"Call for price"?

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John Webb

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Aug 21, 2013
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Can anyone tell me why lately when I try to get AGR points for various trains and routes I tend to get not the number of points but an instruction to "Call for points". This is pretty inconvenient when attempting to compare routes and points pricing. Anyone know why they are doing this and when it might stop?
 

AmtrakBlue

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Are you looking on the AGR sight? If so, go to the Amtrak site and click on the points option (vs cash).
 

pennyk

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It happened to me recently also when I was looking to travel between Orlando and LA (on the Amtrak site). I assumed that the problem was that I had too many segments. I tried just doing LA to Chicago and was able to get points. I ending up phoning AGR and got a quote for points at that time.

Edit: BTW, I do have enough points in my account to "pay" for the trips for which I wanted quotes.
 
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oregon pioneer

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Happening to me too, on a straightforward PDX to BOS trip, for which I have received points quotes on the Amtrak.com website many times in the past. I am wondering what's going on here, and hope it stops soon!! Really need easy planning options without having to spend time on the phone.
 

the_traveler

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Happened to me too.

I think it might be if the trip has a connection. The one I tried was from WAS to FED - the only connect point is NYP. This is annoying since it used to show.

Yes, I was on the main Amtrak site.
 

City of Miami

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I've gotten that message too.

I think maybe all long distance sleeper fares convert at ~.0289/point so just dividing the $ fare by .0289 will you a close enough # of points for comparing and planning.

NER trips otoh convert at ~.0223/point and that's based off the Value Fare which changes often.
 
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PaulM

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I just did a test booking STP (St. Petersburg/Clearwater) to DEN (Denver) - 4 segments. The points option did show.
 

shanghaiamtrak

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Jan 24, 2004
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42
i almost always get "call for price" if a trip involves at least two segments, whether its by train to train or bus to train or train to bus. Very annoying to have to call to find out the required number of points while I am searching for different routes.
 

printman2000

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Nov 9, 2005
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Finally getting on to look at point prices and running into this for the first time ever. Was not happening a few months ago.
 

bratkinson

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A bit over a month ago, while checking point 'prices' for my planned vacation, I was checking CHI->PDX via #421/14 and was initially getting the conjunctive fare as points. I experimented with different routings as well as dates over the next 2 weeks, and when I was ready to call and book it, I made one last points verification check and got the 'call for price', only on the two-train conjunctive rate portion. So I checked CHI->LAX and LAX->PDX individually and got a higher total points. I decided to call anyway and book it. The agent really 'knew her stuff' and booked it at the conjunctive rate for points that I originally saw. As initially requested, she also put me into roomette #14 on each of the 5 Superliner trains I'll be riding on that trip with no difficulty at all.

I'm undecided whether 'call for price' is some kind of marketing gimmick like Amazon showing 'price will be shown in cart', or is it some kind of online programming limitation/failure. I'm leaning strongly towards marketing gimmick.
 

Rasputin

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It used to be no problem to find out what points would be required even when there were connections between trains. I don't seem to be able to do that now. If I were a cynical person I would say it is another method to discourage long distance passengers. 1967-71 all over again.
 

RSG

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If I were a cynical person I would say it is another method to discourage long distance passengers. 1967-71 all over again.
I think it's less about discouraging long distance passengers than it is about discouraging non-revenue long distance passengers.

Airlines are doing similar things; redeeming reward travel is more difficult and has more restrictions. One particular tactic that seems to draw the ire of passengers and travel writers is the "redemption fee" that some are starting to tack on for reward travel. I notice most travel insurance policies now have coverage for "redeposit fees" for carriers and even hotels that charge to cancel reward reservations.

One can only assume that Amtrak is watching these developments and evaluating which might be implemented for their rewards program.
 

Rasputin

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I think it's less about discouraging long distance passengers than it is about discouraging non-revenue long distance passengers.

Airlines are doing similar things; redeeming reward travel is more difficult and has more restrictions.
It only took me about 5-10 minutes yesterday to reserve a trip on Southwest Airlines involving one connection and to pay for the flight with points.

A couple years ago I would have made this trip by Amtrak but I get the feeling that as a long distance passenger I am no longer viewed as a valued customer so I have become more selective about travelling by Amtrak.
 

EchoSierra

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This is because the website/system has been broken for a long time now, and I made a huge stink about it.

About a year ago, I tried to book an Acela Express trip in First Class with points. I had enough points, but it would error out. After trying to book it for a week and kept getting the same error, I called in. Every agent on the phone quoted me a higher points price, more than the amount of points that I had despite the site still quoting the lower points price for a week after that. I tried different browsers and different computers to make sure that it wasn't a caching issue on my end.

When I tried to complain, none of the Amtrak agents would take my complaint, and basically told me that the price they quoted me on the phone was the price, take it or leave it. So, I begrudgingly purchased points to have enough for the rate that they were quoting me over the phone. After traveling, I thought that it was incredibly wrong for Amtrak to display one price on the website (which it still did) and refuse to honor it. That's when I started looking into who I could complain to, and it turned out that beyond customer relations who had ignored me at that point, I'd have to write to my Congresspeople. So, I wrote a letter to each of my Congressmen, and one to each head of Customer Service at Amtrak to complain that they were essentially false advertising.

My Congressmen were useless, but one of the heads of Customer Service at Amtrak decided to convert my purchased points into tier points as a courtesy.

I guess "Call for price" is their solution because they haven't fixed the problem.
 

bratkinson

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I think I'd give it a try with my Android phone and see what it comes up with for points.

Note, too, Amtrak apparently dislikes passengers who book the Acela with points. So the exchange rate is considerably higher than the usual 34.5 points/dollar. I just checked, it was about 12% higher (worse) exchange rate for an April travel date. However, I wanted to book a trip on the Acela for January a couple weeks ago, and I think the point conversion was far worse than 12%. Obviously, Amtrak want's to milk every dollar possible from the Acelas.
 

RSG

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Note, too, Amtrak apparently dislikes passengers who book the Acela with points. So the exchange rate is considerably higher than the usual 34.5 points/dollar. I just checked, it was about 12% higher (worse) exchange rate for an April travel date. However, I wanted to book a trip on the Acela for January a couple weeks ago, and I think the point conversion was far worse than 12%. Obviously, Amtrak want's to milk every dollar possible from the Acelas.
This is disappointing, but not too surprising; and really, no different than any other travel-related enterprise.

Go to the home page of any hotel chain and odds are you'll be presented with images of some of the best hotels on the planet. But go to book those hotels, and you'll find that paying cash might require a personal loan, but paying with reward points is even more expensive and often only possible if one is at the top tier of the rewards program and/or earns far more points than can be reasonably spent otherwise.

Want to fly to Asia with reward miles/points? Yeah, you can probably do that if you have tens of thousands of miles/points saved up. But the minimum required to do so will have you seated where you'll feel like you're in third-class steerage on the Titanic. If you want a truly comfortable experience, then you'll probably need to be well on the way to being a million-miler.

Airlines, hotels, and even Amtrak long ago figured out that people would use their rewards programs to "buy low and sell high" and they were determined they weren't going to give the milk for free until the cow was bought and paid for at least once. The issue that makes this seem shady about the way Amtrak implements it is the topic of this thread: the apparent inability to be transparent about how many points are required for the trips earnees want to take, however they wish to take them.
 

pennyk

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My experience in September was a bit different. I was planning a cross country loop trip for December with 7 trains with 2 overnights. On the AGR site, I was able to get the points for some segments, but not all. I ended up cash pricing each segment and then "calculating" how many points it would take. I then phoned AGR and was pleasantly surprised that my "calculation" was very close to exactly what AGR quoted. I will not be traveling peak times, so, in my opinion, the cash and points prices were extremely reasonable.

My experience was far from disappointing.
 

neroden

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I've gotten that message too.

I think maybe all long distance sleeper fares convert at ~.0289/point so just dividing the $ fare by .0289 will you a close enough # of points for comparing and planning.

NER trips otoh convert at ~.0223/point and that's based off the Value Fare which changes often.
FYI, nearly all Amtrak travel converts at $.0289855 cents per point. Including NER trips.

This is always based on quoted Value Fare, Business Class Fare, or Sleeper fare, *without* any discounts. (So if you qualify for one of the 10% discounts, like most of us do, you have to multiply that by .9, and find that it's worth $.0260866 ... But if you also have the credit card, the 5% points back on points redemptions means you have to divide by .95 and then it's worth $.0274600 -- and of course Saver Fares are always cheaper)

The exceptions are:
-- Acela, which is only $0.025 (so, never redeem for Acela)
-- non-NER business class often gets a slightly *better* conversion rate, closer to $.03
-- on the "blackout dates" points prices are jacked up
-- and of course, the weird issues wtih "call for price".

I found that the "connective discount fares" where A-B-C is cheaper than A-B + B-C don't seem to be that common, so I've taken to booking each leg independently except where I want Amtrak's guarantee of rescheduling in case a late train breaks a connection. It would be interesting to know which connections actually do offer "connective discount fares"; I may just habitually take connections which don't.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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I'm leaning strongly towards marketing gimmick.
Being directed toward Julie's circular logic menu after the website gives up on my booking inquiry isn't the sort of gimmick that convinces me to spend more time or money with Amtrak.

I think it's less about discouraging long distance passengers than it is about discouraging non-revenue long distance passengers. Airlines are doing similar things; redeeming reward travel is more difficult and has more restrictions.
In my experience airlines have been making points bookings easier but at a substantially higher point cost than before. These days nearly every flight I check seems to have some sort of premium over the base level. Sometimes I'll bump into an empty predawn flight, a new route with limited market traction, or an old route at risk of discontinuation. Other than that it's mostly premium point levels all around.
 

AG1

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Ironhorseman, it probably means that your trip is at a popular time and Amtrak doesn't want to advertise that they are going to charge a premium points price for points users. For example charge double points over a holiday weekend.
 
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