Free tube travel with Contactless

London underground by doug88888

London underground by doug88888

There’s currently two deals on the London Underground to welcome their acceptance of contactless card payments in addition to the Oyster Card.

If you’ve got a contactless MasterCard or contactless American Express card, you can get some free travel simply by tapping in using your credit card rather than your Oyster…

American Express: £5 off when you spend £5

With a contactless American Express card, you can travel around London up to the value of £5. You’ll need to spend £5 in a day, as TfL charge you at the end of each day. Sign up on the Cardmember Offers website, and use your card before 30th November to get your credit

MasterCard: Free travel on Friday 14th November

If you’ve got a contactless MasterCard (remember that the Metro Bank card is a MasterCard debit card), you can get around London completely free simply by tapping in and out using your card this Friday. You don’t even need to register! Full terms available on the MasterCard website

via Londonist

American Express: Drive a car? Get £10 off a £50 at Esso

There aren’t usually that many deals on petrol, so if you drive a car, this one’s for you. Simply sign up on the Cardmember Offers website, fill up with £50 of fuel and you’ll get a £10 credit. It’ll probably work with non fuel items too, if you’ve got one nearby. Expires 24th November

Metro Bank to charge for non-EU transactions from 18th March



If you’ve got the Metro Bank account, you’ll have received a letter informing you that they’ll be charging for using your card outside of Europe: 1.9%, plus an additional £1 fee each time you use a cash point.

To be honest, this possibly shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Visa (as does MasterCard, I believe) charge a 1% fee for handling non-EU transactions, and banks that offering 0% were simply absorbing that fee. In an age where profit margins (especially on current accounts) are being squeezed (and remember that Metro Bank is currently losing money), this was probably unsustainable.

What isn’t great is the additional charges that have been placed above and beyond the 1% fee: Metro Bank will charge 1.9% for non-EU transactions, with an additional £1 fee for using a cashpoint. Whilst this is lower than many of the other banks (they usually charge around 3%), it’s still 0.9% above and beyond what they’re getting charged by MasterCard.

What’s your alternative?

Norwich and Peterborough are still offering a current account that offers free overseas usage, but they come with usage rules or a monthly fee of £5 applies. You’ll need to:

  • Pay in £500 a month, and:
  • Either make at least five transactions a month (you may be able to cycle money through there using standing orders), or keep a balance of £5000 in your account (this really isn’t worth it, as it’s a non-interest bearing account. If you kept it in a Lloyds Vantage or Santander 123 account at 3%, you’d be earning £10 a month after 20% tax)

Interestingly, their “light” account where you wouldn’t have to pay in the £500 monthly is being withdrawn from tomorrow – I wonder whether this is in response to Metro Bank’s new charges.

Personally, I’m lucky to still have the Santander Zero Current account, which is unfortunately closed to new customers, but the future of that account is probably also in question too.

This really isn’t great news if you’re travelling outside Europe after 18 March. It’ll probably be cheapest to purchase travel money in advance of going abroad (try TravelMoneyMax from MSE for a comparison – usually the best rate is by prebooked your currency exchange and picking it up in London), and try to keep spending to one of the credit cards that offer better rates.

Underground tips and tricks – 15 minute delay? Claim your fare back!


Sticking with the theme of travel, I’ve picked something that’s a bit closer to home. If you’re in London, then there’s a fairly good chance that you’ll be taking the London Underground to get around the city. Here’s a few tips and tricks to help you save money, and get around easily.

London underground by doug88888

London underground by doug88888

Delayed by 15 minutes? Get a refund

If you’re delayed on the underground for more than 15 minutes, you can claim back the single Oyster fare for that journey. You just need to keep track of where and when you were delayed, and fill out an easy online form. If you use a form filling tool in your browser, it only takes a few seconds, and you’ll get a voucher in the post valid for 13 months which you can apply towards your Oyster PrePay balance, or towards the cost of a travelcard.

There’s even a free website which claims to detect when your commute is late:, although it doesn’t seem to have detected anything for me, it has an automatic form filler tool.

There are some exclusions, such as strikes and planned closures, but in general, I’ve gotten money back for every journey I’ve claimed for.

Similar schemes apply for National Rail, DLR and Overground (30 minutes) services (and even on the cable car!), but there’s no refund available if your bus is delayed.

Have an annual pass or a railcard? Get a third off on your off-peak fares

If you’ve got a 16-25 railcard, you probably know that you save 1/3 on your off-peak rail fares, but the discount is also valid on the Underground too.

If you’ve got an annual tube pass, then the ‘gold record card’ that comes with it acts as a railcard within the South East: and also enables you to get the railcard discount.

To get this enabled, pop down to your local underground station: I’ve found that not all of them seem to know about the annual pass (gold card) discount, but the main train stations should be able to help you out. It would be much easier for TfL to automatically load the discount when you buy an annual ticket, but sadly they don’t do this.

Auto top-up your Oyster

It’s a pain to have to top up your card every time it runs out of cash, and there’s often a queue at peak times. Plus, if you run out of money on the bus, you’re going to have to pay the cash fare (unless you use your contactless credit or debit card).

According to a TfL report, only a third of Oyster users are aware of this useful feature – and only 7% have it enabled. It’s easy enough to do on the website after you’ve registered your card online: just choose the station and your top up amount.

A few caveats: it tops up £20 or £40 when your balance falls below £10, which might be too high an amount for some people, and it doesn’t work on buses: you’ll only get the auto top up when you’re on the tube.

Sign up on the TfL website

Free Travel Insurance from your Bank


I’m back from holiday now, but I’m still in the travel mood, so here’s a quick guide about free travel insurance with free bank accounts.

If you’re travelling abroad, you need travel insurance to cover you for medical expenses abroad, lost or delayed baggage, and trip cancellation, should you need to postpone your holiday due to illness. Hopefully none of these things will happen to you, but it’s always safer to be covered, particularly if the insurance is free!

Please ensure you read the policy documents – in particular the key facts boxes, in order to ensure that the insurance is right for you.

Free Worldwide Travel Insurance with Citibank Plus / Citigold

If you’ve got £1,800 to credit into your bank account each month (use your salary or a standing order), and have two direct debits paid out a month, the Citibank Plus account gives you free worldwide travel insurance, including winter sports cover. This covers your family (partner and children).

If you’ve got £5,000 to credit each month, then you can apply for a Citigold account, which gives you a concierge service and eight free SWIFT/CHAPS transfers a month to make payments abroad each month in addition to the travel insurance.

Free European Travel Insurance from Nationwide

If you aren’t travelling outside of Europe, Nationwide’s Flexaccount offers a lower monthly credit requirement: £750, and no need to transfer over direct debits. You do need to plan a bit in advance though, the money needs to be credited in for three consecutive months, and they’ll write you a letter when you’re eligible.

Foreign Spending – Credit, Debit, Cash, Prepaid or Travellers Cheque


If you’re going abroad, you’ll need to have some spending money to spend on those all important essentials. Most cards will charge you a percentage to use them abroad, whilst others charge a flat fee – and some even charge both! These are my top picks of the cards you’ll want in your wallet when you’re travelling overseas.

When you use a card overseas, you’ll be paying a Visa/Mastercard interbank exchange rate, rather than the tourist one. For a card with fees, you’ll probably pay a comparable rate to one at a bureau de change, but if you use one of the cards recommended in this article, you’ll get an unbeatable exchange rate.

It’s also important to note that you should never accept “Direct Currency Conversion” – this is when the foreign retailer or cash machine offers to charge you in pounds – this always has a fee, which is easily beaten by your card.

Halifax Clarity Rewards Card

This is my favourite card for foreign spending – and one that I use on a day-to-day basis for  merchants that don’t accept American Express. With this card, you get both no fees for foreign purchases, as well as £5 cashback when you spend £300 a month.

Note that you will need a Halifax Rewards Current account to apply for this – but this is a great deal too. Simply pay in £1,000 a month, and you’ll get £5. You don’t even need to keep the money in the account.

You’ll need to go into branch to open this credit card, but if you just want the 0% foreign spending with no cashback, you can apply online.

Metro Bank Debit Card – now for Europe only

You should never be taking money out on your credit card, even if there is no cash withdrawal fee – you’ll be charged interest from the day you take out the cash, even if you pay off your statement balance on time – there’s no float period on cash.

The Metro Bank Debit Card is the best card to use in Europe – it won’t charge you fees for making the cash withdrawal. Just make sure to top up your account before leaving the country.

You’ll need to get to one of their branches in London to get this account, but they’ll make it up for you on the spot in the branch – useful if you’re travelling abroad soon.

Alternatively, try the Norwich & Peterborough Gold (Classic) Current Account (although, please note the funding and activity requirements) – this also offers free card usage abroad, and you can apply online. I haven’t tried this account though.


You should probably carry a bit of cash with you before you go: if you’re using Euros, there’s a euro denominated cash machine at the NatWest headquarters in Bishopsgate, which you can use your Metro bank debit card with.

Otherwise, try TravelMoneyMax to see the best exchange rates – it’s often at the Thomas Exchange Global stand in the Liverpool Street arcade.

It pays to plan ahead – you’ll get the worst rate at the airport, and you’ll get a slightly better rate at many of the bureau de changes if you book online first.

Prepaid Cards

I don’t recommend Prepaid cards – they don’t really have any advantages over a 0% debit/credit card, and there’s often a bunch of additional fees as well.

Travellers Cheques

Travellers Cheques have an advantage over cash, since they can be replaced if lost, but it’s often difficult to cash them in at your destination. Additionally, there’s a worse exchange rate than cash at the bureau de change, because the fees have to be built in.

The best frequent flyer programme?


Even though I don’t really fly that often, it’s nice to have elite membership in a frequent flyer programme – it gets you into lounges, lets you join the Business/First Class check-in queue, and gets you free additional baggage.

Possibly the best way to obtain elite membership is the Aegean Airlines Miles and Bonus scheme. It’s got one of the lowest qualification levels of any airline – 16,000 miles in a year will get you gold status: this will get you lounge access and free extra baggage on any Star Alliance carrier.

Take into account that you have to travel in certain fare codes – the most discounted flights will not count.

The only real caveat is redemption of miles – you can’t use your Aegean miles to upgrade your flight.

Airline Lounges vs. Third Party Lounges

Generally, airline lounges are reserved for people who either have elite status with the airline alliance (e.g. Star Alliance, oneworld, etc.), or those travelling in a premium cabin, such as first or business class.

There are also third party lounges, which are run by companies such as Servisair.

You can get access to third party lounges by either paying an entry fee, or by having a bank account or credit card which gets you access – these usually provide you with a Lounge Pass/Priority Pass membership.