The very important reason all London Underground passengers should check their Oyster Cards now

This morning – bright, frosty, beautiful – I saw a man scratch the ice off the windshield of his car. His partner was waiting inside, checking to see if he’d missed any seats.

He didn’t use any of those mini scrapers that were kept in the glove compartment all year round for the rare day like this.

No – as I got closer, I began to see the characteristic blue color of his instrument: an oyster card.

READ MORE: Huge change to London Underground and train fares as Oyster capping happens weekly

The Oyster Card, introduced by TfL in 2003, was originally developed to speed up the ticketing process in train stations and to enable customers to check their journeys online.

But in September last year, TfL announced that it was no longer allowed to top up Oyster cards at ticket offices at train stations or subway stations.

In addition to the growth in contactless payment, skeptics are wondering: Is the Oyster Card’s death toll finally ringing?

Personally, I am still an oyster loyalist. However, if you’ve neglected your Oyster Card in favor of a different payment method, you may be due some cash.

A woman who taps into Charing Cross station with her Oyster Card

Money stored on Oyster Cards

According to the latest data from TfL, Oyster cards that have not been used in more than a year hold over £ 545 million worth of unspent funds.

Of that total, more than half (£ 281 million) consists of unused funds, while the remainder are unclaimed deposits. (Yes – do you remember paying £ 5 in deposit when you received your Oyster card? You can get that back.)

These staggering sums of money have sparked outrage on social media – as well as suggestions on how the money could be better used.

However, the average Oyster card balance for unused cards (Oyster cards and photo cards) is a measly £ 2.54.

Tourists using Oyster Visitor Cards have typically locked up more, with an average balance of £ 7.07.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan with his Oyster Card at Brixton Station

How do I get my credit back?

The good news is, the Oyster Card does not expire.

If your balance is less than £ 10, you can get it back (plus your £ 5 deposit) at any ticket machine at a tube station.

You’ll need to tap your card on the yellow reader, hit “Oyster Refund” and follow the on-screen instructions.

If your balance is more than £ 10 don’t worry – you will need to send your Oyster card to TfL or call customer service instead.

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So is the Oyster Card really dead?

Not really. There are nearly seven million people who have used their Oyster Card in London in the past year.

There are nearly 90 million Oyster card holders in London (including Oyster photocards and Oyster cards for visitors).

TfL data shows that people are still buying Oyster cards – and the number is increasing every year.

Despite the pandemic, for example, the number of Oyster cards rose by 1.6 percent between September 2020 and 2021, which corresponds to almost 1.5 million cards.

Oyster Card is now ready for use at Hertford North – photos by Martine Xerri

But the truth is that most people don’t use their Oyster Cards, or use them irregularly. Of the 89,562,290 valid Oyster cards, 82,660,513 (92 percent) have not been used for more than a year.

While this has been the case since 2013, the number of unused Oyster cards is growing.

There is still life in the Oyster card.

And for the time being, I’ll stay true to my precious blue card.

But if yours is gathering dust, we recommend staking your claim to those £ 545 million.

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