How Much Do Railcards Save You?

They’re designed to offer discounts on train journeys, but how much do railcards actually save you?

Train waiting at Cardiff Station
(Image credit: Getty Images)

 

Train travel across the UK is a popular mode of transport for multiple reasons. Whether it’s for days out, commuting to work or a place of study or visiting relatives, the rail network allows for trips up and down the country which are both environmentally friendly and time-efficient.

Where we are arguably let down by our rail network, however, is the prices that we have to pay to use the service. Indeed, according to inews, “rail fares in England and Wales increased by an average of 5.9 per cent on Sunday 5 March 2023”, meaning passengers are now dealing with the “largest hike in rail fares for more than a decade”.

You may have seen our recent blog post on How to Get Cheaper Train Tickets (and if you haven’t, it’s certainly worth a read!), in which we mention how Railcards are a great way to get your hands on discounted rail travel. In this article, we’ll talk you through the different card types available, how much you could stand to save and how you can get your hands on one. 

What are the different Railcard types?

A wide selection of Railcard types is available, all of which are designed to suit various age ranges and physical abilities. As a rough rule of thumb, once acquired they’ll offer you ⅓ off all future rail travel (although there are some caveats here, which we’ll explain in our breakdown of the different cards below). 

16-17 Saver

 

For an upfront cost of £30.00 for the year, all young persons aged 16-17 can save 50% on train tickets! Not only is this discount valid for standard Anytime, Off-Peak or Advance tickets but it can also be redeemed on season tickets as well. 

16-25 Railcard

Ideal for students and young professionals, the 16-25 Railcard offers ⅓ off train tickets. This particular card comes with two purchasing options; a one-year Railcard for £30.00 or a three-year Railcard for £70.00 (which, although costing more upfront, would save you more money in the long run). It’s handy to remember that you’re able to purchase the 3-year option right up until your 24th birthday - meaning it won’t expire until you’re almost 27. These cards are valid on most ticket types, although they do require a minimum spend of £12.00 on morning peak tickets.  

26-30 Railcard

This Railcard is available in digital form only and will save you ⅓ off train tickets for a cost of £30.00 per year. As with the 16-25 option, you’ll need to spend a minimum of £12.00 on morning peak tickets in order to be able to get a discount. The 26-30 Railcard can also be used in conjunction with a registered Oyster card for use on the London Underground. 

High Speed train with green livery waiting at a station

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Disabled Persons Railcard

 

For those who meet the eligibility criteria (a full breakdown of which can be found on Railcard's 'Are You Eligible' webpage), you can get a ⅓ off the cost of train travel, with Railcards starting from as little as £20.00 for a year. Like the 16-25 Railcard, there is also a 3-year option, providing even further savings as it only costs £54.00. What’s more, these discounts are also available for an adult companion whilst you hold a valid card.

Family & Friends Railcard

This Railcard can earn ⅓ off adult fares (up to four adults per card) and a whopping 60% off for up to four children aged 5-15! Available for one or three years (costing £30.00 or £70.00 respectively), this Railcard is only valid during Off-Peak times but can be used at any time during weekends and Public Holidays. 

Network Railcard

Designed to serve passengers in South East England, this Railcard is available for an adult of any age and covers up to three other adults and four children. It’s only £30.00 for the year and provides a ⅓ off train ticket prices throughout the designated area. These Railcards can only be used after 10 am Monday to Friday, where a minimum spend of £13.00 applies. 

Senior Railcard

Aimed at anyone aged 60 or over, the Senior Railcard provides a ⅓ off on all Off-Peak journeys for a cost of £30.00. It is also available as a three-year card, which costs £70.00. It’s worth noting that if you’re planning to buy online, you can get your hands on a Senior Railcard up to 14 days in advance of your 60th birthday. 

Two Together Railcard

For an upfront cost of £30.00 (per year), this option provides a ⅓ off rail ticketing prices for you and someone who you travel regularly with. As you’re sharing with someone else, it essentially becomes just £15.00 per year, which is considerably cheaper than any other Railcard currently on offer.  

train travelling along the tracks at speed, through a city landscape

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Veterans Railcard

These Railcards are specifically for any UK Veteran who has served at least one day in the Armed Forces. Offering a ⅓ of rail fares, the cardholder is also able to purchase discounted tickets for one other person and up to four children! Travel is permitted at any time of the day, although there is a minimum spend of £12.00 required for peak morning times Monday to Friday. 

How much do I actually save?

 
As outlined above, Railcards will typically provide ⅓ off train ticket prices (although there are some exceptions, including the 16-17 Saver and the Disabled Persons Railcard). But how do these savings look in real terms? Below, we’ve highlighted some example savings that could be made when using the 16-25 Railcard.

When selecting a same-day standard single journey from Penzance to London Paddington (at the time of writing), it costs £79.00. If you have a 16-25 Railcard, which will save you a ⅓ on fares, the price drops to £52.10 - resulting in a saving of £26.90. As the upfront cost of the Railcard is £30.00, it’s almost paid for itself after only one journey! This card remains valid for one whole year (unless you purchased the three-year option), meaning any discounts on future journeys will result in direct savings.

Another example is looking at an Anytime Return trip from Cardiff to Bristol (at the time of writing). Without a 16-25 Railcard, the cost of this ticket would be £25.50 but with ⅓ off, it costs just £16.80. A saving of £8.70 per booking, it would take roughly four journeys on this same route in order for a one-year, £30.00 Railcard to more than pay itself off. As this route is popular with commuters, it shouldn’t take too long!

Where can I buy a Railcard?

 The best place to pick up a Railcard is by visiting the Railcard website. Here, you can search for the card that best suits your circumstances and you’ll also find all the help you might need in terms of how to download your card digitally, what restrictions may be in place on your card and when you’ll need to renew it.

It’s also worth pointing out that certain cards come with extra perks, such as partner discounts and savings. For example, by selecting the Two Together Railcard, you can unlock additional benefits such as free gym passes, discounted stays at a range of holiday parks and reduced theatre tickets! 

Railcard occasionally runs sales and offers on their cards, so be sure to check out our Railcard discount code page to see if there are any extra savings to be made. 

Jack Cunningham
Travel Editor

As a former sports journalist and content creator, I swapped the press box for a permanent desk several years ago. Since giving match reports the red card, I have enjoyed developing my writing and research skills in a few other areas, and now I spend my time doing something I really enjoy - sharing the best ways to save on travel with our wonderful readers.


I love nothing more than exploring different parts of the world and learning about new cultures (and taking in the occasional sporting fixture, if at all possible). I’m just as happy on a quick city break in Lisbon as I am navigating my way across the width of America, and firmly believe everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy travelling regardless of their budget.