Ticket prices in England rose by 5.9% in March but there are still ways to save money if you know where to look.
Here we’ve rounded up three ways to save on rail tickets.
Get a free Gold Card if you have a season ticket for London or south east England
If you buy an annual season ticket in the south of England or an annual travelcard on the London Underground, it comes with an annual Gold Card.
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This is essentially a better version of the Network Railcard: it covers almost all the Network Railcard area plus East Anglia and the West Midlands; it’s valid after 9.30am Monday- Friday with no minimum fare; and gives one-third off for up to four adults plus 60% off for up to four children aged 5-15.
It also lets you buy another one-year railcard (16-25, Family & Friends, Senior, Two Together, Disabled Persons or Network Railcard) for just £10, either for you or another person, subject to eligibility.
Most railcards allow you to get a one-third discount on off-peak day travelcards for the Underground, but the Gold Card and some railcards (16-25, 26-30, Disabled and Veterans) also give you one-third off pay as you go (PAYG) off-peak fares on the Underground and London railway stations when using an Oyster smartcard. The discount applies both to individual trips and the daily off-peak cap, including any additional PAYG fares that an Underground travelcard holder pays when travelling outside their travelcard zone.
To get the lower PAYG rate, you need to set a discount on your Oyster, which can be done by staff at Underground stations.
Annoyingly, this needs to be re-done each time you renew your ticket – but it’s a small price to pay when you think of the savings.
Cashback offers via certain credit cards
Cashback offers on certain credit cards pay you when you buy a train ticket. Offers are time limited, but some train firms let you buy vouchers that can be used to pay for tickets at a later date – a potentially useful way to lock in a discount even if you can’t book the ticket before your credit-card offer expires.
LNER’s current offers range from 12% on some American Express cards (until 17 May) to 5% on cards from multiple other banks such as Halifax and Barclaycard.
Cashback offers are time-limited, but some train firms let you buy vouchers that can be used to pay for tickets at a later date – a potentially useful way to lock in a discount even if you can’t book the ticket before your credit-card offer expires.
Splitting a ticket involves buying two or more tickets, with one to an intermediate station and the other from that station to your destination.
This can work out cheaper, due to the strange ways in which tickets are priced, the ability to use a railcard for part of the journey, or the chance to break a ticket into peak and off-peak segments.
The train you travel on must stop at the intermediate station, but you don’t need to get off.
There are now multiple sites that calculate split tickets such as myTrainPal, Split My Fare TrainTickets.com, Split Your Ticket, TrainSplit and TrainSplitting. TrainPal is free while the other apps take a percentage of what you save, around 10%-15%, which you may consider a fair payment for a useful service not available elsewhere. If not, you can use their results to book the same tickets directly with a train firm.
There’s no hard and fast rule on which site is better than others at finding the best prices. However, buying through tickets.railforums.co.uk helps support a website that is a useful source of advice and information on train travel.
Katie Binns is an award-winning journalist, and former Sunday Times writer where she spent 10 years covering news, culture, travel, personal finance and celebrity interviews. She has also written for the Times, Telegraph, i paper and Woman and Home magazine.
Her investigative work on financial abuse has examined the response of banks, the Financial Ombudsman and the child maintenance service to victims, and resulted in a number of debt and mortgage prisoners being set free.
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