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Who needs to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak points now

by on Mon December 7, 2015 • 2 Comments
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amtrak

Today, December 7, is the last day you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak Guest Rewards points, now that Amtrak has shifted its credit card relationship to Bank of America.

Amtrak points don’t have wide appeal, but if you can answer yes to any of these three questions you should give a transfer serious thought this weekend:

  • You live in the Northeast Corridor and ride the train a few times a year
  • You want to travel in a sleeping car and can set a firm date for next year in the next two months
  • You plan to take Amtrak’s shorter routes like the Surfliner or Capitol Corridor in California in the next year

Living in the Northeast Corridor

If you use points for trips in the Northeast Corridor you can count on about 1.8 – 2.9 cents in value, a wide range, but all comfortably above what we would say is a ‘good’ use of your Ultimate Rewards points.

Amtrak has four price levels for train tickets: Saver, the lowest, Value, Flexible, and Premium.

Starting January 24th, the price of your trip in Amtrak points is set by the Value or higher price of your trip in cash.

amtraknortheastregional

For the example above, you’ll see one train has a $53 Saver fare and an $88 Value fare.

Your price in points will be calculated based on that $88 Value fare. So using Amtrak’s point calculator, you’ll need 3,036 points.

But if you’re reading this you care about getting good value out of your points. So while 3,036 points for an $88 ticket is a great 2.9 cents per point in value, $88 isn’t a fair base to say what’s a good value, since you can buy the ticket for $55.

Making the value per point based on the $55 ticket gets you just 1.8 cents per point, a good, but not great deal.

amtrakregionalpoints

If you tend to take trips more last minute, it’s more likely you’ll get the full 2.9 cent per point value, as Saver fares often sell out, leaving only Value and higher fares.

So if you live in the Northeast, think about how many train trips you took in the last year or two, and set aside enough points to cover those if you think you’ll take that many in the coming years.

You’ll probably pay 5,000 points or less per trip.

It’s hard not to get about 2 cents or more in value, and if you’re not saving up for a big international Business or First Class trip this can be a great use of points, much better than getting 1.25 cents per point by booking travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.

Sleeping car trips

This one is a lot more niche.

Amtrak is raising the point prices of many sleeping car trips starting January 24, 2016 because they will be based on the cash fare rather than a menu of prices, and you will pay additional points if more than one person is traveling in the room. The current system gets you the maximum people allowed in the room for one point price.

But if you want to travel in a Sleeping Car, you can do a trip within one of Amtrak’s existing ‘zones’ (pictured below) for 15,000 points one way in a Roomette or 25,000 points for a full Bedroom. That includes all of your meals on the trip in the dining car, and you can take spectacular routes like the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, or more practical ones like the Auto Train from Virginia to Florida.

zonemap

A Sleeping Car trip often costs $800 or more, so 25,000 points for the experience is a great deal, and you need to lock it in by January 24 to take advantage of these prices.

Very short trips

Amtrak operates a bunch of commuter like train lines, which cover trips that are usually 2 or 3 hours or less.

They’re really cheap to buy with cash (usually under $30 one way) and with the price in points soon being based on the price in cash they can be a good deal with Amtrak points.

For example, the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to San Diego costs $37 one way and is only available as a ‘Value’ fare.

surfliner

That comes in at just 1,277 points – a 2.9 cent per point value.

surfliner

So if you live in California and use the trains once in a while….transfer over 3,000, 5,000 or so points to have on hand for a few of these rides.

And if you want to keep stocking up on Amtrak points, there are two new cards from Bank of America, both with decent intro bonus offers.

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 ?

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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."

2 thoughts on Who needs to transfer Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak points now

    1. MileCards.com

      @Carl – There is no chart or zone pricing anymore. The price is now based on the cash railfare, so just search like you’re shopping for a train on Amtrak.com, and select ‘points’ when the prices show up. That will show you the price in points for that specific train.

      Reply

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