thekey to your city

theKey is our smartcard and a way of buying and using tickets to travel on our buses if you don’t have access to a smartphone. The best way to buy tickets and track buses as well as check for service updates is via our mobile app

If you are still topping up your Key card, it will take 3 hours for your online bus ticket to load and then your Key card is ready for use. However, if you want your ticket to be available instantly, why not switch to our mobile app where your phone becomes your ticket and your tickets can be used immediately?

If you've registered your Key, we will be able to replace your card and any tickets on it if gets lost, stolen or damaged. Replacement charges may apply.

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 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.

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).

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

kudos hair & beauty

10% off hair & beauty treatments

Pamper yourself with a wide range of beauty treatments available at hair & beauty, brought 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.