel in London. You don't have to work out the cost of your journey in advance. You can pay as you go using contactless (card or device), an Oyster card or a Visitor Oyster card. It also offers great value as pay as you go is cheaper than buying single tickets ...

  15. Tourist Card for London: How to buy it?

    From £49. iVenture Card. 30+ attractions, including the Tower of London, the London Eye, Thames Cruise. Discounts in restaurants, shops, and tours. 1, 2, 3, 5, or 7 days. From £84. London Explorer Pass. Up to 7 attractions from a list of 20, including the Tower of London, the London Eye, Thames Cruise.

  16. London Oyster card FAQs: the basics

    You can pay for your London bus fare with a Visitor Oyster card*, Oyster card, Travelcard or contactless payment card. You cannot pay for the bus fare with cash. If you pay with a Visitor Oyster card, Oyster card or contactless payment card, a single adult fare is £1.75. If you have a paper Travelcard, just show your ticket to the driver.

  17. Visa requirements for visiting the United Kingdom

    The UK government has a handy online guide to help you check if you need a UK visa . Britain is not a member of the Schengen Zone, so you will need to show your passport when arriving and leaving from a UK border point. Visas are generally not needed for stays of up to six months for tourism or visiting friends and family.

  18. Travelcards and group tickets

    Travelcards. A Travelcard (in the zones it's valid for) gives you unlimited travel at any time on bus, Tube, Tram, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and National Rail services in London. You can use it on all buses, and if valid in zones 3, 4, 5 or 6, on all trams. Travelcards can start on any day.

  19. Visiting the UK: guide to supporting documents

    1. Travel document (passport) You must provide a valid passport or other travel document with all applications and when travelling to the UK. Your passport must have at least 1 page blank if you ...

  20. 19 Best Travel Credit Cards Of June 2024

    Forbes Advisor considered dozens of airline, hotel and flexible-rewards credit cards to create this list of the best travel credit cards. The primary factors taken into consideration for all types ...

  21. Spark Small Business Credit Cards

    1. Each card's respective one-time bonus is available by clicking the "Apply Now" button on this page, and may not be available if you navigate away from or close this page. The bonus may not be available for existing or previous Capital One Business card holders. Venture X Business: Earn 150,000 bonus miles once you spend $30,000 in the ...

  22. 15 Best Airline Credit Cards Of June 2024

    As a general rule, a valuation of 1.5 to 2 cents per mile is decent for most airline miles. If you want to get the best credit card to earn your preferred airline miles, check out these lists ...

  23. Best Travel Credit Cards of June 2024

    Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Bankrate score. 4.9. Bankrate review. Recommended credit score: 670 - 850. Apply now. on Capital One's secure site. See Rates & Fees. Intro offer.

  24. Contactless and mobile pay as you go

    Using a mobile payment to pay as you go is the same as using a contactless card. You can make mobile payments with devices such as phones, watches, key fobs, stickers or wristbands. You can use different mobile payments to travel on our transport services: If you use a mobile payment associated with a non-UK bank card, your card may not work or ...

  25. Apply for a UK visa in the USA

    Updated 24 April 2023. To apply for a UK visa in the USA you need to: apply online. pay your fee. book and attend your biometric appointment. Attend an Application Support Center ( ASC) mail your ...

  26. Maine's tourism industry needs protection from credit card swipe fees

    This April 22, 2005, file photo, shows logos for MasterCard and Visa credit cards at the entrance of a New York coffee shop. ... Tourism supports more than 110,000 jobs in Maine, ...

  27. Best Credit Cards For International Travel Of June 2024

    Rewards: Earn 10 points per dollar on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner, 5 points per dollar on eligible travel, dining and gas and 1 point per ...

  28. Visa Infinite: Everything you need to know, from rental car perks to

    Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024. There aren't many Visa Infinite cards available in the U.S., but if you hold one you can get a variety of perks, including airfare discounts and travel insurance.