10 tips to cut the cost of train tickets – Splitting tickets, cashback, railcards & more.
I don’t like paying over the odds for anything. That’s why I love finding clever ways to cut the cost of products and services. Train tickets are no exception and over the years I’ve discovered lots of clever tips and tricks to get my hands on bargain rail fares.
10 tips to cut the cost of your train tickets.
1. Buy your train tickets in advance.
Some of the biggest savings can be made by booking your train tickets in advance. The best time to buy a rail ticket is as soon as they are released by rail operators – usually 12 weeks in advance. The cheapest tickets sell out quickly, so it’s important to book as soon as you know when you’re going to travel. If you miss out on early bird bargains, however, buying a ticket right up until the night before you travel is usually still cheaper than buying one on the day.
If you want to take advantage of advance ticket bargains, put a reminder in your phone 12 weeks before your journey or sign up for a Ticket Alert email at Trainline: trainline.com Ticket Alert
2. Check to see if single tickets are cheaper than a return ticket.
Many people think it’s cheaper to buy a return ticket instead of single tickets but this isn’t necessarily the case. Websites like trainline.com will compare the prices of single and return tickets so you can be sure you’re getting the best price.
3. Split your train ticket.
Did you know you can save up to 70% on the cost of your train journey by buying train tickets for individual sections of your journey, rather than one ticket for your entire journey? This trick is called split ticketing and is entirely legal and allowed under the national conditions of carriage for rail operators.
The great thing about ticket splitting is you’re saving money even though you still travel on the same train, at the same times and in the same seat. The only rule you need to remember is that your train must stop at all the places along the route you have bought tickets for, rather than simply pass through them. However, this doesn’t mean you have to leave the train and get back on it for each ‘split’ in your journey.
For example, if you wanted to travel from Nottingham to London, you would expect to buy one ticket for the whole journey from Nottingham to London. However, depending on your route, you may find it a lot cheaper to buy a ticket from Nottingham to Grantham, and another from Grantham to London.
Examples of savings (from Splitticketing.com website):
Norwich to London: Cheapest online fare: £105.70, Splitticketing.com fare: £58.20, (Norwich to Manningtree Return, Manningtree to London return) saving an additional £46.50 or 45%.
Return journey Derby to Liverpool: Cheapest online fare: £61.50, Splitticketing.com fare: £20.70, (Derby to Crewe Return, Crewe to Liverpool return) saving an additional £40.80 or 66%.
The great news is if you want to save money by splitting your rail ticket, there are specialist websites that will automatically do the calculations for you.
4. Travel off-peak.
If you can be flexible with departure times, it’s best to avoid travelling at peak times of the day when rail fares are more expensive. Peak times vary between different train operators but are usually the few hours in the morning and afternoon when people are commuting to and from work.
5. Use cashback websites.
You can save money by earning commission on your ticket purchases using cashback websites like Quidco and Topcashback. Ticket companies offering cashback via such websites include: Raileasy (1.6% cashback), National Rail Railcards (5%), Virgin Trains (1%), Scotrail (5%), Train Genius (2%), East Midlands Trains (up to 2.5%), Trainline (up to 3%). *Quidco merchants and percentage cashback quoted.
6. Buy a railcard.
You can save 1/3 on the cost of rail travel by purchasing a Railcard. Not everyone will qualify for a railcard and the terms and conditions vary depending on the card.
Who qualifies for a railcard?
- Senior Railcard. Aged 60 and over.
- 16-25 Railcard. Aged 16-25 years old.
- Disabled Persons Railcard. If you have a disability that makes travelling by train difficult you might qualify for the Disabled Persons Railcard.
- Friends and Family Railcard. When travelling with a Friends and Family Railcard, your group must contain at least one named Railcard holder and at least one child aged between 5 and 15 years. The maximum group size is up to four adults (aged 16 years and over) including the named cardholder(s), and four children (aged 5-15 years).
- Two Together Railcard. Two named adults (aged 16 or over) can use their Two Together Railcard to enjoy 1/3 discount on rail fares when they travel together by train.
7. Use Tesco Clubcard vouchers.
It’s worth checking to see if you can cut the cost of rail travel using your Tesco Clubcard vouchers. For example, at the moment you can use your points to get half price Railcards, (a £30 Friends and Family Railcard will cost you £15 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers). You can also exchange £5 Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £10 credit to spend on train tickets at redspottedhanky.com.
8. Buy discount gift vouchers.
In a previous post (HERE) I told you about Zeek, the gift voucher marketplace, where you can buy gift cards and vouchers at discount prices. You can sell your unwanted vouchers too. If you’re planning a trip on a Eurostar train, you can get up to 10% off the face value of a Eurostar Gift voucher at Zeek. Plus, if you aren’t already a member of Zeek, you can click on the link below and claim your FREE £5 Zeek credit.
9. Buy a season ticket.
If you use the train regularly, it might be cheaper to buy a season ticket. Most rail operators will sell weekly, monthly or annual season tickets. Just remember to buy your annual season ticket before the prices go up in the new year.
10. Avoid extra fees and charges.
Watch out for extra charges when you buy your train tickets. Some online rail ticket providers may charge a booking fee, a delivery fee and a fee for using a credit card. They may also invite you to purchase add-ons such as cancellation insurance or travel insurance. Buying tickets directly from the train operator may avoid some of these extra fees but you could lose out on bargain tickets. If in doubt, shop around.
Over to you.
Do you always shop around for cheap rail tickets? Have you got any tips or tricks for cutting the cost of train travel? Did you know you could save money by splitting your train ticket? As always, I’d love to hear from you.
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