Leaked memo indicates Amtrak considering new fees, fare restrictions

Dec 29, 2019

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Editor’s note: This post was updated on Dec. 31 with a statement from Amtrak.

Heads up if you’re an Amtrak rider: A leaked memo suggests the rail operator will soon make its cheapest saver tickets completely nonrefundable, and add change and cancellation fees to value fares.

As originally reported by Business Insider, Amtrak is searching for ways to become profitable. This move brings the company’s ticketing policies closer in line with most major airlines (except Southwest, which never charges change or cancellation fees) — not a huge surprise considering Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson held the same position at Delta and Northwest Airlines.

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According to the memo, Amtrak may make saver fares (deeply discounted tickets with limited availability) completely nonrefundable after 24 hours of purchase, and add penalties for changing or canceling a value (regular) ticket. Here’s a comparison of the current and proposed rules:

Fare Type
Current change and cancellation rules Proposed change and cancellation rules
Saver Full refund if canceled within 24 hours of purchase

After 24 hours, 25% cancellation fee charged (receive 75% credit on a nonrefundable eVoucher)

Full refund if canceled within 24 hours of purchase

After 24 hours, fare is completely nonrefundable

Value Full refund if canceled eight days or more before departure

25% cancellation fee if canceled less than eight days prior to departure

No change fee

25% cancellation fee

15% change fee if ticket changed within 14 days of departure

Amtrak would not confirm these changes to TPG, but a representative stated: “We periodically review our policies to keep our fares competitive. It is premature to discuss any potential adjustments.”

These changes probably won’t mean much for those with firm travel dates, but if you’re a business traveler with plans that change frequently, the new fees could sting hard. You could always book a flexible fare (much like full-fare economy on most airlines) to avoid change or cancellation fees, but it will cost you — these tickets are often more than double the price of the lowest saver fares.

Related: The best credit cards for train travel

Change seems to be the theme at Amtrak nowadays as Amtrak recently removed full-service dining from its long-distance routes and made airline-like food and cabin updates to long distance routes serving New York City. And earlier this year, the Amtrak Guest Rewards loyalty program tightened its points expiration policy to 24 months of inactivity (from 36 months).

Featured photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy.

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