As a student, you are entitled to purchase a 16-25 Student Railcard, which gives you discount on most train travel. This is also extended to Mature Students over 26+, but you have to get proof of your entitlement from the University.
The full price of a 1-year Student Railcard is £30, and a 3-year Student Railcard is £70. Mature students are not eligible to apply for the 3-year railcard.
There are discount codes available for purchasing railcards. Unidays and NUS Extra are good sources for discount codes for this and other places.
At the time of writing, Santander Bank are offering a 4-year railcard free as part of their Student Account package.
If you’re having to buy a railcard, the first things to consider are:
Will I actually use the train?
If you’re not going to be using the train, then it’s not really worth buying a railcard. That’s an obvious thing to say, but if you’ll never use a train during the year, it’s £30 you’ve saved.
Will I save money on my tickets?
Discounts are available on most train tickets, but there are some restrictions to how much you can save. For example, if you travel between 0430 and 1000, Monday to Friday, there is a minimum fare of £12 that applies. If you can travel outside this time, the fare will hopefully be less.
As long as you save more than the price of the railcard over the period of 12 months, then it can be a good investment.
In addition to the discounts offered by the 16-25 Railcard, some Train Companies offer discount with your NUS Extra card. At the time of writing (September 2017), Cross Country, Grand Central and Transpennine Express offer various discounts on some routes. You have to book with a specific link and have your NUS Extra card with you to show to the conductor.
Keep an eye out for discounts available on the different train company websites. You can book with most companies up to 12 weeks in advance, some for even longer. The earlier you book, generally the cheaper the price will be. Turning up to the ticket office on the day to book is the most expensive way to travel.
Full price, “on the day” tickets for a weekday journey in peak time between Hull and Manchester cost £61.80, whereas booking ahead, at the weekend and being flexible with your journey plans can cost £15.20 with a railcard. A good rule to remember is that the cheaper the ticket, the more restrictions you have on when you can travel. The cheaper ticket above is for a specific train there and a specific train back, whereas paying the extra you can travel on any train on that route.