A guide to the different types of Railcards
We all know that Railcards are a way to save, but there’s so many of them! Let us take you through the different types of Railcards and show you how you can save money on your rail tickets with them.
What are Railcards?
Before we go into the different types of Railcards, it’s important to know what they actually are! In a nutshell, they’re a discount card that you buy for either one year or three years. They’ll give you a discount off your ticket (usually either 34% or 50%) so long as you always have the Railcard on hand to show when your ticket is checked.
You can buy them at a ticket office and get them on paper, or you can buy them online. When you get them online, you can usually choose to have them in the Railcard app or as a plastic card. If you travel more than a couple of times a year (or make one long trip every year!) and you’re eligible for one, they’re definitely worth getting. There’s so many different types of Railcards to choose from, too.
Let’s take a look at some example journeys and how much you could save with a Railcard. These are all the prices that you’d pay on the day:
|Oxford to London (Off-Peak Day Return)
|Leeds to Manchester (Off-Peak Day Return)
|Edinburgh to York (Off-Peak Return)
|Glasgow to London (Off-Peak Return)
|Exeter to Bristol (Off-Peak Return)
All fares correct at the time of publication (25/10/2022). This information is issued without liability and Railsmartr are not responsible for any loss or additional costs incurred as a result of this information.
What are the different types of Railcards?
There’s two types of Railcard groups. National Railcards are the ones that you’re most likely to know about. They’re the ones like the 16-25 and Senior Railcards. The other type, which you might not know about, are Regional Railcards. If you live near a railway line or in certain parts of the country, you can get a discount for the trains that stop on your doorstep! (Well, not literally). Let’s take a look at National Railcards, first…
This Railcard is one of the new kids on the block! It’ll get you 50% Standard Class travel (except on ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper, so it doesn’t cover most of Scotland) and it includes Season tickets, too. This makes it perfect for commuting to and from college or work.
If you’re 16 or 17 years old, simply click here to apply online. That’s all there is to it! Two more years of child-rate fares without any fuss.
Previously known as a ‘Young Persons Railcard’, this one will give you 1/3 off your rail travel if you’re aged between 16 and 25, or if you’re a mature student. Unlike the 16-17 Saver, it isn’t valid on Season tickets, so it’s designed to give you discounts on leisure travel. That said, you might find that for commutes on a couple of days of week, it’s cheaper than buying a Season ticket. Click here to apply online.
No longer eligible for the 16-25 Railcard but want the savings to continue? This Railcard is for you. There’s a couple of tweaks to the restrictions (see the table below) but otherwise, you’ll get 1/3 off as you did with the 16-25 Railcard! Click here to apply online.
This is a little bit different to the other types of Railcards, as you can’t just pop online and buy one on its own. If you buy a season ticket within the Gold Card area, then it doubles up as one of these Railcards. You’ll get 1/3 off within this ‘Gold Card area’ after 09:30 on weekdays and at anytime otherwise. Some people will buy the cheapest season ticket they can within this area and use it purely for the Railcard perks if they expect to travel a lot by train! Click here to find out more.
Who can buy this Railcard? Just about anyone! It’ll get you 1/3 off your fare in the Network Railcard area, but there’s a few restrictions you’ll need to be aware of (see the table below). Perfect for travelling for pleasure! Click here to find out more and apply online.
If you have a disability, you might be eligible to purchase one of these Railcards. There’s no time restrictions and one person travelling with you can get the discount, too. To apply, you’ll just need to upload some proof of entitlement directly to the Railcard website during the application process. Click here to find out more and fill out your application.
If you are a member or a spouse/civil partner of a member of the Regular Armed Forces or Volunteer Reserves then you’re eligible to purchase one of these Railcards. You’ll get 1/3 off your fare and 60% off child fares. You’re not able to apply online, so you’ll need to click here to find out more.
This is one of the newest types of Railcards available. It’s for UK Veterans who served at least one day in His Majesty’s Armed Forces or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on legally defined military operations. You’ll get 1/3 off your own fare and up to four children travelling with you will get 60% off. Click here to apply online.
Need some help getting to job interviews or getting around in general while you look for a job? This Railcard is valid for three months at a time and is aimed at those claiming Jobseekers Allowance. It’s valid on ‘flexible’ tickets, such as Anytime, Off-Peak, Super-Off-Peak and Seasons. Click here to find out more about how to apply.
Aged 60 or over? Perfect. How about 1/3 off your rail travel? All you need to do is upload proof of age if you apply online, or show some at the station if you prefer to do it that way. Find out more on the Senior Railcard website.
Got someone you travel together with frequently? Great. You can get 1/3 off both of your tickets! They don’t have to be a family member, either. Just make sure you travel together, and you’re covered. Click here to find out more and to apply online.
This Railcard gives you the ability to add two names to it, meaning that it can be shared between two adults. You can get a 1/3 discount up to four adults and 60% on four children in a group, so long as one of the named cardholders is travelling. You’ll also need to make sure there’s at least one child with you, too! Ideal for family days out and more. Click here to apply online.
You can buy tickets with any of these Railcards on the Railsmartr website.
Are there any restrictions I need to know about?
Yes. Most types of Railcards have some sort of restriction on when you can use them, and we know that they can be tricky to navigate or understand sometimes!
|Things to Remember
|Not valid on ScotRail, Caledonian Sleeper or in First Class.
|£12 minimum fare applies Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays, during July & August and on Advance tickets). Not valid on First Class fares except First Class Advance tickets.
|£12 minimum fare applies Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays and on Advance tickets). Not valid on First Class fares except First Class Advance tickets or on tickets routed ‘Caledonian Sleeper only’.
|Annual Gold Card
|Requires purchase of a valid season ticket. Valid only within Gold Card area, not valid before 09:30 Monday to Friday.
|Valid only within Network Railcard area. Not valid before 10am Monday to Friday. £13 minimum fare also applies Monday to Fridays (except Bank Holidays). Minimum fare of £19.60 on Anytime Day Travelcards applies at all times.
|Disabled Persons Railcard
|No time restrictions. Discount also applies to one passenger accompanying the card holder.
|HM Forces Railcard
|34% (60% for children)
|Leisure travel only. Cannot be purchased at stations or online. £12 minimum fare applies Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays, during July & August and on Advance tickets). Not valid on First Class fares except First Class Advance tickets.
|£12 minimum fare applies Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays, during July & August and on Advance tickets).
|Job Centre Plus Railcard
|Valid only on Anytime, Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets, as well as Season Tickets for up to three months.
|Not valid for journeys wholly within the Network Railcard area during the morning peak. Exceptions apply.
|Two Together Railcard
|Not valid before 09:30 Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).
|Family & Friends Railcard
|34% (60% for children)
|Not valid for journeys wholly within the Network Railcard area during the morning peak. Exceptions apply. Not valid in First Class.
Are there any other types of Railcards?
Yes! As we mentioned above, you can buy a regional Railcard if you live in certain parts of the country. Click on the links below to find out more about each one:
- Cambrian Line (Pwllheli and Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury)
- Cotswold Line (Oxford to Worcester Foregate Street)
- Dales Railcard
- Devon & Cornwall
- Esk Valley (Whitby to Middlesbrough)
- Thameslink and Great Northern Student 16/18 Connect
- Transport for Wales 18 Saver & Student Railcards
- Heart of Wales (Swansea to Shrewsbury via Llandrindod)
- Valleys (Cardiff)
At the moment, you can’t yet buy tickets with these discounts on the Railsmartr website. Watch this space though, we’re working on it!
Can you use Railcards on Season tickets?
Out of the National Railcards on offer, you’re only able to use the 16-17 Saver and Job Centre Plus Railcard on season tickets. If you commute only on selected days every week, it’s still likely cheaper to purchase individual tickets with your Railcard (provided it’s within the time restrictions of the Railcard you have).
Season tickets are already discounted, but they provide the best value if you’re consistently commuting five days a week.
I can’t use any of the types of Railcards! What now?
We know it’s frustrating when there’s no Railcard on offer that fits the bill. Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of great value tickets on offer. Take a look at our guide to cheap train tickets that you might not have discovered before. It’s a great start. We’ve also written about other discounts that you can get.
Don’t forget that when you book with Railsmartr, we don’t charge any fees. Need to change when you’re travelling? No problem at all. We don’t charge admin fees on that, either.