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I am located in Germany and have friends coming to visit for a month. They intend to travel around by train quite a bit, so I thought it would make sense to get BahnCards for them. Luckily, Deutsche Bahn has a promotional 19 Euro Sieger BahnCard1 right now that gives 25% discount. The plan was to get the card and immediately cancel it to avoid the subscription converting to a regular one-year BahnCard.

Owning any type BahnCard is not a problem for non-residents in Germany. Anyone can buy one. The problem lies in paying for it.

First I tried ordering the card online. Putting my friend's name and birthday plus my address as c/o is not a problem, and that's also allowed from DB's perspective. The payment however only works with SEPA Core direct debit2, and not with credit card or PayPal (which work for buying tickets online). On the payment page, the account holder for the SEPA transfer is prefilled with the name of the BahnCard holder in spe and cannot be changed. But since my friends are not from Europe, SEPA is not going to work.

I then went to a Reisezentrum (customer service desk in a train station) and tried there. They would take cash for the card, but require the buyer to be present and provide ID. Since my friends are not here yet, that won't work either.

The whole thing is further complicated by the fact that my friends will arrive by plane in Prague and I would prefer to get them the digital print-at-home or mobile app version of the cards before so they can buy the initial transfer from Prague to Germany with the discount.

How can I get a BahnCard up front when I am not in Germany and do not have a bank account in my name that can do SEPA?


1. German link to Sieger BahnCard
2. This is the new version of the old Einzugsermächtigung in Germany. It means that DB wants to take money from that account, not me sending money there

  • @chx thank you for trying to answer and the subsequent edit. I incorporated it into the question. Is it clear like this? – simbabque Jun 10 '16 at 11:42
  • Yes, this is much more clear. Alas, it is extremely unlikely you will find a way to do a direct debit without a German bank account. – chx Jun 10 '16 at 11:50
  • @chx Any European bank account will do. Dutch, Austrian, whatever. The problem is that it needs to be in the buyer's name. :( – simbabque Jun 10 '16 at 11:59
  • Even for someone who lives in Germany, they make it ridiculously difficult to pay for a BahnCard. You can go to bahn.de and find plenty of ways to pay for tickets, but good luck finding any way to pay for your BahnCard renewal. – Kyralessa Dec 1 '17 at 11:23
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    @simbabque, I just spoke with DB by phone and they sent me a PDF copy of the invoice. But if you can buy a train ticket at bahn.de (a much more complicated process), why can't you pay for your BahnCard at bahn.de!? I'll add that to the list of web-related questions I have for DB, such as why it is that they can't tell you exactly how much of a ticket you'll be refunded until the refund process is over: "Your ticket has been refunded...minus a fee of half the ticket price." Their web site could use some usability studies. – Kyralessa Dec 1 '17 at 18:05
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Doing the following click-path makes them offer the credit card and PayPal options for a new user. In fact, I have been unable to find a way to get to a payment screen without those options.

First choose the appropriate BahnCard type:

step 1

Then choose to order as a guest (it is important to not login with your account as this does not allow you to book for another person):

step 2

On the following two pages choose the desired type of BahnCard and enter personal data including identification. As you may know, they need to be able to present their credit card which you enter at that stage together with the printout (the other options are not useful in that situation).

Then on the payment page the credit card and PayPal options are offered (while the direct debit one is greyed out):

step 3

The same works on the German page (though the first step looks different).

I should also say that legally your friends should click through this pages themselves as Deutsche Bahn does not offer for third parties to buy a BahnCard in any way (as it is a subscription).

  • This is exactly what I did and I could not pick a payment method. Weird. Maybe I ran into an a/b test. I'll try with a different browser. – simbabque Jun 10 '16 at 13:05
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    @simbabque Please be aware of neo's indication that you are buying a subscription. Unless you cancel the subscription, the Sieger BahnCard will be automatically converted to a full-price, regular BahnCard, for which you will be charged the next year. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 10 '16 at 14:46
  • @Tor good advice. I am aware of that as I've done this before for other friends with Probe-BahnCard when they were here. I'll add it to the question. – simbabque Jun 10 '16 at 14:51

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