Leisure passport cards going unclaimed - here’s how to get free and discounted days from your local authority

Parents may be missing out on leisure passport discounts for local sports, theatres, museums and cinemas this half-term. We explain how to find out what you are eligible for

A family swimming
(Image credit: Getty)

Parents should check if their council offers Leisure Passport Cards to cut the cost of family days out during the school holidays.

Leisure Cards allow you to claim discounts and freebies at local sports facilities, theatres, museums and cinemas.

Local authorities can choose whether to give residents Leisure Cards, sometimes called Passport to Leisure Cards, Active Cards or Go4less cards.

It could be the good news that struggling parents are looking for as they juggle all the costs associated with half-term holidays amid the cost of living crisis.

We explain what is available and how to apply.

Leisure Passport cards

What is a Leisure Passport Card?

A card that gets you discounts for a wide range of leisure activities including sport, theatre, museums and cinema - in some cases there is free access.

While some councils offer them to all residents in other cases you need to prove you're on a particular benefit in order to receive one.

Some cards are free, some have an annual fee, while others councils do not offer leisure cards.

For example, Edinburgh council told The Money Edit it doesn’t offer them.

How much can I save?

Discounts vary. A lot. The Money Edit found it’s a bit of a postcode lottery.

Swansea Passport to Leisure offers discounts of up to 60% prices at Swansea leisure venues at any time during normal opening hours.

For example, swimmers pay only £3 at Wales National Pool instead of £6 (standard adult entry) or £4 (standard child entry).

Visitors to Plantasia Tropical Zoo pay only £5.50 instead of £9.50 (standard adult entry) or £7.50 (standard child entry).

In Norwich, the Go4less card offers up to 50% discount at council facilities as well as various sports and leisure attractions.

For example, children pay only £7 at the Norwich Puppet theatre instead of £10.

In Leeds, families with the LeedsCard can enjoy all kinds of discounts on attractions, restaurants and shops.

For example, there's 20% off Temple Newsam Farm, Leeds Industrial Museum and Leeds Tropical World.

Manchester residents with a MCRactive card benefit from a 40% discount at all 23 Better leisure centres in the city as well as discounts at all national centres such as the UK National Cycling Centre.

If you live in York, a YorkCard bags you discounts to leisure centres and museums.

For example, we found 20% discounts for the Jorvik Viking Centre and 50% discounts for the Roman Bath Museum.

The Bradford Leisure Card offers reduced admission for activities including swim sessions at public pools and Doe Park Water Activities Centre.

Theatre fans can get £2.50 off tickets to selected musicals, plays and dance shows at the Alhambra Theatre - and some shows even offer half-price tickets which are available from noon on the day before the performance.

While Southwark in London doesn’t offer a leisure card as such it does offer free gym and swim at six of the borough's EveryoneActive leisure centres on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

How much do they cost?

Again, it varies.

Some cards are free, most have a small annual fee.

For example, the Norwich Go4less card is free.

Swansea Passport to Leisure costs £2.65.

The most expensive card The Money Edit found was the LeedsCard that cost £15 a year, although it costs only £5 if you are on Universal Credit or another benefit.

Generally, we found most leisure cards were cheaper for students, younger people, older people, carers, asylum seekers and those on Universal Credit and other benefits.

Katie Binns

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.