How and When to Use the Amtrak BidUp Feature

The BidUp feature can get you an upgrade for less on your next Amtrak trip.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Published
Edited by Meghan Coyle
Happy young man is traveling first class on a train sitting and smiling looking out through the window

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Train travel offers an alternative to air travel and has many things going for it, such as timesaving opportunities at the station, a smaller carbon footprint and more legroom.

Now, before we lose this train of thought, let’s discuss how you can get even more legroom on your next overland journey across the United States.

Amtrak’s BidUp tool allows passengers to bid for upgrades to a higher class of service. But does a BidUp upgrade feature offer a tram-endous opportunity to enhance your travel experience or does it run out of steam?

Let’s find out.

What is Amtrak BidUp?

Amtrak BidUp is an online tool that gives travelers an option to upgrade their train seats by placing a bid for a premium class of service.

The feature allows you to upgrade an Amtrak ticket at a fraction of the retail price close to departure.

Amtrak travel classes

Besides the standard, or coach, class of service, Amtrak offers its passengers four premium service classes: business class, Acela first class, roomette and bedroom.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Not all classes of service are available on all routes, so you’ll have to check your particular train configuration before traveling.

Amtrak premium classes of service come with the following amenities.

Business class

  • 25% bonus on Amtrak Guest Rewards points.

  • Free seat selection.

  • Wide seats.

  • Extra legroom.

  • Complimentary nonalcoholic beverages.

Roomette

  • Seats that convert to beds at night.

  • Bedding, pillows, towels and linens.

  • Access to a restroom and shower in your car.

  • A dedicated first class attendant.

  • Complimentary lounge access.

  • Priority boarding.

  • Complimentary meals and beverages.

Bedroom

  • Double the space of a roomette.

  • A sofa and a chair that convert to beds at night.

  • Bedding, pillows, towels and linens.

  • In-room sink, restroom and shower.

  • A dedicated first class attendant.

  • Complimentary lounge access.

  • Priority boarding.

  • Complimentary meals and beverages.

First class (available exclusively on the Acela)

  • 50% bonus on Amtrak Guest Rewards points.

  • Free seat selection.

  • Single, double and conference table seats.

  • Complimentary lounge access.

  • Priority boarding.

  • Complimentary meals and beverages.

How does Amtrak BidUp work?

The bidding process is pretty self-explanatory. All you have to do is check eligibility, place a bid and proceed with an upgrade if you’re successful.

To check whether your booking is eligible for a BidUp auction, enter your reservation number and last name on this page. You can do so any time after buying a ticket. If you’re eligible for BidUp, you’ll also receive an email or an in-app notification within four days before your scheduled departure date.

Amtrak will suggest a bid amount and indicate a range from weak to strong, but ultimately, you’re the one deciding how much money you’re willing to part with for a potential upgrade to a higher class of service.

Different timeframes are at play, depending on your target upgrade:

  • You can place a bid up to two hours before departure for business class or Acela first class upgrades.

  • Roomettes and bedrooms, meanwhile, require bids to be locked in at least 37 hours before departure.

Similarly, successful bids are notified at different timeframes.

  • The winning Amtrak bids to business class and Acela first class will be awarded one to two hours before departure.

  • If you’re successful bidding on upgrades to roomettes or bedrooms, you’ll know about 36 hours before departure.

It’s also possible to modify or cancel your Amtrak upgrade bids at any time before your bids are locked in.

On trains with multiple classes of service, multiple upgrade bids are allowed. However, no more than one bid can be accepted on a single train journey.

Once a bid is accepted, your credit card will be charged and you’ll receive a new ticket by email. If your bid isn’t accepted, you’ll keep your original seat and there will be no charge.

🤓Nerdy Tip

BidUp Amtrak upgrades apply to all passengers on a reservation, and you won’t be able to upgrade individual passengers — it's an all-or-nothing deal.

Another quirk to be aware of when using the Amtrak BidUp tool is you can place cash bids only. Points upgrades are not an option at this time. Likewise, Amtrak tickets booked with Amtrak Guest Rewards aren’t eligible for BidUp upgrades.

Amtrak BidUp tips

1. Consider travel time and distance

A short daytime train ride is not the same as a long-distance nighttime journey. While an upgrade on a short-distance trip isn’t going to improve your travel experience significantly, having a bed on a longer trip certainly will provide more comfort.

If you’re a frequent Amtrak traveler, being selective with your BidUp upgrade opportunities will keep more money in your pocket.

2. Don’t get carried away

This isn’t going to stop you in your tracks, but the higher you bid, the more chances you have at getting that upgrade. However, if you want to score a deal on a train ticket, we recommend keeping your Amtrak bidding on the low end, especially if an upgrade won’t make or break your journey.

Ultimately, your chances of a successful bid will depend on the route and the train’s capacity.

3. Be aware of restrictions

Once your bid is accepted and an upgrade clears, your Amtrak ticket becomes nonrefundable, nonchangeable and nontransferable. Keep this in mind when entertaining a BidUp upgrade, and make sure your plans are chugging along before you commit.

Is the Amtrak BidUp tool worth it?

Depending on your trip route and distance, you might consider using the BidUp tool to get a more comfortable seat for less.

However, for a successful outcome, you need to find the right balance between bidding too much and outbidding your fellow passengers. It’s only worth it when you can score a higher class of service at a lower price.

At the end of the day, be mentally prepared for a rejection and don’t let the lack of a cushy seat derail your travel plans.


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