Amtrak to tie award prices to ticket prices. Sigh.

In the points & miles world, Amtrak (yes, Amtrak) offers some of the best bang for your buck when it comes to redeeming points.  Currently, points can be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG, or Diner’s Club to Amtrak, and from there you can book sleeper car trips for as little as 25,000 points for two people – all meals included.  Another great option is to spend only 1,500 points for Amtrak’s special routes.  Due to these terrific (and very easy to obtain) redemption options, Amtrak is one of a few great travel options highlighted in my post “Easy Wins”.

Tonight, via Twitter, Paul Druce (@ReasonRail) announced that Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program will go revenue based, and he linked to a presentation containing details:

What this means

Today it’s possible to get tremendous value for your points with Amtrak.  With today’s program, its not at all unusual to get 4 cents per point value, or more.   Starting in January, though, the number of points you need for a trip will be tied directly to the cash price of the trip.  It’s likely that point values will be fixed at perhaps 2 cents per point or less.  Depending upon the redemption rate they land on, Amtrak points may or may not still represent good value, but it will no longer be possible to get great value.

Amtrak revenue based

It looks like it will be possible to book Amtrak rewards under the current system through the end of the year.  And, as long as the trip is booked before January, it should be fine if the actual travel is after the switchover. If you’re interested in Amtrak travel, especially via sleeper cars, I’d suggest booking soon.

New credit cards

Also of interest from the presentation is news that on September 12th Amtrak will launch two new co-branded credit cards with a new issuing bank (read: not Chase).  Hopefully we’ll see some nice signup bonuses…

Amtrak revenue based

My bet is that we’ll no longer be able to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak due to this new bank relationship.  The real question is how long we have.  Will Chase cutoff transfers by September 12th?  By the end of the year?  I don’t know.  However, if you know that you’ll be booking an Amtrak trip and you plan to transfer points from Chase to do so, I’d recommend doing that right away.

UPDATE: Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Amtrak will be allowed until December 7th 2015.

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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  1. Wow, I’m shocked that new rules didn’t go into effecy yesterday. This is a program NOT to be trusted. Amtrak is i icky anyway….

  2. Oh, sad face. I just discovered the joys of the auto-train between Orlando and DC. Passenger tickets worked out to be 2-2.5 cents per point, and the car was 1.3-1.5 cents per point. I’m more concerned about the possibility that they’ll be dropped as a UR transfer partner…time to move some points!

  3. do you have contacts at chase you could ask about amtrak? this stinks! was nice to have an option for last min trips on the NE corridor

  4. I’m excited for a revamped bonus. But I can’t justify the UR point transfer for Choice exclusively at this time. Amtrak isn’t very convenient for me at this point in my life, but I could see it being a blast for younger ones that can’t sit still and want to see stuff or the NE corridor. If they removed the 25k Choice limitation, I’d be transfer happy without stays in the near term.

  5. Anyone know how many points to book a family sleeper? Would like to travel with wife and baby while we can from LA to Chi.

  6. The sample cardholder name on the new credit cards is “Chris L Martin,” which is typically the sample name Bank of America uses on their website.

  7. Oh well.. I guess my June trip to Florida in a Bedroom on the Silver Star will be my last such trip on Amtrak. Can’t justify $900+ train ride but I was willing to pay 25k Amtrak/Chase points for it. The fun of train rides comes with longer travel time but that was usually counter balanced by using fewer points… If there aren’t any cost savings, it takes the incentive out to take the 22 hour train ride from DC to Tampa.. when I can fly quicker and for same or less money.

    @ Greg Z. 2 Zone trip from Chicago to LA will cost you 40k points for a bedroom. Family bedroom is basically two Bedrooms with the connecting doors opened between them.

  8. Well that sucks a big one. I would be very shocked if UR transferability lasts beyond 12 Sep or so.

    I guess the one hope is that the CC signon bonus(es) will be decent enough.

  9. Well this absolutely sucks. UR transfers to Amtrak were seriously like 90% of my UR transfers. We love taking long weekend trips to NYC and DC and being in the Philly area Amtrak was super convenient. This time last year we took the Acela first class to Boston which was a wonderful experience. $3000 roundtrip tickets for a total of 48k UR was a great redemption rate IMO. Sad to see this option may disappear. If it does I’m going to put a lot less effort into earning UR.

    • Yikes! How did you manage to find two tickets for $3000 RT? The highest I have ever seen is $400 each way (so $1600 total).

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