Amtrak launches new digital payment options

By Luz Lazo for washingtonpost.com

The railroad says it wants to make booking easier for customers and keep travel contact-free during the pandemic.

Amtrak customers can now pay their train fares with popular tap-and-go payment options such as Apple Pay, the railroad announced Tuesday.

The company has upgraded its mobile app and Amtrak.com to allow customers to use Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal to complete transactions, Amtrak said, offering customers an alternative to traditional credit and debit card payments.

“We know every minute counts for our customers and now purchasing tickets is as simple as the touch of a button,” Amtrak’s chief marketing and revenue officer, Roger Harris, said. “These updates to the Amtrak app and website will offer customers enhanced flexibility and convenience as they book and pay for train tickets.”

The technology that enables tap-and-go mobile payments is increasingly ubiquitous in other areas of commerce. It is already being used in the booking systems of some airlines and transit services in the U.S.

Tuesday’s announcement comes as the railroad is on a major mission to lure back passengers and rebound from its worst financial crisis. The company has seen stunning revenue losses because of decline in ticket sales during the covid-19 pandemic. Ridership plummeted by 97 percent at the onset of the pandemic and remains down 75 percent compared to a year ago.

Amtrak says it wants to make booking easier for customers, and keep travel “contact-free” during the pandemic. Passengers are encouraged to make their Amtrak transactions online, from booking trips to checking the status of their train. Conductors can scan boarding e-Tickets shown from the Amtrak app.

Amtrak passengers can now get notification on the Amtrak app about gate and track information at some stations. Before booking, they can see how many seat are taken on a given train, a feature that allows customers to book a train that is less crowded.

Amtrak’s app is available on Apple and Android platforms. Users can save their preferred digital payment method as a default payment in their accounts for easier checkout.

Other transportation companies and agencies around the country and the world have introduced mobile digital payment systems. In the Washington area, Metro in September launched a system where customers can reload their SmarTrip accounts with Apple Pay and a new Metro mobile app.

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