Thursday, August 15, 2013


One of those final two annual bills I paid recently was for my BahnCard. This is a card that I pay 240 euro for every year in order to get 50% off rail fares within Germany. It also gives me 25% off rail travel in adjoining European countries if I start my journey in Germany. Travelling to Frankfurt and back three times in one year will already have saved me the 240 euro that I've paid and since it's almost definite that I will do that or similar trips it is worth it for me to get the BahnCard. In addition, for every euro you spend on rail travel, you can collect points. I have also added the credit card function (that's my German mastercard) so that I can also earn points for everything I spend on that card. It's 1 point for 1 euro spent on travel and less than that (about 1 point per 3 euro spent) for other spending. And this is where I really start reaping the benefits. Those points can be traded in for various rewards, among which are rail tickets. I took some time recently to go through the last two years and make sure I really am saving money but even though I knew it was worth the expense, even I was surprised.

In 2011-2012 I saved over €550, just on the travel I did that year. I also got a 'free' ticket, which would have cost me around €75. In 2012-2013 again, I saved nearly €500 just for travel I would have been doing anyway. In addition, I have saved another €400 by means of a couple of long journeys on 'free' tickets. One of them was first class, last November when I travelled to Bad Reichenhall and the other is for this well-used specimen, which is what I used when I travelled to and from France last week to visit my sister.
One train ticket - price on the right-hand side = xxxxx.xx = best price ever

Actually, the ticket is from Germany to Geneva, as the train connection to where my sister lives isn't great from there, so I get off at the airport and get a bus, which only takes an hour to where she lives. I have done this journey once going via Paris but the change in Paris was awkward and I didn't make the connection on time, leaving me having to get another train later, changing in Lyon and then travelling on and arriving a few hours later than planned. Not really worth it as I didn't save all that much on the special offer from Thalys.

The only thing about the free tickets is, like so many special offers, that you are restricted to travelling only on the train you have booked. I understand the reasoning for this but don't like it. Part of what I love about train travel over air travel is the flexibility. If I miss my train by a minute or two, I can just normally just get on the next one - not quite so easy if you miss a plane by a minute or two. This flexibility is generally the reason that I prefer to use my BahnCard to book tickets rather than trying to book what they call Spartarif (savings tariff). These are the tickets that really are great value - travel within Germany from 29 euro - but tend to be snapped up very quickly. And again, you are restricted to travelling only on the train you have booked. To give me a true picture of the savings I have made with my BahnCard, I should have also made a note each time I bought a ticket, if there was a Spartarif ticket available and how much that would have cost. I do check when booking a ticket but rarely see a special offer valid for the journey I want to make. I'm going to keep a closer eye on this over the coming year and make a note of it along with the other costs, to try and have a more accurate picture of what the costs are. All in all, though, I do love my BahnCard!


Fiona said...

I swoon a little at the very thought of being able to travel so easily to adjoining European countries. Being Australian, even short-distance trips overseas are so expensive. The Bahn card sounds very worthwhile!

Moonwaves said...

Rail travel was a very big tick on my list of pros and cons for deciding to move back to mainland Europe.

SarahN @ livetolist said...

OH how I miss the railways of Europe - the TGV and variants and even the Bahn stuff - I went to Germany once. when I lived in France I got to 12-25 discount card - we were assured 25% off and up to 50% was available sometimes. It certainly paid for itself!