Friday 4 January 2019

Finance Fridays – Saving money on train fares

We're back with Finance Fridays after our Christmas break. For many people going to work yesterday for the first time in 2019 there was a bit of a shock. The start of January traditionally brings with it a rise in train fares and this year the average increase was 3.1%. For many people travelling by train is unavoidable if they need to get to work while for other people it's a perfect way to get about for leisure trips. There are plenty of ways to save money on train fares and not pay the standard price.

Season tickets – If you're doing the daily slog of going to work by train then a season ticket will save you a lot of money. The best savings will be on annual season tickets as on most you will effectively be buying 12 months travel for the price of 10 months. Seven day and monthly tickets are also available. If you are worried about changing jobs or location in the next year then you can apply for a refund of the unused portion minus a small administration charge. Some rail companies also allow 'changeovers' which let you swap your season ticket to a new starting or end station. As many trains are delayed or cancelled this could work in your favour financially as you can still apply for compensation and some rail companies give a discount for failed targets for people who renew. You'll also save time in not having to continually buy train tickets.

As annual season tickets can easily cost between £3,000-£5,000 if you are travelling into London the upfront cost of them can be prohibitive. Ask your employer if they do a season ticket loan scheme where you pay back the loan on a monthly basis. Alternatively see if you are eligible for a 0% interest rate credit card to buy the season ticket on.

Book in advance
– In many cases when it comes to train travel if you buy a ticket on the day of travel it will be more expensive than buying it even the day before. For long distance routes Advance Tickets offer large discounts compared with walk-on fares. They usually go on sale 12 weeks in advance but you can set up email reminders to be sent to you when they do go on sale. The snag with them is they are only available as singles so if you are booking a holiday you will have to book the outward journey first and then wait for the return date to become available. They are limited in number so once the allocation is sold no more will be released at that price even if there are still seats available. You also won't be able to get a refund on these tickets.

– For leisure travellers there are now railcards available that cover most people's situations. The new 'millennial' railcard is now available for everyone aged 26-30 after a limited run last year. This gives the same benefits as the 16-25 Railcard. As you can see from the tickets above my children were able to travel from Leeds to Sheffield for just £1 each thanks to us having a Friends and Family Railcard. From September a new 16-17 Railcard will be launched which will give even bigger discounts than those offered by the current 16-25 Railcard.

Railcards cost £30 for the year but you can usually find a code for at least 10% discount. I let mine lapse deliberately last time and they sent be a code to get £6 off. If you travel a couple of times by train in the year the cost of card is usually quickly saved. When we travelled to London by train we saved £100 in one trip.

Travel by coach – It takes longer to get there but coach travel can be a lot cheaper. The two main national operators are National Express and For an idea of how cheap you can travel on the bus I found a couple of coaches leaving Sheffield for London on Monday afternoon for just £5.33.

Change your travelling time – Train fares cost more if you travel during the popular peak times so if possible travel outside of these times. Generally 'off-peak' is classed as after 9.30am on Monday to Friday but this can be earlier on some routes. Some routes, particularly those departing from London, also have peak hours in the afternoon from around 3.30pm. Negotiating a later start time at work could save you a lot of money on train fares.

Do you travel by train a lot? What ways do you use to save money?

If you want to join in with this week's Finance Fridays then add your link to the linky below. Any post concerning financial matters is allowed. Full details here. It doesn't have to be published today as you have until 23.55 on Tuesday 8th January 2019 to join in.

Finance Fridays

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