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Amtrak Introduces a Bidding System for Upgrades | Frommer's Vacclav/Shuttertock

Amtrak Introduces a Bidding System for Upgrades

In many ways, high-end train travel in the United States mirrors high-end plane travel.

Amtrak doesn't have seats that convert into lie-flat beds in first and business class. But those categories do come with a lot of perks that recall expensive air travel, such as food and beverages, special lounges at stations, and more legroom than in coach (amenities vary by route).

On trains, reserved seating is another enviable business-class perk, especially during busy travel times on popular routes.

Like the airlines, Amtrak has its own loyalty program, Amtrak Guest Rewards, through which you can earn points to use toward future trips and cabin upgrades. 

And now the national rail service is taking another page from the airlines' playbook, introducing a bidding system for upgrades. (To learn more about successfully bidding for airline upgrades, click here.)

Under the new BidUp program, passengers with existing rail reservations in coach can find out if they're eligible for a premium upgrade by visiting Amtrak's website, or those passengers will receive a notification that they're eligible for an upgraded seat four days before the trip.

You can submit a bid for a seat in first class or business class up to two hours before the train departs. 

There's no fee for making a bid and you're only charged if you win. 

Unfortunately, Amtrak Guest Rewards members can't use points to place bids, though those travelers will earn extra points by traveling in first class or business class with the upgrade.

"BidUp is a great way for more Amtrak customers to enjoy our premium services,” Roger Harris, the rail service's executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer, said in a statement.

To begin with, the bidding system will cover business class and first class upgrades on Acela trains as well as business class upgrades on the Northeast Regional, Palmetto, Carolinian, and Vermonter trains.

The plan is to add other routes to the system eventually, including those with trains that have private rooms—Amtrak's answer to an airplane's lie-flat bed.

For more information, including terms and conditions as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the bidding process, visit