Oyster cards, contactless cards and rail discounts

Here you can find information about getting an Oyster card and using your bank card on public transport as well as information about what discounts you may be eligible for.

Please note that this information is correct to the best of our knowledge but may be subject to change.

Contactless payment

If your bank card issued on Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or American Express shows the contactless payment symbol, you can use it to pay-as-you-go on all Transport for London (TfL) services. 

Using a mobile payment, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay, is the same as using a contactless card. You can make mobile payments with devices such as phones, watches, key fobs, stickers or wristbands.

For more information on using contactless payment methods on London transport, please visit the Transport for London (TfL) website.  

Oyster cards

Please do not apply for the 18+ oystercard until you are living in London during term time and have updated your Portico record to show this. You will not be eligible for the card if you do not live in London during term time.

What is an Oyster card?

Many people living in London use Oyster cards to pay for public transport. An Oyster card is a plastic smartcard which can hold pay-as-you-go credit (money), Travelcards and Bus & Tram Passes. You can load money on to your Oyster card (known as ‘topping up’) at any tube or London Overground station, as well as in any shop where you see the blue Oyster card sign. You can use an Oyster card to travel on bus, tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line, River Bus services and most National Rail services in London.

Most people living in London will have an Oyster card, as Oyster fares are substantially cheaper than buying paper tickets for single journeys. 

You can find out the cost of single journeys using Travel for London’s Single Fare Finder tool.

Where can I get an Oyster card?

You can get an Oyster card from any Tube, London Overground and TfL Rail stations, as well as some DLR and National Rail stations.

How much does it cost?

You have to pay a £7 fee for an Oyster card, and if you bought yours on or after 4 September 2022, it is non-refundable. 

18+ Student Oyster photocards

What is an 18+ Oyster card?

An 18+ Student Oyster photocard works in the same way as a standard Oyster card, but looks slightly different as it includes a photo of you. It also entitles you to some extra discounts.

What discounts can I get with an 18+ Oyster card?

If you have an 18+ Student Oyster photocard, you can get 30% off the price of adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets.

A Travelcard season ticket gives you unlimited travel for a week, a month or a year. The cost of a Travelcard will vary depending on the length of time it is valid for and which zones you are travelling between. For example, if you are travelling only in zone 1 or between zones 1 and 2, a weekly Travelcard will cost £33. Travelling in zones 1-3 will cost £38.70. You can find a full list of rates on the TfL website.

Am I eligible?

If you're 18 or over, live at a London address during term time and in full-time education, or on a mandatory work placement in London, you may be eligible for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard.

Please find the eligibility criteria outlined on the TFL web page.

You must have fully enrolled at UCL before you will be eligible. If you apply before you have fully enrolled, you risk your application being rejected and losing your application fee. If you are a part-time student, your application will be rejected unless you meet the TfL criteria, which can be found on the TfL website. You must use your correct programme end date from Portico when you apply otherwise your application will be rejected.

How do I apply?

In order to apply online for your photocard you will need to provide:

  • an active email address
  • your UCL student number (SN on the front of your UCL ID card)
  • London borough address
  • Digital photo which must be a .jpg, .bmp or .gif file and less than 6MB
  • Your correct programme of study end date from Portico

You will be required to pay an administration fee of £20 using a credit or debit card. Due to the £20 fee of registering for an 18+ Oyster card, it is worth considering whether or not it will be worth the money for you. Please make sure to select the 'University Course' option and not the 'Work Placement' option, as you may lose the administration fee if you choose the incorrect option. 

If you will only be making a few journeys on public transport, you may not need to use a Travelcard or Bus & Tram Pass season ticket and therefore would not need an 18+ photocard. You may be better off using pay as you go at the adult rate and not paying the £20 fee. For example, to hit a weekly Travelcard in zones 1-2, you would need to make at least fourteen Tube journeys (which would cost £2.40 each within zones 1-2) or 22 bus journeys (which always cost £1.50, no matter how far you travel) to make it worth buying a £33 weekly Travelcard, and thus benefit from the discount.

You can use TfL’s Single Fare Finder to work out how much single tube journeys would cost you for different zones, and whether or not you are likely to make enough journeys for it to be worth buying a weekly, monthly or yearly Travelcard. If you are buying multiple Travelcards, it may be worth paying the £20 fee to register for an 18+ Student Oyster photocard to benefit from the 30% discount.

Please note: You must enter your institution name correctly in order for the application to be successful - if the form does not automatically select 'UCL' when you type it in, please click the link to view a list of all eligible institutions and pick 'UCL' from the list. If you extend your period of study, you will need to apply for a new Oyster photocard to cover the additional time. UCL is not responsible for any inaccuracies in your Oyster photocard end date. If your status changes and you are no longer eligible for the 18+ Oyster photocard (because you leave UCL, interrupt your studies or change to part-time status) we are required to report this to TfL.

You should be aware that once your Oyster has a discount attached to it, you can no longer share it with or lend it to other people as it is only valid with the associated discount card.

Apply for an 18+ Student Oyster Card

Checking your application status

Information on how to check your application status can be found on the TfL's 18+ Student Oyster photocard web page

If you have a query about the status of your application for the 18+ Oyster card, you may log an enquiry via askUCL. Please quote your application reference number.


16+ Zip Oyster Card

UCL can sign and stamp a 16+ Oyster card application for eligible students.

To be eligible for free bus and tram travel, the applicant must be aged 16 or 17 on 31st August and be living in a London borough. If the applicant is 18, UCL does not sign the form as a Higher Education Institute (level 6).

Full details of how to apply for the 16+ Oyster card can be on the Transport for London website.

16-25 and 26-30 railcards

What are railcards?

The 16-25 and 26-30 railcards are plastic cards or downloadable as an app that gives you 1/3 off rail fairs. Many home students consider buying a 16-25 or 26-30 railcard if they are intending to travel by train fairly often, for example, to visit family.

For more information visit the 16-25 railcard web page.

For more information, visit the 26-30 railcard website.

Where can I buy one, and how much do they cost?

You should only buy the 16-25 or 26-30 railcards from the official railcard website. They cost £30 for one year.

Linking your railcard and your Oyster card

You can also add the discount to your standard Oyster card or your 18+ Student Oyster photocard to get a 34% discount on single off-peak pay-as-you-go fares on London Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) services.

Peak times are from 06:30 to 9:29 and from 16:00 to 18:59 Monday to Friday. During peak travel times, some journeys cost slightly more. Your railcard will not get you a discount during these times.

For example: a single Tube journey within zone 1 or between zones 1 and 2 outside the hours of 06:30 to 9:29 and from 16:00 to 18:59 or on a weekend would cost £2.40. With a railcard linked to your Oyster card, the same journey would cost £1.59. Journeys made within those hours (during peak times) would cost £2.90, regardless of whether or not your Oyster and railcard are linked.

You can use TfL's Single Fare Finder to work out how much single Tube journeys would cost without being linked to a railcard.

Due to the £30 fee when you buy a railcard, it is worth considering whether or not you would use the discounts it gives you often enough for it to be worth the money.

How do I link my railcard and my Oyster card?

To link your Oyster card and railcard, you need to take your Oyster card and your railcard to an Underground station, Overground ticket office or some National Rail ticket offices and ask the clerk to add your discount entitlement to your Oyster card. It will be valid until the expiry of the railcard.

You should be aware that once your Oyster has a discount attached to it, you can no longer share it with or lend it to other people as it is only valid with the associated discount card.

Young persons coach card

Young person coach cards are available for all people aged 16 - 26 or full-time students over the age of 26. They give you a third (33.3%) off all Standard and Fully Flexible coach fares with the National Express. 

Find out more information on the National Express website.