thekey to your city

theKey is our bus travel smartcard which is a convenient way to pay for travel on our buses if you are a regular traveller.

thekey smartcard is a great way of buying bus travel on unilink and bluestar. You can top-up theKey with bus tickets safely and securely online. It only takes 3 hours for your online travel ticket to load and then your key is ready for use on the bus. You can also top-up your key on our buses and at the unilink travel shop. 

order your key

Follow the steps below to get theKey to bus travel, buy your bus tickets online and start using it! 

  1. order your key here online
  2. allow 2 working days for your travel smartcard theKey to arrive in the post
  3. login and purchase your bus tickets on the key top-up site
  4. wait 3 hours for your online bus ticket to load onto theKey
  5. hold theKey for 5 seconds on the ticket machine to activate, anytime thereafter just wait for the green light!
  6. enjoy travelling on our buses & saving with theKey!

To sign up or log-in to your Key account, click here.

Already got theKey? 

Register your details on your key, so that you can top-up online. Registering your key also ensures that should you lose your key we can transfer any remaining bus tickets for bus travel onto a replacement key.

keep me - don't bin me!

Please look after your key and don’t throw it away. You can use the same key card time and time again. Your first travel key is free, but there is a £5 admin charge for replacement cards.

key benefits

At unilink we are always looking for ways to give you more than just a bus service, so we've teamed up with local companies to give you exclusive discounts on provision of theKey.

take a look at your key benefits:

Frankie & Benny's

20% off the food bill

Visit Frankie & Benny's, New York italian restaurant in Leisureworld, Southampton or the Swan Centre, Eastleigh and receive 20% off your food bill.


10% off evening menu

Fancy a meal with a difference? Book your place at Aspire restaurant, which is run by City College, Southampton's Hospitality & Catering students. Take any of our Southampton city centre bound buses, and walk the short distance to Chapel Road.

La Tavernetta

20% off the bill

Looking for contemporary Italian cuisine set in a relaxed environment? Then La Tavernetta is for you. Take any of our Southampton city bound buses, and walk the short distance to Civic Centre Road. (This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer).

the Arthouse gallery cafe

10% discount off food & drink

The Arthouse is an Art & Craft gallery funded by their not-for-profit organic cafe. Take a look at the arts & crafts and receive 10% off the food & drink at the Gallery Cafe. The Arthouse is located at 178 Above Bar Street, Southampton. Just hop on any of Southampton city centre bound buses and you're a short walk away.


10% off

Visiting Mayflower Theatre? Why not go for pre-theatre dining at Caffexpresso, which is just 2 minutes walk away at Nelson Gate, Frobisher House. Caffexpresso is a vibrant bistro that is also great for after work get togethers and special meals for two.

Street Food Soul Cellar

10% off food & drink

Situated in the independent music venue Soul Cellar, Street Food is the place to go for adventurous food from around the globe. Get to Street Food, Soul Cellar on any of our Southampton city centre bound buses, and receive 10% off food and drink (this cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer).

Nuffield Kitchen

10% off food & drink

If you're going to be watching a show at the Nuffield Theatre, why not grab a bite to eat at the Nuffield Kitchen. Get dropped outside of the Nuffield on any unilink bus.

the Chapter House

25% off A La Carte menu Sunday evening - Thursday

15% off of hotel rooms when booked via this telephone number: 01722 41202

Fancy going further afield? Catch the X7 to Salisbury for dining & rooms at the Chapter House, 9-13 John Street, Salisbury

Hawkin's Bazaar

10% discount on full price items

Receive 10% discount at everyone's favourite toy shop, Hawkin's Bazzar, situated in The Marlands, Southampton.


10% discount on full price items

Take a trip to the ultimate gadget shop, RED5 in West Quay Shopping Centre, and receive 10% discount.

kudos hair & beauty

10% off hair & beauty treatments

Pamper yourself with a wide range of beauty treatments available at hair & beauty, bought to you by the students of City College, Southampton.

New Forest Activities Booking Centre

10% off activities

Want an adventure filled day out in the New Forest? Get down to New Forest Activities Booking Centre, they'll help you arrange action-packed fun and you'll receive 10% off.