Point Earning - Miles versus Dollars

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daveyb99

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Has Guest Rewards ever tried a status via Miles travelled versus Dollars spent?

People in the Northeast, California, and Chicago have ample opportunity - and do - spend lots of money with AMTRAK.

But here in Texas, not so much.

A MILES TRAVELLED versus DOLLARS SPENT would be a nice improvement, along with some kind of long distance benefit enhancements - as right now, having status outside of those three areas really does nothing for one.

Any comments ?
 

me_little_me

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Miles may be a better deal for some but dollars is a better deal for Amtrak. They want people to spend dollars, not sit on the train further.
 

the_traveler

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It's the same with airlines. Unless you have elite status, a cross country flight will earn you 2,500 miles. It doesn't matter if you got a $99 special, or if your fare was $850! You both earn 2,500 miles.
 

jis

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That is actually incorrect. For higher class fares anyone irrespective of status can earn 150% EQM (TQM in Amtrak terminology) on many airlines. Of course the details vary from one airline to another.
 

KrazyKoala

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Well hell, if we went off miles, I'd be Select Exec. by now, lol. Honestly, I think miles would be best for the customer, and Amtrak should be aiming to please the customer, not themselves. However, being someone that buys tickets no more than two day in advance, I wish airlines would go off dollars. A seat 30 days in advance could go for $200, where as same day could be $1500-2000. For Amtrak, I've noticed the prices are not that big of a difference if you get it 30 days or same day. +/- $200. Of course, this only applies when you get a sleeper.
 

jis

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It is not at all unusual to find a cheaper fare a few days out while the offered fare a month out is higher even on airlines. I have no idea what you mean in your explanation of the difference between airlines and Amtrak on how they do yield management.

It all depends on how full a specific flight is.
 
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Ispolkom

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Honestly, I think miles would be best for the customer, and Amtrak should be aiming to please the customer, not themselves.
I absolutely can't agree with this. Miles would be best for some customers, and those customers aren't the ones Amtrak wants to encourage. Who's more valuable, the person who buys an Acela First Class round trip every week, or the person who does the equivalent mileage on the Empire Builder in coach? Why should they be rewarded equally?
 

PRR 60

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I know this won't be popular here, but from Amtrak's standpoint, I think they should follow Southwest Airlines lead and base the point cost of redemptions on the paid-fare dollar value of the trip. If, for example, redemptions cost 40 points per dollar of fare, a $50 trip would cost 2000 points. A $500 trip would cost 20,000 points. A $2000 trip would cost 80,000 points.

Doing this would effectively extend yield management to award travel. Taking the last, high-bucket rooms on a train a week before departure would cost more points than getting a low-bucket room ten months before travel. It would also appropriately charge for trips that take advantage of the zone system with a meandering, circular route that takes a lot of high-revenue space out of paid inventory on multiple trains. A trip like Chicago to LA via Portland takes a room off two popular trains, not just the one needed to get from CHI to LAX directly. If the points for a CHI-PDX-LAX trip were based on the paid fare for the same trip, then the redemption cost would better reflect the expenses for Amtrak to provide the travel. It would also end inequities like an award trip from Pittsburgh to Chicago requiring the same points as a trip from New Orleans to Seattle, and more points than a trip from Miami to Portland ME.

Amtrak is supposed to be a business. AGR should be structured in a manner that reflects how a real business is run. The present zone system simply invites abuse on one hand while penalizing some travelers on the other.
 

KrazyKoala

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Honestly, I think miles would be best for the customer, and Amtrak should be aiming to please the customer, not themselves.
I absolutely can't agree with this. Miles would be best for some customers, and those customers aren't the ones Amtrak wants to encourage. Who's more valuable, the person who buys an Acela First Class round trip every week, or the person who does the equivalent mileage on the Empire Builder in coach? Why should they be rewarded equally?
They are not awarded the same. First class Acela gets 750, regardless of the ticket price. When it comes to specifics like that, I think Amtrak puts in "point incentives" A customer riding northeast regional would still get 100 points to 100 miles, but the Acela ticket holder would get 750 per 100 miles. Anyways, in order to get that 500/750 Acela bonus, you have to be on the train for a certain amount of miles. Which is still unclear, just a city-to-city reference.
 

daveyb99

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Honestly, I think miles would be best for the customer, and Amtrak should be aiming to please the customer, not themselves.
I absolutely can't agree with this. Miles would be best for some customers, and those customers aren't the ones Amtrak wants to encourage. Who's more valuable, the person who buys an Acela First Class round trip every week, or the person who does the equivalent mileage on the Empire Builder in coach? Why should they be rewarded equally?
I guess that is part of the hitch. To me, a paying customer is a paying customer. Plus - as for 'rewarded equally' - Long Distance travellers get virtually no benefits under AGR ... so what difference would it make.
 

PRR 60

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They are not awarded the same. First class Acela gets 750, regardless of the ticket price. When it comes to specifics like that, I think Amtrak puts in "point incentives" A customer riding northeast regional would still get 100 points to 100 miles, but the Acela ticket holder would get 750 per 100 miles. Anyways, in order to get that 500/750 Acela bonus, you have to be on the train for a certain amount of miles. Which is still unclear, just a city-to-city reference.
The Acela "select city pair" 500BC/750FC points are strictly based on city pair traveled, and those city pairs are not specifically mileage based. Stamford to Boston gets it, Baltimore to Boston does not. Metropark to Washington gets it, Providence to Washington does not. It's a little wacky. Actually, more than a little wacky.
 

Ispolkom

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Honestly, I think miles would be best for the customer, and Amtrak should be aiming to please the customer, not themselves.
I absolutely can't agree with this. Miles would be best for some customers, and those customers aren't the ones Amtrak wants to encourage. Who's more valuable, the person who buys an Acela First Class round trip every week, or the person who does the equivalent mileage on the Empire Builder in coach? Why should they be rewarded equally?
They are not awarded the same. First class Acela gets 750, regardless of the ticket price. When it comes to specifics like that, I think Amtrak puts in "point incentives" A customer riding northeast regional would still get 100 points to 100 miles, but the Acela ticket holder would get 750 per 100 miles. Anyways, in order to get that 500/750 Acela bonus, you have to be on the train for a certain amount of miles. Which is still unclear, just a city-to-city reference.
The extra points for certain Acela trips have nothing to do with distance, and everything to do with competition with air transport.

I guess that is part of the hitch. To me, a paying customer is a paying customer. Plus - as for 'rewarded equally' - Long Distance travellers get virtually no benefits under AGR ... so what difference would it make.
Of course long-distance travelers get virtually no benefits under AGR, that's because AGR is principally intended to influence high-dollar travelers in the NE Corridor. Look at the Acela bonuses. Look where Club Acelas (Clubs Acela?) are located. Look at the new Select Executive tier. Heck, look at the rudimentary nature of the published rules for long-distance awards.

AGR doesn't have to encourage long-distance train travel. if you want to take the train, you'll take Amtrak, because you have no choice. AGR is principally a tool for Amtrak to compete against air travel between large cities in the Northeast corridor.

Now, I'm grateful that there's a long-distance component to AGR. I travel extensively by train, almost all of it on long-distance sleepers, usually paid for by AGR points. Last year I traveled more than 18k miles, spent 21 nights in sleeping cars, and earned barely 2000 tier-qualifying points. I see very clearly, though, that I'm just a parasite on a program that is meant to encourage corporate travel on routes I rarely see.
 

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I know this won't be popular here, but from Amtrak's standpoint, I think they should follow Southwest Airlines lead and base the point cost of redemptions on the paid-fare dollar value of the trip.
Ever since Southwest Airlines started increasing their fares and tying their frequent flyer earning and redemption rates to revenue levels I've been flying them a lot less. I understand this might be a short term benefit for Amtrak, but for me it would be a huge turnoff. Sometimes it can take lots of effort and patience but thanks to AGR Amtrak sleeper fares can still be kept somewhat reasonable if you're flexible with routes and scheduling. I can stomach spending thousands of dollars for an intercontinental flight, depending on the route and carrier, but for a domestic trip that's too much to be reasonable in my view. You could almost rent a taxi and travel across the country for that kind of money. I enjoy traveling by train, and for fossil fuel travel it's about as green as it gets, but I also enjoy flying and driving. If I'm going to pay interstate taxi money for a train ticket it had better come with a dome car or an open air vestibule on the end. Amtrak cannot supply features such as dome cars or open air vestibules, probably due to numerous restrictions and impositions I am not privy to, but thanks to AGR awards Amtrak can still remain relevant to those of us who need to find a workable cost for domestic rail journeys. If Amtrak waters down AGR too much they risk alienating folks like me. Folks who help fill their seats with new customers who probably wouldn't consider Amtrak without word-of-mouth introductions by friends and family. I have no idea if that represents a major problem for Amtrak or not, but it seems like something worth considering before making substantial changes in how AGR works.
 

Bob Dylan

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I agree this is NOT a Popular Idea! :help: The More Amtrak and AGR become like the Damn Airlines the Less Appealing it will be to Rail Fans and Regular Riders like most of us! I too live in an Area of the Country where we are Lucky to have One Train a Day in Each Direction (The Texas Eagle) but have been able to ride every LD Route in the US the Past 4 years, about 50% Paid and 50% AGR Award Travel! Keep in mind that in Washington Group Think and "The Latest Thing" Spreads like Wild Fire! ("Great Idea Chief!") so Suggestions that Amtrak become More like the Airlines and their Loyality Programs are a Non-Starter with Most of Us!

If AGR continues to Copy the Airlines Think we'll hear Johnny Paycheck and Lots of Us Singing "Take this Job and Shove It, I Ain't Working Here No More!"
 
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crescent2

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I agree with D.A. on this. If a high-value award demanded even more mega-points, I wouldn't even bother with AGR, and couldn't afford to take the LD trips I'm planning.

Businesses need to maximize profit, but taking it too far loses, rather than gains, customers.
 

rrdude

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But Jim, Amtrak doesn't really want to cater to: "... Rail Fans and Regular Riders...." (outside of corridor) I agree that it should be (don't like it, but BETTER for Amtrak) similar to what SWA has instilled.
 

jis

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The Acela "select city pair" 500BC/750FC points are strictly based on city pair traveled, and those city pairs are not specifically mileage based. Stamford to Boston gets it, Baltimore to Boston does not. Metropark to Washington gets it, Providence to Washington does not. It's a little wacky. Actually, more than a little wacky.
I think they should rationalize the 500/750 eligibility on Acela and say that any journey greater than 180 miles qualifies. I think that would capture most common end point that we ***** and moan about here and will still be consistent with competing agains air travel.
I can see in the future AGR 500/750 being used in corridors like Portland - Seattle, and even San Fran - Los Angeles - San Diego, or even in the various corridors emanating from Chicago, once their speeds increase to mmake them serious contenders against air travel.

I am afraid the use of AGR on LD service will remain more or less a side activity for the foreseeable future.
 

KrazyKoala

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But the computer calculates it by a mile minimum. My PVD>WAS trip gave me 750. Because NYP>WAS is a pair and PVD is further north than New York.
 

Ryan

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Now, I'm grateful that there's a long-distance component to AGR. I travel extensively by train, almost all of it on long-distance sleepers, usually paid for by AGR points. Last year I traveled more than 18k miles, spent 21 nights in sleeping cars, and earned barely 2000 tier-qualifying points. I see very clearly, though, that I'm just a parasite on a program that is meant to encourage corporate travel on routes I rarely see.
I'm in the same boat as you are, but I'm not sure that we're really parasites. As I understand it, Chase pays Amtrak for the points that I get awarded each month, so depending on how much Chase pays for those points, Amtrak could be doing very well off of us.
Now granted, I'm a parasite on Chase, as they're extending me the credit in the hopes that I run a balance and owe them interest. I've got no problems, using them though.
 
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Shortline

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Frankly, I don't care how they add up points earned, by $ or by mile. Either way it would still only account for a minuscule part of my (and I suspect, most people outside the NEC) annual earnings. My last overnight trip by train earned around 900 points. I'm getting more than that tonight alone, for staying at a Hilton Garden Inn (1000 PTs), 1000 points the night before, at another hotel, Plus another thousand tomorrow night for an Embassy Suites stay, another 1000 the next night for another Hilton stay, and 800 points from Hertz for the rental car. That's 4800 points from just a week of travel. Had another 1000 from a hotel stay last week, plus around 5000 points from valentines spending on the shopping portal through 1-800 flowers and the Apple Store, taking me up to over 10,000 points this week alone, just to do what I was going to do anyway. Amtrak would rather sell the points to vendors who "give" them away, than have us earn them from travel, unless you're a corridor commuter. That much is clear. But, it does work for the businesses too, I most likely would have stayed at another hotel chain, if not for the points, and would definitely have used another florist (and will use a different one next time, points or no points.....not a fan of 1-800-flowers anymore, they've screwed up the order 3 of the last 4 times......but I digress.....) If you work the system, especially if you travel regularly, it's relatively easy to score major points and never pay for a train trip. My non-Amtrak earnings this week, is more than my 2012 rail earnings, with 3 overnight trips, and a handful of day trips. Go figure.
 
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Ispolkom

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Now granted, I'm a parasite on Chase, as they're extending me the credit in the hopes that I run a balance and owe them interest. I've got no problems, using them though.
Well, perhaps I am commensal with AGR, but I certainly think that I'm giving Chase (and even more) American Express a fair shake. After all, bankers who make a lot more than I ever will designed these programs, so my actions must be exactly what they wanted. Even if that means Mrs. Ispolkom and I getting SPG American Express cards every year with a new sign up bonus.
 
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