Amtrak offers upgrade bidding that I successfully used to upgrade from business class to first class on Acela for less than half the retail price of a first class ticket. Perhaps even more lucrative, you can also bid for roommettes and bedrooms on long-distance trains. But be very careful: there’s one huge downside to bidding for upgrades with Amtrak’s BidUp system.
How To Bid For An Upgrade On Amtrak Using BidUp System
You can bid for an upgrade to:
- Business Class
- Acela First Class
Once you are ticketed on your train (revenue tickets only, Guest Rewards tickets are currently not eligible), visit Amtrak’s BidUp website.
Put in your reservation number and last name to ensure you are eligible:
If you have an eligible itinerary, the next screen will show you your options. Upgrade costs are in addition to ticket prices.
Bidding for my Amtrak Acela first class upgrade started at $99. A range indicates the “strength” of your upgrade offer. In my case, I found the follwoing:
- $99-$110 – poor
- $119-$133 – fair
- $134-$149 – strong
I put in a bid for $111. While a $99 offer probably would have been accepted, I figured I’d make a “fair” bid to increase my chances. My credit card was not charged.
1 hour, 58 minutes before my scheduled departure (9:02 am for an 11:00 am departure) I received an email from Amtrak alerted me that my upgrade offer had been accepted:
My e-ticket was immediately updated, credit card charged, and I was able to choose a seat in the first class car and enter the Metropolitan Lounge in New York.
The BIG Downside To BidUp Upgrades On Amtrak
There is a big downside, however, to upgrading on Amtrak: the moment your upgrade is confirmed, your tickets become non-changeable and non-refundable.
As you bid, you will notice this warning:
Once your bid is awarded and your ticket has been upgraded, your ticket is fully non-refundable, non-changeable, non-transferable.
Be aware, as most Amtrak tickets are flexible and upgrading renders them highly restricted (you’d still be eligible for a refund or rebooking if your train was canceled or severely delayed).
The Amtrak BidUp upgrade system worked well for me. I doubt I would take the risk of a last-minute upgrade on a long-distance train, but it is a nice option to have and probably quite revenue positive for Amtrak to dump unsold inventory at reduced prices.
Have you used the Amtrak upgrading bidding system? How did it work for you?