Should you cancel your annual season ticket?

This is a very ‘individual circumstances’ question, and one that you’re going to need to do a little research on based on when you purchased your ticket, and how much you will personally get back.

So some basics first.

A weekly/monthly/annual season ticket will give you saving over the cost of daily tickets but any refund will be calculated based on the ‘value used’. Essentially the discounted/saving bit of your season ticket comes at the end of the period.

To get a refund you need to have at least:

  • 3 days left – Weekly Season Ticket
  • 7 days left – Monthly Season Ticket
  • 3 months left – Annual Season Ticket.

If you have any less time that the above, you will get no refund on your ticket.

There is an admin fee to pay (which is £10 for paper season tickets and £5 for ‘Key’ season tickets).

You can apply for your season ticket refund at a station ticket office of the rail company you purchased it from, or with the Key Card you can do it online in your (Southern / Thameslink) website account. In all cases, the refund will go back onto the payment method you used.

Those with a Key Card can view the refund they will receive online before requesting it.

If you purchased your season ticket through a work scheme you will need to contact your scheme owner to determine what is possible. It’s likely that the season ticket may not have come from Southern/Thameslink but another train operator local to your company’s HQ and they would be the ones that would need to action any refund.

What else can you do?

If you have less than three months left on an annual season ticket, or will only receive a very small refund if cancelling it (after the fee) then there is another approach.

You are permitted to make a permanent change the journey that your season ticket is for, and if that journey is cheaper you receive a refund. There is no fee to pay.

For example, if you have an Annual Season ticket from Redhill to ‘London Terminals’ you could change that route to be from Redhill to Reigate instead, and the difference in the season ticket price will be refunded to you.

There is a suggestion that you can do it more than once with a season ticket (so move it back to our normal route after things return to normal).

This method might get you some money back. This is called a ‘Changeover’ and here’s the official guidance from National Rail.

“If you move house, change your place of work or wish to change the class of travel, you may apply to exchange any Season Ticket with at least 7 days remaining, for one with the same expiry date for your new journey or class. This is called a changeover.

A changeover may be applied for at the rail ticket office where the original ticket was issued or at any station relevant to the new journey. The new journey Season Ticket is a continuous renewal and it must start on the day following surrender of the original ticket. Any additional charge or refund will be based on the ticket prices when the original Season Ticket was bought, pro rata to the periods before and after the changeover.

No administration charge is made. Any ticket that has already been exchanged in this way may be accepted for further exchanges if necessary.”

Is any of this worth doing?

It hugely depends on the length of your season ticket, and when you purchased it. Everyone’s circumstances are different…

So some high-level things to consider before jumping for a refund:

Calculate how many days you would potentially be travelling between now and the end of your season ticket.

There’s a handy website here https://www.work-day.co.uk/ that helps you calculate the number of working days in a year…Set the ‘From’ date to today, and the to date as the end of your season ticket.

This will get you a calculation of working days (bank holidays and weekends removed) which for most is how many days you’d travel in that time.

Also, remove any planned annual leave that you would be taking in that period. Or if you normally would be working from home one day a week remove those too.

You can then research your ‘cost to travel’ if you cancel your season ticket, either by buying daily/using contactless/or getting a new season ticket.

Keep in mind that a new season ticket will be higher than the one you surrender. To help here look at the price of a journey on ‘Contactless/Oyster’ if applicable or a new season ticket.

The challenging part is working out how long you may be ‘working from home’. And there’s no clear view on how long this will take to pass. 4 Weeks, 12 Weeks, you’ll need to make your own view.

Important – This article does not contain any advice, and is simply here to explain what your options are, to help you make an informed decision.