How to Save Money on Trains with a UK Railcard

If you’re a frequent train traveller, you know how pricey those tickets can get. But fear not; we’re going to show you how to use a UK Railcard to get discounted train travel and save some cash while travelling through Britain.

What is a Railcard?

Discount train travel
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A UK Railcard enables users to access discounted rates on train tickets – usually between 33% and 60% off the full price!

It’s valid for travel throughout Great Britain, allowing you to purchase tickets from anywhere on the National Rail network. Most last for one year, but you’re able to buy some that last three years. 

If you’re a student, senior, or just someone who loves to explore, there may be a railcard out there with your name on it. But with so many on offer, it can get confusing so we’re going to break down all the prices, discounts, requirements, and even give you some tips to save on the cost of your Railcard. 

UK Railcards - Where and When Can You Use Them?

There are lots of different UK Railcard options but when you can use them gets a little confusing – it’s different for every card!

But the good news is that your Railcard can be used anytime during weekends and bank holidays!

Railcard

Morning Peak

*Off-Peak Travel

Anytime Weekend & Bank Holidays

**£12 minimum fare

**£12 minimum fare

**£12 minimum fare

**£12 minimum fare

*Typically, Off-Peak hours commence at 09:30 on weekdays in cities and big towns, and at 09:00 in other locations. As long as your train departure time falls after these times, you are eligible to use an Off-Peak ticket. You may find that while travelling from London’s there’s a second peak in the afternoon, you would need to double-check these peak times with your stations.

**A fee of at least £12 is mandatory for all trips taken between 04:30 and 09:30 am, Monday to Friday, except for Advance fares. However, this minimum charge is not applicable during Public Holidays or for the entire months of July and August.

Where Can’t I Use My UK Railcard?

Generally, Railcard discounts cannot be used for discount train travel on the following types of tickets: 

  • Season tickets (which includes Travelcard Season tickets)
  • Eurostar tickets
  • Select Train Company promotions, tickets for unique excursions or Charter trains, and certain coach/bus links, such as Railair services.
  • The majority of London Underground and Docklands Light Railway tickets are ineligible for the Railcard discount – though you can add some to your Oyster pay as you go card to save a third on that too!

How Much Do Railcards Cost?

UK Railcards average a cost of around £30 but it does vary from card to card. However if you frequently travel on trains, the card can often pay for itself – sometimes in just one journey! In fact, according to National Rail, a traveller can save up to £200 per year on discounted train travel. 

Railcard

Discount

Price

16 – 17 year olds get 50% off Standard Anytime, Standard Off-Peak, Standard Advance, and Season tickets.

£30

1/3 off rail fares for 16 – 25 year olds.

1-year card: £30

3-year card: £70

1/3 off rail fares for 26 – 30 year olds.

£30

2 named people travelling together, can enjoy 1/3 off rail fares.

£30

Group of up to four adults and four children can travel together. Adults enjoy 33% off rail fares, with children getting 60% discount.

1-year card: £30

3-year card: £70

Over 60’s enjoy 1/3 off rail fares.

1-year card: £30

3-year card: £70

1/3 off rail fares for passengers with a disability that makes it difficult for them to use the train.

1-year card: £20

3-year card: £54

1/3 off rail fares for those 16 and over, who are travelling in London and the South East in the Network Railcard area. 60% off children’s fares.

£30

1/3 off rail fares for veterans. Veterans can nominate a companion to get 1/3 off when travelling with them and up to 4 children travelling with you get 60% off

1-year card: £30

3-year card: £70

What is The Most Useful Railcard?

The ‘Family & Friends‘ Railcard is largely considered as one of the most useful railcards, as it allows up to four adults and four children to travel together on the same ticket and receive 1/3 off their fare. You’ll only need to name one person on the card however, the named person has to be present if other people are travelling on the card. Also, no ditching the kid for a day out, because the rules also require you to be travelling with a child, to receive discounted train travel.

TheNetwork Rail Railcard is also super useful as it allows travel with up to 4 adults, however unlike the The Family & Friends Railcard, it’s only valid for London and the South East.

Why Isn’t There a National Railcard for Single 31 to 59-year-olds?

Discount train travel UK Railcard

You may have noticed there’s a rather large group of people missing from Railcard eligibility. Well, first we need to understand why UK Railcards were introduced in the first place. 

British Rail originally introduced the discount cards to encourage off-peak and leisure travel, provide greater rail access for low-income groups, and entice people to switch to rail transport, hereby attracting more passengers who might otherwise choose to drive, take a bus, or not travel at all.

When the rail was privatised, the Railcards were kept as they generated extra income for the train companies. It’s a balancing act though – if the railcards were to provide discounts to those who were already going to travel at full price anyway, then the scheme is a bust. They generally class people between the ages of 31 and 59 as working people who would be using the rail regardless.

So, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be any 31 to 59 year old railcards introduced anytime soon.

How to Save Money When Buying Railcards

Chelsea Cheap Holiday Expert Railcard

Here are our top recommendations for ways to save while purchasing your Railcard:

National Rail Railcard Discount Codes

Sometimes National Rail will offer voucher codes and promo codes that save you around 10% off your UK Railcard. Therefore, it’s always worth a search before buying on both Google and across social media.

Trainline Railcard Discount Codes

As well as being able to buy your railcard via National Rail, you can now buy a digital railcard through the Trainline which is handy if that’s the app you use to book your tickets as it applies your discount for you!

The other good thing about this is that the Trainline often has sales on railcards – in the past, there’s been up to £10 off! If there’s one live, it often says it at the top of this page but also, keep an eye on our Instagram and Twitter as we’ll post when the next deal is up.

Trainpal Railcard Discount Codes

Trainpal is another train ticket app that hosts railcards – and they often have a deal or promo running on them so it’s worth downloading and checking out the current offer. 

You can use our link if you’re a new customer for money off your first train journey booked with them too. 

Save with Tesco Clubcard Points

Convert your Tesco Clubcard points and save on annual railcard purchases. With this ongoing offer, you can get a 16-25, Family & Friends, Senior, or Two Together Railcard for only £10 instead of the usual £30. 

Plus, if you’re eligible for a Disabled Person’s Railcard, you can snag it for just £7 in Clubcard points instead of the usual £20. Simply exchange your points for a code and redeem it on the Railcard website.

Gold Card Season Ticket

If you have a season ticket in the south of England and West Midlands – you can check the area on the annual gold card area map, you automatically get issued an annual Gold Card which allows you to purchase a railcard for £10. You can choose from most national railcards and you can give it to someone else if you aren’t going to use it.

Can I Get a Physical Copy Of My Railcard?

paper UK Rail ticket

The 26-30 Railcard is only available in digital form. For the others, there is an option to get a physical card if you buy through National Rail or at any staffed National Rail station – though remember you’ll need to take proof of ID and a passport sized photo!

However, you’ll have to decide between a physical Railcard or a digital one, as they only allow you to have one type at a time. Plus, once you’ve made the purchase, you can’t switch up the type of Railcard you’ve already got.

I personally love my digital railcard – you can use it straightaway, it’s more convenient and eliminates the possibility of you losing it!!

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Enjoy Discount Train Travel With a UK Railcard!

A UK Railcard is a fantastic opportunity for frequent train travellers to save money on journeys. With a variety of cards available, there is sure to be a Railcard that suits you.

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