January 30, 2018

The Season Ticket - Cutting the Cost of Commuting


Getting to work is expensive business. For drivers there's the fluctuating cost of fuel and criminally high city centre parking fees, while for public transport users there's the never-ending hike in rail fares.

Every year, the National Rail fares are ever-growing and since 1995 the cost of some UK routes has gone up by more than 200%.[1] Inevitably, this has a big impact on the finances of commuters, and finding a cheaper alternative is a must for anyone who doesn't want to spend their day in the office just paying off the cost of getting there.

National Rail season tickets are an obvious solution, giving you the equivalent of unlimited travel for a set period on a specific route. There is flexibility in the length of time you purchase a ticket for - anything from seven days up to a year - but there are drawbacks on pricing, as inevitably the shorter period tickets cost more. There may also be stipulations for what routes you can use and at what times of day, so check the options carefully to make sure they meet your requirements.

The annual ticket most often provides the cheapest option. For example, a Rugby to Birmingham New Street season ticket would be around £140 for the monthly option, or around £1400 for the annual. This means the annual ticket costs around £117 a month, clearly offering the cheaper option overall.

National Rail has a season ticket calculator so you can work out what your commute would cost.

Chances are you don't have a couple of thousand pounds burning a hole in your pocket, and you lose a lot of savings if you go for the monthly season ticket. However, there are several options you can explore to make the annual ticket affordable:

Employer Loan

Some companies and employers may offer a scheme whereby they put up the cash for the annual ticket and you repay them directly out of your salary each month. Your employer may or may not charge interest, and the payment period may be 10 months rather than 12, so check with them to see what they could offer you.

Credit Card

An option, but not a great one. If you can get a credit card to cover the upfront cost of your National Rail annual ticket, you can make the repayments at your own pace, though obviously it can become very expensive if you take longer or you can't get a 0% card to cover the period of the ticket.

Commuter Scheme

One new option for rail travellers is to join a commuter scheme such as CommuterClub which helps Londoners save on their commute with its flexible, low cost payment plan. This allows you to buy an annual ticket but pay for it in monthly instalments, though you still retain the savings of the yearly season ticket. The list of advantages goes on, as travellers only pay for 11 months overall, and the price doesn't go up along with National Rail fares increase each year. Because you're not locked into a contract, you could cancel your ticket after a few months if needs be, and only pay for what you've used.

You can find out more about CommuterClub's National Rail annual tickets here.