“Cashless happy.” “Load up, drive off.” “Our motto: hold on.” The marketing experts at Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) have again made an effort. Loud advertising is obviously necessary. Because the new prepaid card, for which these slogans advertise, is not exactly being snatched from the BVG’s hands – to put it in a friendly way. “Since the start of sales on October 4, our customer centers have issued slightly more than 400 BVG prepaid cards,” BVG spokesman Jannes Schwentu told the Berliner Zeitung on request. How user-friendly is the rechargeable chip card that is now being advertised again?
Buying a ticket with cash on the bus: this has not been possible in Berlin for a long time. When the first corona wave began to pile up in March 2020, the BVG closed the front bus doors for passengers and thus also ended all ticket sales. It has been possible to get on at the front again since July, but tickets are now only available contactless on all buses – with girocard, credit card, smartphone or smartwatch. The end of coins and bills on the bus is not just part of the concept of protecting staff from Corona. It also follows the country company’s strategy of reducing the expensive handling of cash.
Not every Berliner has plastic money or a smartphone
However, not all Berliners have plastic money, and there are still gaps in smartphone ownership. Therefore, the Senate called for another payment option. It has been available since the beginning of October – in the form of the electronic BVG credit card. The rechargeable, non-personalized chip ticket, which must be held at the driver’s sales terminal on the bus, is available free of charge in the nine BVG customer centers. Partners are the Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen, or Helaba for short, and EPay.
Peter Cornelius, Berlin’s state chairman of the Pro Bahn passenger association, got one of the yellow cards. It was handed over to the customer in the BVG headquarters on Holzmarktstrasse without any problems. “On this occasion I wanted to top it up with 20 euros. That took a while, apparently it was very difficult to arm the card. ”But in the end it worked.
For example, for guests who are out and about in Berlin
Personal data is not stored on the card, it can be used anonymously and can be transferred as required, says Cornelius. “I bought it mainly for guests.” The card number and the security PIN, which the owner has to scratch off, are not linked to a name. Both numbers are needed if you want to know how much money is still on the card. Queries can be made online, by phone or in the BVG call center, reported the Pro-Bahn boss. The numbers are also requested if a card is lost and should be blocked.
When Peter Cornelius tried to add more money to the prepaid card from his computer at home, he received a server error. “At the same time, my PayPal account was debited,” he says. The problem was cleared up with a phone call – and it became clear that the amount had been credited.
The tests on the bus failed without any problems. “On line 120, I used the prepaid card to buy single tickets for three euros. That went without any difficulties, ”says Cornelius. One drawback, however, is that the bus driver cannot determine how high the credit is.
So far, the BVG has sold 433 prepaid cards in the nine customer centers, the Pro-Bahn regional chairman learned a few days ago. They were loaded with a total of around 10,000 euros, one third of which was by card and two thirds in cash. From this it can be seen that the desire to top up the card with cash is not as high as is sometimes assumed, according to the company. A total of around 500 cards of this type were used in the bus to buy tickets.
In future also in lottery shops and travel markets
A little more than 400 cards – is that a lot or a little? The fact that no more prepaid cards have been issued could have something to do with the fact that they are currently only available in customer centers and can only be used as a means of payment on the bus, explained BVG spokesman Jannes Schwentu. But changes are in sight in these areas. The state company plans to expand its sales network to 500 additional sales outlets across the city soon – probably in November.
Lotto Berlin shops as well as kiosks and travel markets are to be added as issuing points. In spring 2022, prepaid cards could then also be topped up at all BVG ticket machines, it said.