Rail Running: The Final Chapter

Ok, so here’s the post where I get on my high horse, and explain how I beat the system and everything, right?  I mean, isn’t that what bloggers do?  Especially in travel hacking?

Well, I’m not going to do that.  And it’s not because I’m modest, or a great guy – though I also like to think I’m those things.  It’s because I can’t.

I won’t be getting status on Amtrak, because my plan won’t work.

I’ll keep this one short.  My plan to get status on Amtrak was totally unsuccessful.

Here’s the first place I went wrong:  Amtrak is a revenue-based system.  Not, that wasn’t always the case.  Amtrak made a lot of changes in January 2016, including taking the cue from airlines, and moving to a revenue-based earning structure.  Somehow, I failed to take this into consideration.  So while I did earn double points form the current promotion…those points were based on the cost of the ticket, not the distance.  I earned 2 points (and 2 TQPs) per dollar spent.  Then for the Double Days promotion, Amtrak doubled the Guest Reward points, but not the Tier Qualifying Points, so there goes the other half of the plan!

Posted Points

Double points.  Somehow much less exciting when you thought you’d get 600 points.  I only earned 118.

But what happened to that 100 point minimum?  Well, those were based on distance, under the distance-based Guest Rewards.  So, no, I didn’t earn 100 points for each ride, and I didn’t even come close to 200 points per ride with the Double Days promo.

Where do we go from here?  I think there’s three things I can learn from this one.

  1. RESEARCH.  I didn’t do enough research.  That’s the reason I got burned on this experiment, end of story.
  2. On the other hand, be the data point you want to see!  I couldn’t find anything explicitly stating this wouldn’t work, so I gave it a shot.  At the end of the day, I’m only out $$$$$ and one evening, a couple of hours.  Now, I know (and you do too) that you’ll have to spend your way to status on Amtrak, just like most things.
  3. Exploring closer to home is fun.  Despite the frigid wind that night, I enjoyed walking around Haverhill, and stopping for a beer.  I think a lot of times, the place we live gets the short end of the stick.  I’m so busy planning my next trip, that I forget the Boston area has a lot to offer right here.  This is something I want to work on – more short trips, day trips, that kind of thing.  Even just walking around your city with open eyes once in a while makes a huge difference!

Now, technically, I can still earn status.  It would just be much more expensive.  For this trip, I spent $29.90 for 59 TQPs, or about 50 cents per Tier Qualifying Point.  Even if I got the maximum TQPs from my Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card from Bank of America (4,000 TQPs), I’d still need to make up 1,000 more on actual train travel.  At 50 cents/TQP, buying my way into Select Status with Amtrak would cost $500 or more.  Not worth it.  Not even a little bit.

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I may not have earned the status I wanted, but I did get a sense of adventure riding the train – always worth it!

So ends my quest for Amtrak status.  I feel like I’m on Mythbusters or something.  This myth?  Totally busted.

Next time, I hope I get to bring you some better news!

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