If you buy a South West Trains annual rail season ticket, you get certain benefits.
These benefits apply regardless of the price of your annual ticket.
The cheapest such ticket is Ryde St John Road to Ryde Esplanade, costing £172 for a year. These two stations are on the Isle Of Wight, but you don't need to go there or live there to get the benefits which apply through South East England, East Anglia, parts of the South West, and the West Midlands:
Benefits apply for journeys starting at/after 09:30 Monday-Friday and all day weekends conducted within the gold card area. http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/content/routemaps/Gold_Card_scheme_area.pdf
1/3 off off-peak Oyster single fares and Oyster off-peak price cap (max saving £4.10 daily for zone 1-6, but higher for zones beyond zone 6)
1/3 off anytime and off-peak standard and first class train tickets for the holder and up to three companions, including tickets that are or include a London travelcard.
60% off child fares for up to 4 children travelling with the holder
£20 off a railcard (network/family friends/16-25/two together/disabled persons/senior) for any one person
six free adult travel passes valid all day on South West Trains (only) on weekends, plus on Fridays after 10am (not valid Fridays between 4pm and 7pm for trains from Waterloo, Clapham Junction or Vauxhall)
The gold card area is stations served by
South West Trains
London Midland (excluding stations north from Stafford and Worcester to Hereford)
Thameslink & Great Northern (excluding Huntingdon to Peterborough)
Abellio Greater Anglia (excluding Ely to Peterborough)
First Great Western between London and Worcester, London and Bedwyn, and Yeovil to Weymouth)
It is valid on services operated within this area by other operators, with the exception of Virgin (West & East Coast), for which it isn't valid at all.
So what's it worth?
Well, the normal London - Weymouth weekend day return is £63.10, so the six free tickets ALONE could be worth £400. Even with a railcard, those six tickets would cost £250, still more than the cost of this annual card.
How does it compare to a Network Railcard?
* Network Railcard costs only £30 (small discount may be available)
* Network Railcard is only valid after 10am instead of 9:30.
* Network Railcard has a weekday £13 minimum fare, which rules out a lot of fares
* Network Railcard doesn't give you any discount on Oyster fares
So in what scenarios is this more beneficial relative to a Network Railcard?
* travel 09:30 to 10:00
* if you buy rail tickets costing less than £20. Biggest saving (compared to Network Railcard) is a £13 ticket, which falls to £8.60, or £4.40 less. If you bought such a ticket twice a week you'd save around £400 per year
* Oyster off-peak. If you commute daily using Oyster and your morning journey is after 09:30 or your evening starts outside 16:00 to 19:00, then you'll save 1/3. Savings will range between 50p and £2 per journey. Savings of several hundred pounds compared to the next cheapest payment method are possible.
* On routes that use Oyster. E.g., Wimbledon - Bank via Waterloo would cost £5.30 using discounted Oyster, saving £2.70 compared to a Network Railcard-discounted travelcard (the next cheapest option). A normal Oyster return on the tube from Zone 6 to Zone 1 would be £6.20, this falls to £4.10 using a Gold Card discounted Oyster (saving £2.10)
So total value:
* six SWT weekend passes: £200????
* railcard discount for friend/family - £20
* rail discount. Value could be anything between £30 (the cost of a Network Railcard) if you NEVER travel between 9:30 and 10:00, using Oyster, or on weekdays on tickets costing less than £13, and hundreds of pounds.