Monday December 7th will be the last day to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak Guest Rewards. Should you transfer? If so, how much?
Are you planning an Amtrak bedroom or roomette trip? Can you book by January 23rd 2016?
The Amtrak Guest Rewards program will change dramatically as of January 24th, 2016. As of January 24th, Amtrak points will become worth about 2.5 cents each (or slightly more) towards Amtrak travel (see this post for details). That’s pretty good, but it’s currently possible to get much more value per point when booking bedrooms or roomettes. For full details, please see: Planning your next Amtrak adventure before its too late.
Number of points to transfer: Figure out the cost, in points, of your planned trip then transfer enough points to cover that trip.
Do you travel Amtrak often?
If you frequently ride Amtrak, and your expenses are not reimbursed, then I’d argue that transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak is a very good idea. At a value of at least 2.5 cents per point, this is a great use of Ultimate Rewards points. Consider, for example, that Southwest points (another 1 to 1 Chase transfer partner) are worth approximately 1.5 cents each towards Wanna Getaway fares. Using the same points for Amtrak travel offers much better value.
Number of points to transfer: Since point valuations change regularly, I’d recommend transferring the number of points that you are sure you would use within the next year (assuming you have enough Chase points, of course). A rough calculation would look like this:
- Expected Amtrak spend in next 12 months: $1500 (150,000 cents)
- Estimated number of points required: 150,000 / 2.5 = 60,000
Amtrak will allow points + cash awards so it won’t be the end of the world if you underestimate the number of points needed.
Do you want Choice Privileges points? Do you have Amtrak elite status or plan heavy spend on the Amtrak World MasterCard?
Amtrak allows point transfers to Choice at a terrific 1 to 3 ratio. 5,000 Amtrak points become 15,000 Choice points. Unfortunately, only Amtrak elite members or those who have spent $20,000 in one year on the Amtrak World MasterCard are allowed to make that transfer. Credit card holders who spend $20K can transfer up to 25,000 Amtrak points per year. Elite Select and Select Plus members can transfer up to 50,000 points. And, top tier elite Select Executive members can transfer an unlimited number of points. I covered these tiers recently in the post “Manufacturing Choice. Is it worth it?” If you have good uses for Choice points and can meet any of these requirements, then transferring Ultimate Rewards points makes sense.
Number of points to transfer: The number of points to transfer depends on how many Choice points you need and how many Amtrak points you can effectively transfer. Whether you earn the ability to transfer points by getting elite status from riding Amtrak or from spending heavily on Amtrak credit cards, you will earn Amtrak points through those activities. Do you really need more Amtrak points? If so, consider only the incremental amount you would need and transfer that many.
Tip: Consider signing up for the Bank of America Amtrak card for a signup bonus plus a 5% rebate
If you answered yes to any of the above scenarios, you may want to sign up for one of the two Bank of America Amtrak credit cards. You can find my review of both cards here. The World MasterCard currently offers a 20,000 point signup bonus and the Platinum MasterCard offers a 12,000 point bonus. Either card would give you a 5% rebate on awards. So, if you sign up for one of these cards before redeeming Amtrak points for travel, you’ll get 5% of those points back.
If you plan to signup for one of the cards, consider the signup bonus that you’ll earn when planning the number of points to transfer from Chase. You may not need as many Chase points as you thought.
Note: I do not earn a commission for these cards.
And, I leave you with a warning email from Amtrak: