Rate Amtrak Guest Rewards

Discussion in 'Amtrak | Guest Rewards' started by Darcie, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. Darcie
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    Darcie Silver Member

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    InsideFlyer magazine is reviewing Amtrak Guest Rewards in our April issue and would like your input.

    If you would like to participate, please post your response in the thread with the pros and cons of membership in Guest Rewards and grade the program from A to F (A being the highest grade). You can include a plus or minus with the rating.

    You can also respond directly to the editors at InsideFlyer at dmankell@insideflyer.com if you would prefer.

    Thank you.
    sobore likes this.
  2. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Too many changes have been made to the program without notice over time, so I simply don't trust them.

    If you're gonna ride the train anyway, might as well earn points from it. But there's few aspirational award opportunities, and earn rate is poor.

    upgrade and sobore like this.
  3. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    As I was looking at their program I was surprised to see just how much activity was needed to earn anything of value. The earn rate at Amtrak needs to be seriously re-vamped to make their program have any value.
    upgrade likes this.
  4. upgrade

    upgrade Gold Member

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    In general, I agree with the comments above. Obvious knocks against the program are
    • The relatively low return on paid travel.
    • The fact that redemption options are shrinking over time, not growing. (Once upon a time, it was possible to transfer points in 5,000-pt increments to UA without any drama. That option went away entirely. In recent years it was possible to transfer to CO, but only if you had Amtrak status and/or a minimum annual spend on the affiliated Chase credit card. Even that is now unavailable, although it seems to be a temporary state until the new UACO program rules are finalized/in place; when transfers to UACO come back, they will undoubtedly still be restricted.)
    • As Gary observes, Amtrak made a number of changes in past years with zero advance notice (such as yanking UA transfers).
    To be fair, there are upsides:
    • The Chase card has no fee, and has pretty frequent promotions for earning bonus points. Late last year, I got offers for 2x and 3x points on all purchases over specified periods.
    • Travel reward availability -- at least on the NE Corridor, where I live -- is excellent outside of the blackout dates.
    • The yield on redemptions can be very, very good -- well over 5 cents/point -- in certain cases. This is especially true when booking last-minute travel, as close-in cash fares are often double or triple the fares available a month out.
    • Amtrak has made real strides in improving its IT (although the bar was pretty low to begin with). Redeeming points for travel used to require a phone call or station visit; couldn't be done on weekends(!); and IIRC had to be done 48 hours or so in advance. Their system now allows for painless, instant online award ticketing, with the huge caveat that if your travel requires changing trains -- say, DC to Albany -- then you still have to call! (At least the phone hours are better.) Airlines can manage online booking of connecting flights, so I'm not sure why Amtrak can't manage this.
    In the category of mixed good/bad news, the Amtrak award chart has been very stable over time. Unfortunately, the new chart announced for 4/1/12 has some rather big increases, e.g., O/W in the NE zone goes up 33% (3000 to 4000 points). Increases are a fact of life for all programs, so I feel sadly resigned about Amtrak's bump and not outraged. To Amtrak's credit, they gave conspicuous notice of these changes months in advance.

    Upon seeing this thread last night, I was inclined to give the grade that Gary posted not long afterward. I agree that AGR is worth it only if you already ride the train, or expect you might need to in the future. (See above re last-minute travel. For someone needing to go WAS-NYC in a hurry, being able to burn points instead of buying an expensive last-minute Amtrak or airline ticket is a real plus.) On further reflection, I'd award a slightly higher grade, either C or C+.
    jwsky and sobore like this.
  5. JohnnieD
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    JohnnieD Silver Member

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    AGR = no notice on major changes:mad:
  6. jwsky
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    jwsky Silver Member

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    They have screwed me a couple of times on unannounced changes.
    But, the credit card is free. And there are a few good ways to use the points even though they are devaluing them big time next month. Using points for a roomet or bedroom ticket can be a good deal, because it is for two people.

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