Over-60s, families, workers: what discount French train cards exist

Cards are not means-tested and can offer reductions of up to 75%

These cards can slash the price of travel on France’s train network
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The SNCF recently launched its spring sale, covering the busy April and May period.

Whilst millions flock to purchase tickets, taking advantage of the holidays to spend time with family and friends, some are put off by the prices.

We look at the possible discount railcards you can buy in France, which provide significant discounts.

In some cases, purchasing a card can ‘pay for itself’ in one trip with the discount given greater than the cost of the card.

These cards also go on sale at a discounted rate at least once a year – although the sale periods vary – meaning you can sometimes pick them up for even less than usual.

‘Avantage’ cards for all ages

The main rail discount card in France is the Carte Avantage. It comes in three different formats – ‘jeune’ for those aged 12 – 27, ‘adulte’ for people between 28 – 59, and ‘sénior’ for those aged 60 and above.

The card offers discounts for all high-speed rail journeys in France, as well as on some regional routes.

They can also offer price caps on weekend trips taken via TGV high-speed lines.

For the ‘jeune’ and ‘sénior’ cards, the price cap is €39 for journeys less than one hour and 30 minutes, €59 for journeys between one hour 30 minutes and three hours, and €79 for journeys of more than three hours.

For the ‘adulte’ cards, the caps are €49, €69, and €89 respectively, although there are cases where these caps are not applied.

Cards also have additional bonuses, including a discount for the ticket of someone travelling with the holder, and cheaper food and drink purchased from a train’s bar.

There is also a discount to using the ‘Junior et Cie’ service, where SNCF workers look after your child on the train before dropping them off to a designated adult at their destination.

This service is especially popular in summer, with children being sent to stay with relatives or to holiday camps.

These tickets cost €49 per year with discount ‘sale’ prices usually dropping to €24.50.

The card can be activated up to five months after it is purchased (for example, if you are not taking a rail journey for the first two months after buying the card, you do not need to activate it until you purchase this ticket), and it then lasts for 12 months.

Read more: What are the best discount cards for over-55s in France?

‘Carte Liberté’

This card is aimed more at those who travel frequently for work.

Tickets are capped at specific prices across the network, regardless of how many spaces remain on the train, and tickets can be purchased and exchanged for free until just before the train departs.

Upgrades to business class seats are also 45% cheaper with the card, and a person travelling alongside the ticket holder can benefit from a 30% discount to their ticket, if they do not have any discount card.

The ticket costs €399, or €379 via a ‘Contrat Pro’, with participating employers offering this option. The ‘Contrat Pro’ also provides a further 5% reduction on business class seats.

Self-employed people can use their SIRET number to obtain a ‘Contrat Pro’ and the relevant discounts.

This card also usually goes on sale at least once a year.

Read more: What changes in France in 2024 for public transport?

‘Carte famille nombreuse’

This is a card for larger families, with at least three children, one of whom is under the age of 18, or a family with five adult children.

It can offer discounts of up to 75% for the largest families, and the amount of the discount is tied to the number of children.

As with other SNCF cards, It is not means-tested, meaning all are eligible to apply.

The cost of application for a card is €19 and the card is valid for three years for those with three children – but can last up to five years for those with five or more children in the group.

All applications must now be made online using the official portal.

‘Carte de fidélité de la SNCF’

This is a special card that can only be purchased if you are offered the chance via email.

It is for those who already own an ‘Avantage’ card, and spend over a certain amount on train tickets (in 2023 this was €1,500).

For this hefty fee, people get points towards free rail tickets, a private dedicated help line, and fast boarding.

Other types of card

There are other cards for more specific circumstances, including the ‘Carte Militaire’ for soldiers.

Police officers also get discounts and free travel, if they bring their weapons onto the train and assist SNCF workers in the event of an incident, as part of the Voyager-Protégér scheme.

Read more: Gun fired on French TGV: Off-duty police officer onboard subdues man

Adults are eligible for one 25% discount on a ticket using the Billet congé annuel during the summer holiday period. This must be applied for in advance.

Finally, there are the ‘Max’ subscriptions (coming in junior, senior, Actif and Actif+), which are monthly subscriptions that provide unlimited train travel on TGV and some other trains.

In addition, it is possible to buy an annual subscription for a certain route you travel frequently, giving you a huge discount, or even free tickets, between the two stations at certain times.

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