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Is Amtrak Northeast Regional Business Class Worth It?

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James Larounis
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James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...
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The Northeast Regional train is the backbone of Amtrak’s operations. It operates from the Virginia cities of Roanoke and Newport News to Boston, with many intermediate stops in between.

As a lifeline of the Northeast Corridor, the train makes important stops in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New York City; New Haven, Connecticut; Stamford, Connecticut; Providence, Rhode Island; and Boston.

However, the Northeast Regional differs from its sister train, the Acela, in that it makes many more local stops and runs at lower speeds. The Acela only stops at major cities and runs much more quickly on certain lengths of track.

On the Northeast Regional, there are 2 classes of service: coach class and business class. Sometimes, there is quite a difference in price, and sometimes, there is not really much difference at all. In either case, you need to decide whether business class is really worth the splurge.

Benefits of Amtrak Business Class

There are several benefits of business class:

  • Your seating is assigned in business class on all Northeast Regional trains. You can choose a seat on the Amtrak website or mobile app, so you know exactly where you’ll be sitting on your trip. Some seats in business class may face forward, and some may face to the back, but you can assign yourself a seat after you purchase your ticket. Passengers in coach class cannot select seats.
  • Business class seats have extra legroom, allowing you to stretch out a little more and cross your legs if you desire. The windows also have curtains to block out the sun.
  • Your business class ticket entitles you to complimentary nonalcoholic beverages in the Café Car. You must show the attendant your ticket to select your beverage. Any food you purchase will still cost you money, as will any alcoholic beverages.
  • If you’re an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, you receive a 25% bonus on points earned from your trip, allowing you to earn free train rewards faster.
  • All business class tickets are fully refundable, whereas coach tickets are not unless you choose the refundable option.
Amtrak Business Class Northeast Regional 2 Seats
Amtrak Northeast Regional business class. Image Credit: James Larounis
Hot Tip:

Cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® earn 3x points on Amtrak travel and a one-class upgrade and station lounge pass upon account opening and card anniversary.

Is It Worth It?

Let’s look at pricing to give you an idea of whether upgrading to business class is worth it. The pricing below is for a train on October 1, 2024, and is typical for advanced purchase pricing on the Washington, D.C.-to-New York City route.

Amtrak Business Class Pricing Northeast Regional
Image Credit: Amtrak

The difference between coach and business classes is $65, so you’d need to find value in all that business class offers for $65. For me, that can likely be done for the following reasons:

  • The ability to refund a ticket is huge for me, as I like my plans to remain flexible. While there are some refundable coach tickets, all business class tickets are refundable, which is extremely convenient.
  • One of the biggest perks of business class is the ability to assign seats. In coach class, seats are first come, first served. Suppose you’re departing from a major city between other major cities (Philadelphia, for example). In that case, it may be extremely hard to find seats together if you’re traveling with someone or even a desirable seat if you’re traveling alone.

While extra legroom certainly is nice, the seats are laid out in the same fashion as the coach cars, so you’re not really missing much there. And although a free drink is certainly nice, it can be purchased for around $2, so you shouldn’t factor that into your decision-making when purchasing business class. That said, if you’re on a particularly long journey, like from Roanoke to Boston, you might be drinking enough beverages for the savings to add up.

As you can see, the most significant benefit is being able to assign a seat, which can be extremely valuable, especially when traveling with other people on the Northeast Corridor, which business travelers heavily use.

Hot Tip:

Keep an eye on fares. It’s not uncommon for Amtrak fares to drop in the days before departure, so check the Amtrak website or app constantly to see if the price lowers. Learn the best ways to book cheap Amtrak train tickets in our detailed guide.

Where I Don’t Find as Much Value in Business Class

If you’re traveling south of Washington, D.C., such as to the Virginia cities of Roanoke, Charlottesville, Newport News, or Fredericksburg, the trains generally significantly empty out, with only a few people even remaining in coach. Because of this, the value of having a business class greatly diminishes. If you’re riding past D.C., though, you should get a business class ticket the whole way, even if you’re getting on the train at a less populous stop south of there.

Similarly, if I’m traveling at particularly off-peak hours, such as on a train departing in the late evening, I don’t value business class as much because fewer people are boarding that late.

If you’re traveling on a short stretch, such as from Philadelphia to Trenton, New Jersey, a ride that is only 20 minutes long, you likely won’t find value in business class since it’s hard to take advantage of any amenities or perks.

Final Thoughts

In general, I value business class over coach class, and think the benefits, especially reserved seating, are worth it, considering how busy the Northeast Corridor gets.

Note that Amtrak fares can increase dramatically the closer you get to departure, so it’s always best to purchase your business class ticket as far out as possible for the best deal, making it even more worth it.

The information regarding the Amtrak Guest Rewards® Preferred Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which car is business class on Amtrak Northeast Regional?

Business class is usually the last car on Northeast Regional trains, meaning you need to walk through several other cars to get to the Café Car.

What is the difference between coach and business on Amtrak Northeast Regional?

Primary benefits of business class include a wider seat with more legroom, a refundable ticket, assigned seating, and complimentary nonalcoholic beverages.

Does Amtrak Northeast Regional business class get lounge access?

Business class passengers on the Northeast Regional do not get lounge access. However, at select stations, a 1-time pass may be available to purchase lounge access.

Does Northeast Regional have assigned seats?

Only business class passengers on Northeast Regional trains have assigned seating. Those in coach class do not have assigned seating.

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About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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