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Maintaining elite status has been on the minds of many frequent travelers since the coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the travel industry in early 2020. Amtrak — the national rail service of the U.S. — started waiving change fees and extended the validity of points, coupons and elite status earlier in the year. Some of these extensions were originally set to expire in September, but have been extended once again, as the recovery in travel continues to lag.
Let’s a closer look at the train operator’s response to the coronavirus pandemic further extensions of perks it offers to certain passengers.
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Amtrak elite status extended until February 2022
Amtrak is extending elite status for all Select, Select Plus and Select Executive members through Feb. 28, 2022. This extension applies to all Amtrak Guest Rewards members that currently hold elite status, and there is no need to enroll or contact Amtrak to take advantage of the extension.
All elite status benefits will be extended through this date. This includes annual upgrade certificates, companion passes and lounge passes. In addition, elite members will be eligible to receive their status tier’s annual allotment in 2021, regardless of how many tier-qualifying points they earn in 2020.
This status match is similar to American, Delta and United, who have each extended elite status through the end of January 2022 for current elite members. It’s great to see Amtrak extend the same courtesy, especially as the train operator positions itself as a worthy competitor to U.S. airlines on business-heavy routes like Boston to New York City.
This status match is especially important for Amtrak travelers, as the company has reduced or completely suspended service on a number of business routes.
Related: Why I’m (temporarily) switching my loyalty to Amtrak
Points and coupons won’t expire until the end of the year
In April, Amtrak announced that all Amtrak Guest Rewards points, upgrade coupons and companion coupons will have their expiration paused until Sept. 25, 2020. Now, this is extended again, through Dec. 31, 2020. The extension applies to all points and certificates regardless of how they were earned.
Note that if you have points or a coupon set to expire before this date, you must use them by the end of the year. Alternatively, you can extend your points expiration 24 months by earning at least one Amtrak point — the easiest way to do this is by simply making a purchase through the Amtrak shopping portal.
Related: The complete guide to Amtrak Guest Rewards
Change fees waived through December 31
Further, all Amtrak tickets can be changed free of charge through Dec. 31. This includes both cash fares and tickets booked with points. Just keep in mind that — despite the change fee being waived — you’re still responsible for paying a fare difference if your new ticket is more expensive.
These fees are waived for all new and existing Amtrak tickets so long as the changes are made by Dec. 31. There’s a chance this waiver could be extended again if the state of the pandemic doesn’t improve, though there’s no guarantee.
Amtrak customers can change their travel online, through the Amtrak app or by calling Amtrak at 800-872-7245. We recommend changing your itinerary online or through the app to avoid long hold times.
Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies: A complete list of major carriers
This is all-around great news for Amtrak elite members. Now, Amtrak’s most loyal passengers no longer need to worry about traveling enough to maintain their elite status through 2021. In addition, pausing points and certificate expiration and offering flexible cancellation policies make it easier for all Amtrak customers to get back on the rails when they feel comfortable doing so.
Keep an eye on our coronavirus hub page for more information on how the outbreak is changing the travel world as we know it. Here are a few pieces of essential reading to get you started:
Featured image by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.