BahnCard only on your smartphone?

2 min
Tags: BahnCard smartphone digital BahnCard QR code mid-2024 physical BahnCard

Deutsche Bahn is planning to introduce the digital BahnCard in the second half of 2024. According to the company, the PVC card will be a thing of the past. Here we explain what this change means for millions of users and what changes they will have to prepare for. 

BahnCard: The discount card of Deutsche Bahn

The BahnCard is a discount card that enables customers to buy discounted tickets from Deutsche Bahn. It is available in different versions, such as the BahnCard 25, the BahnCard 50 and the BahnCard 100, each of which offers different discounts. The BahnCard is normally issued as a physical card, which the customer must present together with their ID card or passport at the ticket inspection. This will come to an end from the second half of 2024. From then on, only the digital version of the discount card will be accepted. 

Elimination of the physical BahnCard

The digital BahnCard is currently (March 2024) still an additional option that customers can choose voluntarily. It is free of charge for owners of the physical version and can be activated at any time in the DB Navigator app. The physical BahnCard will continue to be sent to customers by post until mid-2024, unless they expressly opt out. The digital BahnCard has the same validity and is subject to the same conditions as the physical BahnCard. 

Cell phone is mandatory

With the discontinuation of the plastic BahnCard, a cell phone is mandatory for all users of this discount card. To use the card, a customer account must be created with Deutsche Bahn, in which a valid registration address and a valid email address must be stored. If you already have a customer account, you can add the digital BahnCard at a later date. This means that it is no longer possible to use the advantage card without an app-enabled smartphone and without an email address. At an inspection, holders must load the BahnCard into the DB Navigator app and show it to the conductor. 

Screenshot is not enough

Anyone who thinks they are on the safe side with a screenshot of the BahnCard and, above all, independent of an Internet connection, is mistaken. Every user must open the digital BahnCard in the DB Navigator app and show it to the train attendant. The digital BahnCard is provided with a QR code that is scanned by the train attendant to verify the validity and identity of the customer. Deutsche Bahn argues that a screenshot may be tampered with or out of date and therefore will not be accepted. 

What if your cell phone battery runs out?

The digital BahnCard is linked to an internet-enabled smartphone, which users should fully charge in their own interest before starting their journey. If the battery runs out en route and the BahnCard cannot be displayed in the DB Navigator app for this reason, there is a risk of a penalty in the form of an additional fare charge of double the ticket price. Although those affected can reclaim the overpaid amount within 14 days, rail customers will not be able to avoid the processing fee. 

Conclusion: With the conversion of the discount system to the digital BahnCard, Deutsche Bahn is another company taking a step towards division. People who have consciously decided against a smartphone or cannot afford the device are excluded from low prices for transportation, which leads to a restriction of freedom of choice.