When I lived in London – I had one of the cheapest commutes available. Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk to work – but with my moped I pretty much halved the cost of taking the tube.
I moved out of London for a few reasons (like how my house cost a literal quarter of ones the same size on my old road!), but my career is still very much in the capital. So, I’m a commuter now. According to CityMapper my commute is longer than 96% of Londoners, but I can still get to work in only 55 minutes. Not too shabby!
The downside is that a rail commute is seriously pricey – like, it rivals the rent in my old flat levels of pricey. There’s not much you can do to knock the price down, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up.
Get a season ticket loan
The number one way to save money on travelling to work is to buy a season ticket. It’s not even that risky because most of the time you can cancel the season ticket and ask for a refund if you no longer need it.
For my season ticket, you’ll save £810.80 per year buying an annual season ticket vs 12 monthly ones. That’s more than a month and a half of “free” travel. HOWEVER, you need to have £5,000 lying around in order to get this discount.
Which is why, if you can, you should ask your employer if they offer an interest-free season ticket loan. Before I moved I tried to get a 12 month 0% on purchases credit card, but I had a real problem finding one that would give me a big enough limit to cover the total cost, despite my good credit rating.
Try to get cashback
How the season ticket loan works, is that once a year, your work pays you enough money to cover your season ticket in one go, then for the following 12 months they take 1/12th of that amount away from your monthly payslip to cover it.
You have to buy it yourself and get reimbursed, so you may as well use a cashback credit card to actually make the purchase. I used my American Express Platinum Everyday card that offered 0.5% cashback, but there are lots of others about.
See how far you can get
For me, a season ticket is exactly the same price to the station closest to me, as it is to go three stops further down the line. You may as well get the most for your money and use your season ticket to explore your local area too!
Do you need a zone 1-6 Travelcard?
This one is for those commuting into London. If you don’t work directly next to the final station on your main line commute, you may be tempted to opt for the zone 1-6 travelcard add on.
But stop, first check the terms and conditions of your ticket – with my High Speed ticket I can use it from Kings Cross on the Thameslink through to Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Bridge etc, or I could get off at Stratford International and not pay any extra to get the National Rail train into Liverpool Street. You don’t always have to get the tube, and some of these central London National Rail lines are actually quicker and less crowded (don’t tell the tourists!).
It’s £716 cheaper a year for me not to get a season ticket that includes a TfL travelcard. If you don’t spend £60 a month on tubes and buses, then it’s probably not worth you getting one either.
Can you take a cheaper route?
When you type in your home station and where you work, a lot of the time several different options will pop up. Unfortunately for me, the location of my office means I need to have a High Speed ticket that costs an extra £1,100 more a year than the ticket that doesn’t include High Speed. If I worked in close proximity of Victoria or Charing Cross I’d be golden!
Remember that you could change lines to save money. There’s no direct train from my station to Charing Cross, but I can grab any train going towards London that’ll stop in Gravesend, then swap onto the train that goes to Charing Cross. Unfortunately, journey mapping apps are really bad at telling you about these “tricks” so study the network map closely.
Always use Delay Repay
If your train gets held up by 30 minutes or more, you could be eligible for Delay Repay (i.e a full, or partial refund on your journey). For season tickets it tends to be a proportion of your monthly or annual ticket price, depending on how long the delay was.
This really is worth doing, even though it’s a total pain. Remember to take note of the time your train finally pulls into the station or the alternate route you had to take.
Apply for automatic TfL refunds
There’s an absolutely amazing trick to get easy refunds on TfL. You only need to be delayed by 15 minutes or more to qualify for a refund, and you might not even notice you were delayed.
To use Reeclaim, just make sure all your Oysters and contactless cards are registered on your online TfL account. Then all you need to do is log in through Reeclaim and they will automatically apply for refunds for you! They can tell if your touch in and out times are further apart than average and you’ll get your money back without you having to do anything.
It literally takes two minutes to register, and it’s well worth your time.
Use your Gold Card discount
If you pay for an annual season ticket within the Gold Card area (which stretches from Exeter to Norwich and most places in-between) then there are some little known perks you should be taking advantage of.
Within the Gold Card area, after 9.30am Monday-Friday or any time on weekends or bank holidays your Gold Card entitles you to:
- A 1/3rd off train travel for you, PLUS up to 3 adults travelling with you.
- Up to 60% off train travel for up to 4 children travelling with you.
- 1/3 discount on off peak London Underground fares (you need to use an Oyster card and set this up at a TfL station).
To use the 1/3rd off travel offer, when it comes to the part where you choose your Railcard, the option for an annual Gold Card should be there. You can travel in a group of up to four adults (including you) and four children, all getting a third or more off their tickets. Pretty good!
You can also buy a Railcard for £10 (usually £30) for yourself or any nominated person. Your Gold Card entitles you to all the benefits of a Railcard (even a Two Together one), so I’d get one for someone else.
What do you think? Have you got any other tips to save money on your season ticket?