They don't care that I've sent them letters and emails telling them I've moved to the US, but instead have sent my bill for the never requested card to Universum Inkasso (a collection agency), so it just keeps getting more expensive. Well, I'll pay it now, because I feel harassed and like it is decreasing the quality of my life even though it feels like a scam (I missed the deadline to inform them I didn't want to renew because I understood you could only cancel it 6 weeks before the card expired...like right, if I move to the US 7 months before the card I bought expires, I'll be able to remember I have to send a letter in February or whatever). Their letter informing me of the automatic renewal reached me in the US after the deadline for canceling the card.
So I'll pay it, but their behavior is certainly one way to lose a customer. And I really loved travelling by Bahn.
Feels like a sect you can't get out of. I wonder if there is some consumer advocacy agency in Germany one can go to to inform them of forced membership renewals you can't be released from. At this point, my nerves are shot, so I'll just pay, but that doesn't seem right.
(June 9: I've been told of a link to a German site created by a person interested in a group complaint--http://bahncard-betrug.blogspot.com/)
U.S. has Germany beat head over heels in customer service.
In the meantime, someone told me you can cancel your BahnCard online as soon as you don't need it (leave the country, for example). Wish I knew about that beforehand, but hindsight is always 20:20.
I found a cancellation letter template elsewhere if you want to cancel in writing.
Of course none of this helps if you missed the cancellation deadline (6 weeks before expiry).
Afterword: Although I paid the collection agency to avoid additional fees, I sent one more letter (5/25/10) to Deutsche Bahn explaining the situation with copies of my lease and flight information to show I have been out of the country for a year, and today (7/26/10) I found out that DB reimbursed me for the entire amount. Hurray! So, do not despair, pay your fees, but do write DB and request their understanding re: reimbursing you for a card they automatically renewed, but you cannot use.
I sent my letter (the one that resulted in eventual reimbursement) to the following Deutsche Bahn address: DB Fernverkehr AG, BahnCard-Service, 60643 Frankfurt am Main.
On person wrote that his/her email to firstname.lastname@example.org resulted in the charges being dropped. When I wrote this address, I just kept getting a form letter in return.
For all the people in similar situations, who seem to have found my family blog, good luck!