Friday 30 December 2016

3 Ways To Beat The Fare Hike And Save £100s


In the past five years the price of an average train ticket has risen 16.9%, figures from Sainsbury's bank reveal.

And they haven't stopped yet – with regulated prices set to rise by another 1.9% on January 2 – that's almost twice as much as last year's 1% hike.

It's a painful extra tax on the price of getting to work – and one that's rising a lot faster than wages are. You can see how much your own fare will rise here.

But it doesn't have to be this way. By getting smart you can cut hundreds and hundreds of pounds from the price of your ticket – with savings possible on everything from station parking to discounted seats and more.

The three main ways you can save on your train fare below.

1. Get smart

How many stations can you commute from? Because there might be one a little further away that could be cheaper to travel from.

In fact, you might be able to make big savings cycling or getting a bus to a station that's further from home but closer to your destination or on a different line.

Exactly the same is true in reverse, is there a different station you can travel to near work? Adding a 10 minute walk to the end of your commute might – again – produce big savings.

What about methods of travel? Can you get the train for longer, and the underground or tram for less distance? Would going backwards a stop or two put you on a different line for the rest of the journey?

And that brings us neatly to split tickets. Because of the incredibly complex way fares are calculated, it can be cheaper to buy two or three tickets covering parts of the same trip than one for the whole journey.

It's perfectly legal, as long as the train you're on stops at all the destinations listed. You can use a split ticket calculator to see if you can make savings.

Then we come to railcards – there are railcards offering discounts to more or less everyone. From young people, older people, families and people frequently travelling together (a co-worker who lives near you, for example). And that's before we come to regional railcards.

There is a problem here, though, as most railcards don't work before 9:30 in the morning – but if you can arrange flexible working to start later in the day or perhaps do the first hour or two from home then travel in the savings are huge.

There are also railcards that work all of the time – the most under-used of these is the JobCentre Plus travel card – offering 50% off journeys by train (and tube and busses too in some areas). It's available to people claiming Universal Credit and other benefits as well as those on Jobseekers Allowance for more than 3 months.

Contact your local Job Centre for more information and to see if it applies to you.

One final tip – parking. If you're driving to the station, make sure you shop around for parking. Commuters could save as much as £800 in some towns by looking outside the station car park for nearby alternatives. Check and to see if you could rent a space on someone's driveway nearby or to see what else is available.

Additionally, if you can share a ride to work with someone, you can halve the cost of parking wherever you stay – or cut it to nothing by cycling to the station or even save by getting a bus there rather than parking.

2. Pay up front, save hundreds and beat the hike entirely

It probably won't be news to you, but buying an annual ticket can mean big savings.

Going annual can save you around £200 on the price of 12 Zone1&2 travel cards in London and around £400 on the price of 52 weekly ones.

There are similar savings across the country, with an annual ticket generally offering around two months “free” compared with buying by the month.

Additionally, buying early means you can get next year's travel at this year's prices – saving 1.9% on your fare if you get in ahead of the price hike.

The problem? Not many of us have several hundred pounds (at the least) kicking around after Christmas to pay for one.

The good news is that there are a couple of ways to buy one and split the cost without paying heavy interest for it.

The first is a season ticket loan from your company. Many employers will loan their staff the money needed to buy a season ticket up front, then take the money back in installments from their pay cheque.

This is frequently done interest free and means you get the savings available from an annual ticket but pay monthly.

The second option is to take out a 0% purchase credit card. These let you buy something now, but not pay any interest on it for a set period – generally between 12 and 28 months.

The best of these also come with rewards – meaning not only do you get to split the cost of your ticket interest free, you can also earn Nectar or ClubCard points or even get straight-up cashback from some providers to add to your savings.

There are two issues to be aware of here. Firstly, make sure you pay the money off within the 0% period – we recommend setting up a direct debit that sees you clear the balance in time. That's because any money left on the card once that period runs out will be slapped with a hefty interest rate – generally of at least 18.9%.

<>The second issue is eligibility. You will need a good credit score to get the best offers and largest credit limit.

That doesn't mean it isn't worth applying, as you might still get a good deal that will let you cover you season ticket, but it's worth using an eligibility checker like the one on MoneySupermarket or form certain banks before applying – as multiple applications that fail can make you look desperate for money and actually hurt your credit score.

3. Switch

Do you HAVE to get the train to work every day? If you live within a few miles of the office, catching the bus, tram, cycling or even running might be an option for you.

It might be slower, and more subject to traffic, than the train or tube, but a bus season ticket can save you a lot.

Bus and tram journeys in London – for example – cost £1.50 each and no more than £21.20 a week if you're paying with Oyster or contactless. Compare that to £32.40 for the cheapest weekly travelcard including Zone 1.

An annual bus pass will save you at least £448 on the price of an annual travel card that includes Zone 1 and possibly as much as £3,164.

If you're willing to get up earlier and get home later then the savings are huge.

Cycling, by contrast, can prove quicker than trains and the tube – as it lets you go direct door-to-office eliminating any walking time to and from stations.

A decent bike costs less than £400 new, or can be picked up second hand for less than £100. You might also be able to get it with a big discount, and spread the cost interest-free, by using a Cycle-to-work scheme from your employer.

Of course, cycling has disadvantages too – if it rains, you get wet; if you want to go out after work, you shouldn't cycle home after drinking (although the bus is still an option); you need a change of clothes and possibly a way to wash when you get into work in case you get sweaty or drenched – and that's not mentioning traffic.

While its an awful lot safer to cycle than people think, you're more likely to be injured walking a mile than cycling one, there are definitely dangers and it won't be for everyone. But don't rule it out until you try it. Borrow a bike, or try using hire-bikes if they're available to you to give it a go.

Over the past few years the number of cycle lanes has increased vastly and cycling is getting both safer and more popular for a reason. Not only could you save money, you can also lose weight and get fitter too.



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