Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Beware TFL Contactless Payment overcharging with Credit Cards

Check your card statement very carefully if you use contactless payment on London Transport TFL instead of Oyster

Using a credit card to touch in and out and pay for journeys on the tube around London would seem like a much better payment method than using an Oyster card - which you have to apply for and top up in advance. 

Contactless credit and debit card payment is especially useful for infrequent travellers who would previously have paid much higher single fares.

Topping up an Oyster card also requires a stored balance, using a credit or debit contactless card means you truly do 'pay as you go' - no upfront contribution to the TFL coffers.

However the down side is you don't see any display on the card reader showing how much you have been charged when you pay this way. Also all the journeys in a single day are added together into a single charge on your card statement so you have no idea what you paid for each individual journey.

I just got my credit card statement for March. 28 days ago I was charged £10.80 on 30th March for journeys that should have cost a total of £5.60. I didn't discover this until my credit card statement arrived almost a month later.

Fortunately the day this journey took place I suspected something would go wrong with the payment so I registered my credit card on the TFL website in my Oyster profile.

The reason I suspected a problem was because although the customer leaving the exit barrier in front of me touched out there was a problem with his payment.

I had already touched my card on the reader and we both pushed through as the barriers opened. I was concerned about how I would be charged. If you don't touch out you pay a full fare and I couldn't be sure whose payment had registered to open the gates - his payment or mine.

So I spoke to a member of TFL staff who explained I should touch out again as I could not be charged twice.

I was dubious this would happen  so I registered my card online when I got home and thought nothing about it until the credit card statement arrived.

£10.80 as a daily charge exceeds the 
£8.80 daily fare cap for touching in and out

After looking at the statement I logged in to TFL to discover I had an incomplete journey alert in my account. But instead of recognising that my card had been charged twice less than 1 minute apart the system appeared to assume I had made another journey in the meantime (if only tube travel was so quick you could go anywhere within a single minute!) and was asking me where I should have touched in.

I filled out an online form to claim a refund from TFL, but it looked like what might happen would be that I would subsequently get charged for 3 journeys instead of the 2 I actually made that day.

Then I phoned my credit card provider MBNA. The agent was extremely unhelpful when I explained MBNA had accepted an incorrect charge on my behalf from TFL. They explained curtly that this retailer (TFL) had instructed them not to deal with any disputes but refer complainants to TFL.

This morning I phoned TFL. The agent saw the problem and agreed to refund the incorrectly registered incomplete journey fee of £5.20. But I was unhappy about this. TFL could have contacted me by email or phone using data in my account, but no, they just billed my credit card an extra fee - exceeding the daily maximum charge.

I pushed the point. 

  • The member of staff at Oxford Circus was incorrect when they advised me to touch out again. The agent explained you are charged every time you touch the reader.

  • TFL should have realised I could not have made a fresh journey inside a one minute interval.

  • TFL should correct these errors - other credit card users who don't register their cards online may never spot the error.

The agent said this was a unique situation, normally errors were automatically corrected before charges are applied.

I responded I very much doubted this experience was 'unique' and had only happened once on planet earth with millions of users every day. He agreed it was not 'unique' but only happened a few times a day. 

That's a lot of extra revenue taken from customers who have been overcharged. 

TFL should be proactive and refund customers - not wait for them to notice.

TFL should warn customers of other contactless payment problems - not just the danger of card clash (touching more than one card near the reader may result in multiple charges).

The agent did agree to refund me £10 for the trouble their mistakes caused me.

I won't be using credit cards to pay now but will revert to topping up an Oyster card - that way my contract is direct with TFL not via a credit card company, and I can verify the charge for journeys on screen as I touch out.

Here are TFL's help pages for disputed credit card incomplete journey charges:

Update: 30th October 2017

As further proof TFL fraudulent overcharging on credit cards continues. 

My partner's Amex card has just been charged £7.70. In fact she made no journey at all. 

She touched in at Heathrow Terminal 5 last week, but the station was evacuated before she boarded any train. When the tannoy announced an emergency evacuation the gates were opened so it was not possible to touch out. At my suggestion she linked her Amex card in her Oyster account and it immediately showed there was a refund owing for an imcomplete journey with an indicative fare of £2.80 (This in itself is twice the fare that would have been charged if the journey had been made). 

If TFL knew the likely journey charge was £2.80 why did it take £7.70 from the customer's credit card account? 

TFL is still overcharging users of contactless credit cards.


Anonymous said...

Great blog and useful information, thank you, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

This has just happened to me on a one-day visit to London. So much hassle to get the full £5.20 refunded - why doesn't the online refund system take care of this? Prospect of phoning with phone charges applied is discouraging - I have emailed them with the promise of a response within 10 DAYS!! Loads of people must just shrug it off and let them keep the money...

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Anonymous said...

I agree. I have an Oyster Card which is registered and which was set to auto top-up via my credit card. Normally it works ok but I noticed one time that TfL had made a double charge on my credit card for a single top-up. So I was charged £40 TWICE for a single £40 top-up. Contacted them. Apologies and will investigate and will refund but they have never done either of these. As the other posts have said BE CAREFUL WITH TFL and credit cards - they do not know when they have made a mistake and they do not contact you to say that they have. Someone should file a Freedom of Information request to TfL to find out what the scale of the problem is.

Anonymous said...

Having used my contactless debit card only for a few weeks and seen my bank statement of random charges for entirely identical journey every single day, I am definitely going back to Oyster card and its manual top-up... I am not giving TFL any more opportunities to just take whatever random amount they wish. I find this criminal that they just overcharge and double=charge whatever they do, calling it mistakes and keeping the money until someone comes to claim it back.

Unknown said...

Thank you very helpful.

With my situation I really don't know who to contact first, my tfl statement clearly shows that my travel journeys are correct, but my contactless card bank card statement showing that I have been charge twice several times?

Who do I have to talk to first about it because I believe this is something not right is happening?

The chief Executive said...

I would start with tfl - they will have more idea about what your issue is than your Contactless card provider - especially if you have registered your card - which I suggest every user should for exactly this scenario.