When you are travelling through a huge city like London, you want the process to be as smooth and as efficient as possible. It’s the little things like easy access to public transport that make a holiday in the city much more stress-free – as it should be!
The introduction of the Oyster Card in 2003 across all London transport (Docklands Light Railway, London Underground, National Rail within London fare zones, buses, London Overground and some boat services) helped eliminate the daily hassle of multiple tickets and fares. Since then, travel in the capital has become much more streamlined to the point where the entire system is almost cashless.
Of course, as a tourist, you can easily get acquire an Oyster Card upon your arrival to the city. You can get one from the following places: Oyster Online (UK residents only), Oyster ticket stops, station and London Travel information centres. They cost just £5 and can be returned upon leaving the city at which point you will get your deposit back.
However, once you have the card, you will need to load it with money so that you can use it successfully on the tube, buses or any other mode of public transport you take.
Enter contactless payment and an even easier way to travel in London.
This new method of payment allows those with a contactless debit card to simply use this to pay for all their travel; all you have to do it tap the contactless symbol to the yellow transport symbol you find at the entrance of each station. You should tap your card at each point available along your trip to ensure you are paying for the correct fare. If you miss a fare or forget, you may be charged for extra for your trip. You must also ensure that you tap out at the end of your journey as if you don’t it will leave the trip unfinished, which may cause problems the next time you attempt to use the tube.
For buses, you only have to tap once as you enter the vehicle. You do not have to do it as you leave.
MasterCard, in particular, has been a big advocate of contactless payment in London and the card provider doesn’t believe that visitors from foreign countries should have to convert their currencies when using a contactless payment, according to Forbes.
Will Judge, the head of MasterCard’s urban transportation payments program, said: “For a novel payment device like a phone, using it two, three or four times daily for public transit builds trust in a way the occasional use doesn’t do.
“We believe it is a powerful driver of consumer learning. Once you can get somebody familiar with a new way of paying fares, it becomes a part of the fabric of their lives, it becomes background behaviour.”
Judge continued by telling Forbes that: “If you are trying to run a busy metro transport system you haven’t got the time or the money to employ staff to do a whole series of cash transactions.”
He added that the use of cash on public transport slows down the entire process, and that now methods such as contactless and mobile payment have caught on things are much quicker.
MasterCard have acknowledged that some people can be sceptical of using their cards in such a public manner, but with some 30 million contactless cards now in circulation, according to the card provider, many more people are becoming increasingly comfortable with the process.
As a result of this, the whole experience of travel in the capital is becoming much more efficient, which is ideal for busy tourists on a tight schedule. If you have a contactless card, you can go straight from the airport or train station to your London hotel with minimal fuss!
As well as MasterCard and VISA, you can also use American Express (AMEX) as long as the card has the contactless capability on it. Perhaps, in the near future, contactless cards will go some way in replacing paper tickets all together. Of course, this will depend on an increase of this type of cards being issued by major banks and card providers.
If the technology could be linked successfully between cities without currency charges and other obstacles, contactless cards could become a revolution in global travel. For now, it’s certainly worth considering this on your next trip to London as it will help you avoid a great deal of hassle when getting from A to B.