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The Key Smartcard

Answers to frequently asked questions on using the key smartcard when you travel in and out of London with Thameslink.

The Key Smartcard

The Key Smartcard is an easier and faster way to buy, renew and use your train ticket.
It’s completely free, won't wear out, and comes with lots of additional benefits.

Find out more

Getting the key

Can I still get The Key Smartcard if I don't have access to the website?

Our smartcard is only available by registering through our website.

Can I transfer my paper Season ticket to my Key?

Yes, as long as you have at least one month’s validity remaining and the origin and destination stations of your ticket are Key Smartcard-enabled stations. You must also have purchased your ticket from one of our stations or from our website. Unfortunately it is not possible to transfer your Season ticket if it has been discounted.

You must also have purchased your ticket from one of our stations or from our website.

To transfer your ticket:

  • Check that your origin and destination is available on The Key Smartcard by checking the map
  • Apply for The Key Smartcard online
  • Visit any staffed Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink ticket office outside of the London Travelcard area. See our map

We’ll then contact you when your Key is ready to be collected, usually within 5 working days.

Which Railcards can I use with the Key?

16 – 25 Railcard

26 – 30 Railcard

Senior Railcard

Annual Goldcard

Network Railcard

HM Forces Railcard

Disabled Persons Railcard

When applicable, railcards can be used with tickets bought for The Key Smartcard. Please ensure you select your railcard type when you buy your tickets at self-service machines. Railcard discounts are not valid on season tickets.

Buying tickets

How do I find tickets for The Key Smartcard online?

Sign in to your online account and select the toggle for “Key Smartcard fares”.

How to buy new and replacement tickets

When you first register for your Key Smartcard, you can purchase a ticket at the same time which will be pre-loaded to your smartcard. It will be ready to use once received.

You can buy tickets online or from a ticket machine at one of our stations outside London. You can buy weekly, monthly or annual season tickets. Single and return tickets are only available to purchase at our ticket machines outside London.

When buying tickets online you need to:

  • Log into your online account and select the Key Smartcard fares button on the main purchase screen
  • Select your journey and choose a station to collect your ticket. Allow 2 hours before attempting collection from your nominated station
  • At the station, touch your Key Smartcard on the card reader

When buying a smart ticket from a ticket machine, please note that these will be loaded immediately to your Key Smartcard.

Are the cheapest fares always available on The Key?

Not all fares are currently available on The Key Smartcard. There are certain point to point fares (travel between two named stations), particularly those to or from other operator's stations which we are not able to sell at this time. Therefore in some cases alternative fares may be available on paper. If you are making an online purchase you should de-select the 'Key Smartcard fares' option to see the full range of fares available.

Can I buy a ticket for the Key on the train?

No, you must have bought a ticket for your Key Smartcard before travelling. Buy tickets online or at any of our ticket machines outside the London area.

Can I buy tickets for The Key Smartcard from any other train operators or London Underground stations?

No, Buy tickets online or at any of our ticket machines outside the London area.

Is there a limit on how many tickets I can buy for the Key?

Yes, The Key Smartcard can hold up to 5 tickets at a time. However, when buying online only one ticket can be purchased per transaction (at no additional cost). Our system has a limit on how many tickets can be uploaded to The Key Smartcard at a card reader from a single transaction. Additional tickets can be purchased after you’ve loaded a ticket on to your card at the card reader/validator. When buying from a ticket machine, you can buy multiple tickets.

Will all ticket types be available on The Key Smartcard?

We are working hard to ensure the most suitable ticket types are available on The Key Smartcard. If the ticket you need isn’t available on The Key Smartcard we recommend you continue to buy a paper ticket from stations.

Where can I purchase tickets for my Key Smartcard?

Ticket type Buy online Buy at ticket machines (non Oyster machines only)
Annual season tickets and Travelcard season tickets for Tube, buses, London Trains, trains and the Docklands Light Railway  Yes No
Monthly or weekly season ticket  Yes Yes
Anytime single and return tickets  No Yes
Off-Peak single and return tickets  No Yes
PlusBus tickets for travelling in Crawley and Brighton, excluding Newhaven and Seaford stations  No Yes

When you buy a ticket online you must collect it from your chosen station. You can also purchase a ticket from any of our ticket machines outside of London.

*Super Off-Peak tickets are not currently available.

Registering the key

What details do you need when registering for a children’s Key Smartcard?

As a parent or guardian of a child aged 5 to 15 years, you’ll need to provide the same information online as you do to register as an adult – name, address, date of birth and contact details. However, you’ll also need to provide a passport-style digital photograph of them for their smartcard.

To complete a child’s registration you must also verify the child’s age at any staffed Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink ticket office along with proof of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate.

Using the key

Does everyone need to touch in and out with the Key?

Yes, for all train journeys you should touch in and out, or you may be liable to pay a penalty fare. This is particularly important for users of keyGo and to benefit from Auto Delay Repay. For repeated misuse, we reserve the right to disable your Key.

What happens if my Key Smartcard stops working or my card wasn’t read properly when I touched in?

We’re here to help. For these and other queries, please get in touch with us.

Where will I find Key card readers at stations?

Smartcard readers are located either at the ticket gates or near the entrance/exit to those stations with freestanding validators. Either way, they are easy to spot with a yellow disk. When travelling in the London area, use the Oyster reader at valid locations.

Travelcards, Oyster cards, and other networks

Can I load Oyster pay as you go onto my Key Smartcard?

No, Oyster pay as you go is not available on the Key.

Will The Key work in London?

Yes, if you have a Travelcard loaded on your Key Smartcard you’ll be able to travel to any London station within the Travelcard zone. You’ll be able to use it on buses, tubes, trams, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and other National Rail services.

Can The Key be used on Gatwick Express services?

Yes, you can use The Key Smartcard on Gatwick Express services as long as you have a valid ticket that can be used on the Gatwick Express.

Can I use The Key Smartcard on other operator services?

Aside from travel within the London Travelcard area (with a valid travelcard ticket), your Key Smartcard is valid for travel with other train operators as follows (as long as you have a valid ticket):

  • London North Eastern Railway – between London King’s Cross and Stevenage
  • East Midlands Trains – between London St Pancras and Bedford

Replacing and transferring the key

How do I get a replacement Key Smartcard if it is lost or stolen?

If your Key Smartcard stops working or it’s lost or stolen, we’ll block the card and send a free replacement to your registered address. Just log in to your account to cancel and replace your existing smartcard. We’ll give you up to 2 free replacements over 12 months. Any subsequent replacements will need to be investigated and we may retain your Key Smartcard.

Whilst waiting for your new card to arrive you will need to buy paper tickets to travel. Please keep these tickets as you will be able to claim a refund for them on receipt of your replacement Smartcard.

Refunds will be processed at any Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink ticket office providing the season ticket is active at the time of loss. A £10 admin fee will be applied to all tickets as per our Smartcard refund policy.

Is my Key transferable to other people?

No, your Key Smartcard is not transferable and can only be used by the person it was issued to. For your own security, your Key Smartcard will be retained if someone else other than you is found to be using it. If your Key Smartcard is being used fraudulently then those involved could be liable for prosecution.

Refunds and compensation

Can I claim compensation for delayed journeys when travelling with The Key?

Yes, if your train journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes or more you can claim compensation under our Delay Repay scheme. With The Key Smartcard you can benefit from Auto Delay Repay. We can in many cases, tell when you may have been delayed and let you know when you’re owed compensation.

To claim compensation and for further information about Auto Delay Repay, please visit our Delay Repay page. We can also automatically notify you when we think you’ve been delayed. Just tick the box for Automatic Delay Repay in the preferences section of your online account.

How can I get a refund for my key?

Log in to your online account and follow the prompts or visit our refunds page. We will contact you within 28 days of receiving your request.

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