Transport bosses have been urged to do more to encourage passengers to reclaim their Oyster balances after the amount of cash on cards not used for more than 12 months spiralled to more than £220m.
Official figures show that, as of the end of June, Transport for London held more than £111m in unused Pay As You Go funds with a further £112m retained in deposits.
Both figures are up significantly on a year ago when there was £85.6m in unspent PAYG funds and £83.2m in deposits.
Despite the overall rise, the average amount of unspent funds per card has remained virtually static at £3.72 this year compared to £3.74 at the end of June 2015.
The growth in dormant cards and funds appears to be attributable to the rising popularity of contactless fares which, unlike Oyster, allow passengers to travel instantly without the need to top-up or maintain a separate card balance.
With average card balances so low, it seems many commuters simply aren’t bothering to reclaim their unspent funds before consigning their Oyster cards to the bin. Many others are thought to be retaining the cards for use by visiting friends and family.
Following longstanding pressure from a number of London Assembly members, including Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, TfL has been advising passengers to reclaim their unspent funds.
However Ms Pidgeon says the agency needs to do more to ensure its bank balance isn’t benefitting from passenger uncertainty or confusion.
She’s called on TfL managers “to run a campaign promoting how the public can easily claim back their own money” and to make it clearer to tourists that they can reclaim unused funds while still keeping their Oyster cards as a souvenir of their visit.
The AM commented: “The amount of money left on unused Oyster cards has been steadily growing for a number of years, but with the advent of contactless payment the amount of money left on unused Oyster cards has soared to record levels and is now fast approaching a quarter of a billion pounds.”
TfL says it already advises passengers via email and online and poster adverts that unwanted cards can be returned and stresses that tourists and other visitors can retain their cards if they reclaim any unspent balance from a ticket machine.
Shashi Verma, Director of Customer Experience, said: “The credit balance on Oyster cards never runs out and customers can obtain a full refund whenever they wish.
This is why we regularly publish the amount of credit left on Oyster cards, remind our customers that the credit never expires and provide information on how to get a full refund from Tube station ticket machines or by contacting our customer services team on 0343 222 1234.”