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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32 Comments on "Amtrak to tie award prices to ticket prices. Sigh."

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[…] Stay tuned as information breaks!  ((EDIT: Frequent Miler has also posted some analysis) […]

The Masked Poster
Guest

What’ll happen to those holding the existing Chase Amtrak card?

Gene
Guest

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….

Gene
Guest

Wow, I should edit more… 🙂

MMKate
Guest

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!

tom
Guest

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

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[…] Frequent Miler blog reports that Amtrak plans to completely revamp its Guest Rewards points program in January 2016, and […]

JohnnyAppleSale
Guest

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.

Greg Z
Guest

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.

Points With a Crew
Guest

It’s 25,000 for one zone and 40,000 for two zones.

korrinda
Guest

Oh, shhhhittttttt! 🙁

Taylor
Guest

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.

Steve
Guest

Nice catch, Taylor!

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[…] It has been a hell of a ride  indeed. Why, what the hell happened you may ask? Well, when Amtrak goes that route you know the end is near by Frequent […]

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[…] It looked like Amtrak had reached out to Flyertalk and some of the other rail forums, like Amtrak Unlimited, having them remove their posts on the subject, but…. I think the cat is out of the bag now :-D.  Frequent Miler also had some analysis on the Amtrak changes. […]

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[…] booking will cost is dependent on the ticketing price), you can read more about this in the PDF or Frequent Miler or Points With A […]

Juno
Guest

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.

Ryan
Guest

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.

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[…] And bad news […]

Mike
Guest

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.

Tom
Guest

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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[…] Frequent Miler and Doctor of Credit report Amtrak’s loyalty program is changing to a revenue-based system.  This means the price of an award seat will be tied to the cost of a paid ticket. […]

italdesign
Guest

All sweet spots go away. Enjoy them while you can. And always have a backup plan.

ed
Guest

This was truly one of the best. I’ll dearly miss traveling Amtrak.

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[…] Amtrak to tie award prices to ticket prices. Sigh. […]

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[…] of their redemption chart (though some value still remains in those premium redemptions), and now Amtrak is changing to a revenue-based redemption program. Of course, that might not even matter because Chase lost the Amtrak credit card and might not […]

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[…] on to the bad news. Starting next January, Amtrak program will be revenue-based. I believe Frequent Miler reported on it first. That means that it will most likely no longer be possible to redeem 40K points for $1,900 worth of […]

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[…] on to the bad news. Starting next January, Amtrak program will be revenue-based. I believe Frequent Miler reported on it first. That means that it will most likely no longer be possible to redeem 40K points for $1,900 worth of […]

Geoffrey
Guest

Was just told by an Amtrak guest rewards rep that transfers from Chase will end at the end of 2015.

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[…] a few friends in Denver/Boulder that wanted to experience a “premium” Amtrak experience before the January 24, 2016, Amtrak devaluation, so we planned to go on Presidents’ Day Weekend / Valentine’s Day / NBA All-Star […]