Me and my fiancé are flying into Zurich this June, taking the train to Gimmelwald, and spending three days there before taking a train down to Venice, Italy. We are planning to do Jungfrau one day and schilthorn another, but I was not sure which pass to purchase! Should we get a Swiss half card pass or just the Bernese Oberland pass? Does the Swiss half card pass give us a discount for the train from Zurich to gimmelwald or the subsequent train to Venice?
The Half Fare card will give you the 50% discount on everything. As to the trip to Venice, you can buy a nonrefundable ticket now on-line at www.sbb.ch/en for a discount, and you get a little off with the Half Fare Card. You don't need the card right now to buy that ticket, but you will have to have the Half Fare card when you travel so the conductor knows you paid the right fare.
The HFC discounts any kind of travel by 50% any where in the country. It's usually the most economical choice and it pays for itself provided you plan to spend at least 240 SF in full-fare tickets (the cost of the HFC is 120 SF). The savings from the mountain excursions alone will pay for the HFC.
The B.O. Pass and its nationwide equivalent, the Swiss Travel Pass, are a bit more expensive than the HFC but they offer the convenience of not having to buy tickets (except for the peaks). These passes act as your tickets, whereas you'd still have to buy a ticket using the HFC. Not a big deal but it's a convenience.
Ah, the perpetual Swiss travel question!
If you absolutely have to have the best deal, you have to do the math, by listing all the trips you know you are taking and all the trips you think you will be taking, then pricing them with the Half Fare Card vs. the Swiss Pass vs. the Berner Oberland Pass. If you don't want to do that (or can't easily do it because you're not sure of your itinerary), then just get the Half Fare Card. It gets you 50% off everything that moves in the entire country, including the Jungfraujoch (only 25% off with most other passes). Since it costs 120 CHF, if you're spending more than 240 CHF, you can't lose. The Jungfraujoch, plus your trains from Zurich airport to Gimmelwald and from Gimmelwald to the Italian border, mean you've already gotten you're money's worth from the Half Fare Card.
One factor against the Swiss Pass for you, is that you are not going to be in cities with museums. The Swiss Pass is also a museum pass, and this gave me added value in Luzern and Lausanne, but you won't be taking advantage of this. Another factor is convenience. I was in the country 10 nights, and so had lots of fully covered trips; for these, you don't need to buy tickets, but just flash your pass. However, for anything not fully covered, such as the Schilthorn, the Allmendhubel, and the Jungfraujoch, you have to buy tickets with either the Swiss Pass or the Half Fare Card. Since you'll only be going to Gimmelwald, traveling around the Berner Oberland, and then going to Italy, a greater percentage of your trips will not be fully covered - meaning you buy tickets no matter what kind of pass you have. Ticket machines always have a half fare option.