A look at railcards available to anyone...

Network Railcard

I mentioned on a Head for Points posting about the Heathrow Express that a Network Railcard discount was a good way to save money on Heathrow Express tickets (the other ways to save money is to look at cheaper options such as the tube and Heathrow Connect). A return fare on the Heathrow Express is a ridiculous £37 but using the Network Railcard takes it down to a more reasonable £24.40. A return on the slower Heathrow Connect service is £13.60 with a Network Railcard.

You can buy tickets with the railcard discount for the Heathrow Express directly on their website. The eTicketing on the Heathrow Express works really well (unlike VTEC with their 'Travel Buddy'). You can still earn Heathrow Rewards points when booking the discounted tickets so if you're likely to spend any money at the airport it's worth signing up. For Heathrow Connect you can buy your tickets from any National Rail site, most sites also show the Heathrow Express services so if you want the Connect make sure you select the cheapest option. 

The 'Network' in Network Railcard does not refer to the whole National Rail network but the former Network Southeast (British Rail). Network Southeast incorporated most of the commuter routes into London and the current Network area map shows where the card is valid.

At the time of writing the railcard costs £30, is valid for a year and can be used by up to four adults travelling at the same time (accompanying children also get discounts). The Heathrow example above was just because this was mentioned on Head for Points, a frequent flyer blog, but if you can get at least £30 in savings out of it in a year it's worth taking advantage of.

There are a couple of restrictions: you can't use this railcard before 10am on weekdays (except bank holidays), weekends and holidays have no restrictions. There's also a minimum fare on weekdays where the discount will not go below £13, web booking engines and ticket machines should automatically apply the non-railcard fare if it is lower than £13.

Apply online here or visit a station within the Network Railcard area.

Network Gold Card

A quick mention that annual season ticket holders with tickets that are valid within the 'Gold Card' area are also entitled to 33% off train tickets within this area (the Gold Card area used to be the same as the Network Railcard area but has now been expanded). If you qualify you'll either see Gold Card printed on your season ticket or if you have a smartcard season ticket you should have been given a 'Gold Record Card'. More info on the National Rail site.

Another advantage of the Gold Card is it lets you purchase an additional railcard for £10. This could be useful to purchase the Two Together Railcard mentioned below if you travel with someone regularly outside of the Gold Card area.

Two Together Railcard

The Two Together Railcard is accepted throughout the National Rail network and is valid from 09:30 on weekdays (except bank holidays) so is valid 30 minutes earlier than the Network Railcard. There's no time restrictions on weekends or public holidays. This railcard also costs £30 but to be valid both passengers must be travelling.

An important thing to note is that there's no limit to the number of Two Together Railcards you have. Whether they're your partner, family, friends or colleagues if you travel with them often enough to justify the £30 fee for the savings made then you can get a card with them. You will save 33% on most rail journeys including first class advance tickets.

Apply online here or visit a National Rail ticket office.