High-speed ICE Train in Munich | Photo by Sergey Kuznetsov
High-speed ICE Train in Munich | Photo by Sergey Kuznetsov

Test out Deutsche Bahn’s savings program

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

As much as I love trains, during the tourist season or high demand, they can be as expensive if not more than plane tickets. My masterplan for a quick and last-minute weekend excursion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was recently thwarted when I saw it was going to run me 300 euros for the round trip.

German’s rail service does have a saver program, the BahnCard 25/50/100 discounts. When I first looked into it, I wasn’t sure if it was going to save me any money, as they’re typically year-long subscriptions. The BahnCard 25 gives you 25 percent off both flex and economy prices and runs 62 euros a year. The BahnCard 50 gives you 50 percent off flex prices and 25 percent off economy tickets for 255 euros a year. And if you're a baller-shot-caller the BahnCard100 is unlimited travel for 4,395 euros or 406 euros a month. Those are all second class prices. We’re not going to list the first-class prices because first-class on a train is not worth it, trust me. I was once upgraded and thought, this is it?

Now, DB is doing a sample sale for its BahnCard and it might now be worth your euros. You can try out any of its BahnCards for three months at a discounted rate. BahnCard 25 is 19.90 euros for three months, BahnCard 50 is 79.90 and for you ballers-shot-callers, the BahnCard 100 (which is super fancy by the way with your picture on a slick black background) is only 1,312 euros. There are special sample BahnCards discounted even further for kids, young adults and seniors. All can be purchased online.

Just a warning, as with every other subscription program in the world, it will automatically renew at the full-year price at the end of your trial, with the exception of the BahnCard 100. You can cancel the renewal up to six weeks before the end date. The offer ends on December 14. 

Even if you don’t sign up for the sample program, you should sign up for the free BahnBonus program. Like a credit card (only free) you accumulate points with every train ride. Cashing in those points can get you free train tickets, first-class upgrades, charity donations, catering vouchers and even a random assortment of items that include binoculars and steak knives. Within my first six months in the program, I already acquired enough points to score a free one-way ticket. Right now, if you register, you automatically get 250 points and a first-class upgrade.

An additional helpful tip: Just like planes, it's cheaper to buy a roundtrip ticket than two one-way tickets.

If you’ve never taken Germany’s rail service or if train travel confuses you, check out our Navigating Deutsche Bahn article.

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