Last Updated on 5 January 2021 by Dan
I’m willing to bet that either directly or via cunning student bank account tie in most of us have wistful memories of that 18-25 railcard when buying rail tickets – not least because it meant we were happily still ticking that 18-25 box on forms…..
This post was inspired as I’m heading back down to my old Uni of Exeter for an event! Happily this means someone else is paying for my peak ticket, because my reaction to the price looked something like this……
So hence time for a train guide! Most people know “railcards are good” (and if eligible you should get one if taking more than one qualifying train journey a year) but I want to share with you a few lesser known tips about the way that railcards and rail travel can save you money.
Our tips to save money on train and tube fares
Link a Railcard to your Oyster Card
A lot of people don’t know that you can link a railcard to your Oyster Card – and if you do this you’ll get 1/3 off any TfL off-peak fares which can add up fast. Getting this is trickier than it should be – you’ll need to go to a major interchange in London (like King’s Cross/Victoria) and ask at the ticket desk for them to link the two. Unfortunately, you also need to renew it each time your railcard expires – it doesn’t update automatically
Pick up an Annual Gold Card with a Season Ticket
Did you know that if you buy an Annual Oyster Travelcard or Annual Season Ticket on rail in the South you’ll also receive an “Annual Gold Card” which works as the equivalent to a Network Railcard, getting you 1/3 of most fares in the south of England? Even better that Gold Card will apply the same saving to up to three other adults travelling with them.
Get another railcard for or from a friend
If you have an Annual Gold Card you can also get another Railcard for a friend for £10 – they’ll definitely owe you a drink!
Work out if an annual Oyster ticket is worth it for you
An annual Oyster can make sense for Londoners – a number of companies will give you an interest-free season ticket loan to cover the purchase making it quite manageable. You need to do the sums yourself to work out if you’re travelling enough to save money for you personally.
Can you save money by splitting a train ticket?
Due to the slightly ridiculous way rail pricing works, when travelling long distances it can be worth using TrainSplit to see if you can save. This checks your journey and sees if you can find savings by (for example) instead of travelling from London to Exeter stopping at Reading you instead get a journey from London to Reading and Reading to Exeter. You stay on the same train, just have more tickets and more money! (Trainsplit actually take a small commission from your saving – so it’s most beneficial to use it for research but book through usual train operators.)
Get alerted to advance tickets
If you know you’re going to be going somewhere in the future and want to be sure of nabbing an advance ticket, the Trainline has a free alert service you can sign up for to let you know when tickets are going on sale, and also a predictor service of when Advance tickets may run out based on historical data. I don’t recommend booking through them though – despite their advertising campaigns they’ll charge you more than other sites!
Save money on your day out in the UK
Finally whilst not a train saving per se, did you know if you’ve got visitors/fancy a day out you can get 2 for 1 access to attractions all over the UK any time you buy a rail ticket – you just need to print out a voucher from the Days Out Guide website in advance and hand it over with your train tickets to get the discount. It doesn’t have to be any length so it can even pay to get a cheap ticket you’re not planning to use to get the discount!
And if you’re after an alternative for getting around London, check out this guide to guided bike tours around London.