Northern Smart cards - the easiest and fastest way for peak commuters to buy tickets
In partnership with Transport for the North, Northern Smart cards are now available for season ticket holders. Buy a Smart season ticket before 31 January 2020 and you could win back its cost (up to £200) in our monthly prize draws!
First thing’s first, what is a Smart card?
Good question. It’s a plastic, contactless card with a microchip embedded inside it that stores your Season Tickets. The Smart card technology is an upgrade to paper tickets. It gives you a quicker, easier and hassle-free way to buy and renew your Season Ticket when it suits you - whether that's online, at a Northern ticket machine or at a Northern booking office. You can also travel through the station far quicker as you ‘tap and go’ instead of feeding your ticket through the gate.
What are the main benefits of a Smart card?
Simply put, Smart cards are far more convenient, last a lot longer and you can also renew online and on the go.
Saying “goodbye” to paper tickets will give you a faster and easier way to buy and renew season tickets at your convenience. They’re completely free, they don’t wear out and by buying your tickets online you can beat the usual Monday morning rush to renew. You can use a Smart card with weekly, monthly and annual season tickets.
...and the pros of season tickets over daily tickets?
- Unlimited travel between your two stations
- No need to queue every day to buy a ticket
- Huge savings over the course of a month or year
- Online and ticket machine collection now available
Use our season ticket savings calculator to see how much you can save vs your current ticket.
How do I get a Smart card?
Switching from a paper season ticket to a Smart card or getting one for the first time is easy. Open to rail users over the age of 16, request a free personalised card online or pop into your nearest Northern ticket office at your next renewal.
If you're already in possession of a Smart card issued to you by at a ticket office you do not need to order a second card. You can also add a TransPennine Express Smart card to your account in this way.
How do I purchase a Smart season ticket?
Now you’re in possession of a Smart card you can easily purchase or renew a Smart season ticket.
Do so at a time that suits you online or on the Northern Android App (iOS NFC capability is coming soon!), at your local ticket office or at a Northern ticket machine. Tickets bought via the Northern Android App can be added to the card via its NFC functionality, however those bought via the Northern website must be loaded by one of the following means:
- Through the Northern Android app. This is by far the quickest and most convenient way to collect a ticket. Simply ensure phone’s NFC is switched on (the app will warn you if it isn’t) and press the orange icon at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Hold your Smart card against your phone and if your new ticket is ready for collection, it will automatically load on to the card and show appear in our ‘active’ ticket list. Our iOS app is due to be upgraded with the same functionality soon.
- At a Northern ticket machine. Present the Smart card you’ve chosen for the purchase to the machine by placing it in the Smart card reader. Provided your new ticket is ready for collection, it will automatically be loaded onto your card - a message “New products have been downloaded to your card” will be displayed on the screen to confirm this.
NOTE: The booking portal will ask you to select a station to collect your ticket at, however, if you have an Android phone with NFC capability you can avoid this and collect your ticket by touching your Smart card to the back of your phone. If you want to do this, the station shown for collection is irrelevant and you can ignore it.
How do I travel with my Smart card?
Now your Smart season ticket is loaded to your card, simply board your train as you normally would and the conductor will scan and check your ticket as per usual. Done!
When will a Smart ticket bought online be ready for collection?
Rapid collection is available via the Northern Android app, usually within 5 minutes. Please allow up to 2 hours for collection at a ticket machine.
Frequently asked questions.
How does a Smart card work?
Your Smart card has a microchip inside of it that stores your season ticket on it. This Smart card can be read by conductors, station staff and ticket vending machines and barriers as per usual.
Does my Smart card replace my existing photocard?
You don’t need a photocard to accompany your season ticket, but you might be asked to show another form of identification by the revenue protection team.
Can I get a Smart card for a child?
Not at the moment. For now, you can get only a Smart card for Adult Weekly, Monthly and Annual Season Tickets.
How do I get a Smart card?
You can request a personalised card online. Alterntively, you will be offered one instead of a paper ticket at the ticket office when it’s time to renew.
What information do I have to provide to get a Smart card?
Your Title, Forename, Surname, Address, email address and contact number.
Do I have to buy a Smart card?
No, it costs nothing to upgrade to a Smart card.
What tickets can I put on my Smart card?
You can put a season ticket for seven days or any period between one month and a year on your Smart card.
Can I get a Child (Under 16) ticket on a Smart card?
Smartcards are currently available only for Adult weekly or period season tickets between one month and a year, except where a 16-17 Saver is used.
Can MerseyRail RailPasses be purchased on a Northern Smart card?
Yes, however Merseytravel require us to issue RailPass onto Walrus cards rather than on Northern Smart cards.
Can Greater Manchester Traincards be purchased on a Northern Smart card?
Traincard rail tickets, including Metrolink, are now available on Smart cards at Northern ticket offices. However, Traincards remain are not available for purchase on the Northern website for the time being.
Is a (Greater Manchester) season ticket more expensive on a Smart card?
We are aware of this issue as Smart GM Traincards cannot (yet) be bought at a ticket machine or online. However, ticket offices are able to issue the full selection of Smart products to customers resulting in the price being the same for Smart tickets versus paper tickets in the Greater Manchester area.
Do I need to activate my Corporate Season Ticket?
No. Corporate Season Tickets will already be loaded onto the Smart card.
How can I buy a Smart season ticket?
You can do so online or on the Northern Android App (NFC capability is coming soon to our iOS app), at your local ticket office or at a Northern ticket machine.
Are there any differences between the smartcards issued at ticket offices and those you can order through the website?
They have small design differences but are otherwise the same. Cards ordered online can be used at Northern ticket offices and ticket machines, and vice versa.
What information do I have to provide when requesting a Smart card?
If you are a new season ticket holder we will ask for: Title, Forename, Surname, Address, email address, contact phone number.
What smart tickets can be bought through the Northern website?
The Northern website allows you to renew season tickets of any duration. It assumes that you have a Smart card already.
How long do I have to wait for a Smart ticket I have bought online to be available for collection?
It can take up to two hours for a ticket to be available for collection via either the Northern Android app or a ticket machine.
How do I load a Smart ticket bought online to my Smart card?
Tickets bought via the Northern Android App are automatically added to the card via its NFC functionality, however those bought via the Northern website must be loaded by one of the following means:
- Through the Northern app. This is by far the quickest and most convenient way to collect a ticket. Simply ensure phone’s NFC is switched on (the app will warn you if it isn’t) and press the ‘Read Smartcard’ icon at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Hold your Smart card against your phone and if your new ticket is ready for collection, it will automatically load on to the card and show appear in our ‘active’ ticket list.
- At a Northern ticket machine. Present the smartcard you’ve chosen for the purchase to the machine by placing it in the Smart card reader. The machine will read your card and display its contents. Provided your new ticket is ready for collection, it will automatically be loaded onto your card - a message “New products have been downloaded to your card” will be displayed on the screen to confirm this. Pressing the ‘Home’ icon on the lower left of the ticket machine screen will refresh the display.
NOTE: There’s no need to press any of the ticket machine’s buttons when collecting a smart ticket – just place your Smart card in the Smart card reader and any tickets waiting to be collected will automatically be loaded. You can always check that it has loaded and the relevant expiry date by placing your card on the reader once more and then checking the screen display.
Can I collect a Smart ticket at any station, regardless of where my ticket’s journey begins?
(An example would be the collection of a Leeds to Harrogate season ticket at Bradford Interchange).
Yes. Both the Northern app and Northern ticket machines can be used to collect any ticket regardless of its origin and destination.
Can I collect at non-Northern stations?
It currently varies by operator, however the aim is for all stations in the North to offer this facility. Please ask station staff locally for further details as to which machines offer this facility.
TransPennine Express and East Midlands Rail stations have ticket machine collection facilities.
From 1 September, selected self-service ticket machines at LNER stations in the North (Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Wakefield Westgate, Doncaster, Retford and Newark Northgate) will be upgraded to allow Smart ticket collection. Please note this Smart collection facilty does not extend to ticket offices or gate lines.
Virgin Trains do not currently have any, with the exception of a Northern ticket machine at Doncaster. The only Merseyrail station with smart collection facilities is Liverpool South Parkway.
How can I check my ticket has been successfully loaded to my Smart card?
You can use either the Northern Android App (NFC capability is coming soon to iOS!) or a Northern ticket machine to show what tickets are loaded on your card without having to make a purchase. Both will show active tickets and expired tickets.
How far in advance can I renew my smart season ticket?
The rules for renewal are the same as for paper tickets.
At a larger station where there are different ticket machines offered by different train companies, can I use any machine to collect my smart ticket?
Many larger stations have several types of ticket machine. Not all of these have yet been upgraded to allow smart ticket collection.
If you have a choice, you should always use a Northern ticket machine as these are fully smart ticket enabled and this will ensure your ticket collection is successful. Northern machines are blue and have the Northern logo at the top of the home screen – sometimes you may need to touch the machine to clear the screensaver in order to see the logo.
For some time I have renewed my paper season ticket through the Northern website. Now I am only offered smart tickets. Why is this?
This depends on the start date you have entered for your ticket. If you want a ticket quickly, the website assumes smart ticket, as this can be delivered to your card via the app within two hours.
Paper tickets have to be sent in the post, so a start date of at least a week in advance is needed. If you enter a date at least a week in advance, you will be offered both paper and smart.
I’ve entered a start date for my season ticket two weeks in advance, but I’m still not being offered a smart ticket for the journey I make, even though I have a smartcard registered to my website account.
A limited number of journeys are not available on smart tickets, and for these a paper season ticket must be purchased. The number of journeys available on smart tickets is increasing all the time as train companies upgrade their ticket and ticket gate equipment.
Where can I use my Smart card?
You can use it during your regular train travel, just like you use your paper ticket. The same terms and conditions for travel apply.
When can I use my Smart card?
You can use your Smart card on any chosen route you’ve bought a season ticket for.
Can more than one person travel using the same Smart card?
No, because the ticket loaded on to your card comes under the same regulations as paper tickets.
How will my Smart card be inspected during the journey?
The conductor will simply scan your Smart card to confirm that it holds a valid ticket for the journey you’re making.
Can I get off somewhere, then catch a later train to complete my journey using my Smart card?
Ticket usage – How will tickets be activated and validated?
You’ll be able to travel on your Smart card as soon as your Ticket is loaded onto it!
What do I do if I have problems with my Smart card or loading a ticket?
If you encounter an issue with your card or Smart season ticket call our Customer Experience Centre on 0333 2220127. Station staff should also be on hand to help.
To help us with your enquiry please have ready:
- Any transaction references and error messages
- Your 18-digit Smart card number (on the front of the card)
- The product you are trying to load
How do I replace my Smart card if it’s lost or stolen?
We’ve got a dedicated customer helpline for any queries you have or so that you can report lost or stolen cards: 0333 2220127.
How do I change my personal details?
You can change your personal details at the ticket office.
How will I be helped in a situation of Smart card fraud?
If your Smart card is lost or stolen, be sure to report it at your nearest ticket office or you can give us a call on our support line. Once you report it, we’ll be able to arrange for your Card to be disabled. This must be reported to enable a refund.
How do I change or get a refund on a Smart ticket?
For tickets bought at the ticket office, you can simply return to the ticket office.
Can I claim under the Delay Repay Scheme?
Absolutely. Your rights under Delay Repay are exactly the same.
How do I change or get a refund on a Smart ticket?
For tickets bought at the ticket office, return to the ticket office. If bought online, please contact the Customer Experience Centre on the number on the back of your Smart card (0333 2220127).
Can I claim under the Delay Repay scheme?
Yes. Your rights under delay repay are exactly the same.
What information will you collect and share about me?
How will data about my actual journey be collected and used? What say do I have over that?
We study overall journey data to help improve service. We will not study individuals. All journey data is anonymised.