June 10th, 2021

Pointless Arrow

A Method to the Madness

A bit more experimentation with the Amtrak web site shows that they do indeed have a semi-blackout on certain dates around Christmas and New Year's Day — although apparently not on Christmas Day itself. The money fares are the same, but the value of Amtrak Guest Rewards points changes from the usual amount (about 2.7¢ per AGR point, so for example a $2,170 fare for two people in a Superliner Bedroom from New Orleans to Los Angeles would cost around 80,000 AGR points) to only about one-third that amount, or 0.9¢ per point. Even though the $2,170 fare doesn't change, the cost in points becomes roughly 3x more to travel on a blackout date.

In other words, this is not a bug; it's a feature. Amtrak doesn't really want people redeeming AGR points on certain holidays, presumably because they figure they can sell the travel for cash, but rather than flat-out prohibiting it, they just triple the number of points it takes to buy the fare to discourage points use.

I am now further experimenting with different routes we could take home, and maybe just buying the semi-blacked-out leg. It would cost more money now and spend fewer points, but they don't expire and we are hoping to go to Chicago for next year's Worldcon by train, so maybe the points we don't spend now we can use next year.