I made a big mistake…don’t always assume you can use points to travel!

I made a big mistake yesterday, as I tried to get from my home in Washington DC to my parent’s home just north of Philadelphia.

I take this route quite a bit, and usually I use points from my Amtrak Guest Rewards account to cover the cost of the ticket, since ticket prices usually range in the $100-ish dollar range each-way, which is not worth it to pay, especially since I’m not aspiring to have Amtrak elite status. I’ve written before on the benefits of Amtrak points, and how you can save tremendously on tickets.

Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points

So, usually I redeem 4,500 points to travel on the Northeast Regional, and save over $100 each-way. I never really think about what train I’m going to take, and purchase the ticket online just moments before, not caring how much cash the ticket costs, since I’m using points to cover the whole cost.

So, yesterday, when I was just south of the Alexandria, VA train station, I logged onto Amtrak.com to purchase the ticket, only to be confronted with a message advising me I could not book the ticket because December 24th is a blackout date for using points.

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So, my plan of using points to cover my ticket wasn’t an option, and I was 5 minutes away from the train station, and 20 minutes away from the departure of the train. Luckily, I was able to look up departing trains on my phone and found a “reasonable” departure 2 hours later from Washington DC to Trenton, on the Acela Express. While it was an expense I wasn’t planning on, it’s a lesson be learned that for last minute travel, points can’t always be used. And, no matter how much you think you know “the system,” there’s always the chance you are going to forget something. Always have a backup plan, or, at the very least, know what your options are in case things go awry.

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  1. SMH says

    Oh Amtrak…I live in NY now, but am from DC. So, I am well versed in Amtrak travel. I love the $49 (now $53 one way fares with two weeks advanced purchase). Amtrak always blocks off around Thanksgiving and assume it does for all the holidays.
    It really sucks, but it is in the small print! This year I actually found a flight from JFK-DCA for way cheaper than Amtrak. (and FYI 2015 cheap fares for Thanksgiving are already gone)

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