I have recently been made aware of smartcards that can be used on regional train services in the UK that act in a similar way to an Oyster card - You load on tickets (similar to loading credit onto an Oyster card) and you then have to tap in and tap out at the stations you enter and leave the railway at (just like an oyster card.) My question therefore is this, Can a smartcard (for example, from South Western railway) be used alongside a discount railcard (such as a network railcard or a 16-25 railcard), therefore getting discount tickets?

Additional question - How reliable are smartcards when compared to paper tickets? I ask this as I am aware that a smartcard holder has to tap in and tap out when entering and leaving stations, and this would not be possible if the tap-in/tap out points are not working for whatever reason.

  • If the smart card readers don't work you usually travel for free 😁 (if you haven't bought a ticket for a specific departure) Dec 29, 2019 at 14:35
  • In the last sentence of your first paragraph, did you intend for it to start with "Can a smartcard"? Otherwise this question makes no sense to me.
    – Muzer
    Dec 30, 2019 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


UK transport smart cards (the ones which are not Oyster cards) are also known as ITSO cards. When you load a ticket onto a smart card, whether at a ticket counter or using an automatic machine at a station, you can select an appropriate railcard discount from the machine display, or tell the ticket clerk. For a discounted ticket to be valid for travel, you must carry the appropriate railcard with you, along with the smart card, when you make the journey. If a revenue inspector checks your smart card, (they carry card readers), and a railcard discount has been obtained, he or she will ask to see the railcard. Failure to produce it will mean you are travelling without a valid ticket, and financial and possibly legal penalties will apply. Likewise when you leave a station through a ticket gate ('touch out').

National Rail say that "Smartcards are durable and reliable for regular use over many years." ITSO format cards are used on UK buses too, and I have been using one for 4 years and never had any problems.

What is smart ticketing? (ITSO.org)

Smart cards and tickets (National Rail)

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