Chase kills the Amtrak card. Why you might care…

I was never interested in the Chase Amtrak card.  Sure, it can be used to earn Amtrak points, and those can be valuable, but there was always a better option for earning those points: Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Ultimate Rewards points transfer one to one to Amtrak (and to a number of airline and hotel partners) as long as you have a premium card such as the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus.  So, why get an Amtrak card that locks you into one particular type of reward?

ChaseKillsAmtrakCard

No, I had no interest in the Amtrak card, until Travel is Free published “Booking the (T&L) Top 500 Hotels on Points.”  In that post, Travel is Free showed that 42 of Travel and Leisure’s Top 500 Hotels are bookable with Choice Hotel points.  And, these aren’t hotels in luxurious but remote and hard to get to locations.  Some of these are hotels that I might stay at often, if I had a boatload of Choice points.  Here are a few that stood out to me due to their locations being in places that I’m personally likely to visit:

  • Montage Laguna Beach
  • Grand Del Mar, San Diego
  • The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs
  • Seagate Hotel & Spa, Delray Beach
  • Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort, KauaiThere are many more on the list and I’m sure that each reader will see hotels in places that are relevant to them.  But, you might wonder… What does this have to do with Amtrak?

    Here it is: if you have elite status with Amtrak (Select Plus or Select Executive tier), or you have the Amtrak credit card and spend at least $200 a year on Amtrak, you can transfer Amtrak points to Choice at a ratio of 1 to 3.  That is, 5,000 Amtrak points become 15,000 Choice points.  And, Travel is Free says that Choice award prices for that list of top hotels range from 30,000 to 60,000 points.  Translated into Amtrak points, you can stay at many of the top hotels in the world for only 10,000 to 20,000 Amtrak points per night!  Keep in mind that Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Amtrak, so it should be possible to transfer to Amtrak then to Choice to book these hotels.  But that will only work with Amtrak status or with the Amtrak credit card (details can be found here).

    So, I called Chase yesterday to find out if there were any useful downgrade options for my IHG card.  Remember that I’m planning on cancelling some of my favorite cards?  I was hoping to convert it either to the Freedom card or the Amtrak card.  It turns out that the only option is to downgrade to a lesser IHG card (Who knew that existed? Doctor of Credit: get on this in your weird credit card series…).  Then I asked the agent if the Amtrak card was still available for new signups.  The link on my Best Offers page had died recently (thanks go to a couple of readers who pointed that out) and I had failed to find a working one.  She put me on hold for a bit to investigate.  When she returned, she told me that the card is no longer being offered to new customers.  Existing Amtrak card holders can keep using their cards, but Chase doesn’t plan to offer the card anymore to anyone else.

    Suddenly, like Citi Forward cardholders, Amtrak cardholders have become date-worthy (see: Citi changes the dating game).

    Other ways to get Choice points…

    • Credit card: I suppose you could get the Barclaycard Choice Privileges credit card (found here, scroll down a bit).  It offers an amazing 15 points per dollar for Choice stays, but only 2 points per dollar elsewhere.  I’ll pass.  Correction, thanks to Mike, the card earns only 5 points per dollar at Choice hotels. The other 5 to 10 points per dollar is from the stay itself.
    • Stay at Choice Hotels: Point earnings are either 5 or 10 points per dollar plus a percent bonus if you have elite status.  At 10 points per dollar earnings, one would have to spend $3,000 at Choice hotels to earn one free 30,000 point night.  Yeah.  No.
    • Transfer from Diner’s Club: Found on my Transfer Partner Master List, one can transfer 1250 Diner’s Club points into 2400 Choice points.  That’s pretty good except that Diners Club cards are no longer open to new applicants, and everyone I know who had the card has been shut down.
    • Transfer from Amex Membership Rewards: Also found on the Transfer Partner Master List, one can transfer from Membership Rewards to Choice at a one to one ratio.  No thanks.  Membership Rewards are much more valuable when transferred to airline programs.
    • Points plus cash trick: Loyalty Traveler shows how to buy Choice points at the rate of $7.50 per 1,000 points.  That means a 30,000 point stay would cost $225, and a 60,000 point stay would cost $450.  I’m sure that those prices would be a big discount off the usual rate for these top hotels, but it doesn’t exactly seem like much of a bargain to me.
    • Daily Getaways: Each year, Amex and the US Travel Association team up to sell “Daily Getaways.” These are often deals for buying hotel points cheaply.  Last year, Choice points were available for as little as .42 cents per point.  If the same deal returns this year, that would mean that 30,000 point nights would cost only $126 and 60,000 point nights would cost only $252.  At those rates, it might be worth going for.  Keep in mind, though, that Daily Getaway deals are usually available in extremely limited quantities so you have to be ready to buy the moment they go on sale (even then, you might not be quick enough with some deals).

    Anyone know any other good options?’’

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. Any thoughts on the reasoning; is it a precursor to removing Amtrak as a UR transfer partner? As a NYer, Amtrak is the most consistently valuable partner for me, often able to get better than 3c/point.

  2. I have had this card for many years. I am not a big credit card churner, and I just kind of kept it around and ignored it. Now I am very glad I kept it! I do ride Amtrak on some of their super cheap routes (Chicago-Ann Arbor) but I also have leveraged literally thousands of dollars in value from the Choice program. I guess Daily Deals will be even tougher this year!

  3. You can also transfer DC Club rewards points to Marriott Rewards. You can update that in your Transfer Partner Master List for hotels.

  4. Amtrak is pretty unclear on exactly what qualifies as a “tier point” for elite status. The extent of their definition is that you earn tier points for paid Amtrak travel and during special promotions. Paid travel earns “points” at 2 per dollar spent, are those both tier points? It’s unclear, and I don’t have any Amtrak travel this year to compare the tier and regular points earned.

    Amtrak also awards 500 “points” for each person you refer to their membership program. Are those “tier points”? If so, 20 referrals would make you a Select Plus member!

    Also note that you can claim retroactive credit for trips that don’t have your Amtrak number on the ticket at the time of travel — even back 21 days before you joined the program.

  5. @ LarryInNYC, Tier point is like airlines MQM/EQM. so you get 2 tier points for every $1 spent on amtrak (with a minimum of 100 points per one way trip, whether the ticket was $15 or $50).
    And you need 5000 points to get to Select level (which is what I am)

    Then there are promotions like referrals (500 points) and double point days promotion which will start next week. Those are redeemable points (like redeemable airline miles)

    For the double days promotion, if this was your first Amtrak ride of the year and that trip cost $150. You will earn 300 tier points (2x$150) but since it’s double day, you’ll get bonus 300 points. So you now have 300 tier points (4700 more for Select status) and you have 600 points to spend on future Amtrak redemption.

    If your referred someone and they took a qualifying trip. you’ll get 500 points. So now you have 300 tier points and 1100 redeemable points. So any bonus points are not tier points so you can’t refer 10 people to earn select status.

    Does that help? Let me know if you have any questions.
    I love amtrak redemptions from DC/Baltimore to NYC.. only 4000 points for coach.

  6. @LarryInNYC
    About thee special promotion that you read. Last year, toward the end of the year, they offered me double tier points promotions.
    So every trip during that time earned double tier points (not double redeemable points like the promotion that starts next week) Saved me 3 trips to reach Select for this year.

    Select gets you two ClubAcela passes and two 10% discount OR 1 class upgrade coupons. Plus 25% bonus redeemable miles.

  7. Bummer, In additional to Points, this card also gave you a 2 for 1 which you needed to travel on Acela during the week. We have taken 2 trips Washington – NYC RT for $150 total using the sign up bonus & the 2 for 1. Great to walk from Home to Union Station, then Walk to Times Square Intercontinental (using Ambassador 2 4 1 weekend cert).

  8. For those who have the Amtrak card, do we know if we’ll be able to continue transferring Amtrak points to Choice?

  9. A comment on the Barclays Choice credit card – they deceptively advertise in big bold font that you earn 15 points per dollar, but in the fine print you discover that 10 of those 15 are the regular 10 (they assume 10 for the advertising, although the lower tier brands only earn 5) that you get from paid stays, so the card really only earns 5 points per dollar on choice spend, and 2 points elsewhere (very crappy). I only keep the card because of the free “gold” status, which is also pretty worthless except for the longer booking window for award stays (IIRC, 50 days versus 30).

  10. I got notice from Chase last week that the Amtrak affiliation ends on 9/30/15. I called to confirm with Chase. Then I called Amtrak. On 9/14/15 Amtrak will be taking applications with their new credit card issuer and with special application bonus points. I will be calling them back that day.

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