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November 2002

Just The Ticket

The new BahnCard for the best-value train tickets

When, in 1995, I returned to Germany after a longish stay abroad, one of my first purchases was a BahnCard. I went to the station armed with two passport photographs and proof of my identity and was prepared to sign on the dotted line but hesitated when the ticket agent told me the price: DM 280. I dithered for a few minutes, then handed over the money. A wise investment. The travel card has saved me a whopping € 10,000 over the past seven years.

Now the Deutsche Bahn are set to change the current price system. From November 1 rail users will be able to buy a new type of BahnCard—though it won’t actually be valid (gültig) until December 15—which will allow a savings (Einsparung) of 25 percent on every train ticket. The current BahnCard, which cuts the cost of a ticket by 50 percent on every normal fare, but cannot be used for special offers (Sonderangebote), weekend discount tickets, etc., can still be bought until December 14 and, like every BahnCard, new or old, is valid for one year. The BahnCard Senior will be scrapped. The new card will also be cheaper, € 60 as compared to € 140 for a second-class card and € 150 instead of € 280 for a first-class card. Anyone who wishes to exchange their old card for a new one can do so and the value of the old card will be deducted from the price, as long as it is more than € 15.

There is a special benefit for families. If one parent buys a new card the other parent and all children, under 17, can purchase their own cards for € 5 each. This also allows family members to travel alone using their individual cards, which was not possible under the old system. Also, the new system means that a parent or grandparent can take along their own children or grandchildren free, as long as these children are under 14.

A further change involves the introduction of bonus points, known as bahn.comfort Punkte. This system has actually been in operation since April but the benefits (Vorteile) can be reaped only after December 15 and function in the following way: Anyone buying a train ticket and using a valid BahnCard will get one point for every Euro spent on tickets of more than € 5 in value. Important to remember: points will be registered only if the buyer answers “yes” when asked. Once 2,000 points have been collected, the BahnCard owner will be able to make use of a number of special services. These include the option of booking specially reserved seats (besonderes Sitzplatzkontingent) even on a “fully booked” train, having access to seats on a train (markierte bahn.comfort Sitzplatzbereiche) without having first made a reservation, use of a special booking counter (bahn.comfort Counter) at major railway stations and a 25 percent savings on many tickets in neighboring European countries.

These changes will not benefit everybody. In an attempt, presumably, to make savings the Deutsche Bahn has reorganized much of the ticket booking process. In future the cheapest tickets will be available to those who book in advance through a system called Plan&Spar (plan and save). Bookings made one day before commencement of a journey on certain trains are 10 percent cheaper, three days allows a savings of 25 percent and seven days 40 percent. This can be combined with the 25 percent saving for anyone with a new BahnCard. The old card is not valid for Plan&Spar.

There are a number of other changes, too numerous to be dealt with here. However, information can be found at the English page of the Deutsche Bahn Web site at or by calling (01805) 35 55 53. Oh, by the way: if I’m still writing this column in seven years’ time, I’ll tell you how much I saved with the new BahnCard.

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