Note: This page is mainly about travelcard seasons, but many of the basic ideas work for other National Rail seasons as well.
Types of Season Ticket
There are really only three types of season ticket although the middle version is very flexible. A weekly season is available for any seven consecutive days. A monthly season can be bought for any period between one month and about ten and a half months. A plain monthly ticket costs 3.84 times the weekly price. Each additional day adds about 1/30th of the monthly cost. Above ten and a half months the ticket will be issued as an annual which costs 40 times the weekly price. Additionally, an annual ticket is a gold card giving discounts on off-peak travel for the holder and up to three other adults and accompanied children throughout a large area of Southern England. Full details can be found on the gold card page on National Rail Enquiries.
In London a weekly season can take a variety of forms. National Rail and Travelcard seasons can be purchased on paper from National Rail stations. Travelcards can be put on an Oyster card making extended travel within the Oyster area very easy. You can also use a contactless payment card which features Monday to Sunday capping at the same rate as a weekly travelcard, meaning you benefit from the weekly price if you travel enough.
A word of caution. A weekly travelcard is not always worthwhile. In zones 1-6 the cost of the anytime daily cap was reduced to 1/5 of the weekly travelcard. If your zones include zone 1 then you need to use the travelcard for more than 5 days as the rounding means 5 daily caps are 10p or 20p less than the weekly price. You only need a bus journey on the sixth day to make it worthwhile but if you know you’ll only use it on Mon-Fri then you might as well not bother.
Additionally, if your commute only involves Underground, DLR and the National Rail lines where the fares are set by TfL then 5 peak return journeys is less than the weekly price (in fact 2 peak singles is less than the daily cap if it includes zone 1). Finally, if your journey is solely on National Rail then a point-to-point season ticket (if available) will be less than the relevant travelcard.
As already mentioned, annual seasons offer additional benefits in much of Southern England in return for you stumping up the huge cost in advance. Many employers offer season ticket loans to their staff at 0% interest where the payments are deducted from your salary. If this isn’t available to you, and you can’t afford the up-front cost, then you’ll need to use monthly tickets. However, careful planning can sometimes make the overall cost quite similar.
It’s called a monthly season but it should very rarely be bought to cover just a month. Unless you always use the ticket at weekends there are better ways. In it’s simplest form this means buying one month and two or three days so that the ticket runs from Monday of week one to Friday of week five. If the month it starts in has 30 days then you need three extra while 31 day months only require two. You then have a weekend where you don’t pay for a ticket and start your next one on the Monday of week 6. If a bank holiday falls in week 7 then it may be better to buy 6 weeks and have an extra free day. Similarly you can extend your ticket up to the start of a week of annual leave and take 9 or more free days. Sometimes it can be best to just buy daily/weekly tickets (or use PAYG) for odd days/weeks, especially if you’re unlucky enough to have to work between Christmas and New Year.
The TfL website now allows monthly travelcards to be bought for any period, which is a real bonus. Previously you would have to buy odd period tickets at a ticket office which reduced the appeal of the system somewhat.