(Program Reviews - Side by Side Comparison - Website Reviews)
Rated: February 2012- The Amtrak Guest Rewards website features an easy-to-use, organized and well-designed interface. That was true in 2008 when we last reviewed it, and it remains true today. And, while the site offers simple and clutter-free navigation, it is more sophisticated than it might first appear.
For example, if you log in as a member when you arrive at the Guest Rewards site, the home page displays the latest deals, bonus offers, program news and FAQs. However, if you don't log in, the home page displayed is significantly different.
For prospective members, the home page features a photo of an arriving train and a prominent, orange "Enroll Now" button above a short explanation of the program and links to benefits, earning and award information. Clicking the button takes you to a brief sign-up form. And joining online earns an easy 500 points for those who travel on Amtrak within the first 90 days.
Both current and prospective members will see the same navigation bar across the top of the site with links for the program's main sections: Home, Earn, Redeem, Deals, My Account and Program Info. To the left of these links are two more that members will find handy: FAQ and Contact Us. But the final link is one that we found most intriguing. It's a feature the site didn't have last time around, and it's simply labeled "Wish List."
Initially, the name conjured visions of leprechauns, genies and fairies. And, while clicking the link isn't quite that magical, it reveals a fun feature. To use the feature, you explore award options and click "Add to Wish List" when you find one that's appealing. The award then appears on your Wish List page, which tracks the number of points you need in order to earn it. Once you've accumulated the points required for a particular Wish List item, you'll receive an email notification.
Another useful feature is "My Amtrak", which appears as a collapsible box on the right side of the page. When you log in as a member, the box will expand to display your current number of points, progress toward elite status, recent transactions, current promotions and your wish list items, all in one convenient location.
The site's main sections, such as Earn and Redeem, are organized with simple categories listed on the left-hand side of the window. These include groupings such as Amtrak Travel, Hotels Stays, Car Renting/Sharing and more. Selecting a category reveals a listing of each partner and/or award in the category. Limited-time offers are highlighted, so they're easy to spot.
Overall, the site is quite functional and comprehensible. It's generally well designed, and the content is updated regularly with current information. So rather than lodging complaints, we'd like to add one "wish" for the site itself. While simplicity is a plus, we'd like to see more visual information. Planning train travel and selecting awards by zones or by route names--such as Crescent, Downeaster or Empire Builder--might be intuitive for some, but adding simple maps could make it even easier.