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Amtrak devaluing points for Thanksgiving travel?

Amtrak devaluing points for Thanksgiving travel?

Old Sep 22, 19, 11:09 pm
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Amtrak devaluing points for Thanksgiving travel?

I have a kid in school and having her take a Northeast Corridor train to visit family for Thanksgiving seems like a no-brainer. The fares at Thanksgiving seem sky-high to me -- like at almost a dollar a mile for coach -- but I guess Amtrak is being run more like a business these days. But what I found appalling is that Amtrak seems to be specifically devaluing Guest Rewards points for Thanksgiving travel to a penny a point from almost 3x that. So not only do you have to pay 2x the regular fare, you have to pay 3x that price to use points. It seems absolutely nuts and absolutely disrespectful to their loyal customers. Have they done this before? I assume what I'm seeing is not some sort of glitch.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 1:28 am
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This has been a “feature” of AGR since the program was revamped in 2016 (previously peak dates were blacked out for non-elites). See the Blackout Dates section of the wiki on this post: Introducing the next stop for Amtrak Guest Rewards
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Old Sep 23, 19, 6:28 am
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Originally Posted by tonei View Post
This has been a “feature” of AGR since the program was revamped in 2016 (previously peak dates were blacked out for non-elites). See the Blackout Dates section of the wiki on this post: Introducing the next stop for Amtrak Guest Rewards
Thanks -- I found the sticky, although your direct link did not work.

The sticky says the number of points can be increased by up to 100 percent. I'm seeing almost 300%. I think this is absolutely disgraceful. In a revenue-based system, the redemption rate should never change on a fare class, yet alone by 300%!
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Old Sep 23, 19, 7:02 am
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It's simply a closed loop currency. Demand up = price up.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 8:37 am
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
It's simply a closed loop currency. Demand up = price up.
Actually, it's simply a management decision to fleece its customers at peak times by making their points less valuable. It would be like an airline charging 100,000 miles for a one way domestic ticket during Thanksgiving week. It's evil, but so little attention is paid to this program that I guess they think they can get away with it. Heck, they might even not realize how evil they're being.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 8:55 am
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I would recommend trying to make a booking on the Android/iOS app to see if there is a discrepancy in the number of points required.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 10:27 am
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Makes more sense to me than the way they just devalue points if you want to book the Acela. No idea why redemption rate should change based on the train.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 10:42 am
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yikes I've been running the numbers. Normally a point is worth 2.9 cents on a regular train and 1.7 cents on Acela. Thanksgiving weekend on regionals it's ranging between 1.4 cents and 1 for regionals.
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Old Sep 23, 19, 11:39 am
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
Actually, it's simply a management decision to fleece its customers at peak times by making their points less valuable. It would be like an airline charging 100,000 miles for a one way domestic ticket during Thanksgiving week. It's evil, but so little attention is paid to this program that I guess they think they can get away with it. Heck, they might even not realize how evil they're being.
Would it be less evil if airlines and Amtrak went back to blacking out specific dates for redemptions???
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Old Sep 24, 19, 6:14 am
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seat38a I think there's a case that doing so is more straightforward. Trying to sort out whether blackouts (or other inventory controls) make more sense than this is a fun debate.

As to the bit about the Acela, there's actually a very blunt logic to that:
-First, Amtrak functionally offers extra points for paid reservations on the Acela (25%/50% depending on class-of-service), so boosting the underlying points cost isn't absurdly out-of-line.
-Second, there's a clear attempt to incentivize the business-heavy Acela crowd to either pay cash on their expense account and/or to burn points for upgrade cards (getting 5 upgrade cards for 10k-points and then converting Acela Business to Acela First on WAS-NYP generally represents a net value of about $750 for the 10k points, so it is a sweet spot for the expense account brigade...though even for some other trips where the coach and business class prices don't move in concert it can be a decent deal if the coach fare is far cheaper than the Business Class fare).

A note, by the way: I'm Select Executive (I have been for years). For the Acelas on Thanksgiving Wednesday, I'm "only" showing 78 points per dollar (i.e. a 2:1 penalty) instead of the 117 points per dollar when I'm logged in.

Last edited by GrayAnderson; Sep 24, 19 at 7:12 am
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Old Sep 24, 19, 9:25 am
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Originally Posted by GrayAnderson View Post
A note, by the way: I'm Select Executive (I have been for years). For the Acelas on Thanksgiving Wednesday, I'm "only" showing 78 points per dollar (i.e. a 2:1 penalty) instead of the 117 points per dollar when I'm logged in.
As mentioned above, I would recommend booking via the Amtrak app to see if you can get a better points per dollar ratio. (hint, hint...)
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Old Sep 24, 19, 9:48 am
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
Actually, it's simply a management decision to fleece its customers at peak times by making their points less valuable. It would be like an airline charging 100,000 miles for a one way domestic ticket during Thanksgiving week. It's evil, but so little attention is paid to this program that I guess they think they can get away with it. Heck, they might even not realize how evil they're being.
If you strike the word, "fleece" you are correct. Demand up = price up. Similarly, in the middle of winter on a mid-day, midweek Regional, there might be a better deal.

The time to grab scarce well-priced seats was a good while ago.
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Old Sep 24, 19, 10:07 am
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The issue isn't that they are charging more, rather that they are disproportionately charging more to customers using AGR points. If prices for both cash and points went up at the same rate this wouldn't be an issue.
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Old Sep 24, 19, 11:07 am
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Originally Posted by danib62 View Post
The issue isn't that they are charging more, rather that they are disproportionately charging more to customers using AGR points. If prices for both cash and points went up at the same rate this wouldn't be an issue.
That is exactly what dynamic pricing is about in this day and age.

When Amtrak (or other service providers such as air carriers) can sell tickets for cash, they price awards at a disproportionately high level in order to encourage the cash purchases. It is simply a less black and white version of blacking out peak travel times for award travel. E.g., you may still purchase the ticket, but it won't be cheap.
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Old Sep 24, 19, 11:20 am
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And just like blackouts infuriate customers so does this, except this is a little more insidious because unless you’re attuned to point valuations (which the average consumer isn’t) you won’t even necessarily realize what is going on.
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