Amtrak Guest Rewards 2.0 Coming January 2016

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BCL

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One strange thing about Rapid Rewards is the tiered redemption levels. In addition to the number of points required being based on the cash fare (less taxes and most fees), it's also based on whether the fare is "Wanna Get Away", "Anytime", or "Business Select". This seems to add a layer of complexity since the higher "classes" of fare are already more expensive.
Is it really more complex? I looked it over for a sample flight, and Business Select seems to cost about 107 points per revenue dollar, Anytime was about 89 points per, and Wanna Get Away about 56. They're obviously trying to get redemption passengers into their highest discount range such that they get more revenue from passengers. The way AGR does it with sleepers is kind of backwards in that they're not getting as much revenue from what should be their big money maker. Now I don't know how many people would really want to pay that much.
 

SteveSFL

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With regard to the three-tier SWA awards, the reason I think it is overly complex is that many of the benefits of the higher fare-classes are already included when redeeming an award. For example, "Anytime" and "Business Select" are refundable and changeable, but so are all reward redemptions. I don't think paying 100 or 120 points per $ for one of those is justifiably better than 70 points per $ for "Wanna Get Away". Of course with the Business Select you don't have to play 24-hours-in-advance check-in roulette to get a good boarding number, and you also get priority security screening and a free drink.

Edit: I think 70/100/120 are the correct Rapid Rewards redemption levels. If you look at the "Fare Breakdown", you can see that the number of points required is only a function of the base fare, so you're not paying for excise tax, segment fees, or passenger facility charges (another nice feature!)

Also, the higher fare classes normally earn you more reward points when paying cash, but again that is not a factor when redeeming an award since award travel doesn't earn new points.
 
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Trainmans daughter

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I am planning a trip with my granddaughter next June, SAC to NYP round trip. Current AGR plan requires 35,000 each way for a roomette; 70,000 total. We have almost 60,000 points right now, and were planning on buying more if needed in January.

So now, I guess we're screwed!

If we can somehow buy those points before the end of the year and book our trip based on zones, would that lock in our reservations for June 2016, or will we have to pay using the new mysterious plan?

I'm so confused! Please telll me what you would do if you were me.
 

PRR 60

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I am planning a trip with my granddaughter next June, SAC to NYP round trip. Current AGR plan requires 35,000 each way for a roomette; 70,000 total. We have almost 60,000 points right now, and were planning on buying more if needed in January.

So now, I guess we're screwed!

If we can somehow buy those points before the end of the year and book our trip based on zones, would that lock in our reservations for June 2016, or will we have to pay using the new mysterious plan?

I'm so confused! Please telll me what you would do if you were me.
I'd wait to see what the new program looks like. The details will be announced long before the end of the year allowing lots of time to make whatever decision is needed.
 

Carolina Special

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It would be nice if the final announcement is along the lines "Yes, we are changing the points system for all future points earning. But any existing points you have earned are being tripled (or whatever the ratio is) so they'll be worth exactly the same as today for redeeming your trip, no matter when you book. So you can still take that Chicago-LA trip you've been planning for, without any worries."

That would be better than a rush to fill all the sleepers by New Year's Eve, which is where we presently seem to be headed with this.
 

George K

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I'm a noob when it comes to this, but, assuming your points will come up short, I'd book the trip, one way, now. Use the 35K points you have.

Then, with luck, you might be able to combine points and cash for the return trip, if it's more than 35K points. I was able to do that with Hilton points (combine points and $$) for a cheap stay in DC next month.
 

George K

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Also (and pure speculation here...), if travel is already booked for the time after the new policy goes into effect, would AGR cancel those tickets and "revalue" them? Though I understand that they probably could, under the terms of the agreement, would they?
 

yarrow

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is the general consensus that after the new agr program structure is revealed 8/31 that one will still be able to make reservations under the present structure until the end of the year?
 

calwatch

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Nothing's guaranteed, but this has been the case in past Amtrak devaluations. A grace period is provided to make bookings at the same rate, until the end of the schedule period. Amtrak would not cancel past booked tickets, but any changes to the fare would require revaluation at the new rate.
 

ronkstevens

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Good thing I spent 60k for tickets on my trip this fall. Took my account down to zero.

Depending on the new structure, I'm going to miss "points runs" which were a great excuse to take a quick train ride, especially during double days
 

AmtrakBlue

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For me, the points enable me to take some trips that I otherwise would not be able to because of lack of $$. Since I live on the NEC, perhaps the new redemption policy will let me take short trips w/o having to use a lot of points.
 

BCL

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For me, the points enable me to take some trips that I otherwise would not be able to because of lack of $$. Since I live on the NEC, perhaps the new redemption policy will let me take short trips w/o having to use a lot of points.
The worry seems to be that maybe dividing trips into segments won't multiply points, or that the 100 point minimum might be reduced or maybe even eliminated. I for one could never have reached Select Plus last year without a ridiculous effort to maximize segments. I tried lots of tricks to get those points for a minimum of dollars. If I were only concerned with getting to work, I would have just bought 10-rides and maybe the occasional multi segment trip to maybe renew Select. It's not as if I got that status by simply throwing money at it.
 

AmtrakBlue

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For me, the points enable me to take some trips that I otherwise would not be able to because of lack of $$. Since I live on the NEC, perhaps the new redemption policy will let me take short trips w/o having to use a lot of points.
The worry seems to be that maybe dividing trips into segments won't multiply points, or that the 100 point minimum might be reduced or maybe even eliminated. I for one could never have reached Select Plus last year without a ridiculous effort to maximize segments. I tried lots of tricks to get those points for a minimum of dollars. If I were only concerned with getting to work, I would have just bought 10-rides and maybe the occasional multi segment trip to maybe renew Select. It's not as if I got that status by simply throwing money at it.
I was just stating what points mean to me. I know we all have different wants and needs.
 

BCL

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I was just stating what points mean to me. I know we all have different wants and needs.
Sure. However, you can read about how people AGR here and on Flyertalk and realize that it was unsustainable. AGR as it is now can provide great value for some people and poor value for others depending on where they live. Certainly for the one-zone redemption, being right on the border of a zone is going to provide the most value.

On this board there are long discussions about redemptions that don't necessarily meet a need for transportation. However, neither does a point run, although those don't create big problems with available inventory. Of course AGR members want to maximize train time, number of meals, etc. It's understandable, and I don't think anyone blames AGR members for trying to maximize their utility within the current rules. However, it's not like Amtrak would never react. Airlines used to have disproportionate numbers of award passengers to Hawaii until they tweaked their policies.

As with all devaluing of loyalty programs, we probably should have seen it coming. We're just going to have to see what happens before panicking.
 

Rail Freak

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If it comes down to the worst case scenario, it was nice while it lasted!!!!! That doesnt mean that I dont have all my fingers & toes crossed!!!!!!
 

SteveSFL

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I agree with Rail Freak -- I've only been using Amtrak/AGR for two years, and I've already taken 7 long distance trips (3-5 nights) with two more planned for Sept and Oct. I just wish I had discovered AGR sooner! It has been good while it lasted.

Fortunately the trains I have not yet taken are shorter routes or non-connections and are not conducive to multi-night awards.
 

amamba

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I'm a noob when it comes to this, but, assuming your points will come up short, I'd book the trip, one way, now. Use the 35K points you have.

Then, with luck, you might be able to combine points and cash for the return trip, if it's more than 35K points. I was able to do that with Hilton points (combine points and $$) for a cheap stay in DC next month.
I agree with this for sure. In fact I'm going to check my account and see when I have enough time for a trip this year. Perhaps I'll make that trip to NOLA on the crescent that I've been wanting to do this winter.
 

Trainmans daughter

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I'm a noob when it comes to this, but, assuming your points will come up short, I'd book the trip, one way, now. Use the 35K points you have.

Then, with luck, you might be able to combine points and cash for the return trip, if it's more than 35K points. I was able to do that with Hilton points (combine points and $$) for a cheap stay in DC next month.
Thanks, George. Good idea.
 

Kat314159

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As someone who hasn't abused the system up until this point (my redemptions have been for midbucket "special" routes to Chicago). I"m hopeful that I won't lose my every 16th trip to Chicago free.... Although when they finish the @#$%! track upgrades and we get our Acela of Illinois (or however they brand 110mph service and not having crews out doing stuff on the track we should cut time a good chunk of time off STL-CHI) I'll happily take the points hit for faster service to all the connections in Chicago (the 300 and 306/307 timetables requiring staying awake til or getting up at dark o'clock are the reason behind many rail trips that never were).

Here's hoping that an average Jane in the midwest might feel like Amtrak cares about my business even though I'm not on the coasts.
 

BCL

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As someone who hasn't abused the system up until this point (my redemptions have been for midbucket "special" routes to Chicago). I"m hopeful that I won't lose my every 16th trip to Chicago free.... Although when they finish the @#$%! track upgrades and we get our Acela of Illinois (or however they brand 110mph service and not having crews out doing stuff on the track we should cut time a good chunk of time off STL-CHI) I'll happily take the points hit for faster service to all the connections in Chicago (the 300 and 306/307 timetables requiring staying awake til or getting up at dark o'clock are the reason behind many rail trips that never were).

Here's hoping that an average Jane in the midwest might feel like Amtrak cares about my business even though I'm not on the coasts.
I think we all realize that someone new to AGR might take one look at the zone map and the redemption amounts, then think this has got to be the most stupid loyalty program in the country. If I wanted to take EMY-RNO when a "value" fare is available on the CZ, it's $50 or 5500 points. If I'm willing to take Capitol Corridor and then a bus, it's $60 or 1500 points. It makes no sense. Granted - I don't mind that it makes no sense.

Or the weirdness with the zone maps - I looked up LMY-GLP, which is $41 value fare. Ride that and you only get 100 points. However, try to use points to ride that and it's 8000 points since it's across two zones. However, the longest trip I think there is in the west zone is SEA-ELP which I priced as cheap as $255. But it's only 5500 points as a redemption trip. Of course the system is going to break when there's that much of a disconnect between retail pricing and redemption costs.

As far as I can tell, most of the "special routes" with the 1500 point redemption are ones that receive some sort of state subsidy. All three of Amtrak California's routes (Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner) are special routes and pretty much paid for by the state.

As for the way I earn points, yeah I've figured out my strategy to collect more minimum points. The quick stopover can double my points and give me an excuse to check out the neighborhood. It's also rather interesting how I've had segments valued at $1 earning the same 100 points as a $50 ticket. It remains to be seen what happens with that. That was always a fun way to earn points, although I understood that although few people did it, it was still gaming the system.
 

Railroad Bill

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Since we had few opportunities for points runs in Cleveland, the vast majority of our points came from using our Chase credit cards. We have accumulated a lot of points through purchases that have given us "free" rides at least three or four times a year on long distance trips. Will have to see what the CC incentives will be to determine if we will still be able to afford the trips out West and to Florida that we have made in the past. :unsure:
 

Devil's Advocate

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I'd wait to see what the new program looks like. The details will be announced long before the end of the year allowing lots of time to make whatever decision is needed.
On the other hand the longer you wait the less time you'll have to make use of a program you already understand. If someone is 85% of the way to a major redemption I'd work on that now rather than waiting to see whatever becomes of AGR in the future.

Also (and pure speculation here...), if travel is already booked for the time after the new policy goes into effect, would AGR cancel those tickets and "revalue" them? Though I understand that they probably could, under the terms of the agreement, would they?
Generally once you're ticketed your trip is grandfathered without further upheaval. The variation between programs mainly involves what happens if you attempt to modify a grandfathered ticket prior to travel.

is the general consensus that after the new agr program structure is revealed 8/31 that one will still be able to make reservations under the present structure until the end of the year?
There is no such consensus and I would advise against an assumption of that nature.
 
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tonys96

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Link on first post is dead. Is there another link to better, more complete info?
 

tonys96

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So, I have about 50k points. And absolutely no plan to use them in the works. It looks like I need to be getting a plan together.....

Does anyone have any idea of when the entire new scheme will be made public? I wonder if there will be time for those of us with points "in the bank" to be able to take a look at the "old" plan versus the "new" plan to be able to make informed decisions.

Also, I will likely NOT be changing to a new card, due to the FICO score hit taken by a new inquiry, and the new card lowering the average age of accounts. I had an inquiry done to look at the possibility of buying a new car (gave a $1000 rebate if financed through the manufacturer) and the inquiry alone took 27 points off FICO score. Will just take the current card and cut it up.....paying the balance in full as always and letting the card sleep.
 
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