Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Did you know a Railcard can be bought and downloaded immediately?

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

I had to book some Gatwick Express tickets over the Summer and realised it made sense to get a new Friends & Family Railcard.  We would recover the cost in one trip and would then have it for the next 12 months for, effectively, free.

If you are planning to take your kids on a train trip this weekend, it is worth noting that Friends & Family Railcards can now be bought and downloaded instantly as can most other Railcards.

This was a lifesaver if you are planning a trip immediately, as you can download the Railcard and then immediately book your tickets.

a Railcard can be bought and downloaded immediately

(Technically, you don’t need to have the railcard when you buy the tickets, only when you travel.  Arguably the smart thing to do is to buy your railcard on the day you travel, since this maximises the amount of time you have to use it before it expires.)

During the purchase process on the Friends & Family Railcard website you have the option of selecting a Plastic or Digital railcard.  If you choose Digital, you are emailed a code after purchase which you type into the Railcard app on your phone.  The Railcard can be added to two phones if necessary.

This allows you to buy a Railcard and buy discounted tickets immediately without having to wait five days for a Plastic card to arrive.

As a reminder, a Friends & Family Railcard gets you 33% off Standard Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance adult fares and 60% off for kids’ fares.  Restrictions apply on times of travel and which trains are included.

First Class travel is not included with ‘Friends & Family’ although other Railcards do allow it.  Gatwick Express, Stansted Express and Heathrow Express services ARE included.  We looked at Railcard deals on Heathrow Express in this article and Railcard deals on Stanted Express (NOT available via their own website) in this article.

The Friends & Family Railcard website here has more details.

Comments (24)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • david says:

    You can buy any railcard with 34% off discount if you buy it via trip app. So £19.80.

  • Phil says:

    It’s worth mentioning the “two together” railcard Rob. Great for couples with no kids in toe and this DOES include discounts on first class fares.

    • MattB says:

      We use ours loads, just one trip to London will more than cover the initial cost. Don’t forget to look out for promos, I bought our last railcard through Trainline when it was 30% off so only cost £21.

    • PGW says:

      May not be important for some but the Two Together card can’t be used before 9.30 am on weekdays which we found quite a drawback for our particular travel habits.

  • SamG says:

    And the Network railcard. Quite a lot of commuting is cheaper if you buy two singles (discounted on the way home) but I’m always amazed how few people know about it!

    • Richie says:

      I travel to the East Mids frequently. Split ticketing at Bedford and using a Network Railcard saves a fair amount.

  • mradey says:

    Coincidentally msadey did just this yesterday. Entire process, including ‘passport style photo’ and downloading the app took less than 10 minutes.

    Didn’t know that two singles can be cheaper…. will check this out.

  • AFKAE says:

    Senior railcard as well..starts at 60 😉

  • Brian78 says:

    No. I didn’t know!

  • Speedbird676 says:

    I recently bought a Senior Railcard for my mum through, as they were offering 33% off digital railcards. She made more than her money back in one return trip from London to Plymouth.

  • MKB says:

    “you don’t need to have the railcard when you buy the tickets, only when you travel”

    You do need the railcard, if you buy at a manned ticket office.

    A railcard is a good use of £10 worth of Tesco points.

    • Brian78 says:

      “You do need the railcard, if you buy at a manned ticket office.”

      So the original comment is correct as you don’t have to buy from a ticket office

      • MKB says:

        Never said otherwise. Although there are some tickets it is impossible to buy online or at machines.

        • Brian78 says:

          Which ones, out of interest?

          • MKB says:

            Rovers for example.

            One that affected me was, before Avanti’s current problems, Avanti stopped you buying some tickets routed Avanti-only by making all trains on some routes mandatory-reservation and zeroing out inventory, even though they have unreserved coaches on every pendolino. They effectively forced you to buy a more expensive any-permitted route ticket on another Train Operating Company but then travel with Avanti without a reservation, or go to a ticket office to get an Avanti-only ticket, also without a reservation.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.