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A User's Guide to Amtrak's New Rewards System

America’s passenger train switches to a fare-based redemption program in 2016.
relates to A User's Guide to Amtrak's New Rewards System
AP Photo/David Goldman

If you’ve been an Amtrak Guest Rewards member for a fair number of years—and I count myself among this crowd—you’ve seen the program evolve to reflect the train’s increasing popularity, especially in the Northeast Corridor. Gone are the days when a one-way Regional train from Washington to New York cost members 3,000 points and all travelers had a decent shot at sitting alone. These days Amtrak Guest Rewards offers that trip for 4,000 points, with a blackout calendar as annoying as that ubiquitous passenger on the phone in the Quiet Car.

Such is the price of progress. Still, on the whole, the current redemption system has been a generous one. So long-time members might have felt some dismay when Amtrak announced that on January 24, 2016, it will replace its existing, fixed-point zone-based rewards program with one that fluctuates based on fares. (Baseline earning power stays the same, at 2 points per $1 spent on train travel.)