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Oyster cards and discounts

Here you can find information about what an Oyster card is, how to use it and where to get one, 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.


Oyster cards

What is an Oyster card?

The majority of 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. For example, a single journey in zones 1-2 at an off peak time would cost you £2.40 (or £2.90 at a peak time) whereas buying a paper ticket for the same journey would cost £4.90.

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?

Oyster cards are free, but require you to pay a £5 deposit when you first get one. If you decide you no longer need your Oyster card, you can send it back and Transport for London (TfL) will give you the deposit back.


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.

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.

To apply, you must be enrolled:

  • with a school, college or university that's registered on the TfL scheme and
  • on a mandatory work placement in London or
  • on an eligible full-time course of 14 weeks duration or longer

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.

Where can I get an 18+ Oyster card?

You can apply online on the TfL website. In order to apply online for your photocard you will need:

  • your credit/debit card number and expiry date
  • a digital photograph of yourself saved as a jpeg file
  • your UCL student number (SN on the front of your UCL ID card)

Please note that 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.

Please note that 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. 

If you have any questions about the status of your application for the 18+ Oyster card, please contact the Student Records team on studentrecords@ucl.ac.uk quoting your application reference number.

How much does it cost?

It costs £20 and will expire on your course end date.

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.

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. For example, 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.

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.


16-25 Railcards

What is a 16-25 Railcard?

A 16-25 Railcard is a plastic card that gives you 1/3 off rail fairs. Many home students consider buying a 16-25 Railcard if they are intending to travel by train fairly often, for example to visit family.

Where can I buy one, and how much does it cost?

You can buy a16-25 Railcard online. It costs £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 16-25 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 16-25 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.