Tap on/tap off, also known as tap and cap

On 27 July 2022, tap on tap off came into operation on Cornwall’s buses. Similar to the Oyster system on Transport for London buses, tubes and trains, it enables bus passengers in Cornwall to tap their contactless card or smartphone as they get on a bus, then tap off as they disembark and the system will charge them the correct fare.

There are several points to note about the system
• It applies to buses only in Cornwall, not to trains
• It does not apply on Truro’s park and ride
• You should tap off before you disembark, unlike on London’s buses where you tap on only and all bus fares are a standard fare
• You do not need to register your card or phone with the system before using it
• It can only be used for certain fares, currently single fares, and All Day and All Week Cornwall fares
• It operates on adult fares only: if an U19 passenger uses tap and cap, they would be charged adult fares

The way that the system works is as follows
• The first time that you tap on to a bus, the information is transmitted from the ticket machine to the centralised system and it is recorded against your debit or credit card number (or in the case of a smartphone, the card number associated with the phone)
• When you tap off, this information is again transmitted to the centralised system and the single fare for that journey is computed
• If that fare is the first fare charged to that card, that amount will be debited to your bank account
• If that fare is the second, third, fourth fare etc. charged to that card on that day, and if those fares would take you over £5 for the day, a discount will be applied to bring your cumulative charge for the day back to £5.
• You will then find that your third, fourth etc. charges are zero because you have reached the daily cap.
• If you tap on again the following day, the same process will apply until you have reached the £5 daily cap.
• After the fourth day that you travel, if it is within 7 days of your first journey, and you have already spent a cumulative £20 for the week, the weekly cap of £20 applies and all further journeys are free of charge.
• After 7 days have elapsed, the clock starts again the next time that you tap on, and again daily and weekly caps will apply.
• A further point is that, if you do not tap off at the end of a journey, the system will charge you the maximum fare for that route as though you had travelled to the end of the line. However, if you have already reached the daily or weekly caps of £5 or £20, this charge will still be discounted back to zero.
• Make sure that you use the same card for all transactions in order that the capping process can work properly. If you use different cards, the system will assume that you are two different users and will charge you accordingly.
• Note also that the £2 maximum single fare applicable on all buses in Cornwall during January to March 2023 is effective for those passengers using tap and cap. The record of transactions (see below) shows what would have been the normal fare, then applies a discount to bring the net fare back to £2. Note that this trial period has now been extended until end of December 2024. See £2 fare confirmation.

Note: the above information relates to prices up until 1 July 2023. From 2 July 2023, the daily and weekly cap figures are £7 and £25 respectively.

Record of your transactions
To see what you have been charged for your journeys, log into the little.pay website. There, you need to enter your card number as though you were completing an online purchase transaction and you will need to enter the usual information about name, expiry date, CVC number etc. Then the system will take you to your customer record showing all the journeys and how they were charged. For an example, see tap and cap charging schedule. This is a real life example of journeys that I undertook for a week. It shows how the daily £5 maximum kicked in, how the weekly £20 maximum was applied, and what happened when I did not tap off. See also the record of transactions where the £2 maximum single fare was applied.

See also what happens when a mistake happens on the payment system, see tap on/tap off reimbursement.

The information published on the Transport for Cornwall website is incorrect in that it says that tap and cap cannot be used for single fares. This is certainly not the case - the base unit used in the system to charge fares is the single fare; without this, the system would not work. The GoCornwall website page on tap and cap does say that tap and cap can be used for single fares. Both websites are managed by the same company, GoCornwall a.k.a. Plymouth CityBus. It is unfortunate that they cannot get basic information like this consistent and correct particularly as the payment system is actually very good and we should be encouraging passengers to use tap and cap.