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Introducing the next stop for Amtrak Guest Rewards

Introducing the next stop for Amtrak Guest Rewards

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Old Feb 16, 17, 5:08 am   -   Wikipost
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Changes to Amtrak Guest Rewards in 2016

Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) underwent numerous changes beginning on January 24, 2016. This wiki attempts to provide a summary of those changes (and Amtrak's ongoing unannounced revisions of the rules). For additional details, see the Amtrak website.

Table of Contents

Earning Status
As in the past, members earn Tier Qualifying Points (TQP) for paid travel at the rate of 2 TQP per dollar. With the 2016 changes, however, AGR has eliminated
  • the 100 TQP minimum (so fares under $50 earn fewer TQP), and
  • the Acela "select city pairs" TQP minimums for Business class (formerly 500 TQP) and First class (formerly 750 TQP); see post #83
In addition, AGR now provides new class-of-service TQP bonuses: 25% for qualifying travel in Business class and 50% for qualifying travel in Acela First class. (As noted below, passengers will also earn redeemable AGR points in the same amount.)

The number of TQP required to earn status remains the same:
  • Select - 5,000 TQP
  • Select Plus - 10,000 TQP
  • Select Executive - 20,000 TQP
Benefits for each status level, including the Tier Bonus on cash fares (see below), remain the same.
Earning AGR Points Redeemable for Travel
Members continue to earn redeemable AGR points for paid travel (except as discussed below in this section) at the rate of 2 points per dollar, plus a new 25% point bonus for qualifying travel in Business class and 50% for qualifying travel in Acela First class. Sleeper-car tickets do not earn a bonus.

With the 2016 changes, however, AGR eliminates
  • the 100 point minimum (so fares under $50 earn fewer points), and
  • the Acela "select city pairs" minimums for Business class (previously 500 points) and First class (previously 750 points)
In addition to base points, members with status continue to earn Tier Bonus redeemable AGR points (i.e., not TQP) at the same level as in 2015:
  • Select - 25%
  • Select Plus - 50%
  • Select Executive - 100%
As was the case before, members do not earn points for Amtrak 7000-series Thruway services or the Canadian portion of joint Amtrak/VIA Rail Canada services.
Redeeming for Travel
For 2016, redemption rules have changed drastically. AGR has discontinued its fixed-point awards and zone system, transitioning instead to a revenue-based system. Under the new program, the points required for an award ticket--including multi-ride tickets and monthly passes--are, with some exceptions noted below, proportional to the cash price of the ticket.

In general, an AGR point is worth roughly 2.9 cents for non-Acela travel and 2.56 cents for Acela. (For example, 5,141 points are redeemable for a WAS-NYP regional one-way $149 ticket.) However, several new restrictions result in a lower yield for award redemptions:
  • Minimum award pricing: Regardless of the cash fare, a non-Acela award ticket costs a minimum of 800 AGR points. As a result, using AGR points for such tickets with a cash price under $24 (e.g., LNC-PHL or BWI-WAS) results in lower yields.

    Acela award tickets cost a minimum of 4,000 points. Using AGR points for Acela tickets costing less than $103 results in lower yields.

  • No redemption for Saver awards: Per AGR's FT representative, members cannot redeem points for tickets at the least-expensive Saver rate. For instance, even if a $52 Saver WAS-NYP cash fare is available, points can be used only to purchase tickets at the equivalent of an $86 Value fare or higher (resulting in a yield of 1.75 cents/point at best).

  • Peak travel dates/times: As discussed below under "Blackout Dates," Amtrak has quietly introduced a "peak travel" penalty in which certain high-demand itineraries (not published in advance) will cost 50% or even 100% more points than would normally correspond to the available cash fare.

  • Most discount fares inapplicable: Under the 2016 program, AGR points are redeemable for tickets based only on the Adult or Child price, and not at the equivalent of Senior, AAA, or other discounted fares. (See post #83.)

  • As was the case before, members may not redeem points for Amtrak 7000-series Thruway services or the Canadian portion of joint Amtrak/VIA Rail Canada services.
Note: Reward tickets booked before 1/24/16 are subject to the new redemption policy if modified or canceled on or after that date.

Redemption options: With the 2016 changes, AGR members are able to redeem points for multi-ride tickets or monthly passes as well as standard one-way & round-trip tickets.

Sleeper-car travel: The number of points required for sleeper-car travel is calculated using the prevailing fare, which reflects the actual number of passengers occupying the room. Amtrak assesses a single accommodation charge for the room, plus one adult/child rail fare per occupant.

Auto Train travel: Members are able to redeem points for Auto Train travel using the same process as for other itineraries. Vehicle(s) are priced the same as other portions of the itinerary per standard Amtrak Auto Train policies. Priority Vehicle Offloading may not be redeemed using points.

Credit card rebate: Holders of either new Bank of America co-branded credit card (see below) receive a 5% points rebates on Amtrak award tickets. This is the same as the benefit offered by the recently discontinued Chase card.

Blackout dates eliminated: On the plus side, AGR will eliminate award redemption blackout dates and Acela time-of-day restrictions. When the 2016 changes were announced, AGR claimed that blackout dates were being eliminated. As of January 24, 2016, the AGR website still makes that claim. Unfortunately, it is a lie.

On January 24--the day the new program changes took effect--AGR Insider posted new information making clear that the blackout-date policy has not been abandoned:
you may find limited availability on peak travel dates or times and it is possible that not every seat will be available for redemption. When redeeming points for trips during peak travel dates and times, some itineraries may be available only to our Select Plus and Select Executive members.
Amtrak quietly added similar language to the website in early February 2016. The website also indicates that the point costs for "peak travel" dates and times may be increased in addition to any increase resulting resulting from a higher cash fare. To date, additional points costs of 50% and 100% have been observed on certain itineraries.

Under the old program rules, AGR published an advance list of blackout dates. AGR has provided no public information specifying the "peak travel dates or times" when general members are charged additional points or blacked out entirely from redeeming for travel.

Cancellation penalties: Canceling or modifying a standard ticket incurs an automatic 10% penalty. Doing so less than 24 hours in advance for non-sleeper tickets (or 14 days for sleeper-car travel) results in a "close-in" penalty of an additional 10% (i.e., a total penalty of 20%) for most travelers; however, this additional 10%/close-in penalty does not apply to Select Executive members.

No-shows result in 100% forfeiture for the missed segment, as well as cancellation and forfeiture for any later segments on the same itinerary. (As a result, it is less risky to book round-trip travel as two separate one-way tickets and, where possible, to book passengers individually rather than on a single shared ticket.)

For multiple-segment tickets, you can cancel the remainder even after travel begins. Thus, on a round-trip ticket you can cancel the return leg even if you have already begun the outbound leg.
CAUTION: The new policy is worded to imply that reservation "modification" and "cancellation" are treated differently. A "modification" ostensibly triggers a penalty only of "any fare difference returned to member," implying that changing to a more expensive fare should involve no penalty and changing to a less expensive fare should be subject to a penalty only on the refunded points difference.

Unfortunately, there are now multiple reports that there is no difference in practice: AGR is treating any change as a full cancellation and rebooking, and penalizing accordingly. This includes asking to be rebooked in a different room on the same train (at the same price), changing dates, or altering routing. It is unclear how the new policy will be applied to travel affected by service disruptions such as weather-related train cancellations.
For complete details on the 2016 change rules, including the special rules for multi-ride tickets and monthly passes, see the AGR website.

Points & cash redemption: AGR has indicated that a points+cash redemption option will be introduced in 2016. No details are available, and it is unclear how this will work with respect to earning TQP and redeemable points.
Points Expiration
AGR altered its expiration policy, which previously required paid travel once every 36 months. Effective August 27, 2015, any points-earning or redemption activity will reset the 36-month clock.

As today, AGR MasterCard cardholders' points will not expire as long as their credit card accounts are open. AGR has moved its co-branded credit card relationship to Bank of America, which now offers two different versions of the card, including one with no annual fee. All Chase AGR MasterCards were converted to Chase Freedom cards on September 30, 2015.
Post-Rollout Issues/Unknowns
  • Class-of-service bonuses have been posting initially as non-TQPs, although subsequent data points suggest there is currently a delay of ~12 days in proper crediting.
  • Agents have claimed that any change incurs the 10/20% penalty (up to and including asking for a changed room assignment) on the full value of the ticket, rather than just anything involving a reduction in price being penalized 10/20% on the changed portion

It remains unclear whether these are merely IT errors or unannounced program devaluations, particularly as in some cases the contradict explicitly stated terms and conditions.
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Old Feb 21, 18, 9:59 pm
  #511  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: NYC
Programs: Delta Platinum, United Silver, Hyatt Globalist, Bonvoy Titanium / LTG, Amtrak Select Executive
Posts: 656
Originally Posted by jackal View Post
I got a Select card yesterday. I was totally confused for a few minutes until I looked in my account online and realized I had spent way too much money on the AGR MasterCard last year. Each $5K of spend gets you 1K AGR Tier Qualify Points. So $25K spend gets you Select (without doing anything else).

Since each Amtrak point is worth almost double what most other airlines' points are worth, the AGR card has quickly become my primary card for unbonused spend as well as travel spend (2x AGR points = about 5% effective cashback). That had the side effect of making me earn Select, even though I've moved to a location where it'll be relatively useless...
One minor correction. According to the T&Cs (https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit...rue&format=ccr), you can earn up to 4k TQPs a year.

"Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs): This benefit applies to Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® cardholders only. The Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard® has different costs and benefits. Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) are used to track and calculate Amtrak Guest Rewards tier status. Cardholders can earn TQPs in increments of 1,000 points for every $5,000 in eligible Net Purchases on the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, up to 4,000 TQPs within a single calendar year. "

@jackal - I assume you probably earned 1k TQPs last year, but if not and you earned select solely via spend, that's a very interesting data point
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Old Feb 21, 18, 11:22 pm
  #512  
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Originally Posted by uppereastsider View Post
One minor correction. According to the T&Cs (https://www.bankofamerica.com/credit-cards/terms-and-conditions/?campaignid=4016565&productoffercode=BH&locale=en_ US&isMobile=true&format=ccr), you can earn up to 4k TQPs a year.

"Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs): This benefit applies to Amtrak Guest Rewards® World Mastercard® cardholders only. The Amtrak Guest Rewards® Platinum Mastercard® has different costs and benefits. Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) are used to track and calculate Amtrak Guest Rewards tier status. Cardholders can earn TQPs in increments of 1,000 points for every $5,000 in eligible Net Purchases on the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard, up to 4,000 TQPs within a single calendar year. "

@jackal - I assume you probably earned 1k TQPs last year, but if not and you earned select solely via spend, that's a very interesting data point
I honestly didn't know and had to check. I didn't think I'd spent more than maybe a couple hundred bucks on Amtrak tickets, most of which would have been redemptions, but wow, I guess I spent $476 on tickets and earned quite a few extra points with the Double Days promo and a couple of business-class tickets for a total of 1,105 non-CC-related points. I forgot about the long-distance trip I did (ORL-PGH--yes, in coach--with a detour to RNK to catch the inaugural RNK-WAS train), which was a couple hundred bucks in its own right.

I did get four of the 1K TQP bonuses. I have no idea how much over $20K I spent on the card last year.
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Old Mar 18, 18, 11:42 am
  #513  
 
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 113
Angry

Originally Posted by jackal View Post
I got a Select card yesterday. I was totally confused for a few minutes until I looked in my account online and realized I had spent way too much money on the AGR MasterCard last year. Each $5K of spend gets you 1K AGR Tier Qualify Points. So $25K spend gets you Select (without doing anything else).

Since each Amtrak point is worth almost double what most other airlines' points are worth, the AGR card has quickly become my primary card for unbonused spend as well as travel spend (2x AGR points = about 5% effective cashback). That had the side effect of making me earn Select, even though I've moved to a location where it'll be relatively useless...
I'm not riding on Amtrak. So I guess I can't be select. Why can't I transfer my points to Hilton? What is the big deal? Do they really think this is making me LIKE AGR more? I should be able to redeem however I want. I'm going to dump this cradit card. I will use up my points first.
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Old Nov 21, 18, 9:39 am
  #514  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: BOS/PSC - bicoastal at the moment
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Posts: 1,300
All trains on the NEC today listed as "No Price" despite being a select member and having revenue tickets available. Very frustrating. I've been burning my points on last minute BOS-NLC tickets for work and there is only 1 train sold out, the rest won't let me use points.

Amtrak really should stop advertising "no blackout dates" on their new rewards program.
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Old May 14, 19, 10:11 am
  #515  
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I searched for an answer to this question both on this forum and in the AGR T&Cs, but haven't yet found an answer: Do "pending points" from a Points for Shopping transaction prevent one's existing points from expiring? Of course, once the pending points are "approved," they will obviously count as a transaction that will prevent expiration (under the current T&Cs). But what happens if the existing points in the account expire before the transaction is approved? Do I have to contact AGR and beg for reinstatement of points?
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