Deutsche Bahn - don't get a Bahn Card

If you're new to Germany, likely or not you'll be travelling with public transport.

S-Bahn or Trams, and Deutsche Bahn, or trains. Of course, busses too, but I'm less familiar with them.

Despite what things look like on the outside, the Deutsche Bahn is not the modern up-to-date service it appears to be. It is likely the first place you will learn about the German concept of "Kundigungsfrist".

Most places in Germany will have an option to cancel a subscription, but you must do it six weeks, and they will be extreme calendar weeks - they are counting every day, before a contract ends or begins.

In the case of Deutsche Bahn, this will apply to Germany Tickets, and BahnKarte.

Do not be fooled - they aren't trying to make your life easier, they are trying to trap you into contracts you do not want.

The Bahnkarte is a predatory system whereby if you fail to cancel on time, you will be locked into a full year of continued service. There are often situations where the explanation or situation for the Bahnkarte is not adequately explained, or you are not properly informed before the Kundigungsfrist that you can and should cancel. Cancellation options will be difficult to find (hidden in small sub-menus in the app, and buried online or requiring a mountain of paperwork).

Simply put, the Deutsche Bahn likes to offer the ProbeBahnkarte to you when you book a ticket (often making your tickets significantly cheaper even including the cost of the ProbeBahnkarte) and trapping you into a huge cost later on.

My best advice - DO NOT PROCURE A BAHNKARTE!!!

Should you find yourself in the situation where you do get yourself into a Bahnkarte siutation this information (in German) may provide useful:

It also includes example letters you can send Deutsche Bahn.

Good luck!

*** The time one needs to cancel a subscription in Germany is usually 3 months before it runs out. This is not a thing just from DB, this is standard in Germany. Kind of sucks but one cannot single out DB for this. Problem is aht one tends to forget the deadlines - but can put in their cancelation BEFORE.

And the bottom line is that the Deutschland ticket is an AMAZING deal. For the same monthly amount I was paying for just one zone on the Stuttgart municiple transportation system I can now use the whole system and those of all municiple systems and all local and regional trains throughout Germany. Just the faster tains like ICE, EC  and some IRE ones are not included. Bahncards are also not expensive but really depend on one's usage. With the Deutschlandcard and the possibility to get super saving priced tickets in advance online they are not nearly such an attraction. The Detuschland ticket is one of the best deals EVER!

One should not miss such deals just because your choice for the following year must be cancelled on time if you decide not to contunue. And teh thing is that the cancellation cannot be done after the period - but is unlimite beforehand. One can et a card today and put in a cancellation the next day for it to get renewed.


@TominStuttgart we can go on forever round and round in circles about how German's "Kundigungsfrist" is ridiculous for anyone coming from other countries without such a ridiculously long period to cancel something.

But that was not my point.

My point is that you will be offered a "probebahnkarte" to dramatically reduce the cost of your ticket, and it is a good way to trap you into another more expensive subscription. Trying to cancel the subscription will be impossible and the people from Deutsche Bahn will neither be polite nor helpful. They will simply and as politely as possible tell you to pfo.

The German Ticket is a particularly good deal if you know what it entails, and you know how you will be traveling and are already familiar with this system in Germany. Even after a decade living here I find DB to be one of the most TAXING groups to contact or work any issues out with. They simply raise their hands in the air and say "Not my problem", whether they have trapped you into a subscription, your train has been cancelled and you are stranded, or anything else untoward has happened while engaging with them.

If you can calculate your risks and benefits because you know what to expect you can come out a winner here - BUT  - if you are NEW to Germany you may find that this is an unsavoury interaction full of pitfalls.

That is the essence of my post.

But please, if you're a fan of the Deutschland Ticket or DB in general, perhaps you might like to put yourselves in the shoes of a new expat in Germany and provide some guidance on what someone might wish to be aware of to enjoy the maximum benefit with minimum disappointment.

One can cancel the subscription for the following year at any time until 3 month before the renewal date. Claiming a new expat must be ignorant of what the Deutschland or Bahncards entail is nonsensical. The website and their marketing make the details clear. And the benefits are overwhelming although possibly not the absolute optimal choice for some. That they offer extra benefits to new customers is totally fine. It's called standard marketing.

Trains don't always run on time and are sometimes canceled. But the DB website is rather amazing considering the amount of information provided on an ongoing changing basis. And it is offered in 9 languages!

Even the website explains it very well

Most Germans (and I assume also foreigners in Germany) have a love-hate-relationship with Deutsche Bahn (DB, the German rail provider). They offer some amazing aspects (e.g. affordable and sustainable mobility), but also leave much to be desired (e.g. punctuality and service quality). It is a national sports to rant and rave about them - mantion the topic on any party and soon everyone will want to tell his story!

But what Missbeesy mentions, apparently with a vengeance, is not DB-specific:

  • Subscriptions exist in many areas, and they always entail that you have to pay, even if you don't utilize them - unless you terminate.
  • German businesses (incl. DB) value forecasting and planning ahead. Few things are more planable for them than a subscription - and the forgetfulness of their subscribers.
  • As for every aspect of life, we Germans have laws governing subscriptions. These laws determine how long a contract can be, what renewal and termination notice periods are acceptable and how to go about conflicts of interest. They might not be fair in your eyes, but most Germans (and DB) think they are o.k..
  • In addition to the laws, which few people read, all relevant clauses must also be spelt out in the proverbial fineprint. It might be tedious, but it is best to understand it and sign only if you agree!
  • Handphones and electronic calendars can help against the forgetfulness - I really have entries called "terminate XXX contract" in mine!
  • And last not least: A Bahncard 25, which gives you 25% discount on all long-distance train tickets for a full year, costs just 70€: A good deal for most who take trains more than rarely - and not an amount that would impoverish you if you don't!

Since this discussion is becoming too emotional and personal for this site (I have already removed some paragraphs above), I will now close it.