Unlike most U.S. airlines, Amtrak still technically employs a change fee on Amtrak tickets that need to be changed, though the company has been waiving this fee, pushing the expiration date down the road every few months throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Amtrak has once again extended this change fee waiver through October 31, 2022.
Why Is Amtrak Waiving Change Fees?
Amtrak, despite what you may think, actually does compete with airlines on many routes, especially within the northeast corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston, where Amtrak is actually the preferred method of transit for downtown to downtown travel. By waiving change fees and keeping aligned with airline policies, Amtrak can better encourage ticket sales on some of its highest ridership routes.
Hot Tip: Learn more about Amtrak’s updated summer schedule in our detailed article!
What Change Fees Are Being Waived?
Amtrak has several different types of fare categories, each with a different normal penalty:
Saver fares are the cheapest form of Amtrak ticket, and if you need to cancel your ticket, you’ll get 75% of the ticket value in a voucher and lose the other 25%. These are the most restrictive tickets, similar to airline basic economy tickets. With the updated policy, there are no change fees (penalty) to change your ticket. With the no change fee waiver, there’s really no harm in booking a Saver fare ticket, the cheapest option on the train.
Value fares are fully refundable, up until 15 days prior to departure. After that, you’ll lose 25% of the value of your ticket. The extended policy means you won’t lose the 25% of the value of your ticket if you need to change it within 15 days. Of course, if you’re moving to a more expensive train, you’ll need to pay the fare difference.
Flexible fares are fully refundable to your original form of payment. With Saver and Value fares, your ticket cancellation gets returned to you in the form of a voucher, however, Flexible fares can be fully refunded, which is very beneficial for travelers uncertain with their plans.
Non-Acela Business Class or Acela First Class Fares
Similar to flexible fares, these tickets can be fully refunded to your credit card if you choose to cancel prior to departure.
While it would be great to see the elimination of Amtrak’s change fees become permanent, pushing the expiration of this policy into October 2022 is at least a step in the right direction, and the move allows customers to book tickets over the busy summer travel season without having to worry what will happen if a change needs to be made.
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