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Why are some foreigners unable to buy Germany’s €49 ticket?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why are some foreigners unable to buy Germany’s €49 ticket?
An advertisement for the Deutschlandticket in front of a train at the main station in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

People with foreign bank accounts have been prevented from buying Germany's discount transport deal, leading to allegations of "IBAN discrimination".


The goal of Germany's Deutschlandticket is to offer easy access to public transportation by providing low-cost travel on all forms of local transport throughout the country.

So far the deal - launched in May - has been very successful; since its launch, passenger numbers on regional trains that are part of Germany's national rail network Deutsche Bahn have increased by 25 percent.

READ ALSO: €49 travel ticket prompts big rise in Deutsche Bahn passenger numbers

But some people have struggled to reap the benefits of the offer - namely those with foreign bank accounts. 

Payment for the ticket is processed through the SEPA direct debit scheme and problems often arise when customers with foreign bank accounts have to enter their IBAN. 

If a 28-digit Polish IBAN, for example, is entered on the website, customers receive the message: "Please enter a correct IBAN". As a result, they are unable to purchase the ticket.

German IBANs start with the letters "DE" and are followed by 20 digits, but in countries like Belgium, there are 16 digits, and in Poland, there are 26 digits after the country code.

The Central Office for Unfair Competition in Bad Homburg and an international initiative called "Accept my IBAN" have collected and documented a whole series of cases of customers being unable to buy the Deutschlandticket with their international bank accounts. Customers from countries like Belgium, Lithuania, and Poland have been particularly affected.

READ ALSO: Which foreign countries can you visit with Germany’s 49 ticket?

In the European Union, the practice of not recognising certain IBANs has actually been prohibited since 2014 by the European SEPA regulation (Single Euro Payments Area). Under the regulation, which applies to 36 European countries, banks, merchants, and authorities must accept IBANs. 

Complaints about problems purchasing the €49 ticket have mostly been directed at Transdev, Germany's second-largest railway and bus company, which operates the website


Municipal companies such as the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and Wupsi in Leverkusen have also faced complaints, as customers can order the subscription from them as well. The Deutsche Bahn website, on the other hand, accepts foreign bank details.

Transdev has admitted to the issues and has said that it is working to resolve them, blaming outdated IT systems which struggle to process IBANs that deviate from the German format. 

READ ALSO: State by state: Who will get a discount on Germany’s €49 transport ticket? 

The Central Office for Unfair Competition is also investigating these cases. The association, also known as the Wettbewerbszentrale, is supported by 800 associations, 1,200 companies, and several top associations of the German economy.

If the association detects a violation, it demands a cease and desist declaration from the companies. If necessary, it also files lawsuits with the competent regional courts. So far, in 35 out of 36 cases, the association has been successful, such as against the comparison portal Verivox or the real estate company Vonovia.


Regarding the Deutschlandticket, the Central Office has reported some initial successes. In several cases, the transportation companies eventually accepted the foreign bank details after customers urged them to do so. The Leverkusen-based company Wupsi also had its issues resolved by a software manufacturer.

Anyone experiencing payment problems with the Deutschlandticket can contact the Wettbewerbszentrale at any time.


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Khausik 2023/08/02 12:53
My parents visited me recently. I had the problem of buying 49 euro ticket for them through DB app. However, I bought them through HVV switch app (Hamburg) and there was an option to pay using paypal. Using regional public transport app is better.

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