My wife and I are going to Germany in July. In the past it always made sense for us to buy a German RailPass. This year our trips will be shorter so we're thinking about a BahnCard. We can get one for €25 that will save us 25% on tickets. Is anyone here familiar with these cards? Do we need to be a German Resident? And how much ahead of time do we have to buy our tickets?
I'm not sure if you need a German residence (I think you do), but also realize that this is a yearly subscription that automatically renews unless you cancel it. You must submit an application and a passport photo, so if it is available to non-residents, plan on mailing your application several weeks in advanced.
I bought a Bahn card before a trip to Germany, so, yes, you do not have to be German, or European, to get them. Check the terms. The one I got was a "special introductory rate" of €25 for 3 or 4 months, beginning on the date of purchase. It had an automatic renewal clause for a year, at a steeper rate, if you didn't opt out before expiration. I tried and was unsuccessful at opting out after my trip, but I was never charged for a renewal either. They sent me a temporary card by email. I didn't get the Card in the mail before I left home (long story) but I showed the print-out and conductors never questioned it. I'm fuzzy on details, but I know I had to show the Card with my ticket whenever it was checked, maybe the credit card I used for the purchase as well.
I bought my tickets online ahead of time. Except for a few struggles with the bahn.de website until I figured it out, I had no trouble buying tickets in advance. I got the additional 25% off the "savings fares." So it's a good idea to buy early to save much more.