How To Get An Oyster Card Refund – Free Money!

Free Money For ALL Oyster Card Holders

I moved to London about 6 years ago and at the time the cheapest way to get around London was to get an Oyster card. Being a non-Londoner I spent £5 at a photobooth and went to get me an Oyster card from TFL. For Five Shiny Pounds they gave me an Oyster card and I was on my way.

TFL Oyster Card

6 Long Years Later


Time has passed and now contactless is everywhere. It did exist 6 years ago however the TfL network had not been set up to handle contactless payment. Would you believe me if I told you the busses used to take cash payments? I’ve had to get off a bus before (along with everyone else) while the driver went to the loo as he couldn’t leave the passengers in the bus with the cash alone! Anyway, I digress.

Transport for London have upgraded their yellow Oyster card readers and they have been able to read contactless bank cards for a number of years. I’ve not used my Oyster card and it has sat, unloved in a drawer, since then.

Friendly Station Staff

Thanks to the reversal of the planned un-manning of the stations, we have plenty of staff at Clapham Common. I spoke to one of them yesterday and he confirmed that I could get a refund for my Oyster card. There was little chance there was any money on it but you used to have to pay £5 to just have the actual card. I wanted that £5 back.

Getting Your Oyster Card Refund

First job was to tap my Oyster Card at one of the machines at the station.

Tap that Oyster Card

Result! The card still worked. The machine did all the work and helped me get my cash. The first screen I saw told me that I still had money on the card! Over £8. Double-Result.

It also told me I last used it over 3 years ago. This was when I commuted every day into the office. I don’t do this any more as I’m lucky enough to WFH (work from home) occasionally. This was money I wanted back so I clicked the ‘Pay As You Go Refund’ button.

This brought up another screen that told me the total refund I’d be getting, including the £5 value of the card itself!

The only thing that could have made this whole exchange better would have been to have actually put the cash back on a bank card. Instead, if you request an Oyster refund from one of the Oyster machines at a station, you will be paid back in cash.

Richie Rich!

Ok. Its not a fortune and I never expected it to be – £13.60. The important thing is that this is now MY money and no longer is sitting in a TFL bank account somewhere making them the big bucks. The BBC has said that currently there is over £400 million unclaimed/unused.

Oyster used to be the go-to way of paying for travel around London, but 66 million of the blue plastic cards haven’t been used in at least a year. And while they languish forgotten in drawers, bags and wallets, Transport for London (TfL) has amassed a fortune in unclaimed balances and deposits – now worth almost £400m.

BBC News Website

Even in my standard bank account I’d be able to get 1.4% Interest so TFL has made nearly £6million on the money it holds. Not a bad windfall for TfL but they have said they re-invest all the money back into the network. This benefits everyone however it still feels like the money could be better used.

What Will I Do With My Riches?


Buy a yacht. Get a supercar. I might even bet it all on black. The truth is I will add it to my PayPal balance and treat myself to some more retro-tech.

All in change. Why was it all in change? Why couldn’t they have given me a refund to my bank card? Pah!

The Reverend’s Tip

Do double check if you have any Oyster cards lying about as its so easy to get an Oyster Card refund. Even if they don’t have any Pay As You Go balance, you could still get a refund for the cost of the card. Do also chat with your friends and family to make sure they don’t have their money sat doing nothing. You could even share this blog post with them. 🙂

The Reverend’s Tip #2

If you are in London then I’ve got a great blog post on free things to do. Check it out –



  1. How do you get a refund when you don’t go to London,I have a card from over 6 years ago.ive tried on the website but it’s says you haven’t used your card in X amount of years.

    1. Hi Alan,

      I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that the refund can only be made in cash from the machines and they don’t actually take the card off you.

      Although online it says you can only get a refund from the machines if the balance is £10 or less, I got a refund with more than £10 on the card.

      Do you know anyone going to London as perhaps they could get the refund for you. It does say you can claim a refund online however I’m not sure if that works for unregistered Oyster cards.


      The Reverend

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