Amtrak Guest Rewards baits the hook, and Fred bites

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Thursday, November 18, 2010

If anyone from Amtrak marketing is reading this, I have a message for you: Your “Ride 10 Trains, Get 10,000 Guest Reward Points” promotion takes over the minds of otherwise sensible people. I’m the evidence of it. I am ticketing myself aboard Amtrak trains about as fast as slot-machine junkies in Vegas can feed quarters into their monsters.
How did this happen anyway? When Amtrak announced the promotion at the start of October, I could care less. The deal for Amtrak Guest Rewards members is this: Through Dec. 31, 10 trips costing $40 or more earns you 10,000 bonus points. Plus, double points along the way.
No way did I see myself riding Amtrak 10 times by the end of the year. In fact, by Monday of this week, exactly halfway through the promotion, I’d made only one qualifying trip.
Then I bite down on the hook. My wife wants to spend a December weekend in New York City (we live near Washington). Trips two and three. I agree to go to the Big Apple yesterday to for a birthday dinner with son Will. Trips four and five. Daughter Barbara reminds me that my granddaughter turns 4 on Friday and invites me to Brooklyn to celebrate. I can’t turn that down. Trips six and seven. This all happens in the space of 36 hours.

 Well heck, now I’m almost there. Where else do I want to go? I haven’t watched trains between Washington and Richmond, Va., on CSX in months. Why not do it via Amtrak? On Saturday, I can take the Palmetto south and leave Richmond on the northbound Silver Star after only a brief layover. Sounds like fun. Trips eight and nine.
To those of you who wonder whether I am practicing false economies, I wonder too. Depending upon what trip you take using points, 10,000 of them are worth $300 to $500. The round trip to Richmond costs me $85. Were I not lusting now for that 10,000-point bonus, I wouldn’t have spent the money.
But it’s too late to turn back. I have one trip more to take from Washington. I don’t want to go much beyond where $40 can take me. Where would that be? Please share your ideas with me. — Fred W. Frailey

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