Anyone who, like me, falls outside the eligibility criteria for a railcard discount, knows how frustrating it can be paying full price for train fares.
Gone are the days of my 16-25 railcard discount, and while the Two Together railcard’s great, it’s no good if you’re travelling on your own.
So I was impressed to find out the other day that having a Virgin Help to Buy ISA means I get 10% off Virgin Trains West Coast advance fares – perfect as this is my route home to see family and friends in Manchester.
It goes without saying that working at MoneySavingExpert (and looking after the Cheap Trains guide) means I do my research before booking a train ticket, such as using the cheap ticket alerts, checking if singles beat returns and seeing if I can split my ticket.
But this new trick means I can now knock 10% off my final price – and even better, it’s not only for me, I can get 10% off tickets for up to three other people travelling with me.
While I get this discount automatically, don’t think you need to have a Help to Buy ISA to be eligible. In fact, this offer is currently available for ALL Virgin Money customers – which means there’s a nifty trick to bag it for free – all you need is a spare £1.
How do I get the offer?
If you’re already a Virgin Money customer you’ll be eligible for this offer, plus others, without doing anything else.
If you’re not, you just have to become one. There’s a whole range of Virgin Money products to choose from, but one of the simplest ways to become a customer is to open a Virgin savings account, such as the Easy Access E-Saver, and simply deposit £1 into it. It generally takes about 10 minutes to set up a savings account.
Once you’re with Virgin Money, to get the 10% off trains offer, simply head to this page. Follow the instructions and click through. You’ll be asked to enter your journey details as normal, and then a range of ‘Virgin Money fares’ will appear, if available. The offer says on ‘selected’ advance fares, and generally seems to exclude peak times on some routes, and remember it’s only available on the West Coast.
Bizarrely, at no point in the process are you actually asked to log in or prove you’re a Virgin Money customer. We asked Virgin about this – it told us it wanted to keep the process as simple as possible, but added that the terms and conditions state you must be a Virgin Money customer to get the discount and claimed there are ‘background checks’ with Virgin Trains to ensure this.
It wouldn’t say what those checks are, but don’t worry – Virgin said you won’t be asked to provide bank statements mid-journey.
Finally, Virgin said it does sometimes change the offers that are available, so this one isn’t guaranteed to stay.
Does this beat other discounts?
You can’t use this 10% discount on top of any other discounts, so whether it’s the best option depends on what else is available.
If you have and can use a railcard, that will give you a much better 33% off – so this is for those who don’t have one.
It’s also worth looking at the free Virgin Red app, which gives you discounts and offers on a range of Virgin products, plus other brands, such as Caffè Nero.
It sometimes offers a 20% discount on Virgin Trains, which obviously beats 10% – but it’s all about timing. If the 20% offer is available close to when advance tickets go on sale, this is likely to be the winner, but if you instead wait for it you’re likely to miss out on the cheapest fares, therefore negating the difference between the 10% and 20% off.