Amtrak operate long distance trains throughout the USA, with evocative names like California Zephyr, Southwest Chief and Empire Builder. Like most companies, you can search and book tickets online.

Well, you’re supposed to be able to book online anyway. Once again I was thwarted and I have to wonder – just what are they using for a computer system over there?

Telephone Bookings? How 1990s!

A few years ago, I took the Amtrak Cascades train from Seattle to Vancouver. As we were a group of 11 people, I had to make a lengthy pair of international telephone calls to book the tickets. Not surprising for a group booking, so I was unperturbed.

Since I’m once again booking travel, I recently went to the Amtrak site to book a berth on the Coast Starlight service that operates between Los Angeles and Seattle. The computer would let me get to the credit card part, but would not accept my card.

Apparently selecting Ireland from the country drop down list means the button needed to make payment does not work. I have no idea why an international credit card is not accepted.

Resigning myself to another long international call, I rang Amtrak in the states. After the usual long and slow automated introduction message, I kept saying agent and got one in about two minutes. Happily, she was an old pro and my ticket was booked and paid for swiftly. I was off the call in under 10 minutes.

Overall Thoughts

In today’s global economy, it strikes me as very weird that international credit cards (or at least those from where I live!) are just not accepted online on Amtrak’s website. When I called, there were no special questions, she took my address and card details and charged the card without blinking.

The AI system they use on the phone to try to automatically help you is a whole bag of hideousness by the way. I hate those things, so I wasn’t having a bar of it booking for me, mainly as I could see it having a problem and each second was costing me money on the international call. Agent. AGENT. AGENT!! NOW!!

All I need Amtrak to do is to allow foreign credit cards and I’ll be happy. Oh, that and allowing seat selection on all trains, so you don’t need to play seat roulette every time you get on board! Anyway, the call was short and the agent excellent, so there was a silver lining after all.

Have you tried to pay for Amtrak with a foreign credit card? Did it work? What are your favourite Amtrak long distance routes? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons.