Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Red Spotted No-thanky

Train crossing the Calder

In the past I’ve recommended Red Spotted Hanky (RSH), a web site for buying train tickets. Today, I’m withdrawing this recommendation, and here’s why, along with alternatives.

Booking fees

Earlier this year Red Spotted Hanky introduced a £1 fee for every booking, when previously you just paid for the cost of the tickets. Competitors like thetrainline and RailEasy also do this but it’s an extra cost. Bookings made directly with train operators don’t incur charges, even if the journey your making isn’t on that company’s trains.

Postage fees

At the same time, Red Spotted Hanky also introduced fees for posting your tickets to you. Previously you only had to pay extra if you wanted next-day delivery – standard first class delivery was free. Now that costs £1 too – the only way to avoid charges is to collect your tickets from a self-service machine at the station from which you will be departing from. Which is usually fine, unless your local station doesn’t have a ticket machine, or it’s out of order like the one at our local station often is. Other ticket sites still offer free postage.

Loyalty points

Purchases from Red Spotted Hanky accrue ‘loyalty points’, which can be redeemed for money off future travel or discounts at retailers and restaurants, at the rate of 1 point for every pound spent. For regular travellers this can clock up quickly and result in some decent discounts. Except that RSH reset all points gained at the end of each calendar year – I lost 77 points last year but some lost 1600 – worth £16 off travel. You need to make sure any points you have are redeemed before the end of the year.

Alternatively, if you buy tickets from First Hull Trains, First Great Western or First Transpennine Express you can gain 2 Nectar points for every £1 spent, which can be redeemed anywhere which accepts Nectar. None of these three charge booking fees. That being said, First haven’t had much luck with winning or retaining rail franchises of late so whether these offers will stand in future remains to be seen.


It used to be that Quidco members received 1.5% cashback on all purchases from Red Spotted Hanky. But this arrangement ceased recently, although I’m still waiting for a few pennies of cashback for tickets that I bought over six months ago to be paid.

East Midlands Trains still has an arrangement with Quidco – up to 2.5% cashback for tickets on its own services, and 1% for tickets bought for use on services run by other operators.

But you can still use Clubcard deal vouchers

Red Spotted Hanky still accepts Tesco Clubcard vouchers, and doubles their value – £5 of Clubcard vouchers gets you £10 off train tickets. If you’re a Clubcard holder then it may still be worthwhile using RSH, although you will have to pay their booking and postage fees now. If not, then I would advise against using them.

One Comment

  1. Our new split ticketing site – – doesn’t charge boking or card fees so that, even if there is no split saving, it will still be cheaper than Trainline or Red Spotted Hanky. It also finds and books splits in one transaction including returns unlike Tickety Split. Please will you do a review for your subscribers?