Wondering if you should get a Railcard? (or what it is in the first place?). Look no further. Here’s everything you need about Railcards in the UK — from a London travel blogger.
Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world tends to make you think of ways you can save a pretty penny or two. Cue Railcards.
Over the past seven years, using Railcards has saved me hundreds of pounds in transport in the UK, allowing me to get the cheapest fares on trains, the Tube, DLR, London Overground, National Rail, and even the Elizabeth Line.
But what is this magical card, you ask?
In this post, I’ll be answering ‘what is a Railcard?’, ‘what does a Railcard do?’, how to decide if you need a Railcard, what types of Railcards are there, how to get a Railcard, and some quick final tips to help with your Railcard journey (no pun intended). Let’s get into it!
If you definitely know you want a Railcard already, just skip down to the section ‘How Do I Get a Railcard?’ for a step-by-guide on how to get it set up or purchase your Railcard here.
What is a Railcard? Your Ultimate Railcard Guide + FAQ
What is a Railcard?
Before you think about getting a Railcard, you should probably know what it is.
A Railcard is a card issued by the National Rail network in Britain that allows passengers to get discounted fares when they use certain types of trains and other methods of transportation.
It’s available for adults and children alike, so everyone can benefit from discounted fares!
What Does a Railcard Do?
It makes it rain! In discounts that is.
When you purchase a Railcard, you’ll receive up to 1/3 off most train tickets. You can also get discounts on other services such as the Tube, DLR, London Overground, and the Elizabeth Line if you’re in London.
Each Railcard has different and very specific eligibility criteria and offers different types of discounts, so it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the one that best suits your needs.
How Much Is a Railcard?
As of 2023, Railcards start from £20 – £30 for a 1-year Railcard or £54 – £70 for a 3-year Railcard.
What you pay will depend greatly on what type of Railcard you’re applying for. To figure that out, have a look at the chart below!
How to Decide If You Need a Railcard
Deciding if you need a Railcard comes down to one thing — how long you’ll be in London.
Travelling to London:
As you’ll need to pay for a Railcard yearly, I don’t think it’s worth going through the process of getting a Railcard and utilizing the discounts if you’ll only be here for a week or two.
Since the price is £30 for 1-year or £70 for 3-years, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting an ROI on your savings (i.e – saving more than £30 a year/£70 in 3-years through the discount), which can only really happen if you’re here for an extended amount of time.
With that said, if you’re travelling loads by train during your London trip — it may be worth calculating if the savings would be worth it.
Short-term stays, Living in or Moving to London:
On the other hand, if any of the above applies to you the answer is YES, you should definitely get a Railcard.
Whether you’re a short or long-term Londoner — living in the city is synonymous with a lifestyle of constant travel on public transport, so why not save 1/3 off travel when you can?
What Types of Railcards Are There?
There’s currently nine types of Railcards, each offering various discounts for a certain demographic. These include:
- 16 – 17 Saver – 50% off Rail travel
- 16-25 Railcard – 1/3 off Rail and certain travel fares
- 26 – 30 Railcard -1/3 off off-peak Rails and certain travel fares
- Disabled Persons Railcard – 1/3 off Rail and certain travel fares for you and a friend or travel buddy
- Family & Friends Railcard – 1/3 off off-peak Rails and certain travel fares for four adults and four children who’ll get 60% off (must be aged 5-15)
- Network Rail – 1/3 off Rail fares in South East England, including up to 3 adults and 4 children
- Senior Railcard – 1/3 off all off-peak journies
- Two Together Railcard – 1/3 off off-peak Rail travel for you and your travel buddy (doesn’t need to be a couple)
- Veterans Railcard – 1/3 off Rail travel
P.S – Click here to learn more about which Railcard you’re eligible for
How Do I Get a Railcard?
Once you’ve decided whether or not a Railcard is right for you, you’ll need to get one. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1️⃣ IMPORTANT: Have a valid passport, UK licence, or EEA national identity card and a digital passport-style photo (or a really good selfie!) saved to your computer ready — you’ll need this to verify your identity and get your Railcard set up.
2️⃣ Head to Trainline and select ‘I know the right railcard for me’ or fill in the questionnaire about your age and travel habits to get the right option for you
3️⃣ Follow the steps and make sure you’ve downloaded the Railcard app to your phone to activate your pass
4️⃣ Go to your nearest Underground station and ask the TfL staff to connect your Oyster to your Railcard (you can do it on your phone as well, but I’ve found this way to be quicker/easier)
5️⃣ Start using your glorious Railcard discount!
Final Tips on Getting a Railcard: Railcard FAQ
- You can only connect your Oyster card to your Railcard. So if you’re currently using your contactless card, you’ll need to switch over to be able to take advantage of your Railcard discount (Read More: Oyster Card vs Contactless: Which Should I Use?)
- Remember the 1/3 off pay-as-you-go Oyster travel is for off-peak fares only, so the discount won’t be applied when you’re travelling in peak times (Monday to Friday, except public holidays, between 06:30 and 09:30, and 16:00 and 19:00)
- Railcard discounts don’t work on buses (but buses are the cheapest out of all London transport options, so you’ll still save loads)
- Despite popular belief, Railcards are not just for British residents! So if you’re travelling here for an extended time and taking a lot of trains/public transport, it may be worth calculating if getting a Railcard would be worth the 1/3 discount during your stay (at £30 a year)
- Don’t hesitate to get your Railcard! Every day you don’t have it, you’re missing out on amazing transport deals in London & the UK — thank me later!
Thanks for reading my ‘What is a Railcard?’ Guide. If you enjoyed it, let me know on Instagram!
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