Amtrak extends its waiver of change fees, continues to pause points expiration

Mar 13, 2021

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Maintaining elite status has been on frequent travelers’ minds since the coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the travel industry in early 2020. Amtrak — the national rail service of the U.S. — started waiving change fees and extended the validity of points, coupons and elite status early in 2020. Some of these extensions were initially set to expire in late 2020. But, Amtrak has extended some of its temporary measures several times now.

Yesterday, TPG senior reporter Victoria M. Walker noticed Amtrak is now waiving all change fees for reservations made by Sept. 6, 2021. So, today I’ll discuss this extension and other ways the train operator is currently responding to the coronavirus pandemic to help Amtrak loyalists.

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Amtrak elite status extended until February 2022

Amtrak is extending elite status for all Select, Select Plus and Select Executive members through Feb. 28, 2022. This extension applies to all Amtrak Guest Rewards members that currently hold Amtrak elite status, and there is no need to enroll or contact Amtrak to take advantage of the extension.

Amtrak extended all elite status benefits through this date. This includes annual upgrade certificates, companion passes and lounge passes. In addition, elite members are eligible to receive their status tier’s annual allotment in 2021, regardless of how many tier-qualifying points they earned in 2020.

Related: Why I’m (temporarily) switching my loyalty to Amtrak

Points won’t expire until June 30, 2021

Amtrak's The Adirondack train. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)

In April, Amtrak announced that all Amtrak Guest Rewards points, upgrade coupons and companion coupons will have their expiration paused until Sept. 25, 2020. Then, Amtrak extended this pause through Dec. 31, 2020. These extensions applied to all points and certificates regardless of how you earned them.

Amtrak allowed upgrade and companion coupons to begin expiring on Feb 28, 2021. So, if you had upgrade or companion coupons in your account, they may now be expired.

However, Amtrak has continued to pause points expiration through June 30, 2021. But, if you hold an Amtrak credit card, your points will not expire as long as your account is open. And you can extend your points expiration by 24 months when you earn at least one Amtrak point. The easiest way to earn a few Amtrak points is to make a purchase through the Amtrak shopping portal.

Related: You can now book an overnight private room on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional

Change fees waived for tickets purchased by Sept. 6, 2021

Further, all Amtrak tickets purchased by Sept. 6, 2021, can be changed free of charge. This includes both cash fares and tickets booked with points. Just keep in mind that — despite Amtrak waiving change fees —  you’re still responsible for paying a fare difference if your new ticket is more expensive.

These fees are waived for all new and existing Amtrak tickets so long as you purchase your tickets by Sept. 6, 2021. Amtrak customers can change their travel online, through the Amtrak app or by calling Amtrak at 800-872-7245. We recommend changing your itinerary online or through the app to avoid long hold times.

Related: The summer of train travel: Amtrak to restore daily service on 12 long-distance routes

Bottom line

This is all-around great news for Amtrak travelers. In particular, it’s comforting to know that travelers can change any ticket purchased by Sept. 6, 2021, with no fee. Although fare differences may cause you to pay more to take a trip if you need to change, it’s nice to have this flexibility during these uncertain travel times.

Additional reporting by Katie Genter.

Featured image by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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