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The Key Smartcard

Answers to frequently asked questions on using The Key Smartcard when you travel in and out of London with Southern.

Getting started

The Key Smartcard is a modern and convenient way to store digital tickets.

  • Online
  • Ticket Offices
  • Station Kiosks

KeyGo allows you to use your Key Smartcard 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 key 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

KeyGo map (please note the area KeyGo can be used is different to where the Key smartcard can be used for other products).

If you sign up for Auto Delay Repay on your Key Smartcard we will generate most Delay Repay claims for you and send you an email to review and claim. Auto Delay Repay.

To get a Key Smartcard you will need to create an account with us and we will ask you for your name, address, date of birth and contact details.

If you are a parent or guardian of a child aged 5 to 15 years, you’ll need to provide the same information online as you do to register as an adult – name, address, date of birth and contact details. However, you’ll also need to provide a passport-style digital photograph of them for their smartcard. Make sure when registering for a Child Key Smartcard, you enter your child’s details for an online account.

To complete a child’s registration, you must also verify the child’s age at any Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink ticket office along with proof of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate.

A Key Smartcard can be used in two ways:

1. Use it to buy train tickets for most journeys on train services operated by:

  • Gatwick Express
  • Great Northern
  • Southeastern
  • Southern
  • South Western Railway
  • Thameslink

2. Register for KeyGo, which is our Pay As You Go product, find out more about KeyGo here.

If you are not travelling as frequently as before:

  • keyGo is our pay as you go option, which might be a suitable alternative for you. Find out more about keyGo
  • Flexi Season tickets, are another option for travel between two points on the National Rail network, with the exception of journeys wholly within London Zones 1-6 or those that include travel on London Underground services. Find out more about Flexi Season Tickets
  • Contactless pay as you go is a convenient way to travel within London. There is no need to top up or queue for tickets at the station, so just tap in and out with your debit or credit card. Find out more about Contactless

In addition to smartcard options we also have Etickets. These are a great way to get tickets emailed to you, so you don’t have to queue to collect your tickets at the station. Just select ‘eticket’ as delivery option when you book a ticket. Find out more about Etickets.

Don’t forget, if you have a Railcard, you can benefit from great discounts. Buy your ticket online, and add your railcard info, to start saving. Find out more about Railcards.

Yes, so long as your season ticket still has more than a month before it expires, and the origin and destination stations of your ticket are Key Smartcard-enabled stations. You must also have purchased your ticket from one of our stations or from our website.

To transfer your ticket:

  • To check whether the route is available on the Key smartcard you can check our online booking engine or speak to a member of station staff
  • Apply for The Key Smartcard online
  • Visit Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, or Thameslink ticket office outside of the London Travelcard area. See our Key Smartcard map

Station staff will do the transfer while you wait.

  • 16-17 Saver
  • 16 – 25 Railcard
  • 26 – 30 Railcard
  • Senior Railcard
  • Annual Goldcard
  • Network Railcard
  • HM Forces Railcard
  • Disabled Persons Railcard
  • Veterans Railcard
  • Job Centre Plus

When applicable, railcards can be used with tickets bought for The Key Smartcard. Please ensure you select your railcard type when you buy your Key tickets at self-service machines.

With the exception of the 16-17 Saver, Railcard discounts are not valid on season tickets.

To touch in and out hold your Key Smartcard against a reader at a gateline or validator until you hear a beep.

If you touch at a gateline the gate will open when the card has been accepted.

If you touch at a validator the display will show the message “journey started” or “journey ended” when the card has been read correctly.

For all train journeys you should touch in and out, or you may be liable to pay a penalty fare. This is particularly important for users of keyGo and to benefit from Auto Delay Repay. For repeated misuse, we reserve the right to disable your Key Smartcard.

At all Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and London stations, there are card readers available to touch in and out. Some stations operated by other companies do not have card readers and therefore we understand it is not always possible to touch in and out.

Smartcard readers are located either at the ticket gates or near the entrance/exit to those stations with freestanding validators. Either way, they are easy to spot with a yellow disk. When travelling in the London area, use the Oyster reader at valid locations.

All Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and London stations have smartcard readers to collect online purchases, and touch in and out of journeys. Some stations operated by other companies do not have additional card readers to touch in and out. You will only be able to collect online purchases from the ticket machine at these stations.

Buying tickets

Ticket Type Buy online Buy at ticket offices Buy at self-service ticket machines (non Oyster machines only) 
Annual season tickets and Travelcard season tickets* for London Zones 1-6 Yes Yes No
Monthly or weekly season ticket and Travelcard season tickets* London Zones 1-6 Yes Yes Yes
Anytime single and return tickets No Yes Yes
Flexi Season tickets Yes Yes No
Off-Peak single and return tickets** No Yes Yes

* Travelcard season tickets, include travel on London Underground, London Overground, London Buses, London Trams, Docklands Light Rail and National Rail services within London Zones 1-6

**Super Off-Peak tickets are not currently available.

When you buy a ticket online you must collect it from your chosen station. You can also purchase a ticket from any of our ticket machines outside of London. You can also collect tickets using our app from the App Store or Google Play.

Yes, you can. If another train operator can sell tickets onto smartcards at the station, you will be able to buy tickets for your Key Smartcard. If you buy your ticket from another operator, you will need to revisit them if you need to refund or change your ticket.

Yes, the Key Smartcard can hold up to 5 products at a time. However, when buying online only one ticket can be purchased per transaction. Our system has a limit on how many tickets can be uploaded to The Key Smartcard at a card reader from a single transaction. Additional tickets can be purchased after you’ve loaded a ticket on to your smartcard. You can buy multiple tickets at a ticket machine.

Note: KeyGo is one product and one Flexi Season (up to 8 passes) is one product.

It is currently not possible to add PlusBus to your Key Smartcard. We are fixing a temporary problem preventing the tickets from being sold through ticket vending machines. In the meantime, PlusBus can be bought on paper through ticket vending machines and ticket offices.

Yes you can. If your Annual Season ticket is for travel in the South East of England, you will still receive your Gold Card discounts on leisure rail travel for yourself and others, if your Season ticket is on the Key Smartcard. The only difference is you will receive a separate Gold Record Card, and your actual season ticket for travel will be held on your smartcard. If you apply by post this will be issued separately, or if you get your Key smartcard from a Ticket Office you will be given this at the same time. Use your Gold Record Card when buying discounted tickets for yourself and others.

For further information about Annual Gold Card discounts please visit National Rail Enquiries.

No, Oyster pay as you go is not available on The Key Smartcard.

No, prices are the same for like for like tickets. However, some tickets are not available on the Key smartcard (e.g. super off-peak).

To check your tickets, log into your online account. Select “Manage my tickets / Refunds” from the menu on the left-hand side, this will show your tickets. If you are unable to see a ticket you’ve bought please contact Customer Relations for assistance.

Tickets can be loaded on our mobile app from the App Store or Google Play, or at gates and validators at stations. If you have an issue using one of these methods, please try the other method, or speak to a member of station staff. A ticket must be loaded before you board a train.

If you board a train without loading a ticket you will be travelling without a valid ticket and may be liable for a Penalty Fare or Prosecution, as per the normal Penalty Fare rules.

If your ticket is a Flexi Season ticket you must also activate a day pass. Read more about Flexi Season tickets.

For tickets purchase online: Credit or debit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, eVouchers.

For tickets purchased at Ticket Offices: Cash, credit or debit cards, vouchers, travel warrants, Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Using your Key Smartcard

The Key Smartcard is durable and easy to wipe clean with an anti-viral spray. Just don't put it in the washing machine!

Season Tickets:

For point to point journeys across our network you will need either a pink photocard (which can be obtained from ticket offices), or another form of photo ID e.g. drivers license.

For journeys across different networks e.g. including London travelcard you will need a pink photocard (which can be obtained from ticket offices).

Flexi Season tickets and single/return tickets:

No photo ID is required.

For all train journeys you should touch in and out, or you may be liable to pay a penalty fare. This is particularly important for users of keyGo and to benefit from Auto Delay Repay. For repeated misuse, we reserve the right to disable your Key Smartcard.

At all Great Northern, Thameslink, Southern and London stations, there are card readers available to touch in and out. Some stations operated by other companies do not have card readers and therefore we understand in those instances it is not always possible to touch in and out.

If your Key Smartcard doesn’t read properly at a gate or validator, please seek assistance from a member of staff.

Yes, you can. You can use your Key Smartcard on any train service as long as you have a valid ticket to travel for that service on your smartcard.

Journeys wholly within London Zones 1-6
Available on the Key Smartcard
Availability on other mediums
London Zones 1-6 Travelcard Season ticket
Oyster card or paper ticket
Point to Point Season ticket
Paper ticket
Any other Zonal combination Travelcard Season ticket
Oyster card or paper ticket
Flexi Season ticket

The best way to do this is by logging into your account to request this yourself. Log in to your account to cancel and replace your existing Smartcard. You can also report the loss or theft of a Key Smartcard by calling our team to arrange a replacement:

03451 27 29 20 (for Southern Website issued Smartcards)

03450 26 47 00 (for Thameslink or Great Northern Website issued Smartcards)

You can apply for up to two replacement Smartcards free of charge; further requests may incur a fee.

You will receive your replacement smartcard with any valid tickets including any unused Flexi Season day passes for you to use within the original validity 28-day period. If you are close to the end of the validity period and think you might not have time to use theses passes, you may want to apply for a refund.

If the lost/stolen season ticket or Smartcard was not purchased from a Great Northern, Southern or Thameslink website or ticket office you must contact the original retailer.

Please note our Ticket Offices cannot issue replacement smartcards.

Your Key Smartcard is not transferable and can only be used by the person it was issued to. For your own security, your Key Smartcard will be retained if someone else other than you is found to be using it. If your Key Smartcard is being used fraudulently then those involved could be liable for prosecution.

Below are some error codes to help you understand why your tap was not successful. Please speak to a member of staff for further details and assistance.

11: Ticket / Card expired

12: Not valid at this time

57: Period ticket not valid, station not covered by ticket

94: Card read failed

97: Card removed to early

When you log into your account there is a menu on the left-hand side with options such as “Account details”, “Addresses” and “Payment Details”. Click the links to update your details.

Yes, you can collect tickets and activate day passes for Flexi Season tickets on our mobile app from the App Store or Google Play

Yes, you can. If you Sign up for our Key Smartcard and purchase ticket(s) to travel on Southern services, you can have access to the station cycle hubs for free.

Compensation and refunds

Yes, if your train journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes or more you can claim compensation under our Delay Repay scheme. To claim compensation, please visit our Delay Repay page. We can also automatically notify you when we think you've been delayed. Just tick the box for Automatic Delay Repay in the preferences section of your online account.

To request a refund log into your online account. Select “Manage my tickets / Refunds” from the menu on the left-hand side. Select the order you would like to refund and click “View refund options”. The next screen will show you a breakdown of your ticket details regarding ticket usage, refund value and admin fees where applicable. Please read the details carefully before selecting “Apply for refund”, as once a refund has been requested this action cannot be undone. If you change your mind, simply navigate away from the screen and do not select “Apply for refund”.

To claim for First Class Declass for any ticket mediums, you can fill in our online webform here.

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