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Smartcard - the key

Season tickets for the Snowhill lines

What is ITSO Smartcard Ticketing? 

ITSO smartcard ticketing is an electronic system which makes ticket purchase easier, quicker and hassle free. Instead of magnetically encoded, paper based tickets which must be thrown away when they expire, ITSO smartcards can be reloaded again and again. London Midland's ITSO smartcard is called the key. The key will enable customers to:

  • purchase online and collect at stations in a one-touch transaction
  • purchase ticket products at self-service machines quicker and much easier in the future
  • secure products, which can be quickly cancelled if lost or stole
  • enjoy faster journey time through ticket barrier gates
  • experience fewer season ticket replacements, through the added robustness of smartcards

How does it work?

You can purchase tickets for your smartcard online. Once you have confirmed the ticket you need, you will be asked where you would like to load your smartcard ticket. When you get to your nominated collection station, look for the yellow smartcard readers or the Automatic Ticket Gates.

The smartcard readers are upright posts with yellow readers fixed onto them. Customers holding the key smartcard should use these readers to ‘touch in’ and ‘touch out’ when they enter or exit the station. To load a ticket which has been purchased online, simply touch the key smartcard on the reader and hold for approximately 3 seconds.

At stations with Automatic Ticket Gates, customers should touch the key on the smartcard reader located on top of the gateline walkways. You do not need to take your smartcard out of its wallet to do this. This is also how you enter and exit the station using the key.

You won’t be able to get an ITSO Smartcard from a station ticket office, or buy smartcard tickets at the ticket office window. Smartcards can only be applied for online.

How do I get the key?

If you live or travel on the Snow Hill lines and normally purchase a point to point season ticket (i.e. Kidderminister to Birmingham Stations weekly, monthly or annual ticket), you can apply for a smartcard after registering for an online account here and applying for a smartcard within the ‘My Accounts’ option. 
Once you have registered, your smartcard will be posted out to your nominated address.

Where can I use the key?

The key is currently available across 42 stations on the Snow Hill lines, between Worcester and Birmingham Stations, Dorridge and Birmingham Stations and Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham Stations.

When will my local station become part of the scheme?

At the moment we are concentrating our efforts on the Snow Hill line. Please check this page for updates.

Where on the website do I purchase tickets for my smartcard?  

You can purchase tickets through our website here.

Is it the same as Oyster?

The key is similar in principle to Oyster in that it is an electronic card capable of storing a season ticket. It only needs to be touched onto a smartcard reader or Automatic Ticket Gate reader at the start and end of a journey or when collecting pre-purchased tickets from the web. The key will not be the same as Oyster Pay As You Go as it will not be able to be ‘topped up’ with money for pay-as-you-go travel. 

Will season ticket holders need a photocard?

Season tickets will continue to need to be supported by photographic ID, but smartcards give more flexibility on what types of photographic ID can be used:
Existing season ticket holders can continue to use their paper based photocard;
Alternatively, customers holding a valid photo based UK Driving Licence can use this as their Photo ID; or
NUS Student ID or other nationally recognised photo ID cards can also be used.

What kind of tickets are available? 

Annual, monthly, weekly Adult point-to-point season tickets. As the key is only available on the Snow Hill lines, we are unable to offer zonal (nTrain) tickets which are valid for travel across other lines in the West Midlands.

How do I load tickets onto the key?

When you reach your nominated collection station, look for the yellow smartcard reader (station signage will identify them). If you are collecting your ticket at either Birmingham Snow Hill or Birmingham Moor Street, you can load your new ticket at the Automatic Ticket Gates.

How do I purchase a ticket online, how does it get onto my smartcard?

Online purchase is the easiest and quickest way to load a ticket product onto the key.  Simply log into your online account and select the option to purchase a season ticket, please select the option ‘key smartcard fares’ and search for your journey. Please then select the ticket you wish to purchase and then nominate a primary station to collect your ticket from.  The system will then request payment for your ticket, once payment has been made your purchase will be confirmed and your ticket will be made available to collect 2 hours after purchase.

Collecting the smartcard ticket

  1. When you get to your nominated collection station, look for the yellow smartcard reader.The smartcard readers are upright posts with a reader fixed onto them.
  2. Simply touch the key on the smartcard reader’s target. The ticket purchased online will be automatically loaded onto the smartcard and a confirmation message will be displayed on the screen, together with a green light and an audible confirmation tone.  
That’s all you need to do – your smartcard will now contain the ticket you purchased online and at the same time a ‘touch in’ will have been carried out so you only need to touch the smartcard reader once.

At stations with Automatic Ticket Gates  the only way of getting onto the platforms with a smartcard is to touch it on the yellow target on top of the gateline posts. Simply touch the key on the target in the same way as you would do if you were entering the platforms.

How do I use the smartcard readers?

Simply hold your card against the target and wait for audio and visual confirmation of a successful ‘touch in’, ‘touch out’ or ticket collection. You don’t have to take it out of your wallet as the target is contactless and can read cards through wallets. The smartcard reader will provide audio and visual confirmation as follows:

  • audio - clearly audible 'beep' will sound
  • visual - a green or yellow LED will briefly light up
  • visual - a confirmation message on screen will be displayed

If the validation is unsuccessful, audio and visual indication will also be provided, with a red LED lighting up instead and a message on screen displayed, explaining why the validation has failed.

If this happens, and you require assistance please call the key helpline on 0344 811 0133 (or 0121 634 2040 from a mobile) and select Option 3, or contact the smartcard team 

My station has ticket gates, but no smartcard reader

If a station has had Automatic Ticket Gates installed, it doesn’t need smartcard readers as all the functions that are performed by a smartcard reader can be found on the Automatic Ticket Gates.  Customers still need to ‘touch in’ and ‘touch out’, but they can do this by simply touching their card against the smartcard reader on the gateline walkway, which will also open the gates.

If I forget to ‘touch in’ or ‘touch out’ will I get a Penalty Fare?

London Midland is not currently proposing to levy fines on customers failing to ‘touch in’ or ‘touch out’. However, you may be liable if you travel without loading a ticket to your card - you must have a valid ticket before your travel.

How will my smartcard be used during the journey?

Ticket checks can be performed on board our trains or at stations with hand held smart card readers.  The hand held readers can read a card through your wallet, so simply hold your wallet or smartcard out when you have your ticket checked and the staff member will place the reader against it to check your smartcard.

My smartcard has stopped working

Station and on board staff will be able to assist in the first instance if your card stops working. London Midland also has a dedicated support service should you require more detailed assistance:

by email:
by phone: 0344 811 0133 or 0121 634 2040 via a mobile (option 3)

My smartcard has been stolen / lost

When you report your card as stolen or lost London Midland can cancel it remotely so that it stops working. We can then produce a new card for you and load onto it all the products you had on your original card.  Simply email the smartcard team ( or call the key helpline 0344 811 0133 / 0121 634 2040 from a mobile (option 3) to report a stolen or lost card and we will do the rest. Note that there may be an administration charge levied for this service.

I have an ITSO smartcard which was not issued by London Midland and it has stopped working

You should report this to your card issuer (the contact details for which should be printed on the back of the card). 

How do I get compensation when there is disruption to my journey (Delay Repay)?

You can apply by completing our online Delay Repay form. Alternatively you can print out a paper version of Delay Repay here, this form is also available from London Midland booking offices. Where prompted to upload a copy of your ticket, please upload an image of the front of your smartcard, showing your name and the 18 digit card number.

What if I want to cancel my card? Will I get a refund? 

Yes, like you would with a normal ticket.  For further assistance, please call the key helpline on 0344 811 0133 (or 0121 634 2040 from a mobile) and select Option 3. Please note that there may be an adminstration charge for this service.

What if my details are wrong or if I need to change my details?

Log into your account online and you’ll be able to change these from your homepage, by clicking on the "Account Details" tab.

How much does the key cost?

The key itself is provided completely free of charge. 

Do I need a new smartcard when my ticket expires?

No, one of the benefits of having the key is that it can be reused again and again.

How do I find out when my ticket on the key is due to expire?

Simply log into your account online.

Do monthly tickets on the key cost more than zonal (nTrain) tickets?

They don’t. Point-to-point smartcard season tickets are valid for a calendar month (up to 31 days), whereas – unlike any other season ticket - ntrain tickets are valid for exactly 4 weeks (28 days). On a ‘per day’ basis, smartcard tickets are therefore better value.

Why does it cost more to buy tickets on the key smartcard than by direct debit?

The ntrain direct debit scheme is administered by Centro and prices are based on the annual ticket price. With an annual ticket, you get 52 weeks for the price of 40 weeks.

Can I still get my ‘friends and family’ discount in the Network West Midlands area with the key smartcard?

Yes, this discount is available if you have a monthly or annual season ticket on the key smartcard. Simply present the card at the ticket office.

Can I leave and join the train at any station in between those stated on my ticket?

Yes, you are allowed to break your journey at any station between the origin and destination stations of your ticket. However, due to an issue with the current software, if you touch in or touch out at stations en route your journey will not be registered, and the smartcard reader will display a red light / error message and make an audible alert. 

When I touch in or out at an intermediate station it displays an error message.

This is due to the current software not recognising intermediate stations. Despite the error message, the season ticket is still valid when breaking your journey at intermediate stations.

How can I find out which station I nominated to load my season ticket onto the key?

I am having problems loading my season ticket onto my key smartcard.

To load a season ticket onto your smartcard takes about 3 seconds. You must wait until the smartcard reader indicates that the ticket has loaded. Moving your smartcard away before the process has finished will cause the season ticket to become corrupt. If this happens please contact our 'key' helpline on 0344 811 0133 or 0121 634 2040 from a mobile (option 3) from a mobile.
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