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Amtrak Quietly Makes Big Negative Changes to Cancellation & Refund Policies

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Buenos dias everyone,

For a long time, Amtrak has had a very generous cancellation policy, similar to Southwest Airlines – as long as you canceled your ticket before departure, you could get the full amount paid back as an eVoucher valid for one year. And depending on the type of fare you purchased, you could even get a refund back to your credit card (possibly with a 10% service fee depending on when you canceled your ticket).

This has all changed. For tickets purchased starting March 20, 2018, most tickets will be hit with a 25% service fee when refunding to an eVoucher. Unfortunately, the news of these changes is buried in the fare rules on Amtrak’s website and on their Refunds and Cancellations page – and even that doesn’t note that there’s been a change, or when it went into effect.  Here’s the breakdown of the new policy (credit to AmtrakLKL on Amtrak Unlimited, via NovaEngr on Flyertalk):

Advance Purchase Saver Fares

  • Full refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) within 24 hours of purchase
  • 75% refund to eVoucher after 24 hours, as long as you cancel before departure
  • No refund for no-shows

Unreserved Coach Fares (includes most intra-California trains)

  • Full refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) within 1 hour of purchase
  • 75% refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) after 1 hour

Reserved Coach ‘Value’ Fares and Acela Business Class

  • Full refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) until 8 days before departure (1 hour after purchase for tickets purchased less than 8 days before departure)
  • 75% refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) within 7 days of departure
  • No refund for no-shows

Non-Acela Business Class or Acela First Class

  • Full refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) prior to scheduled departure
  • No refund for no-shows

Fully Flexible Fares

  • Full refund to original form of payment at any time

USA Rail Pass and California Rail Pass

  • Full refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) within 1 hour of purchase
  • 75% refund to original form of payment (or eVoucher) between 1 hour after purchase and 48 hours before first departure
  • No refund for cancellations less than 48 hours before first scheduled departure

Note that although these rules only apply to tickets issued on or after March 20, 2018, according to NovaEngr, the website isn’t smart enough to realize this and will enforce the new rules on all online cancellations. To cancel your ticket and receive the full refund or eVoucher to which you’re entitled, you’ll need to call Amtrak reservations at 1-800-USA-RAIL or 215-856-7924.

Will this affect how (or whether) you book Amtrak trips in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

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16 thoughts on “Amtrak Quietly Makes Big Negative Changes to Cancellation & Refund Policies

  1. Mike

    For longer than most Americans have been alive, we’ve been roused periodically for yet another bedside deathwatch on US rail service. Until we settle what Amtrak is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work, we’ll just keep making encore appearances in the corporate ICU. Does Amtrak have a business model? Has it ever had one? Has anyone ever seen a copy of it?

    1. escot

      Mike, you should get out more, and stop with the mindless repeating the faux news talking points.

      There actually ARE very profitable Amtrak routes — the US northeast corridor routes for starters (which have been expanding in length and daily frequency.) Of course, that won’t stop the current administration in its hell bent crusade to kill amtrak….. (yet even the most ultra right wing Virginia Congressman know better than to try to kill popular amtrak routes here)

      But…… I do appreciate Tonei’s post — catching yet another stealth negative move by Amtrak. (and writing from Mexico !) Been a series of nasty Amtrak stealth moves lately, which nobody anywhere on the compensated travel blogs has yet to notice or acknowledge — (Popular longstanding Amtrak discounts were quietly ended for AAA and students, for starters…… and yet the shill posters for Amtrak will go on pumping the rails, like nothing changed.)

      1. lynn

        Not “Northeast Corridor routes for starters”, ONLY Northeast Corridor routes are profitable. Everything else operates at a deficit, and the NE Corridor does not produce enough revenue to cover All of Amtrak’s operating cost, not to mention Capital improvements, unfunded congressional mandates such as PTC, etc.

    1. Tonei Glavinic Post author

      Yeah, I don’t really have an issue with the substance of the changes (for unreserved trains that reasoning doesn’t hold up, but those routes are really more like a commuter rail ticket which you usually can’t get a refund for period). I am concerned about the lack of transparency/notification though.

  2. Biggie F

    Whoa. Just stumbled across this. Talk about news I wish I couldn’t use.

    I’m a big supporter of Amtrak in principle and somewhat in practice, love rail, etc. Have no interest in imagining that I run a business or other entity that I do not run. So all these things I set aside, and write as a grifting travel-discount “customer.”

    This is all bad, and will likely change my behavior. We like to do semi-impromptu weekend travel up and back between NY and DC. Find a swinky hotel at a discount price. Book it on spec. Trains are not cheap and are very expensive close-in, but also part of the getaway experience. So I book them with the hotel, also on spec in the sense that I can always redeposit tickets as e-vouchers if things blow up as these mini-getaways approach.

    This has been a fun part of our general travel toolkit (including maintaining hotel status — we don’t travel to do that, but as many folks here recognize, when things come together you can create some virtuous cycles). I can see already six of these Amtrak-fueled getaways so far in 2018. We have gone through on all but maybe one so far this year. I suppose from an insurance standpoint, the idea that I might have to take a $50-$75 penalty-hit every now and then should not be that big a deal, relative to the volume spend.

    But the volume spend is sparked by the grifting, by the potential to maximize reward and minimize cost. Which makes this a kick in the teeth. Also, when doing initial spend on a credit card, it was always nice to know that you could ram through several hundred dollars in tickets (to be converted to e-vouchers) via Amtrak if necessary. Also useful when Amtrak was doing Amex Offers, although I no longer lie awake at night waiting for those to come back….

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  6. Liz J

    I am shocked by this Amtrak cancellation fee change. I have just run into this problem tonight trying to get back from NYC to Washington DC. I can’t make it to Penn Station in time for my previously scheduled regional train reservation (a reservation I made well before March 20th) because my treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering was delayed by more than two hours by an very unusual treatment.center back up. I tried to cancel my train reservation, put the credit on an evoucher and then make a new and more expensive reservation for tonight on an Acela.. Without incurring the 25% fee , the only thing I have been able to do is to ‘modify’’ the reservation to get another regional train reservation leaving so late from NYC that train does not get to Union Dtation in Washington DC until 12:35am if it is on time. This is an extremely inflexible policy change especially for business/medical trips that are not optional. Amtrak must create exceptions to this inflexible new policy.

  7. Missy

    WOW! Whew! Thank you for posting this!!
    I take the auto train 3 or 4 times a year! I was just pricing a sleeping cabin and about to book. What stopped me from booking? Made me search google? The insurance offer..I haven’t used the site since November 2017. The travel insurance offer is the same as a airline or cruise..never seen that on Amtrak before. Thank you for this post!!!
    I was about to book a good price and check with friends and family later.. I have 8 coupons I have never used and about $140 in credit from my Xmas return in 2017. My average round trip with car since 2014 is $1700.. (this trip would have been $1044..but I book and change later and I’m happy to pay more!)
    So, basically..Amtrak has joined the rest of the transportation industry?! Change fee plus fare difference.. I don’t blame them!!
    I love the Auto Train and paying hourly wage to the awesome customer service people who take our phone calls to make changes, that’s expensive!
    I will check with my family and I’ll call the Select number and I will finally use a coupon.
    Thank you!!

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