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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. 

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.

How do I use The Key Smartcard?

Set up and use your card in 3 easy steps.

  1. Register for The Key Smartcard and purchase your ticket online in one go
  2. Your card will arrive in the post
  3. Buy more tickets as and when you need to. You can load up to 5 tickets onto your card at once. Find out how in the video below
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There is no charge for The Key Smartcard.

Make sure you tap the gate or card reader at the start and end of your journey.

Find out more

Where can I use The Key Smartcard?

You can use The Key Smartcard at most stations on the Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink network.

Download the map for full details.

You can travel on Gatwick Express services if you hold a ticket that is valid on that service.

You can also travel in and around London if you buy a London travelcard using buses, tubes, trams, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and other National Rail Services. Just load it onto The Key Smartcard.

Make sure you tap the gate or card reader at the start and end of your journey.

What tickets can I add to The Key Smartcard?

You can add the following tickets to The Key Smartcard:

  • Weekly, monthly or annual season tickets
  • Weekly, monthly or annual Travelcard season tickets for the Tube, buses, trams, trains and the Docklands Light Railway
  • Anytime single and return tickets
  • Off-Peak single and return tickets
  • KeyGo – pay as you go travel
  • PLUSBUS tickets for traveling in Crawley and Brighton, excluding Newhaven and Seaford stations

What is KeyGo?

KeyGo allows you to top up The Key Smartcard for use for pay as you go travel. When using KeyGo we’ll only charge you for travel you take outside of any season tickets you also hold on The Key Smartcard.

If you add KeyGo to your card, you need to make sure that you tap in and out at the start and end of your trip to avoid being charged a £25 incomplete journey fee.

Find out more

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

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