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Gone are the days of desperately rummaging around in your bag for a railcard while the conductor tuts and your fellow passengers grow increasing irate (true story). There’s now an “app for that” – and it’s a pretty decent one. Here’s how to hop on board and save money with the official Railcard app.
With rail fares zooming up, the rainbow of different railcards – available for all age groups – provides a lifeline for people who are loathe to, say, fork out over £20 for a peak single from Tunbridge Wells to London Charing Cross. As a completely random example.
And, as the railcards are all now digital, you don’t have to wait for them to be posted. You can buy one now and use it as soon as it’s downloaded.
However, if you’re staring at the screen and silently mouthing “rail… cards? What are they?”, it’s time to get with the programme and save a third of your fare by perusing the list of the different flavours below.
Railcard app: Who’s eligible?
Once upon a time, there were just a couple of cards aimed at younger sorts and the elderly, but National Rail now offers eight to choose from.
16-25 Railcard (£30 per year)
The classic. Before it was digitalised, this little piece of orange plastic carved off huge chunks of my seven-hour trip to university.
Like all of the railcards below, it reduces your fare by a third and, handily, you can buy a three-year card for £70, saving you £20. National Rail claims a huge average annual saving of £192, but if you’re adventurous you could easily pass that.
Note that it’s also available for mature students aged over 26 who are in full-time education. However, that’s a tad unnecessary because there’s now a…
26-30 Railcard (£30 per year)
I almost choked on my avocado toast when the so-called “millennial railcard” was first announced in January. And, look, National Rail has even illustrated the website with millennials doing millennial things…
We love to frolic through the fields in joy, but only if there’s a triple-hopped 11% APA and dirty vegan burger on the other side, amirite?
That’s the face of a man who can pay £30 per year to save a third on rail travel until he’s 30.
Senior Railcard (£30 per year)
But it’s not just carefree youngsters who get all of the fun. If you’re over 60, you can also save a third by applying for the Senior Railcard.
Like the 16-25 version, you can watch the pounds by buying a three-year card for £70 and National Rail promises an average annual saving of £199. Again, if you travel a lot, you’ll easily surpass that figure.
Two Together Railcard (£30 per year)
If you love to travel around the UK with that special someone and are both over 16, you can save a third by hopping on a train together. The charm may wear off when you’re both sprinting for the packed 7am commuter service, though…
Family & Friends Railcard (£30 per year)
If you’re riding the rails as a family, this could be just the ticket (see what I did there?). The Family & Friends option gets a 60% discount for children aged five to 15 and a third off adult fares, with up to four adults and four kids travelling on just one card.
Again, you can also save those pennies by buying a three-year card for £70 and the average annual discount is £137.
Disabled Persons Railcard (£20 per year)
If you have a disability, you may qualify for the Disabled Persons Railcard, which, as ever, will get you a third off fares. However, you can also use it with a friend and pick up a three-year card for £54, saving a whopping… £6.
Network Railcard (£30 per year)
I like to call this the “guilt railcard”. It’s aimed at people who live in the south east and London, where fares are astronomically high (although where aren’t they?).
As always, it gets you a third off and can be used for you and three friends, along with 60% for up to four kids. National Rail promises, hold onto your hat, an average annual saving of £184 – which is a damning indictment of just how high the prices are.
If you live anywhere near the capital, it’s a must.
16-17 Railcard (COMING SOON!)
Okay, this one is quite exciting. From September 2019, 16 to 17 year-olds will be entitled to a 50% discount on all rail fares. That’s all the information I have at the moment, but I expect the annual price will be in line with the others (£20 or £30).
Railcard app: How do I use it?
So, now that you’ve decided which railcard you want to get, it’s time to download the app and buy it.
Fire up your phone and either click this link if you’re an Android user or this one if you have an iPhone to get to the relevant download page. A score of 4.7 out of five from nearly 52,000 reviews on the Apple App Store shows just how happy people are to save money.
Once the app is installed on your device, open it up and tap the “+” icon. You’ll be taken to the following screen.
Scroll down and select the relevant railcard (you can also add an existing card by tapping the top box). You will now have to go through the process of creating an account, taking a selfie (just make sure that there’s a plain white background and that your face is clearly visible – National Rail isn’t particularly fussy) and entering your payment information.
Once that’s done, you’ll be prompted to download your digital railcard onto your device, where it’ll appear on the homepage…
(I would take a screenshot of my 26-30 Railcard, but, for obvious reasons, the app doesn’t allow it.)
And that’s it! Now it’s time to smugly brandish the Railcard app when the conductor checks your ticket. There used to be an irritating bug where your railcard would disappear in areas of low signal, but that seems to have been ironed out. Still, let me know in the comments section below if you have any problems.