Amtrak is expensive, there’s no way around that. If you’ve booked a trip that you can no longer go on, the money you spent is going to be the first thing on your mind. Let’s take a dive into Amtrak’s refund policies:
Does Amtrak give refunds?
The simple answer is yes, Amtrak does give refunds. Most of the time, if you have to cancel your Amtrak trip (or Amtrak cancels a route), you can get a refund. That said, some tickets are only partially refundable, such as saver fares. Furthermore, the timing of your cancellation makes a big difference – if you wait too long, you could be looking at a hefty cancellation fee, or worse, not getting a refund at all.
Here are all the different cancellation reasons that are eligible for refunds
Amtrak’s cancellation policy is pretty simple, even if it does have a few different rules that govern how much you can get back. But before we talk about those rules, let’s look at what types of trip changes and cancellations are eligible for a refund:
1. Passenger cancellations
Plain old cancellations, no explanation required. You can cancel your ticket online or over the phone. Depending on the type of fare, and the timing of your cancellation, you may receive a full or partial refund. More on this, including which types of tickets are refund eligible, below.
Blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more – Amtrak covers areas that are plagued by all sorts of bad weather events. If weather prevents a train from leaving the station, all riders will be given a full refund. You can find more information about these types of events on Amtrak’s service alerts page. The service alerts page includes the Amtrak Alerts twitter feed, which announces all sorts of cancellations, delays, and disruptions:
3. Rail worker strikes
This is something most of us don’t think about, but was national news just a few months ago. Rail worker unions have a powerful chip to play: strikes. When a rail worker strike was predicted in September 2022, Amtrak preemptively canceled every trip outside the northeast to avoid the transit disaster that a strike would have caused. Fortunately, the workers got what they needed, and the strike was avoided.
4. Damage to trains or tracks
A couple of times a year, an Amtrak train crashes. Often, the crashes are minor, but they all throw a wrench in Amtrak’s system. If a crashed train or damaged tracks makes your journey impossible, you should receive either a full refund or a travel voucher from Amtrak.
Amtrak cancellation policy by ticket type
While Amtrak does give refunds for passenger cancellations, there are some rules and stipulations that apply based on the type of ticket you booked. Amtrak has a few different
Applicable to all Fares
No matter what type of ticket you buy, you can get a full refund within 24 hours of your purchase. We can just call this the “oops policy”, where if you book a ticket and quickly realize you don’t need it, you can get all your money back just as quickly.
- Within 24 hours: Full refund
- After 24 hours: No refund, 75% voucher available
- 15 or more days before departure: Full refund
- 14 days or less before departure: 25% cancellation fee
If you booked a Flexible Fare ticket, you’ve got nothing to worry about. One of the perks about paying more for your journey is that you can get a full refund, whenever you need it, no questions asked.
Similar to the Flexible Fare, Business Fares allow full refunds – no fees, either – any time before departure.
- Acela first class: Full refund if canceled before departure
- Sleeper cars:
- No fees, full refund if canceled 121 days or more before departure
- 25% cancellation fee if canceled between 15 and 120 days before departure
- 25% fee and a 75% voucher if canceled 14 days or less before departure
Illness waivers: how to get a full refund on Amtrak tickets for health reasons
Amtrak waives all fees and policies related to cancellations for people who have a medical reason for canceling their trip. If you experience a sudden illness or injury, all you need to do is provide a doctor’s note when you cancel; then, Amtrak will provide a full refund, regardless of the type of ticket you bought or how many days there are before departure.
Does Amtrak charge you for changing your ticket?
Amtrak does not currently levy a “change fee” if you need to modify your journey. For example, if you need to change your departure station, destination station, or trip dates, you won’t be charged an extra fee for doing so. While you may have to make an additional payment if the changes make your trip more expensive than the original booking, that’s not the same as a change fee. For any change made before December 31, 2023, there will be no change fee. I’ll update this section if Amtrak modifies its “change fee” policy.
How to cancel Amtrak tickets and (hopefully) get a refund
Being able to get a refund hinges upon being able to cancel the ticket. Here’s how you can cancel an amtrak ticket, either online or over the phone.
- First, head to amtrak.com
- If you have an Amtrak account, sign in and click on “My reservations”.
- Then, click the View/Edit button
- Finally, click “cancel trip” and the Amtrak site will guide you the rest of the way.
- If you bought your ticket online as a guest, click “My trip” anywhere you see it on the site:
- Enter your reservation number and click “Find Trip”
- Once you’ve selected your trip, click “Cancel Trip” and follow the prompts from there.
- Enter your reservation number and click “Find Trip”
Over the Phone
- Call Amtrak at (1-800-872-7245)
- Have your name, phone number, address, and reservation number ready
- Say “Reservations” (you can say it right away to bypass having to listen to all the other options)
- Say “cancel/cancellation/I’d like to cancel” – the automated assistant will recognize what you say and take you to the next step.
- Say your reservation number, and continue following the instructions given to cancel your trip.
- Alternatively, you can say “help” to be quickly put through to an Amtrak customer service rep (they’re really helpful and one of my favorite things about Amtrak)
How long do Amtrak refunds take to process?
Because Amtrak works with your bank to move the refunded money back into your account, and different banks have different transfer processes, there is no one answer to this question. That said, most people receive their money within 5-8 business days.
I canceled a ticket late last year and got my money back in less than 5 business days; if you’re waiting longer than 10 business days, it’d be smart to call Amtrak and see if they can help you get your refund quicker.
If you’ve booked an auto train ticket, the same cancellation fee applies to your vehicle as applies to your passenger ticket. That’s a fancy way of saying the money you spent on adding a vehicle to your journey will be refunded according to the same rules as other types of cancellations.
If you cancel an Amtrak ticket that charges a fee, you’ll be charged between $5 and $250, depending on the original ticket price.
Yes, at any Amtrak station that has a ticket counter, you can change or modify your ticket. If you live close enough to the station and your cancellation or trip change is complex,