Help! I have a $440 Amtrak voucher. But I can’t use it

Mitchell Bator cashes in an Amtrak voucher for his recent journey from Florida to Connecticut. As he settles into his seat, he is pleased that the entire trip is costing him just $14 in cash. Unfortunately, his credit card statement tells a different story.

Question:

I had a travel credit on Amtrak in the amount of $440. Last month, I went to their website and booked a trip from West Palm Beach to Stamford at a total price of $454. I used my credit card to pay the $14 difference between the cost and the voucher — or so I thought.

Immediately after returning from my trip, I received my credit card statement in the mail. And in it was a charge from Amtrak.com for the total amount of the trip!

Amtrak told me that nothing could be done to correct the charge now that I completed my trip. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, I was told they only deal with administrative issues. When I inquired if they could research my booking electronically, the agent said she could see where I was trying to use the credit, but it was only “summarized.” I still had to hit the confirmation button again to apply the credit, which she claimed I apparently did not do.

I hope that you will be able to have the $440 travel credit that I wanted to use for the trip credited to my Visa credit card. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide. — Mitchell Bator, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Answer:

Whew! That’s some sticker shock.

You expected to be spending less than $20 on this trip. So when you saw the $440 charge, it’s no wonder you thought had been caught in some bait-and-switch scheme.

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At the time that you booked your Amtrak.com vacation, you had carefully entered all the numbers on your voucher. After the value was applied, the screen showed that the balance was $14. You added your credit card information, clicked confirm — and you were on your way.

An Amtrak voucher rejection

You never expected that post-transaction, the Amtrak system would reject your voucher in favor of your credit card — for the entire cost of the ticket. In the end, your voucher was unilaterally discarded.

To add insult to injury, when you asked Amtrak for help, the representatives blamed this mishap on “user error.”

In other words, you caused this problem. But no one ever clarified what you had done wrong.

Mistakes happen. That’s true. But the fact remained that Amtrak charged you $440 more than what its website had indicated. And then the company made no effort to correct the problem.

That is not consumer friendly. Not at all.

User error?

Finally, your paper trail shows that you reached an Amtrak representative who told you she could see that during the transaction you had added your voucher into the payment field. She wasn’t quite sure what happened after that but suggested that you had forgotten to click the confirm button.

Since you had completed this purchase and taken the trip, it seemed highly unlikely that you had neglected to click confirm. But I digress.

You thought it would be easy to persuade this employee to reverse the charges on your credit card for the amount of your Amtrak voucher. It wasn’t. The representative told you that your request was not possible since your trip was already complete.

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It’s frustrating when customer service representatives refuse to go off their standard script — even in the face of a logical solution. I hate it, and I know you do, too.

Getting nowhere with Amtrak, you turned to our advocacy team for help.

Our company contacts listed on our site can be a powerful tool for our readers to resolve a problem on their own. And we list a variety of Amtrak contacts there.

Success!

But you had already been put through the Amtrak wringer, so I reached out to the company on your behalf. I asked our executive contact for reconsideration of your situation.

And that’s when things took a positive turn.

The Amtrak executive with whom I spoke agreed that the company should refund the charge.

Your Amtrak voucher has now been applied to the original ticket, as it should have been in the first place. And I’m pleased to have helped. It’s nice when justice prevails.


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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