The other day, Amtrak announced that their loyalty program, Amtrak Guest Rewards, was moving to a revenue based redemption system – whereby the necessary amount of points for the trip will correspond to the cash price of that same trip.
Many routes will go up in price, since the cash price of those routes tend to be higher, while other routes will go down in price. I think it’s worthwhile to note which routes you should redeem your points on prior to the devaluation, that way you’re getting more benefit out of the program now.
As a point of reference, these are the routes you should probably book prior to the devaluation date, but there are many routes which will improve in price. Keep that in mind when booking, and don’t use this as an end all, be all list.
In general, Northeast Region tickets tend to be over $100 when purchased last minute. If you purchase your tickets well in advance, you probably won’t categorize this as a route you should use your points on now, however I think for the majority of people, this route can be a killer when it comes to price. A $150 ticket will cost 5,175 points, so if you’re tickets tend to run high, get them now.
As Gary notes here, you cannot redeem points at the “saver” level cash price. They’ll start for redemption at the “value” level, which, for the purposes of this excesses is all the more reason to book your tickets now under the 4,000 point standard redemption rate.
If you’ve ever had aspirations to travel across the country, I highly suggest doing it once. A sample trip from Washington DC to Los Angeles, via Chicago runs about $1232 for a sample date in the future. Now, that trip will cost you 35,000 points. In January, expect to pay over 42,000 points. Now, of course this depends on the price of the trip, If you can find something cheaper, it may be worth holding out.
Long Distance Sleeper Service
In general, if there’s one redemption I can name that’s worthwhile to redeem now, it’s any long-distance sleeper car train. New York to Miami prices out at $535 for a random date in January, which equates to over 18,000 points under the new program, but just 15,000 points in the new program.
Acela Express First Class
For a random date in January, Washington to Boston was running $432 one-way in Acela Express First Class. In points now, that will cost you just 12,000. In January, that trip jumps to over 16,000.
- Find out what the “break even” point is using your points under the new system vs. the old system. Amtrak has a great calculator here. If you will lose under the new program, book your tickets now.
- Don’t assume. Some sleeper car routes can and will be cheaper under the new program, so before you buy your tickets, look to see what the price is. In some cases, actually may be worth just paying cash and saving your points.
- If you book with your points now and wait to change until the start of the new program, you’ll be under the new rules. So, make sure you’re wise in booking your tickets to see which refund or change policy you are better under.
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