It’s a revenue-based program so there are going to be no more outsize values for redemptions. You’re going to be getting a fairly consistent redemption rate per point, which will make some awards (where ticket cost is low) cheaper and other awards (where ticket cost is high) more expensive. The best value redemptions in the program therefore go away. Last minute Northeast regional trains will be more expensive. Sleeper cabins across the country (not my cup of tea) will get astronomically so — they could run over 100,000 points.
Ultimately this isn’t as bad as I feared, but also removes much of the excitement and leverage from the program. It will still be strategically useful for some.
Some key elements of the new program:
- Since they’re revenue-based there will be no more blackout dates. More expensive tickets will simply cost more points.
- Points are worth 2.9 cents apiece for most travel; 2.56 cents apiece on Acela (it is ludicrous that in a revenue-based program the value of points is lower on Acela Express trains, those are more expensive and so point prices are more as well already).
- There will be cash and points awards, with details to come closer to program launch.
- Better point expiration rules: any activity in your account every 3 years will extend its validity – it’s no longer limited to train trips
- Points-earning for train travel is based on fare, with no more 100 point minimums and no more fixed earning for Acela. You earn 2 points per dollar; a 25% bonus for business class and 50% bonus for Acela first class; plus elite bonuses which stay the same.
Basic Amtrak travel earns a 5.8% rebate (2 points per dollar spent each worth 2.9 cents). That’s low. Acela Express travel earns a 7.25% rebate as long as you don’t redeem for Acela (in which case it drops to a 6.4% rebate since points are worth less for Acela redemptions).
Here’s earn and redemption costs for a $50 ticket.
Here’s a $129 ticket:
And here’s a $300 Acela ticket.
Co-Brand Credit Card and Transfer Partner Details Not Yet Revealed
Two weeks ago we learned that Bank of America would become their new credit card issuer. That detail is still not public.
There’s also no official word yet on transfer partners, for instance whether Chase and Starwood points would still transfer to Guest Rewards. For some trips those points would become more valuable, e.g. booking off-peak Acela Express travel that can be cheap. Some folks will like to use their flexible points currencies for Amtrak trips, since they’ll be able to get almost 3 cents apiece in redemption value for trips that are conveniently taken by train in the Northeast corridor. So learning this will be key.
New Redemption Ticket Change/Cancel Rules
Change and cancellation fees are a 10% points penalty “on any fare difference returned to member” so I think that when there’s no reduction in points on an award there won’t be any change fee — except for changes to sleeper tickets within 14 days of departure and all other train travel within 24 hours of departure which will entail a close-in penalty of 10% of points redeemed and these will be collected, not withheld. (Amtrak Select Executive members have the close-in penalty waived.)
No show segments cancel subsequent train trips on the ticket, and also forfeit points. Cancel any trips you aren’t going to take in advance.