As of the first of the year, Amtrak Guest Rewards members will now earn Tier Qualifying Points toward status qualification. In the past, all qualifying points toward elite were mostly from rail travel only. With the new Tier Qualifying Points, members will be able to earn points toward tier status on paid rail travel as well as through various promotions. Look for promotions throughout the year to earn more Tier Qualifying Points.
Amtrak Guest Rewards is also introducing revisions to its award chart, effective April 1, 2012. There are 11 award categories that will be going up in points and the increases will be as few as 500 points and as much as 10,000 points. At the lower end, a coach class special route ticket will now be 1,500 points instead of 1,000 points and a business class special route ticket will be 2,000 points instead of 1,500 points. Coach class in the Northeast Zone will be 4,000 points from 3,000 points and a business class in the Northeast will be 7,500 points from 6,500 points.
The biggest increases will effect bedroom tickets. If you make award reservations that include a bedroom and travel across three zones, it will cost 60,000 points from 50,000 points. Two zones is jumping to 40,000 points from 30,000 points and travel across one zone will be 25,000 points from 20,000 points.
Bottom line: Amtrak award levels have not increased since January 2006 so it was time for the program to make changes. While most increases are modest, travelers who like to sleep in a bed when traveling by train across the country will see their points devalued the most with these changes. Sleeping sitting up might not be so bad after all.