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How The Key Smartcard works

How to get The Key Smartcard, add tickets, and use it on train journeys when you travel with Great Northern.

How to get The Key Smartcard

The Key Smartcard is a free, secure, easy-to-use smartcard which you can use on most of our trains.

It’s ideal if you travel in and out of London and want to avoid queues when buying, collecting and using your season ticket.

You can order The Key Smartcard and start using it in a few simple steps: 

  1. Register for The Key Smartcard and purchase your ticket online all in one go
  2. Receive your smartcard through the post and start travelling
  3. Buy more tickets as and when you need them to load to your Key Smartcard

There’s no charge for The Key Smartcard; you don’t have to pay a deposit, only the cost of your normal ticket

1. Register online

Simply register for an account with us online, then select ‘apply for The Key Smartcard.

If you already have an online account with us, then just log in and follow the options for applying for The Key Smartcard under ‘My Account’.

You can also purchase a ticket at the same time.

We’ll post your Key Smartcard, there’s not deposit and no postal change – only the cost of your normal ticket which will be pre-loaded to your card so it’s ready to use.

Register for your Key Smartcard

Log in to your account

2. Start using your Key Smartcard

When you arrive at the station, touch your Key Smartcard on the card reader or validator. This will normally be at the gate or near the station entrance or exit.

You’ll need to touch out again at the other end when you leave the train.

If you have a travelcard, you will also need to touch in and out if you change onto London Underground, trams, buses or London Overground services.

On board the train, we may ask to check your ticket using a handheld reader. We may also ask to see some ID to prove that it’s your season ticket, a National Rail photocard is ideal.

3. Buying 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 so that it's ready to use once received.

You can buy your ticket online or from a ticket machine at one of our stations outside London. You can buy weekly, monthly or annual season tickets. You can also buy a limited range of single and return tickets on the Great Northern network.

When buying tickets online you need to:

  • Select the Key Smartcard fares button on the main purchase screen
  • Choose a station to collect your ticket and start your journey
  • Allow 2 hours before attempting collection from your nominated station
  • At the station, touch your Key Smartcard on a card reader or validator

Note: when you buy a ticket online you must collect it from a station outside the London area. These stations are shown with a yellow dot on the Key Smartcard route map. You can also purchase a ticket from any ticket machine on our network that is outside of London.

Identification for season tickets

For season tickets held on your Key Smartcard, you may need to produce identification to prove that the ticket you hold on your smartcard belongs to you. Suitable forms of identification include a pink photocard (which can be obtained from ticket offices), a passport or driving licence. If you are using your Key Smartcard on another operator’s services, you will need to obtain a pink photocard if you don’t already hold one.

Stations where you can use The Key Smartcard

You can use The Key Smartcard at most stations on the Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink network. You can travel on Gatwick Express services as long as you hold a ticket that is valid on that service. You can also travel in and around London if you buy a travelcard using buses, tubes, trams, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and other National Rail services.

When you buy a ticket online you must collect it from a station outside the London area. These stations are shown with a yellow dot on the Key Smartcard route map. You can also purchase a ticket from any ticket machine on our network that is outside of London

Download the map for full details of where The Key Smartcard is valid for use and other important information.

Need to know more?

Read our answers to frequently asked questions about The Key Smartcard.

Download our pdf guide to The Key Smartcard to find out more.

You can also read the full terms and conditions for using The Key Smartcard.

Don't have The Key Smartcard?

Register online now to receive the smarter way to travel