back to article EE & Vodafone will let you BONK on the TUBE – with Boris' blessing

London Underground commuters will soon be able to pay for Tube journeys via contactless credit cards thanks to EE, Vodafone and Transport for London. The pay-by-bonk system, currently undergoing trials, works by users charging a pre-payment wallet on their NFC-enabled phones and using it to pay for journeys. This sits between …


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  1. dotdavid

    EE and Vodafone?

    I'd rather just have an Oyster app for the common smartphone platforms, preferably that could be used instead of my Oyster card as an emergency if I forget or lose the latter. Is that not possible?

    1. WonkoTheSane

      Re: EE and Vodafone?

      Not really. NFC requires specific hardware on the phone. Which rules out anything Apple flavoured.

      Worse than that, these "trials" only seem to involve specific models of phones, rather than any phone with an NFC chip.

      You may be able to get away with some kind of NFC sticker on your phone (or just stick an extra PAYG Oyster card in your phone case).

      1. Fred M

        Re: EE and Vodafone?

        It should be possible to have an Oyster app for any NFC enabled phone. However I believe that the PAYG Oyster balance is stored on the card for speed of retrieval (despite what this article suggests). It's pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that an app on the phone might be more susceptible to reverse engineering or hacking than when embedded on an Oyster card.

        @WonkTheSane - You're right that this requires NFC and excludes Apple, but so does this payment system. NFC underpins how both Oyster and contactless bank payments work. It'll all be OK in a year's time when the innovative geniuses at Apple "invent" NFC.

        1. WonkoTheSane
          Thumb Up

          Re: EE and Vodafone?

          "It'll all be OK in a year's time when the innovative geniuses at Apple patent NFC."


      2. therealmav

        Re: EE and Vodafone?

        >Which rules out anything Apple flavoured.

        perhaps it's just me, but i'm sure i've seen people on the tube using apps on phones which *weren't* made by Apple.

  2. MJI Silver badge

    Had a nose around

    Looks like they should be asking Brush rather than English Electric.

    Most recent ones seem to have Brush electrical kit.

  3. Nigel Whitfield.

    No more cash

    From this summer, London buses won't be taking cash anywhere, and you'll have to pay by Oyster or some contactless system.

    While there are certainly some benefits, a cynic might wonder how much LT will benefit from all those tourists who forget to return their Oyster card as they dash to the airport at the end of their trip; potentially an awful lot of £5 deposits plus outstanding balances.

    For that matter, does an Oyster card really cost £5 now, compared to the £3 deposit when they were introduced?

    For the individual, the amounts are relatively small, but given the number of cards in use, it must add up to a substantial sum sitting in TFL's bank accounts. (Similarly with Oyster Auto Top-Up, where the threshold was first £5, then £8 and now £10, ensuring they hold a substantial amount of customers' money.)

    I wonder how much of a balance they will require users to hold as a minimum on these systems, and whether they'll try, for example, to make auto-top-up mandatory with them.

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: No more cash

      There is no minimum balance on an Oyster card, it will let you go a little into a negative balance.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: No more cash

        Indeed it will; but if you choose to have the auto-top-up, then there is an effective minimum balance, below which tapping in automatically triggers an automatic top-up of your card.

        That has increased, as I said, so for anyone with auto-top-up, TFL is now sitting on several pounds of their money all the time.

        If they were to insist that a pre-payment wallet on phones worked in the same way - though of course, it would be presented as "never run out of credit to get you home" - then that will be another chunk of users for whom TFL will effectively be holding on to money.

        For an individual user, it's not huge sums here - but across the total number of people using this type of products, it must mount up, and it would be interesting to know how much cash (and interest) TFL sites on as a result of the increasing minimum levels they specify on products like Oyster auto-top-up.

  4. Jim 59

    Alas for the El Reg headline writer

    What happened ? Is it true he retired to become a bikini inspector in California ?

    El Reg Editors' Lolz Lacking

    - Comely Commentard Calls it out

  5. Jonathan Richards 1

    Limited devices

    Wonko wrote:

    Worse than that, these "trials" only seem to involve specific models of phones, rather than any phone with an NFC chip

    The EE flavour, called Cash on Tap [] only works on 9 models of mobile phone (none of which I own), and you have to have a 4GEE contract and a special NFC-enabled SIM card, too. This is some way from replacing the convenience of cash, or the Oyster card. As a very occasional visitor to the metropolis, I shall probably just stop catching the bus...

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