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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.

Getting the key

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

Yes, please get in touch with us. A Key issued without an online registration will mean you can only buy tickets to add to your Key from the self-service ticket machines at any Great Northern, Southern, or Thameslink station outside the London area.

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-enabled stations.

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

To transfer your ticket:

  • Apply for The Key
  • Visit any manned Great Northern, Southern, or Thameslink ticket office outside of the London Travelcard area.

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?

As with paper season tickets, Railcard discounts are not valid on season tickets.

Buying tickets

Are the cheapest fares always available on The Key?

Currently not all fares are available on The Key. There are certain point to point fares, particularly those to or from other operator's stations which were 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.

Are there charges for using my debit or credit card to buy tickets online?

No, we don’t charge any booking fee or debit/credit cards fees.

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

No, you must have bought a ticket for your Key before travelling. Buy tickets by logging into your account online or at self-service ticket machines at Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink stations outside the London Travelcard area.

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

No, you can only buy tickets for The Key by logging into your account online or at self-service ticket machines at Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink stations outside the London Travelcard area.

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

Yes, The Key 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 at a card reader from a single transaction. You can buy additional tickets once you’ve loaded a ticket on to your Key at a card reader. When buying from a self-service ticket machine, you can buy multiple tickets (maximum 5) in one transaction to add to your Key.

When will all ticket types be available on the Key?

We are working hard to ensure the most suitable ticket types are available on The Key. Only season tickets are available currently on Great Northern and Thameslink services. If the ticket you need isn’t available on The Key we recommend you continue to buy a paper ticket from stations.

Registering the key

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

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 a Key. To complete a child’s registration you must also bring the child to any manned Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink ticket office along with proof of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate.

Why do I need to give you my personal details when I register for a Key?

If you lose your Key or there is a problem with your Key we want to make sure that we can get any unused tickets back to you or that you can talk to us about your enquiry. Information we collect from you includes, title, first name, surname, address, telephone number, email address, date of birth and gender. If you ticked the relevant box when you applied, we may also contact you about other Go-Ahead group services, and inform you of special offers and other related products and services. Log in to your account online and change your preferences to opt out.

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. For repeated misuse, we reserve the right to disable your Key.

What happens if my Key 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?

Key card readers are located on all Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink station ticket gates or near the entrance/exit to those stations outside of the London Travelcard area where The Key is accepted. If you have a Travelcard ticket on your Key you can use any Oyster reader within the Travelcard area.

Travelcards, Oyster cards, and other networks

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

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

Can I use my Key Season ticket on East Midlands Trains services?

Yes, if your Season ticket is valid for the journey being made.

Can I use my Key Season ticket on Virgin Trains East Coast services?

No. For travel between Stevenage and London, The Key is only valid on Great Northern services. Currently Virgin Trains East Coast are not able to accept The Key on their services.

Can the Key be used on Gatwick Express services?

Yes, you can use The Key on Gatwick Express services as long as you have a valid Gatwick Express ticket loaded on to it.

Will The Key work in London?

Yes, as long as you load a Travelcard on to your Key outside London you’ll be able to travel to any London station within the Travelcard zone. You’ll be able to use it on London Underground, buses, trams, trains, and Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Replacing and transferring the key

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

If your Key stops working or it’s lost or stolen, we’ll block it and send a free replacement to your registered address. Log in to your account or get in touch with us to cancel your existing card. We’ll give you up to 3 free replacements over 12 months. Any subsequent replacements will need to be investigated and we may need to retain your Key.

Is my Key transferable to other people?

No, your Key is not transferable and can only be used by the person whose name is on the card. For your own security, your Key will be retained if someone else other than you is found to be using it. If your Key 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 you can claim compensation under our Delay Repay scheme. There is no compensation scheme for delays on bus journeys. To claim compensation, please visit our Delay Repay page.

How can I get a refund for my key?

Log in to your online account and follow the prompts. We will contact you within 28 days of receiving your request. For refunds on tickets bought using a self-service ticket machine, please call either Southern Customer Services on 03451 27 29 20 or Thameslink and Great Northern Customer Services on 0345 026 4700.

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