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Since booking two tickets on Deutsche Bahn a couple months ago, I've gotten a new debit card with a new number. The DB website stresses that an ID (credit or debit card used for the purchase, or country ID from one of a few European countries) is required when the ticket is inspected, and that passports are not accepted.

Is there any way to switch the debit card number linked to the tickets? Otherwise, what are my options for identification when my ticket is checked? I'm an American citizen and I travel in two days.

Edit: I don't have my old card any more, since it was destroyed when I got my new card.

  • Perhaps your bank can issue a letter documenting old card number 1234 was replaced by new card 4321. Otherwise be prepared to repurchase the ticket (I would imagine DB would refund the first charge in this case, same as airlines do). – user13044 Jun 13 '16 at 15:03
  • That was my thought, too (the letter) - my bank opens in an hour so I'll call them up and ask. – davidvc Jun 13 '16 at 15:04
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    @Calchas ID can't be edited but cancelling and rebooking a Flexpreis ticket would be free if done at least a day in advance (with the exception of reserved seats which would be cancelled but not refunded). However, if they have booked a (non-flexible) Sparpreis it can be rather expensive to do that exercise. – neo Jun 13 '16 at 15:36
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    My understanding is that even a valid German ID card would not be accepted in this situation, it has to be the token associated with the ticket, even if you hold another type of ID that the DB would accept. – Relaxed Jun 13 '16 at 15:44
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    Here's my experience (@neo @Relaxed) on all 3 of my train rides: no trouble explaining my situation and showing my passport, no need to repurchase tickets, and no "you should bring your credit card next time" or similar chastisement, but I suppose the latter could be a cultural artifact and doesn't mean I wasn't in technical violation of the ID policy. – davidvc Jun 18 '16 at 20:38
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The official website does not explain what to do in that scenario but the DB is very specific about it: You have to travel with the exact (credit or ID) card registered as a token when you booked the ticket, no exceptions. If the card expired, you are expected to present the old, expired card instead of the new one (or possibly both if you are travelling with a Bahncard). And it does not seem possible to change the token, even in person and with a very good reason, let alone online or from abroad.

Various forum posts (from people who had their credit card or ID card stolen or from DB support staff answering their questions) all confirm that you really are supposed to buy a new ticket, even if you can present another ID and some document from the police confirming the previous one was stolen. Rail guards do have the option to let it slip but apparently the recommended procedure is to charge you for the - current and therefore possibly higher - price of a ticket with a small surcharge (Bordpreis) and invite you to ask the customer service for a (partial) refund as a commercial gesture (Kulanz).

At this point, it therefore seems that you have the choice between two (bad) options:

  • Cancel your ticket and buy another one. It will cost you some but at least you know exactly how much and you have some peace of mind during the trip.
  • Try your luck, with the downside being that you might be forced to buy an even more expensive ticket in the train. Not necessarily the end of the world but rather frustrating. Seeking out a member of the crew as soon as possible rather than waiting for them to come to your seat can also be a good idea.

No matter what you do, you can also try your luck with the customer service afterward but that sounds like a lot of hassle for a foreign resident. In any case, they are unlikely to issue a full refund and typically give out vouchers (Gutschein) for future train travel rather than cold hard cash, which is probably not very useful for you.

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    I am also not sure how I would play it with the guard: Dumb foreigner or apologetic from the start? ;) – Relaxed Jun 13 '16 at 15:35
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    I would try speaking to the train staff as soon as boarding the train. That makes then more lenient. If they don't allow traveling with the ticket you should contact the support staff as you suggested. As far as I know the internal policy is to refund the price you paid on board the train (as soon as they can verify that the online ticket hasn't been used which takes a few weeks) minus a service charge. Not sure how they would refund to a foreign bank account though – likely you only get a voucher in that case. – neo Jun 13 '16 at 15:49
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    @neo Yes, that's a good tip, forgot to mention that, thanks! – Relaxed Jun 13 '16 at 15:51
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    Seeking out a member of the crew as soon as possible definitely good advice - go straight to a crew member immediately. – Fattie Jun 13 '16 at 15:56
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    @neo I think your comments would make a pretty good answer if joined together. You provide useful information complementary to Relaxed's answer, since he describes the public-facing policy of DB and you describe the likely practical outcomes. – davidvc Jun 13 '16 at 21:35
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I'll just stick this on as an answer for completeness (I previously posted it as a comment):

I took 3 DB rides without the card used to book the tickets with no problem. On all 3 of my train rides, there was no trouble explaining my situation and showing my passport as ID, no need to repurchase tickets, and no "you should bring your credit card next time" or similar chastisement--but I suppose the latter could be a cultural artifact and doesn't mean I wasn't in technical violation of the ID policy.

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    Downvoter: if you explain your motivation, I can improve my answer accordingly. Thanks! – davidvc Sep 20 '16 at 7:23
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I just travel from Berlin to Prague last Thursday 09/15, I have lost ID Credit Card, I brought CC statement, a letter from American Express explaining the situation. I didn't use any of the documents. I show the controller copy of the online tickets, he stamped the paper, controller come 3 times during our trip without a problem.

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Download the DB app in your smartphone. Then use the ticket number to download the ticket into the DB app in your smart phone. It will become a Handyticket automatically. In that case all you show is your smartphone. I have done it several times.

  • You might want to replace "handy" by "mobile (phone)" or "cell (phone)" for all the non-Germans here ;-) – User42 Jun 14 '16 at 7:13
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    You still need the ID with a Handyticket. If you have both a Bahncard and used a credit or debit card as the ID they sometimes forget to check the ID after seeing the Bahncard, but it's still required. It just saves you from printing the ticket. – simbabque Jun 14 '16 at 7:21

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