How to use Southeastern’s Key (and why you need one!)

Southeastern Rail recently launched their new “Key” and I haven’t stopped using it!

But what is it? Basically, it’s a smartcard that can store your train tickets when you travel with Southeastern in England. As an expat in the UK, I rely entirely on public transportation, especially the train.

How to Get Your Key

Thankfully getting your own, free Key is really straightforward:

  1. Make an account on their website or app and request a Key smart card
  2. You’ll need to confirm your details and address and then they’ll ship you a card! Mine arrived in a few days. That’s it!
How to use Southeastern’s Key smart card

How do you use the Key

When you book your train tickets via Southeastern (either the website or their app), there will be an option to “collect from the station” which is what I would normally do. Instead, you’ll see “load onto your smart card.”

Expat tip: Make sure to include your railcard if you have one when booking your tickets!

Then when your ticket is on your phone, you can literally tap your Key smart card to your phone to load it – almost like when you use your phone to pay for stuff.

You can always use the app to check which tickets are currently on your Key or load more tickets – currently you can have 5 tickets on the Key ready to go at one time.

When you arrive at the station, you can tap your keycard at the barrier sensor to go through! And that’s it. If you need to prove you have a ticket while on the train (and sometimes that happens) all your details will still be listed on the app (rather than having a paper ticket to show the guy).

Why should you use the Key SmartCard?

There’s two main benefits for using The Key.

  1. You don’t have to queue at the station to print your tickets

I’ve definitely had situations where there was a huge queue at the stations and I’ve nearly missed my train just trying to print my tickets.

2. You won’t lose your tickets

I’ve also definitely had situations where I’m holding my ticket and suddenly… I’m not holding my ticket. Sometimes they’ll let you travel if you still have your receipt, but other times not – and I’ve had to re-buy my ticket to travel.

What about Trainline?

One of my favourite train apps is Trainline but if you want to use the Key, you’ll need to purchase your tickets directly via Southeastern.

I used Trainline in the beginning mainly because the Southeastern App was so crappy but they’ve really improved it in recent years. If I’m travelling elsewhere in the UK and not on Southeastern, I’ll use Trainline for my tickets.