Commuters will be able to top up Oyster cards using smartphones

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Tube passengers will be able to top-up their Oyster cards on their smartphones after Transport for London today announced the launch of an official app.

The free iOS and Android app, which will be available to download next month as part of a series of payments upgrades, will allow users to buy pay-as-you-go credit as well as travelcards.

It will include the same functions as the TfL website, including allowing customers to check how much credit they have.

Users will also get a low balance alert on their phones to ensure they have enough credit before travelling.

As part of the upgrades, customers will be able to activate their credit at any station, whereas previously they needed to nominate one to make it work.

The funds will take half an hour to update on to the account, which is faster than the current 24 hours but still lagging behind today’s instant payment technology people are used to,

Previously, top-ups done online would take 24 hours to activate, although they are still instant if done in person using machines at stations.

Passengers will also be able to activate credit at tram or riverboat stops, and by the end of the autumn the function will be expanded on 9,000 London buses.

TfL has promised “further functions” will be added to the app throughout this year, including “making it quicker and easier to apply for refunds for incomplete journeys”.

Next year the app will include journey history for contactless payments.

Customers using an old first generation Oyster card issued before 2010 will need to upgrade to the latest version.

About 3 million Oyster cards are used on the network daily to make 10 million journeys on Tubes and buses.

Customers have complained for years about the lack of an official smartphone app to check their balance and journey history on the go, which has led to a cottage industry of third party developers writing them.

Shashi Verma, TfL’s chief technical officer, said: “With more people using the internet to manage their life than ever before, it’s right that we make the process of buying and checking their travel products as quick and convenient as possible.”

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