Getting your card
Who can get free bus travel?
Every 5-21 year old living in Scotland for more than 6 months of the year can travel for free by bus if they have a valid National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC).
If you are 5-15 years old, your parent or guardian must apply for you. If you are 16-21 years old, you must apply for your own NEC or Young Scot NEC.
Children under 5 years old do not need an NEC as they can already travel for free on buses.
How do I get free bus travel?
You will need a NEC or a Young Scot NEC. You will not be able to travel for free on the bus without one. If you already have a card, you will need to apply for a replacement which will allow free bus travel.
What will I need to get a National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC?
You will need to provide proof of person (your name and age), proof of residence (where you usually live) and a photograph if you are 11 years old or over.
Parents, guardians or (in some cases) carers will need to provide proofs of person and address for both themselves and their child, as well as proof of the relationship.
From Monday 24 January, the acceptable 'proofs' you can provide for the Young Persons' Free Bus Travel Scheme whether applying online or through offline application routes allow:
- 'out of date' passports to be regarded as acceptable proof documents. The key criterion will be the physical likeness of the photo, with no timeframe restriction being applied to a passport expiry date
- a suitable proof of residency type document with either current date or dated within the last 12 months will be accepted.
Find out what documents you can use to provide proof on the NEC website. If you are aged 5-15 years old, your parent/guardian/carer must apply for your NEC on your behalf. If you are aged 16-21 years old, you must apply by yourself.
Why do I need to provide proofs to apply for free bus travel?
We need to be able to check and verify who you are and whether you are eligible for the scheme, so we ask for proof of person (your name and age) and proof of residence (where you live).
For children aged 5-15 years old, we also need to carry out some extra checks for child safety reasons. We need to be able to verify who the person making the application is, the child is, and know that they are authorised to act on behalf of that child.
When doing this, we need to make sure we comply with identity verification standards and protocols, and with standards required by the UK National Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS). Young Scot NECs carry the PASS logo and can be used as proof of age.
I live in Scotland for part of the year. Can I still get free bus travel?
If you live in Scotland for most of the year (at least 6 months), then you are eligible.
I already have a disabled National Entitlement Card (NEC) for the Older and Disabled Scheme. Will I need a new card?
It is your choice. Some local council areas provide discounted travel on rail, tram or subway with a Disabled Persons’ NEC, but you are likely to have to renew that card more often. Currently, a Disabled Persons’ NEC is valid for up to three years. Further information can be found on our website.
However, if you have a Disabled Companion NEC, allowing a companion to travel for free with you, then you should not change to the new scheme. The new scheme does not allow anyone to travel with you for free.
My application’s been rejected. Why?
You should be told why your application has been rejected and given advice on how to submit a successful application. Check to see that your details are all correct and your photo meets all the requirements. If that doesn’t work, get in touch with your local council.
How long do I need to wait for my new National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC?
New or replacement cards generally arrive in the post within 10 working days from the date each application is approved. However, demand is expected to be high in January and delivery may take longer.
We know many young people will want to get free bus travel as the new scheme begins, and we will be working hard to process applications as quickly as possible. In some cases, it may not be possible to get a card to you before the free bus travel scheme launches.
If you have applied for a Young Scot NEC through your school, the school can provide more information on when your card will be delivered.
My details aren’t right. What do I do?
Most cardholders can update their details at getyournec.scot or get in touch with your local council to have your details amended.
Why does my parent or guardian have to apply for a National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC on my behalf?
If you are 5-15 years old, then your parent or guardian must apply on your behalf. This will make sure they are aware that you get to travel for free by bus, so that they can ensure you are safe and well. If you are 16 years old and over, you must apply yourself.
I don’t want to throw away my old National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC. Can it be recycled?
Yes it can. Check our website for more information.
Why do parents/guardians of 5 -15 year olds have to apply on their behalf?
If you are a parent or guardian of a 5-15 year old, then you must apply on their behalf. This will allow you to continue to exercise responsibility over their wellbeing and safety.
By applying on their behalf, you are agreeing for them to receive an NEC or Young Scot NEC that allows them to travel for free on any registered bus service in Scotland, as well as a limited number of local cross border services into northern England.
I am a parent, but my child doesn’t live with me. Can I apply on their behalf?
Your child can only have one National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC. You should decide which parent or guardian applies on their behalf.
Young people who are 16-21 years old must apply themselves. If your 16-21 year old needs additional support with their application, please contact your local council.
I don’t want my child to have free bus travel. How do I make sure that they don’t get it?
You should not apply for the free bus travel scheme. Also, a parent or guardian must apply on behalf of 5-15 year olds. If you are applying on behalf of your child for a National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC, do not ‘opt in’ to the free bus travel entitlement. This will allow them to receive their card without access to free bus travel.
Once a young person is 16 years old and over, they can apply for their own NEC or Young Scot NEC and get access to free bus travel.
My child will soon be five. How soon can I apply?
You can apply for a National Entitlement Card from two weeks before your child’s fifth birthday.
Will my child’s school be arranging to help apply for cards, including getting parental approval?
Your local council will let you know if they are offering to place bulk orders for National Entitlement Cards (NEC) or Young Scot NECs in your area. These come in three types:
- a photoless NEC (primary school age)
- an NEC or
- a Young Scot NEC (secondary school age).
My child is 16 (or older) and needs help to apply. Can a parent or guardian, do this on their behalf?
You should contact your local council if you need additional support with the application process.
I don’t read English. How do I apply for free bus travel for my child?
Please contact your local council to find out more and get support.
Should I get a Young Scot NEC or standard NEC?
If you are over 11 years old you can choose to apply for the Young Scot NEC or a standard NEC. If you choose a Young Scot NEC, you can use it to save money with in-person and online discounts – with over 500 discounts in Scotland and over 100,000 deals across Europe. It also acts as proof of age. What’s more, you can collect points by taking part in activities and exchanging these for Rewards. Find out more at young.scot/card.
Is GETYOURNEC.SCOT new?
No, GETYOURNEC.SCOT has been available since July 2020. Thousands of people have already used it to apply for their NEC to access the Older and Disabled Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme or order a new or replacement Young Scot NEC. This has now been extended to enable people to apply online for the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme.
Why do you use biometric scans during the online application process?
GETYOURNEC.SCOT checks proofs digitally during the application process. A face scan is used to make sure that the person submitting the application is the same person as on the identity proofs supplied. It’s a way of replicating the in-person application process. Biometric scans are only used when applying online, not when making in-person applications.
Can I save progress on my online application as I go along?
Currently, it’s not possible to save an online application as you go along. We are looking at how we can introduce this for online applications in future in a way that continues to keep the process safe and secure and complies with identity verification standards and protocols.
Can you make the application process simpler?
We continually review the application process to make it as straightforward as we can. However, we must also make sure that we meet child safety requirements, and comply with identity verification standards, protocols and PASS standards.
We have made video guides to GETYOURNEC.SCOT which take you through the online application process step-by-step.
You can also ask for help if you run into problems when applying through GETYOURNEC.SCOT.
I can’t apply online, how do I get a card?
If you cannot apply online, there are other ways to apply provided by your local council, such as face-to-face, in-person applications or, in some cases, through schools. Please contact your local council for more information.
I don’t have a passport or driving licence. How do I apply?
If you don’t have proofs such as a passport or driving licence, you can apply directly to your local council.
There are other documents you can use as proof of person if you don’t have a passport, driving licence, Yoti account or birth/adoption certificate. A full list of acceptable documents is on the NEC website.
Why do I need a new NEC/Young Scot NEC to get free bus travel?
Your new card will have the free travel entitlement digitally encoded.
All bus journeys made under the scheme must be recorded so that the Scottish Government can reimburse operators for the fare. Tapping your NEC or Young Scot NEC on the ticket machine each time you travel makes this possible.
This also helps keep card holders safe as once you’ve tapped, the driver knows that you are eligible for free bus travel. This is important if you are 5-15 years old as your parent, guardian or (in some cases) carer must approve you to travel for free by bus.
Will applications be prioritised based on who needs to make essential journeys?
All applications submitted will be processed and there is no prioritisation of one person’s application over another.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on staffing levels, some local councils may not be able to always offer in-person applications and applications may take longer to process. Please contact your local council to find out how you can apply before setting off.
Using your card
How do I use my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC on the bus?
In most cases, you place your card on the card reader machine next to the bus driver. Ask the driver if you have any questions.
What do I do if my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC is not working?
For information on how to apply for a replacement card go to getyournec.scot. You will need to pay any fares until the replacement arrives.
How much will it cost to get a replacement card?
Replacements are free of charge.
My friend has lost their National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC. Can they use mine?
No. It is only for you and you should not share it with anybody else.
If your card has a photo, then please keep it up to date, as the bus driver might not let you travel if you do not look like your photo. The photo on your Young Scot NEC also needs to be kept up to date to use it to prove your age for age restricted products or services.
You can update the photo for free.
Can my access to free bus travel be stopped?
Yes, if you misuse the free bus travel scheme (such as letting someone else use your card), then you might have free bus travel removed from your card.
Can I load my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC on an app rather than carrying the card?
No, you must have your NEC or Young Scot NEC with you if you want to travel for free.
Where can I go under the free bus travel scheme?
You can travel Scotland wide on local and long distance bus services, apart from a few exceptions such as premium-fare night buses, city sightseeing buses, and some airport transfer services. Check with your bus operator if in doubt.
If you are travelling to England, you will be able to travel to Carlisle or Berwick-Upon-Tweed, but it cannot be used to travel within these towns.
Does my National Entitlement Card (NEC) allow me discounts or free travel on rail, tram, subway or ferry?
The free travel scheme is for bus only. However, there may be other discounts available.
More information on concessionary travel
Do children need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to access free bus travel?
No. However, if you are in any doubt check with the bus operator before travelling. All bus operators have conditions of carriage which set out who can travel on their services and they may require younger children to be accompanied.
What are the terms and conditions for my National Entitlement Card (NEC)/Young Scot NEC?
You must ensure that your card is in good condition and presented to the bus ticket machine or other transport ticketing equipment in good working order (e.g. it’s not damaged).
Full terms and conditions
What measures are being taken to support children to travel safely?
We are undertaking an awareness campaign with partners to support children, young people, parents and guardians, and bus operators.
We have been working closely with Barnardo’s Scotland on how to safeguard young people travelling on the bus network, including providing training material for bus drivers. This will help drivers to recognise and respond to children or young people who need support while travelling on the bus network and help ensure that they can travel safely.
More information on staying safe
Transport Scot Pass Collect app
I’ve already applied for a new NEC or Young Scot NEC but it hasn’t arrived yet. Can I use the app?
If you’ve already applied for a new card, depending on where you are in the application process, you may be able to download free bus travel onto your current card so you can use it until your new card is issued.
However this will only work temporarily until your application is processed. This is because when your new card is issued, your old card will automatically be set to stop working. You can then recycle or dispose of your old card.
If you’ve applied for a new card and your application has now been processed but you’ve not received it yet (for example, it is in the post), then you may not have free bus travel available to download via the app. But don’t worry – this means your new card is coming.
If you have applied on getyourNEC.scot, you can log back in to check the status of your application.
What if my application for a new card has been approved and a new card is sent to me, after I have already used the app to get free bus on my existing card - will both work?
When your new card is issued, your old card will automatically be set to stop working and you can recycle or dispose of it.
If you would like to recycle your old card, you can send it to:
Transport Scotland Card Recycling
58 Port Dundas Road
Why can’t there be an app instead of a card we can use on the bus – it would be much easier?
We recognise that there is an interest in an app based travel solution. Unfortunately, the compatible technology is not yet available to provide an app for concessionary travel, but we continue to monitor technology advancements in this area.
Why can’t Young Scot cardholders under 16 use the app?
For young people aged 5-15, a parent, guardian or carer must apply on for free bus travel on their behalf. This is to make sure the parent, guardian or carer knows that the young person is able to travel for free by bus, and can ensure their child is safe and well.
During the application process, it is important to verify who the person making the application is, who the child is, and know that the person making the application is authorised to act on behalf of that child.
As the app cannot store personal data, this information cannot be captured or verified. This means that for anyone aged 5-15, parents, guardians or carers will need to apply for a new card either online or through their local council.
I am turning 16 next week/soon – can I use the app?
Yes, the system will be updated regularly so that free travel will be available to collect on your 16th birthday. Remember that this only applies if your existing application has not been processed.
Can I use someone else’s card to collect my free bus travel?
No – your card is unique to you. To download your free bus travel you must use your own card.
Can I use someone else’s Transport Scot Pass Collect app to download my free bus travel?
Yes – the app will check your card with the details held on the system and will download the free bus travel for you, via anyone’s Transport Scot Pass Collect app.
Can my friend/child download their free bus travel using my phone?
Yes. The app will check their card details with the system and download the bus travel for them. You can only download the free bus travel for the intended person onto their card – you cannot download it onto your card, for example.
I couldn’t download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store. What should I do?
Check your smart phone is connected to the internet with good signal and you have space on your mobile device to download the app.
If you still cannot download the app your phone may not be compatible – it needs to be Android (version 6 or newer) or iOS (version 6 or newer) and have Near Field Communication (NFC) compatibility - the same function you use for contactless payment with your phone.
If you still don’t have access to the app, you can use someone else’s Transport Scot Pass Collect app to download free bus travel onto your card.
What if I have other tickets or money already loaded on my NEC or Young Scot NEC card?
The app will ignore these and download free bus travel onto the card as well.
In the unlikely event that your card is full (for example, you have lots of other travel products/entitlements already stored on your card) the app will tell you and you may need to remove some of the old tickets to free up space. You can do this by presenting your card to the relevant operators’ ticket or gate machine and it will clear them for you automatically, freeing up room for your bus pass.
Is any personal data held on the app?
How much data space does it take?
The app doesn’t take up too much space or take long to download. It’s around 100mb on Android and only 30mb on Apple - but you do need a good signal to download it (3G + or stronger).