What are the benefits of the SNCF's Sénior+ card?

What is the point of the SNCF’s Sénior+ reduction card that cost me €60? When I visit the website for tickets it seems OAPs are offered higher prices than younger people and so in the end there is no benefit from any ‘reduction’ from the card. And I have no idea what benefits come with the Voyageur card that was sent to us. R.M.

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It sounds surprising if you consistently find that prices for younger people are cheaper.

We checked out several different long-distance journeys at sncf-voyages.com and were not able to corroborate the discrepancy of younger people paying less for tickets than OAPs for prices without a reduction card.

On the contrary, the standard prices offered to us were sometimes slightly less for over-60s due to a rate called Découverte séniors – an automatic 25% reduction which is applied on journeys starting with a leg by local TER train outside rush hour.

In each case we checked we noted significant reductions on standard prices where we clicked to use the Senior+ card. Younger people could only obtain comparable prices with an alternative paid-for card like the Carte Week-End (only valid for weekend travel).

The SNCF says the Carte Sénior offers at least 25% off the full cost of all train tickets; 40% off first class travel in TGV, Intercités and local TERs; and up to 50% off TGV and Intercités tickets reserved in advance. All TER and Intercités trips have an automatic 50% off if you travel outside rush hour. There are also some other money-off advantages relating to a baggage delivery service, car hire and food on board.

We note however, that Senior+ reductions are described as being applied to the full ‘tarif loisir’ (leisure trips) fare for a given journey whereas, on certain journeys the SNCF says a reduced-rate tarif loisir (up to 35%) may be given, without a reduction card, for people booking at least five days in advance. These reductions, where available, are for all ages (so younger people are not privileged) and in some cases the advantage of having a reduction card is lessened due to this.

In comparison however, Sénior+ card reductions are guaranteed even if you buy the ticket on the day of travel and the reductions can be larger.

The SNCF says the card’s cost would be paid by, for example, making three long-distance returns a year (see tinyurl.com/seniorpluscard under Rentabilité).

So, if you make minimal use of trains it may not be useful, but if you travel fairly regularly, do not always book a long time in advance, and, especially if you like to travel first class or have baggage delivered to your destination, it would be of interest.

Another point to note is that on some trips it is possible to obtain tickets at a very cheap Prem’s rate which are non-exchangeable or refundable, are issued in a limited number and must be bought at least 14 days before. An SNCF spokesman said these (which are not age-restricted) are usually the only type of trip that may be cheaper than ones bought with a Senior+ card.

The Voyageur card is a free loyalty card that may give additional reductions (off fares either with or without use of reduction cards) if you travel regularly.

To benefit when booking on the site you should change Sans programme de fidélité to Voyageur. It also offers some other perks and the card can be made to function as your ticket for journeys you have booked.