Three more things you definitely need to know
All through this past fall and winter I must have read at least 20 different articles promising to tell me “everything” I needed to know about the 49-Euro Deutschland Ticket, the successor to last year’s very popular 9-Euro ticket.
They covered everything from what it was (a monthly subscription that grants you transit on all local and regional public transit throughout Germany); when it would start (May 1); to where to buy it (any local transit agency, Deutsche Bahn, or other authorized online outlets—more on that later!); whether you could take kids or pets along for free (no, unless the local transit agencies allow it); to whether you could buy it as a tourist without a German bank account (yes, but only from certain vendors).
Hint: This very useful Wiki linked on the r/Germany subReddit really will tell you most things you need to know about purchasing the Deutschland ticket.)
None of the articles highlighted what I think are three important points that many people will need to know.
- You have to order by the 20th of the month to get the Deutschland ticket for the following month. This is true no matter where you get it. I know several people who ordered from different outlets claiming that they would be able to use it in May, even if they ordered it May. But when they got the ticket, the validity date was listed as June 1.
Our local transit agency, BVG, is very upfront about this on their website, which led me to think that this was a policy that was unique to them. But, as I later discovered, none of the vendors will sell you a mobile ticket (a ticket available on an app) that will be valid the same month you buy it.
- Online outlets like Deutschlandticket.de that are authorized to offer the ticket may be woefully unprepared to provide appropriate customer support for the large number of orders they have gotten. And, you can get stuck without a ticket and waiting in an endless email queue for someone to explain why their app doesn’t work, and why the ticket that you ordered is not available. You will be better off going with your local transit agency or Deutsche Bahn or a vendor who has a known track record.
- Ticket holders under the age of 18 cannot get a mobile ticket. They, or, as in our case, their parents, must go to a customer service center for a local transit company and authorize the subscription and get a chip card ticket. Now, if we had known this ahead of time, it would have saved us a lot of time and stress and we would have had the 49-Euro tickets for our two kids a lot earlier.
Some background: My husband and I already had BVG subscriptions that covered travel in Berlin’s A+B zones. My younger child has a Schuler ticket that covers travel in A+B. My daughter, 15, attends a private secondary school in Brandenburg, outside Berlin, but in the BVG transit zone C. Although she is supposed to be eligible for a Schuler ticket that would cover part of her daily transit to school (she would still need a daily extension ticket to get all the way to the school). We were never able to successfully obtain the Schuler ticket for her, though, despite applying twice.
Early on in the runup to the launch of the Deutschland ticket, BVG notified my husband and I that we could convert our existing subscriptions to the Berlin 29-Euro ticket to the Deutschland ticket. With the 29-Euro subscription set to expire, the normal cost of the monthly A+B ticket would be around 65 euros. This lets us go farther for less money.
Our conversion went off without a hitch, but we ended up waiting too late in April to try to purchase the tickets for the kids.
For the record, we often need to travel to the outerlying areas in Zone C, and our family travels a lot in Germany and it makes sense for all of us – including the kids – to have the ticket. For example, buying a monthly ticket covering Berlin zones A, B and C for my daughter would be more than 80 euros per month. The 49-Euro ticket is cheaper and she can travel on local transit all over Germany in addition to just getting to school every day.
After realizing the earliest we could get them a new Deutschland ticket with BVG would be for a June 1 start date, we looked around to see if anyone was still offering the option to buy it for traveling in May. Keep in mind that this was still at the end of April when we were looking.
Enter the website Deutschlandticket.de, which offered the Deutschland ticket as a mobile ticket transmitted by email, and allowed us to set up separate accounts for each kid, but use our bank account for the subscription. We set up the SEPA authorization with no issues and the web interface indicated that their tickets would be available beginning in May.
What I did not realize – because it was never stated upfront – was that we were supposed to respond to an automated email from TransDev (the company behind the Deutschlandticket.de website) within 24 hours to verify our email and activate the subscription. We did not check our email until the next day, and saw both a confirmation email of our order and the earlier email asking to verify the address.
Because it had been longer than 24 hours, we got an error message when trying to ‘verify’ our email address. However, we also had a later email from TransDev indicating they had our order and listed an order number. So, we figured it was verified.
We could also still log in to the website and see that they had our data and that the ticket was listed as “pre-ordered.”*
So, we wait through May 1 and see that the tickets are not active, but still in process on the website and the app. I send an email to their customer service and receive an automated response that they were receiving a high number of inquiries and would respond as soon as possible.
The next week came and went and still no response. After searching online and seeing others with the same experience, I read down into the website FAQs and found that the status of “pre-ordered” (Vorbestellt) really indicated that they were not able to verify our information and, thus, we had no active subscription with them at all.
We could, the website stated, send an email to customer service with the phrase ‘manual authorization’ in the subject line and ask that they again try to verify our email and start our subscription. Or we could try to register under a different email and start the process over. Remember, they have already stored our IBAN information for processing the monthly debit.
I got the same auto-response from their email system. They would get to my question as soon as possible. That was last week and I still have had no response to my first email. And, no, there’s no phone number or any way to get in touch with them.
I tried to log on to the website and delete our account and cancel the subscription to make sure we would not be charged if we went to another agency for the ticket – and because we have no active subscription, we can’t cancel or delete our information.
After going back to the BVG website and creating an account with one kid’s email so that he could get a ticket, I discover that we can’t use our bank account for his ticket or his sister’s – at least not online. We have to go in person to a BVG customer service center.
The same is true if you try to order through Deutsche Bahn.
And, I get it. It makes sense. But it would have so much easier if they had just said at the outset- if you want it for a minor, you have to go in person.
One bright spot – when we go wait in line to sign them up for the ticket, they get the chip card ticket on the spot, no waiting until June.
If we had only known!!
*This is, of course, all in German and I am translating.