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New Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card details: are you worse off?

by on Fri September 11, 2015 • 30 Comments
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Bank of America and Amtrak have launched two new Amtrak Guest Rewards credit cards. These come as Chase Amtrak Guest Rewards cards are being converted to Chase Freedom cards that don’t earn Amtrak points.

You can now apply online, and here are the details:

Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard

  • amtrak-world-card$79 annual fee
  • 20,000 bonus points after $1,000 in purchases within 90 days
  • 3 points per dollar on Amtrak purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on travel purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • A companion ticket for Amtrak travel
  • A one class upgrade certificate
  • A one day Acela Club / Metropolitan Club pass
  • On your anniversary, get the companion ticket and upgrade certificate again
  • 5% rebate on Amtrak redemptions
  • 1,000 tier qualifying points after each $5,000 in purchases (up to 4,000 per year)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Amtrak Guest Rewards Platinum Plus MasterCard

  • No annual fee
  • 12,000 bonus points after $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening
  • 2 points per dollar on Amtrak purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 5% rebate on Amtrak redemptions
  • No foreign transaction fees

How does this compare to the old Chase Amtrak credit card?

There was only one card from Chase, and it had no annual fee, with 2x points on Amtrak purchases and a 5% rebate on Amtrak redemptions.

That makes the new ‘Platinum Plus’ card with no annual fee almost identical, so no big loss to report there.

The key change is with the old Chase card, if you spent $200 per year on Amtrak tickets on the card, you earned the right to be able to transfer your Amtrak points out to partner programs like Choice Hotels. That’s a right normally reserved for Amtrak’s elite ‘Select’ level members.

Now with the new cards, that’s not possible unless you get the $79 annual fee ‘World’ level card. Even then you have to spend $20,000 a year in purchases on the card, and that only earns you the right to transfer a maximum of 25,000 points to outside partner programs.

There is some good news that will benefit more people though: the no annual fee ‘Platinum Plus’ card has no foreign transaction fees, an upgrade from the old Chase card, as does the $79 annual fee ‘World’ card.

The intro deal of 12,000 points is similar to what Amtrak offered in the past as a base offer, though it’s possible targeted, higher offers could emerge.

Is the $79 World card worth it?

The new ‘World’ level card with a $79 annual fee could be worth it for a few reasons…

First, the 2x points per dollar on travel purchases could net you $79 in extra value if you spend more than $3,000 a year in travel expenses. That’s because Amtrak points will be worth about 2.6 cents each toward most fares when the 2016 changes to Guest Rewards take effect, so an extra 3,000 points would get you about $79 in extra value.

Second, the upfront and annual companion certificate can save you over $100 if you use it each year. We don’t have the fine print yet, but the old certificates sometimes offered for signing up for the Chase card were valid on most regular Coach fares, but not any Acela, Sleeping Car or Business Class fares.

If you have an old Chase Amtrak card, you’ll have to apply fresh for either of these cards, and you’ll probably be bombarded with communication from Amtrak and Bank of America in the coming weeks.

What about Bank of America?

We hear mixed things about Bank of America’s card service.

One thing to note though, is they have a history of letting people hold multiple accounts of the same card, so you can separate your personal expenses, which some people use to their advantage.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

Still confused? Have a question?

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"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."

30 thoughts on New Amtrak Guest Rewards credit card details: are you worse off?

  1. Jane Haas

    We’re seniors who travel Amtrak occasionally. Even though we’ll be paying for adult fairs using our Amtrak rewards points, can we still have the senior privilege of early boarding on the train? If so, what, on the ticket indicates that we’re seniors?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Jane – It’s not very formal with Amtrak. Probably best to ask the ticket counter at the station to point you in the right direction – which might be a gate agent or red cap depending on the station setup.

      Reply
  2. David Poriss

    Does the companion fare discount apply to a “value” seat purchase on the Autotrain and/or on the Flexible rate?

    Reply
  3. Jacob

    If the companion certificate operates the same way as it did before (I never got it before – just got approved for the new World card so it’s on its way), but in the meantime so I can plan, is the paid fare anything published? Or, as Saver (cheapest, non-refundable) Fares won’t be available to “convert” for use on the new award ticket model (grrr….I think they should rethink that policy, at least in the Northeast…), is is the same here? Or should Saver Fares be eligible to book with the companion certificate?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Jacob – The terms say ‘full adult fare’ which we interpret to mean the stated rail fare without any coupon or corporate discounts. That should be Saver but we haven’t seen any confirmation of that.

      Reply
  4. Adam R.

    Hey, so I’m a frequent rider on the NE Corridor, and really all I’m interested in with an Amtrak card is whatever setup will benefit me the most with points that can be used between Washington and Boston. Right now I’m leaning towards applying for the $79 card almost exclusively for the 3x points on Amtrak service as opposed to the 2x on the free one, and for the 20k points after the $1,000 in purchases instead of the 12k points over the same timeframe.

    So, for someone who really just wants to maximize points, is the $79 card worth it, or am I reading this wrong and better off just applying for the free card? Thanks

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Adam – If you’re spending over $2500 or so in tickets a year then you’re better off with the 3x card even with the fee, since new Amtrak points are worth almost 3 cents each toward travel. And if you get to use the companion certificate then you probably pay for the fee itself with that even if you’re not that big of a spender.

      Reply
  5. Barbara Field

    Please explain in detail what an Amtrack complimentary companion coupon means. Does that mean that a companion can travel with you free?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Barbara Field – Yes that’s right – when you purchase a full price rail fare (not always the cheapest fare) you can bring a companion along for free on that train ride. The certificate is only good for one trip though (your choice of round trip or one way).

      Reply
      1. MileCards.com

        @Dean Hatfield – No you don’t. They’ll be good for at least 36 months – and you can renew them further with any activity earning or using points.

        Reply
  6. Joseph G

    I never applied for a new credit card with a new bank over the iPhone before, with instant approval with a nice credit line – until last night when I got off my flight from Charlotte to LAX. I don’t have any other accounts with Bank of America (Haven’t used BofA since I was 19 years old in 1986 when I left in disgust over extra charging fees with their ‘VERSATELLER’ ATM) but I need the card as I use Amtrak California a lot and get free rides on The San Joaquin and Surfliner. Peace – Joe the Bear

    Reply
  7. Trip Swindell

    As of 2:25 EDT today, other sites have reported that many applications for the new cards have already been denied. Mine is “pending.”

    Reply
  8. Katie

    Can the companion ticket be used when redeeming points? Or only on full-fare tickets? I am looking to get Amtrak points for a trip to Winterpark, CO for four people. If two of us got this card with the sign-on bonus, could we all get there free?

    Reply
  9. Will S

    VERY confused. You are correct to note that what most of us care about is:

    The key change… “the right to be able to transfer your Amtrak points out to partner programs like Choice Hotels.”

    But then you obfuscate matters with this:

    “Now with the new cards, that’s not possible unless you get the $79 annual fee ‘World’ level card. Even then you have to spend $20,000 a year on it, and that only earns you the right to transfer a maximum of 25,000 points to outside partner programs.”

    Where are you finding this? Please be more specific. Is the transfer rate to Choice still the same as before? (I can see the transfer rate of Choice Points to Amtrak — and THAT’s still startling. Same in reverse?)

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Will S – From the terms and conditions on the application form page: “Points transfer. Members that are active cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® World MasterCard® issued by Bank of America with an annual Net Retail spend on the card of $20,000 or more per calendar year may redeem up to 25,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points per calendar year for hotel points and Audience Rewards points.”

      It’s more restrictive.

      No indication the actual conversion ratio has changed though.

      Reply
      1. george

        Soooooooo, if we haven’t spent $200 this calendar year for Amtrak, and do it “now,” what is the earliest this year could we transfer 25K Amtrak point to Choice hotels? Will that still work even if the $200 is for travel next year?

        Thanks

        Reply
          1. MileCards.com

            @george – Probably after your statement closes for the period when you spent the $200 and the points for that purchase post to your AGR account. So if that happens to be before 9/30 you may have a shot, but you’re gambling with the vagaries of statement dates and proper reporting between the parties.

          2. george

            Thanks for response below…what does 9/30 have to do with buying Amtrak tickets and redeeming current Amtrak points for this calendar year? First, the $200 purchase is not tied to any form of credit card and I thought the Amtrak GR are effective in January…any citation?

            Again, much thanks?

          3. MileCards.com

            @george – The $200 requirement / exemption was for Chase card members and for tickets purchased on the card, and since that product ends 9/30, working under the assumption it won’t be possible to make a qualifying purchase after then. But Amtrak could choose to grandfather in some way. Best to ask AGR Insider on FlyerTalk.

  10. Sharon K

    I wonder what the “upgrade certificate” buys you. If that’s an upgrade from Coach to a Sleeper car, that would be quite a value. But I’m not even sure what Business Class is – it only seems to be available on selected Short/Medium distance routes. What can you do with an Upgrade if you live smack in the middle of Empire Builder territory?

    Reply
    1. GrayAnderson

      Based on history, the upgrade certs have either been Coach->Business Class or Business Class->First Class (on the Acela). Business Class on most trains includes a bit more legroom (and occasionally 2-1 seating, depending on the route), non-alcoholic beverages, and (on the NEC) unlimited access to either the Washington Post or NY Times’ websites. First Class on the Acela includes complementary meals (think an airline meal; the food there is usually pretty good in my experience), 2-1 seating, and free alcoholic beverages.

      And if the upgrade cert doesn’t let you use it on an LD train to get into a sleeper…you’re right that you can’t do much with it, something that has been a raging gripe of a decent number of passengers outside the three corridor-heavy areas.

      Reply
      1. Jeff Kesselman

        I used to travel the accela between Boston and NYC a lot.

        Business class is nice. The seats are more comfortable and the cars are generally quieter. I really dislike traveling coach when I have to… it feels like a cattle call.

        Reply
  11. Henry T

    And a nice feature of the $79 card is “1,000 tier qualifying points after each $5,000 in purchases (up to 4,000 per year)”, helping you reach — faster — the Select, Select Plus, etc. levels with all their extra benefits. One more reason to get the $79 card.

    Reply

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