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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 Great Northern.

Getting the key

Should you need to get a refund, simply log into your account and follow the easy steps. The money will be refunded directly to you.
The Key Smartcard is durable and easy to wipe clean with an anti-viral spray. Just don't put it in the washing machine!

The Key Smartcard is our contactless smartcard which means you can buy tickets at home and collect from a gate or validator at a station nominated by you. This will allow you to fast-track through the station and avoid queues at the ticket office.

Order your Key Smartcard here. Please allow 7 working days for your smartcard to arrive at your home address.

If you are travelling on Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern you can set up a KeyGo account on your Smartcard which is similar to 'Pay as you go'. KeyGo will calculate the best day fare for your journeys based upon the tickets you could have purchased that day. You can also buy single and return tickets on the Key on self service ticket machines.

Find out more information on KeyGo.

We also have Smartcard Kiosks at 12 of our stations where you can register and obtain a Key Smartcard there and then. Find out more about Key Smartcard kiosks here.

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.

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 Smartcard is ready to be collected, usually within 5 working days

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

To buy Season tickets online you need to:

  • Under the Season tickets tab, select your journey and the ticket you require
  • If available, the Key Smartcard will be offered as a delivery option. Please note that only one ticket can be bought in a transaction to be offered the Key Smartcard as a delivery option
  • Continue by selecting your payment method. Login to your online account or register for an account to order a Key Smartcard
  • If you already have a Key Smartcard, choose a station to collect your ticket, then continue to payment. Allow 2 hours before attempting collection from your nominated station. At the station, touch your Key Smartcard on the card reader
  • If you have ordered a new Key Smartcard, continue to payment. Your Key Smartcard will be posted to you with your Season ticket pre-loaded and ready to use

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  • To buy tickets from a station ticket machine (non-Oyster machines only):
  • Touch the card reader with your Key Smartcard
  • Select the ticket you require and add your Railcard (if applicable)
  • Make your payment
  • Touch your Key Smartcard on the card reader again to load your ticket
  • Your Smart ticket is ready to use
Not all fares are currently available on The Key Smartcard but more routes are becoming available on a monthly basis. Therefore in some cases alternative fares may be available on paper. If you are making an online purchase, the Key Smartcard will be offered as a delivery option if the fare is available.

No, you must buy a ticket for your Key Smartcard and collect it before you get on the train. Buy tickets online or at any of our ticket machines outside the London area.

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

Ticket machines between Waterbeach and Kings Lynn are coming soon.

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.

Yes you can. If your Annual Season ticket is for travel in the South East of England, you will still receive your Gold Card discounts on leisure rail travel for yourself and others, if your Season ticket is on the Key Smartcard. The only difference is you will receive a separate Gold Record Card in the post from your Key Smartcard, and your actual season ticket for travel will be held on your smartcard. Use your Gold Record Card when buying discounted tickets for yourself and others.

For further information about Annual Gold Card discounts please visit National Rail Enquiries.

Registering the 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 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

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.

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

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

No, Oyster pay as you go is not available on The Key Smartcard.
Yes you can. You can use your Key Smartcard on any train service as long as you have a valid ticket to travel for that service on your smartcard.
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.
Yes, you can now buy Season tickets for travel between stations in the London area. If you have a Travelcard 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 London Underground, buses, trams, trains, and Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Replacing and transferring the key

If your Key Smartcard stops is lost or stolen, we’ll block the card and send a free replacement to your registered address with any valid tickets at the time of replacement pre-loaded to the card so it’s ready for you to use. 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. If you have a season ticket, we recommend that you buy a weekly ticket whilst waiting for your replacement Smartcard to arrive. 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 your Smart 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.

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

If your train journey is delayed by 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.

Please use the online Key Smartcard refund form.

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