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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 Aug 27, 15, 6:56 am
  #1  
Company Representative - Amtrak
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Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Washington, DC
Programs: Amtrak Guest Rewards (Select Executive)
Posts: 528
Thumbs up Introducing the next stop for Amtrak Guest Rewards

I am pleased to announce the new Amtrak Guest Rewards program, effective January 24, 2016.

https://www.amtrakguestrewards.com/RideOn

We have heard all of your suggestions for making the program easier, more consistent, and more relevant across the entire Amtrak system. In return, we have made a significant investment in our reservations and ticketing technologies to provide you with a simpler redemption travel experience with better self-service capability, and opportunities to earn more and redeem sooner -- with free travel starting at 4000 points on Acela and starting at just 800 points on other Amtrak services. Gone is the zone map which made the program extremely difficult to understand, automate, and execute. And in many markets and on many services, all possible price points will result in less expensive redemptions than the program currently offers.

We are very excited for the future of AGR, and we're equally just as proud of how far we've come in the last 15 years. Thank you very much for your loyalty to Amtrak. I will monitor this thread for questions and look forward to an open dialogue.


Anthony Rizos
Director, Member Experience Solutions
Amtrak
Washington, D.C.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 7:25 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: WAS
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Will Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards cards continue to provide a 5% points rebate on Amtrak Guest Rewards bookings?
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Old Aug 27, 15, 7:25 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
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Thanks for the update Anthony!

I only use my AGR points for one thing... the 5 pack of one class upgrades. Can you confirm they will be part of the 2016 program?
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Old Aug 27, 15, 7:35 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Originally Posted by uppereastsider View Post
Thanks for the update Anthony!

I only use my AGR points for one thing... the 5 pack of one class upgrades. Can you confirm they will be part of the 2016 program?
+1. Was kind of distressing to see no mention of the upgrade coupons.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:04 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Doesn't seem all that bad for the NE corridor considering the worst was expected. The website is very fickle currently as it keeps going down so I couldn't do detail comparisons but it seems that Regional will cost 34.5 points per dollar and the Acela will cost 40 points per dollar. Also the points per dollar seems to decrease on Acelas as the cost gets higher.

Last edited by MrChu; Sep 1, 15 at 7:06 pm
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:23 am
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Big thumbs down for removing the 100-point earning minimum. Having a redemption minimum but no earning minimum seems very one-sided.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:30 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Aggravating that modifications and cancellations to reward tickets incur a 10% points penalty.

BUT if the estimator is correct, my Northeast Zone ticket redemptions will be getting a lot cheaper. That is a major plus.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:32 am
  #8  
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The point estimator shows how just big a devaluation this can be for what is today a $2500 paid ticket or 25,000-point 1-zone sleeper award: new cost is 86,250 points.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:40 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: CT/NYC Tri-state
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Big win for me in the Northeast on Springfield regionals New Haven to Boston Travel & Vermonter

Bad news for vacation travel out west. using miles and points will we be able to use 5 class upgrades on Acela $108 Stamford - Boston for business is a great deal for the city pairs. Will the 500 point city pairs go away?
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:41 am
  #10  
 
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Did I miss something or is the 500 min points/Acela biz and 750 min points/Acela first gone? Under the current program, 10 round-trips on Acela biz gets Select+. If the minima are gone, it will be double that or more depending on price.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:44 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Originally Posted by MrChu View Post
... it seems that Regional will cost 3.45 points per dollar and the Acela will cost 4 points per dollar. Also the points per dollar seems to decrease on Acelas as the cost gets higher.
You mean the regional will cost 34.5 points per dollar, and the Acela will be 40 (seems to go down to 39 over $100).

Today a regional one way in the NE Corr costs 4,000 points.
After 1/24/16, if your ticket would have cost $116 it will be 4,002 points.
If it would cost more, it will cost you more points; less it will be less.
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:44 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Originally Posted by Mr. BoH View Post
Big thumbs down for removing the 100-point earning minimum. Having a redemption minimum but no earning minimum seems very one-sided.
Agree but how many routes cost less than $40 bucks which yields 80 points. It does take away from folks who do status runs!
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:47 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Originally Posted by takeAflyer View Post
You mean it will cost 34.5 points per dollar, right?

Today a regional one way in the NE Corr costs 4,000 points.
After 1/24/16, if your ticket would have cost $116 it will be 4,002 points.
If it would cost more, it will cost you more points; less it will be less.
Sorry bad math...you are correct
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Old Aug 27, 15, 8:52 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Originally Posted by MrChu View Post
Agree but how many routes cost less than $40 bucks which yields 80 points. It does take away from folks who do status runs!
I have flown out of MKE a couple of times to get a cheaper flight after a trip to Chicago. The Amtrak straight to the airport is only a half hour longer than the train to ORD, and costs about $15. It was nice to get the 100 points on that run!
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Old Aug 27, 15, 9:33 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2009
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Originally Posted by AGR Insider View Post
Gone is the zone map which made the program extremely difficult to understand, automate, and execute.
While I can't know about the "automate" aspect of it, I find it hard to believe that many AGR members found the zone system "extremely difficult to understand".

One significant devaluation, in my eyes, (in addition to the points increases in many cases) is a variety of points penalties for modification and cancelation of reward bookings.

Last edited by 84fiero; Aug 27, 15 at 9:40 am
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