Is a National Trust membership worth it? Weighing up the costs

Last updated: 23/07/2024

Fancy the chance to visit over 500 places of natural beauty and historical interest across the UK? Well, a National Trust membership will allow you to do just that.

In this guide, we’ll weigh up the benefits of signing up to become a member, taking into consideration the cost of each membership type. Our goal? To help you decide whether it’s worth investing in a membership for yourself.

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With over 125 years of conservation work behind them, the National Trust are the largest conservation charity in Europe.

The National Trust work tirelessly to conserve our countryside and woodlands, historic buildings, gardens and more. They rely heavily on membership fees and charity donations to continue caring for and maintaining their protected areas.

And it’s not just about keeping these sites open and in good condition, as the National Trust are passionate about opening up these historic places to the public for everyone to enjoy.

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle

When you treat yourself or a loved one to a National Trust membership, you’ll be opening up opportunities for hundreds of amazing days out for a fantastic price, while also doing your bit to look after our natural and historic sites.

But is a National Trust membership worth it in terms of the cost? In this guide, we’ll explain all the different membership types, breaking down the cost of each one, to show you how to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll soon have a clearer idea of whether or not a National Trust membership is worth it, for you.

Looking for more ways to save on days out? We've got handy guides helping you to save money on everything from cinema trips and West End tickets to date nights.

What are the benefits of having a National Trust membership?

As a National Trust member, you’ll get free entry to over 500 different National Trust sites across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (National Trust Scotland is a separate institution). Popular National Trust sites in the UK include Lydford Gorge, Giant’s Causeway and Dunster Castle.

As well as free access to all these incredible places, you’ll also get free parking at most sites, a copy of the National Trust Handbook and three editions of the National Trust Magazine throughout the year.

National Trust logo

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for a new hiking challenge or a history buff who enjoys wandering around stately homes, there will be plenty of places that appeal to you.

National Trust memberships are fantastic for families, as they provide memorable days out in fresh air that are as educational as they are fun. Many places have activities for children too, including trails and seasonal events.

Snowdonia

Snowdonia

From the stunning landscapes of Snowdonia to Agatha Christie’s holiday home in Devon, there are endless attractions to explore.

Even if you’ve never thought about investing in a National Trust membership before (maybe you prefer a cup of tea on the sofa to hiking up hills?), this could still be a great option for you.

On top of all the benefits mentioned above, a National Trust membership allows you to do good for both your local area and further afield, as you’re supporting vital conservation efforts.

Here at TopCashback, we’re big fans of days spent at National Trust properties and beauty spots. In fact, quite a few staff members have memberships of their own.

TopCashback staff member Sarah said:

“I take my 18-month-old daughter to different places with our National Trust membership. We especially like Shugborough, which is local and has so much open space… great for walks, running around and picnics.”

Tanya also has a family membership:

“I've been a National Trust member for years and now have the family pass. I pay an annual fee of about £146 and we’ve been to lots of places, including Wightwick Manor, Moseley Old Hall, Attingham Park, Hardwick Hall, Sudbury Hall, Biddulph Grange, Calke Abbey, Shugborough Hall, and many others.”

Abbie has a joint membership with her partner:

“The National Trust is perfect for us because it means we have lots of safe, clean places to walk our dog. If we’re driving back from somewhere, we’ll stop by at a National Trust site on the way back, to stretch our legs and give our dog a nice break.

"You can make it suit your budget too. At the very most, we might buy a coffee, some lunch, or a souvenir from the gift shop. But if we’re trying to save money, we can easily skip those things.”

How much is a National Trust membership in 2024?

It’s important to understand the different National Trust membership options so you can choose the right one for you.

There are yearly rolling and lifetime memberships, and which type you choose will depend on how often you plan to use your pass and who you’ll be visiting sites with.

Kids at a National Trust site

National Trust annual membership options

There are a range of different membership options at various price points, but your eligibility for each will vary. If you’re only interested in an individual membership, the options available are an adult, young person or junior membership (so there’s no leeway there).

However, if you’re pairing up with someone you live with, you can both cut your costs by opting for a National Trust joint membership. Families can also save money by going for one of the two family membership options (whether there are one or two adults in your group will determine which membership you need).

Most memberships have a monthly direct debit option, or you can opt for annual payments instead (with no difference in price). Take a look at the membership prices below (correct at the time of writing).

TopCashback National Trust membership prices 2024 diagram

National Trust Lifetime membership options

Another option is to go for a lifetime membership. This involves making one lump-sum payment, which will entitle you to free entry to National Trust sites for the rest of your life. This option is only available on a limited number of membership types, and you’ll see the prices are pretty high.

Membership type

Cost

Individual life membership

£2,195

Individual life membership
(senior)

£1,640

Joint life membership

£2,735

Joint life membership
(senior)

£2,060

Family life membership

£2,865

Please note: the senior membership prices are the cost of an equivalent standard membership, minus the 25% senior discount.

Is a National Trust membership worth it?

A National Trust membership is only going to be worth it if you use it often enough to justify how much you’re spending each year. We’ve been asking around our staff at TopCashback to see if they think their purchases were worth the money they spent.

TopCashback staff member James bought his parents a gift membership…

“We bought a National Trust gift membership for our parents for Christmas, costing about £140. We visited Shugborough Hall with them where they got in for free, and we also paid almost £30 for two of us to visit alongside them.

"We found out that this was the only time they used their membership and it expired before they visited anywhere else, meaning we paid nearly five times the price for their one visit.

"Our parents don't often go for days out, but we thought this would allow them to do so while not having to pay. So, we would recommend really thinking about if you or a recipient will use the membership enough to make it worth the cost, else it could make more sense to pay on the day and not subscribe to the membership.”

Tanya has managed to get more for her money…

“Prices for a child’s entry can be upwards of £8 and adults at least £12, so the savings we make on a year’s membership are huge. We love it.”

How to make sure you’re getting the most out of your membership

The following infographic gives an estimate of how many trips you’ll need to make with each membership in order to break even on the money you spent in the first place.

The average admission fee for a National Trust site is around £14–£15 per adult, although the exact price will depend on where you’re visiting. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve assumed a £15 adult entrance fee for each National Trust site. Remember that admission prices vary between locations, so these figures only serve as an estimate.

TopCashback National Trust cost benefit analysis diagram

Another important factor to consider is that National Trust members are entitled to free parking at National Trust car parks.

TopCashback staff member Abbie reckons her annual National Trust membership gives her fantastic value for money when it comes to parking: 

“Non-members have to pay as much as £5 to park in a National Trust car park, meaning the costs can quickly add up.”

If two adults are visiting a National Trust site where entry costs £14 each, then you pay an additional £3 for parking, that’s a total of £31. When a joint membership includes free car parking at all sites and costs just over £150, it makes sense to pay for a membership if you’re planning to visit five or more sites within a year.

Is a National Trust lifetime membership worth it?

As you’ll see from the table below, it’ll take a significant amount of time to get your money’s worth out of a National Trust lifetime membership. As a result, a lifetime membership is probably going to be far too big an investment for anyone looking to save money in the short term.

Membership type

Number of years to break even (approx)

Individual life membership

24

Individual life membership
(senior)

24

Joint life membership

18

Joint life membership
(senior)

18

Family life membership

18

However, it’s important to note that these figures are based on the assumption that the annual membership price will remain constant over the years, which is highly unlikely.

In March 2023, National Trust prices for yearly individual, joint and family memberships were approximately 8.5% lower than they are today (March 2024).

So, if you had taken out an individual lifetime membership in March 2023, when we factor in inflation, you’d only need to use your membership for 22 years before ‘breaking even’. The number of years would continue to decrease as annual membership prices go up year on year.

With that said, talk of this kind is largely theoretical. It won’t change what you’ve paid; it only serves to help us justify the costs and benefits alongside each other. And besides, if day passes increase in price at the same time, then this won't make a difference anyway.

So, is National Trust life membership worth it? Probably not if you’re looking to save money in the short term.

Yes, they can save you money over a very long period of time (20+ years), but is that worth forking out more than £2,000 right now? We’d say it’s not, unless you have the money to spare and are donating for the sake of donating (and if you’re reading this article, that’s probably not the case!).

How does it compare to an English Heritage membership?

If you’re interested in historical sites like ancient ruins and castles more than beautiful natural landscapes and outdoor spaces, an English Heritage membership could suit you better than a National Trust one.

The National Trust have a bigger variety of houses, estates and other buildings. They also have 500 different sites to visit, whereas there are only around 400 English Heritage sites.

English Heritage logo

With that said, English Heritage memberships are cheaper overall than the National Trust. While a National Trust adult membership will set you back £91.20, the equivalent English Heritage membership costs £72.

If the price difference doesn’t help you decide between the two, we’d recommend looking at the variety of places to visit to make an informed decision.

Looking for more information about English Heritage? We've got the lowdown on how English Heritage memberships work, what they cost and how long it'll take you to get your money's worth.

How to save money on your National Trust membership

You can squeeze even more value out of your National Trust membership by reducing the amount of money you spend on your original purchase. Here are a few tricks for saving money on your membership. Have a read through to see if any of them apply to you.

National Trust membership for seniors

If you’re a senior citizen (aged 60 or over), you can enjoy a 25% discount on your National Trust membership if you’ve already been a member for at least the last three consecutive years.

Senior membership will cost you £68.40 per year or £113.40 per year for a joint membership. With a regular adult membership costing £91.20 and a regular joint membership costing £151.20, that’s a saving of as much as £37.80.

This discount isn’t automatically applied, just in case members want to continue paying the full amount. Seeing as the National Trust are a charity that rely heavily on membership fees to keep running, skipping the discount means you can donate more money to their efforts.

National Trust senior membership

Bring a carer for free if you have a disability

With the National Trust’s Essential Companion card, disabled visitors are able to bring one or two carers or companions with them free of charge. If you’re a member yourself, that means free entry for you and your carer or companion.

However, if you aren’t a member, you’ll need to pay the entry fee for yourself (but you’ll still get a free ticket for your companion). Visit the National Trust website to find out more about their accessibility commitments.

Check if you can get a free National Trust pass

The National Trust often run special deals allowing non-members to visit a National Trust site for free (the latest promotion of this kind being in autumn 2023).

You could use this National Trust free family pass to visit a site on your own, with another adult, or with children.

But this isn't the only way you can get free entry to a National Trust site. In January 2024, vouchers for free National Trust tickets were available in copies of the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror.

If you have a Starling bank account or are looking to sign up for one, Starling offer free National Trust passes as part of their Refer a Friend scheme. The referrer and the referee can both enjoy a free day pass, which is valid for six months.

Earn cashback on your membership

Always check TopCashback to see if we have any deals on National Trust memberships before you buy.

Just by signing up for a TopCashback account and purchasing your membership through our link to the National Trust website, you can earn cashback on your purchase.

TopCashback logo

TopCashback is totally free to join and we always give you 100% of the commission we get from our retailers, so you can be confident you’re getting the best deal.

Fancy earning a free £15? You can unlock this sign-up bonus by joining TopCashback via the green button below and spending £15 at any of our retailers.

This means you can earn a percentage of the cost of your National Trust membership back by ordering yours via the TopCashback site, and also get the £15 bonus on top.

🎁 Get £15 cashback for joining TopCashback

We secured this exclusive offer, but our content stays unbiased.


Spend £15+ at eBay, Amazon, ASOS or any of 5,000+ brands to get £15 back

  • No extra costs, no hidden fees
  • 110,000+ 5-star reviews on TrustPilot
  • Save money at 5,000+ brands

How does this offer work?

It's really simple: our site takes just 30 seconds when you buy online.

You do the shopping, we'll track your purchase, and then you'll get cashback in your account to withdraw to your bank or as a gift card.

Here's how to get your £15 offer;

  1. Click: Click the green button
  2. Join: Create an account
  3. Shop: Browse brands on our site
  4. Buy: Click Get Cashback then make a purchase
  5. Enjoy: We'll add £15 to your account once we track your purchase

How does TopCashback benefit? We make money when you buy from supported brands, which allows us to offer cashback with no hidden fees.

Do an online search for discount codes

It’s always worth having a look for online savings. In the past, we've done quick searches for a National Trust discount code and found a 10% discount for new customers.

Other past promotions include the chance for new members to get a free £15 National Trust gift card to spend in their shops and cafés.

Available offers will depend on when and where you look, so make sure you do some research before paying the full price for your membership.

Our verdict…

So, is a National Trust membership worth it? Our view is that if you like the idea of exploring outdoor spaces and historical buildings with your family or your other half, don’t let the upfront National Trust membership cost put you off.

As long as you remember to use it, it’s worth getting a pass if you want to enjoy cheaper days out, especially when you consider what you might spend on other activities like cinema trips and museum visits.

Make sure you work out how many visits you’ll need to make to National Trust sites to break even on the cost of your membership, as this will give you an idea of how much it will be worth, for you.

Devil's Dyke

Devil's Dyke

We’d expect an annual membership will be best for most people, seeing as lifetime memberships have such a high upfront cost. With that said, if you know you’ll get at least 20 years’ use out of your membership, then it might be worth investing in a lifetime pass.

If you want to join the National Trust and get access to all their membership benefits for yourself, head over to their website to find out more. And don’t forget to order your membership via the TopCashback site if you want to earn cashback on your purchase.

Do you have a National Trust membership? Do you think it was worth it for you? Let us know in the comments.


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  1. due to a current lack of mobility, I have not renewed or membership as I feel we cannot take full advantage of the situation.

  2. Hi, I’ve been a National Trust member since 1973 and became a Life Member just before 1980 and Individual Life Membership was just £200.00, in which included being able to admit one guest who is not a National Trust member. Sadly that option for anyone joining as an individual Life Member to admit one guest has been discontinued for new Individual Life Members! But for anyone who became an Individual Life Member before that change, they’ll continue to be able to admit one guest. And I think that the National Trust should mention that?
    Ian!
    Ian J Thompson!

    1. Hi Ian,

      Thanks for getting in touch. It sounds like your National Trust membership has been a worthwhile investment for you, especially at that price!

      We weren’t aware that Individual Lifetime Memberships used to include a plus one, so thanks for letting us know about that, although it’s a shame to hear this has been discontinued.

      ~ Becca

  3. What happens to a Joint Life membership if you divorce ? Is it still valid for both parties who will have a different address ?

    1. Hi,

      This is a good question. We’ve had a look into this and haven’t been able to find a concrete answer, so it might be best to get in touch with the National Trust directly here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/membership/enquiries.

      One thing we did uncover is that they unfortunately don’t allow members to transfer memberships to other people. However, they also state that Joint memberships can only be held by two people living at the same address, so if this changes, it might be worth contacting their customer service team to see if they can help.

      Hope this helps 🙂
      ~ Becca

  4. I was going to purchase a National trust adult individual life membership in August 2023, then discovered that the National trust had removed the free guest facility since April 2023. The guest facility was the key factor in purchasing; however, I quickly decided against it once I discovered it was no longer applicable.

    It's not only a disappointment to me, but a loss of revenue for the National trust as I won't be visiting their sites along with a friend who would most probably have spent money in their tea rooms, etc..

    English Heritage experimented with a year of life membership sales without a guest facility and they have now reversed their decision, probably due to a slump in sales and loss of expected revenue. I will wait for the National trust to reverse their decision, as I expect their life membership sales have slumped massively.

  5. Loved this honest and detailed blog. Personally found it really useful and appreciated the images and comparisons.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your feedback! So pleased you found our breakdown of National Trust memberships helpful 🙂

      ~ Becca

  6. It’s only worth it for certain groups of people, like surfers, who would pay up to £8.00 per day for parking, so a single membership is a no brainier

  7. Thank you for an excellent article about National Trust Membership including the coverage of the lifetime membership options.
    I was considering a Single Senior Life Membership (an option when you are 60 or over and have been a member for at least the last three consecutive years). I’ve been a member for many years on an annual fee basis.
    However the Single Senior Life Membership is currently £1640 whilst a Single Life Membership (ie under 60 yrs) is £2195. As your helpful table shows, for these two categories, in each case a member would need to be able to use their membership for 24 years to ‘break even’. Anyone 60 or over is less likely to benefit from the life membership than a member who is under the age of 60. For example, a member aged 68 would need to live to be 92 whereas a member aged 30 would break even at age 54.
    Also what is the rationale for other categories of membership (joint, joint senior, family) having a break even of 18 years?
    I realise that membership is not all about the break even point but especially these days that is one of the criteria which people will have to take into consideration. The National Trust Life Membership rates are less favourable to individual memberships and even more so to those aged 60 or over.
    I hadn’t realised that life memberships prior to 1980 also included free guest admission for a non-member. What excellent value they were!

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you found this article useful.

      I agree – it seems that an annual membership can give great value for money if you’re going to visit enough sites throughout the year. It probably makes more sense financially to pay for one of those each year, rather than get a lifetime membership!

      But as you say, it’s not all about ‘breaking even’. Those who can afford to might want to buy a lifetime membership as a way of supporting the National Trust and helping them keep their sites open. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly way of doing things though, paying annually might be the best option!

      ~ Becca

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