Thetrainline.com, many people's default site for train travel, charges booking fees of up to pounds 1.50 and a credit card fee of 2% (using a debit card is free), adding pounds 2.50 to the price of a pounds 50 ticket. Rival comparison site Raileasy charges a hefty pounds 2.50 booking fee and a 4.5% credit card fee, adding a total of pounds 4.75 to a pounds 50 fare. It also charges for using a debit card (75p). Phoning Raileasy costs an eye-watering pounds 1.02 a minute from a BT landline.
Train Genius and MyTrainTicket also charge booking and credit card fees.
Rail operators' own sites, on the other hand, don't charge extra. Another plus point is they occasionally offer cheaper fares and many offer loyalty points of some kind, too.
For example, if you used thetrainline.com to pre-book the
The scheme offers loyalty points when a customer spends more than pounds 22 on tickets with any train operator.
However, it's worth checking if a company offers discounts on its own tickets.
Out of the general booking sites, Red Spotted Hanky offers the best deal. Head For Points, a website that compares travel loyalty schemes, has declared it the only "sensible" third- party option for buying train tickets. As well as no booking or card fees, it offers its own loyalty scheme.
Travellers can also spend Tesco Clubcard vouchers on Red Spotted Hanky: pounds 10 of Clubcard vouchers will get you a pounds 20 Red Spotted Hanky voucher.
Rail operators usually start selling the cheapest tickets 12 weeks ahead of travel. Several sites, including thetrainline,
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