Cancellation Policy Puts Amtrak Ahead

Amtrak‘s winter promotion is ending this weekend, but besides the environmental benefits and the sometimes lower prices, there is yet another reason to choose the train over the plane when traveling on shorter routes: Amtrak’s cancellation policy.  I had heard of the flexibility of its policy before, but this week I had the opportunity to see it for myself.

I had booked a round-trip DC-NY ticket a month ago, but a week before traveling I decided to cancel my outbound trip (I would be traveling for work the week before, so it made more sense to fly back straight into NY rather than to DC just to take the train up).  I called Amtrak only 4 days before the trip, and the customer service representative immediately canceled the outbound leg for a full refund, which I could confirm since Amtrak shows the price of each leg on a round-trip ticket purchase rather than a packaged price.

Amtrak’s online cancellation policy is unclear on which tickets are eligible for a full-refund, but it is understood that tickets using discount codes may not be.  All other tickets, including those under promotions (such as the 14-day advance purchase discount for tickets on the Northeast regional), are generally eligible for a refund.  If you want to make sure, just call Amtrak customer service before booking your ticket.

Some ticket cancellations may be requested online, but to actually get the refund, however, you need to go to an Amtrak ticket counter, unless you already have your unused ticket.  If so, you may also mail that ticket to Amtrak (for the address, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page).  While this might seem a little cumbersome, this visit to the Amtrak counter – or the request, for that matter – need not happen before your travel date.  You have up to one year to request and get your refund.  And once requested at the ticket counter, it should show up in your credit card in about a week.

While Amtrak’s cancellation policy might not be entirely transparent, it provides a good relief from airline companies.  At least with Amtrak you can be fairly certain you will get a refund as long as you don’t use a discount code – and that it will not take a battle with customer service to get it.


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