1. Be an early bird
You can save a whopping 50% on train tickets by booking ahead, according to Trainline. Advance tickets usually go on sale 12 weeks before you travel. These can sell out fast, so make sure you beat other travellers to the punch by signing up for Trainline alerts. That said, you can sometimes buy advance tickets just 10 minutes before boarding – it never hurts to check.
2. Avoid peak times
Fares can rocket during peak hours, especially if you travel through London. This is when stations are at their busiest – usually morning and late afternoon/early evening from Monday to Friday. It’s sensible to avoid peak time if you can. Plus, it makes a great excuse for another beer after work…
Super off-peak tickets are available during the least busy hours. On weekdays this is normally from 10am to 3.30pm and after 7.15pm. Not only are these tickets cheaper, you also stand a better chance of finally getting a seat!
3. Split your train tickets
Weirdly enough, it can be cheaper to buy your train journey in parts rather than as a whole. For example, say you want to get from Newcastle to London. You may find it costs less to buy two tickets – one from Newcastle to York, and one from York to London – than a single ticket from Newcastle to London. The direct train calls at York anyway, so it’s only your tickets that are different, not your journey.
This clever little trick is called split ticketing and it’s completely within the rules. Just make sure your train calls at the stations you bought tickets for. Try planning your journey with an online tool like split your ticket.
4. Invest in a railcard
A railcard gives you at least a third off most train fares and it only costs £30 per year (or £20 for a Disabled Persons railcard). This means it’ll save you money if you spend more than £90 a year on train travel.
A new railcard (dubbed the 'millennial' railcard) has recently been made available for 26-30 year olds. While people aged 16-17 are in luck from September 2019, when a new 50% discount railcard will be made available.
Just make sure you always have your railcard with you when you travel, as ticket inspectors often ask to see it. That means carrying your physical railcard, or using a digital one on your phone!
5. Look for discounts
Students – you may be able to knock money off your train tickets with a NUS card. These discounts can normally be used alongside a railcard for even bigger savings.
Unemployed – claiming jobseeker’s allowance, universal credit or similar? You may be able to get a JobCentre Plus Travel Discount Card. This gives you 50% off train fares. If you travel regularly, it also lets you use a child-rate travelcard (yes, even though you’re an adult – no need to shave the beard).
Children – your kid can travel with you for free until they’re five. After that, they get a 50% discount on rail fares until they’re 15. All Transport for London services are free for children up to 10 years old (including underground, buses, etc).
Season pass holders – if you buy an annual season ticket or travelcard in the South of England, you may be able to get an Annual Gold Card. This offers discounts on journeys where you don’t use your season pass, such as weekend trips and off-peak travel.
6. Beware booking fees
Searching online can help you find cheap deals. But many websites slap on a cheeky booking fee at the checkout. For example, RedSpottedHanky charges £1, Trainline 25p-£1.50 and Raileasy £2.50. In comparison, London North Eastern Railway and Skyscanner have no booking fees.
Remember, there’s nothing stopping you researching your train journey on one site and buying the tickets through another.
7. Exercise your rights
You’re well within your rights to ask for a refund for unused tickets if your train is delayed or cancelled. What’s more, most train companies pay compensation for delays of over 30 minutes. You’ll normally need to make a claim through the company’s website, so keep your tickets as proof of purchase.
Got train-saving tricks of your own? We’d love to hear them! 🚃
And for more tips on how to save and budget better, head to Monzo Money Tips👇