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EXPLAINED: The German railcard deal you need to know about

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Germany's BahnCard, Deutsche Bahn is slashing the prices of its railcards for a limited time. Here's what you need to know.

An ICE train waits on the platform at Hannover Hauptbahnhof.
An ICE train waits on the platform at Hannover Hauptbahnhof. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

For the whole of April, German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will be selling anniversary railcards for a hefty discount.

A BahnCard 25 for second-class travel will be reduced from €56.90 to €30, while a first-class Bahncard 25 will be reduced from €115 to €60. 

The railcards are valid for 12 months and entitle holders to a 25 percent discount on train tickets nationwide, including ‘Sparpreis’ and ‘Flexpreis’ tickets.

What’s the German BahnCard?

The BahnCard was first introduced in 1992 and is very popular for those who want to bag cheaper train tickets.

Within 100 days of its introduction, around 700,000 rail passengers had purchased the new card, which allowed them to get heavily discounted rail travel across the Bundesrepublik. This number has since grown into 4.5 million, equating to around five percent of the German population.

However, Deutsche Bahn were keen to point out that the railcard is not just a success with people in Germany.

Apparently, 200 Canadians, 22 Argentinians and 14 New Zealanders abroad own a BahnCard – and there’s even one BahnCard customer on the Christmas Islands.

In Germany, the highest percentage of BahnCard fans live in Merzhausen, a municipality in the Black Forest. Nearly every fourth person in Merzhausen owns a BahnCard.

“The Bahncard has been making rail travel cheaper for 30 years,” said Michael Peterson, chairman of DB Fernverkehr’s management board.

“This means that the second generation of BahnCard holders is already growing up, and we can see that the BahnCard is particularly popular with these young customers. Every third BahnCard holder is 30-years-old or younger.”

Is the deal worth it?

Some simple maths can help travellers work out if the discounted railcard is worth it. 

To break even, a passenger with the second-class BahnCard 25 would have to spent €120 on train tickets over the course of a year. To put this in perspective, that’s about €40 less than the cost of a last-minute return journey from Berlin to Frankfurt.

For first-class travellers, the spend would have to go up €240 over the course of the year, though this won’t be a particularly difficult figure to reach for anyone travelling first class on a German train. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to find cheap train tickets in Germany

How can I get the offer? 

To take advantage of the discounted offer, head to the Deutsche Bahn website and order your BahnCard 25 by April 30th. 

While you’re on there, take a look at the other offers available – if you’re a young person, for instance, you may find an even cheaper deal on a railcard. 

If you’ve already bought a BahnCard 25 at the more expensive price, you can set the start date of your new BahnCard to the day after the expiry date of your current card.

This will prevent you from having to pay twice in the same period. 

It’s also worth noting that the railcard is primarily for long-distance train travel. If you’re looking for a cheaper local ticket, keep an eye out for the €9 monthly ticket that’s set to be introduced by the German government in the coming months.

READ ALSO: When will Germany introduce the €9 monthly travel ticket?

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German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.


“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin