If you're on jobseeker's allowance or job hunting and claiming universal credit you may be able to get a free railcard from the jobcentre which gives 50% off many rail tickets, thanks to a little-known discount scheme.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train firms, is writing to politicians to ask them for help promoting the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card, after new stats showed huge regional variation in how much it's used. Between March 2017 and March 2018 there were almost 290,000 journeys made using the card in London, but under 2,000 in the North East.

But you aren't guaranteed to get a railcard just because you're on jobseeker's allowance or job hunting and claiming universal credit jobcentres issue them on a case-by-case basis. We've full help below on how the scheme works and what you need to do to apply.

For more help on how to cut the cost of rail travel see our Cheap Train Tickets guide.

Martin Lewis
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What does the railcard offer?

All train operators in England, Scotland and Wales offer those with the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card a 50% discount on anytime day tickets, off-peak day tickets and season tickets, for up to three months.

Transport for London also accepts the card. If you use it with an Oyster card you can get:

  • 50% off pay-as-you-go fares
  • Seven-day, monthly or longer period (up to three months) travelcards at a child's rate
  • Seven-day or monthly bus and tram passes at a child's rate

While the railcard is valid for up to three months, the exact length is at the discretion of the jobcentre you apply to.

How do I apply?

The process for getting a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card is as follows:

  • Step 1. You need to have been claiming jobseeker's allowance or job hunting and claiming universal credit for at least three months. Your age helps determine the exact length of time you need to have claimed for:

    • If you're aged 18-24... you can get the card if you've been receiving the required benefits for between three and nine months.
    • If you're 25 or older... you can get the card if you've been receiving the required benefits for between three months and a year.
    You might also be able to apply if you've been claiming certain other benefits such as incapacity benefit, income support or employment and support allowance for at least three months and are actively looking for work via a jobcentre.
  • Step 2. You then need to apply to the jobcentre and explain why you need the card. If you meet the criteria outlined above, you can apply in person at your nearest Jobcentre Plus. However, crucially you're NOT guaranteed to get a card when you do this, even if you do meet the criteria above.

    The Department for Work and Pensions says the cards are awarded on a case-by-case basis, so to get one you need to speak to jobcentre staff about your circumstances and they will decide whether you should be issued with a card, and if so, how long for.

    One reason why you might be refused a card is if transport by rail isn't as easy or accessible in your area as it is in other areas.

If you are refused a card, unfortunately there's no way for you to appeal against the decision.

Where is the railcard being used currently?

Here are the figures released by the Rail Delivery Group which show a huge variation in where the card was used between 5 March 2017 and 3 March 2018:

Where were journeys using the card made?

Region Passenger journeys
London 288,572
South East 85,524
East 44,716
Scotland 35,358
West Midlands 20,550
North West 17,772
Yorkshire and the Humber 8,899
South West 5,689
East Midlands 5,250
Wales 4,545
North East 1,947

'We want to make sure everyone knows about the discounts available'

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: "Over half a million discounted journeys were made in the last year but we want to make sure that everyone who is entitled to discounted journeys, in all parts of the country, knows about the discounts available."

For more help if you've been made redundant or are out of work, see our Redundancy Help guide.

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