Good Deal Alert: Amtrak Buy Points 50% Bonus

by on September 12, 2011 · 32 comments

in Amazing Deal Alerts, amtrak

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Update: The current sign-up bonus for the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard is 12,000 points after spending $500 in the first 3 months, 2 points per dollar spent on Amtrak, and one point per dollar on everything else.

Amtrak Guest Rewards is running a 50% bonus on purchased miles until September 30, 2011. The maximum purchase is 10,000 per year, so the maximum amount you can get is 15,000 miles (which includes the bonus) for $275. Simply log-in to your Amtrak Guest Rewards account, and then click Earn Miles-> Buy points.

Why is this a good deal? Because Amtrak only charges 3,000 points for a one-way ticket for all travel within the Northeast zone. So for $275 you can get 5 trips between Portland, Maine and Virginia Beach, for example. Those trips are usually well over $100, so this deal can save you over 50%. Even New York to DC trains can cost over $200 each way, so this can make a lot of sense – especially if you book last minute. If your one way trips cost less than $60, then I would not recommend this promotion.

Amtrak Zones

This deal is also great for people who can take advantage of their 1,000 point “Special” routes. These routes include Blue Water, Wolverine, Cascades, Pacific Surfliner, Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin, Hiawatha, Downeaster, The Lincoln Service, Illini Service, The Carl Sandburg, Missouri River Runner, The Illinois Zephyr, The Saluki, The Hoosier State, The Pere Marquette, The Piedmont, and The Heartland Flyer.

Amtrak points can be transferred to airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, but you need to be an Amtrak elite or Chase Amtrak cardholder and the yearly maximum is 15,000 points. Chase Ultimate Rewards points from the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold Business cards can be transferred to Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

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  • infamousdx

    This also saves money on NYC-DC route on the Acela. One way usually costs around $160-220, but you can redeem an award for 8,000 AGR points. That works out to $146 in value – very decent. That’s how I plan to redeem the points I bought.

  • MJLouise

    Also good for nearly-sold-out roomettes, which can be quite expensive, due to Amtrak’s bucket system. There is no capacity control on AGR redemptions; if there is a seat or room, you can use your points.

    A one-zone, one-way roomette can be had for 15K points, which two people can share. Both travel companions can purchase the points, with one using the points one way and the other using the points return.

    An example of a high-bucket Chicago to NOL one way roomette for two, Wed 10/05/11m cash price, is $112+112 +216 = $440.

  • Jon S

    You should add in their current double points promo which started a few days ago and runs a few months

  • Victoria

    While it’s an okay deal if you need pricey last minute $200 tickets (assuming they’re not blacked out), if you buy in advance, you can get DC-NYC acela tickets for $139: less than the cost of the points. And with a bought ticket, you get points from it: 500 at a bare minimum if you have no status, but since there’s generally some sort of promotion running, I’d estimate the average you get is 700-800 if you have no status: I probably average close to 1000 with Select.

    Since I don’t pay out of pocket for my Acela tickets, I generally use my points to buy the pack of 5 first class upgrades for 10k points. Since those cost $105/each, you get a theoretical cpm of 5.25: I’d probaly actually value them at about 3-4cpm.

    I’m on the fence about buying: they’re a theoretical deal, but I’ve got a pretty plentiful stash and can only use so many upgrades/year as I’m frequently travelling on upgrade blackout weekends.

  • bluto

    So, if you redeem for a one-way roomette reward for 15k, you don’t have to separately buy two coach fares, correct? When you do the transaction in all cash, Amtrak seems to make you buy two coach tickets plus the roomette fee.

  • Anthony

    Can you in turn convert these to hhonors points. They have 10000 points for 5000 Amtrak points. Toy ciu,d turn this into 30000 hhonors points.

  • Anonymous

    Only if you have Amtrak elite status or their credit card

  • Anonymous

    I can train from Portland, OR to Vancouver, BC for just 1000 points. The equivalent purchased ticket is between $50-100. So buying points regularly gets you trips 50-75% off, and with an extra 50% bonus it’s even cheaper.

    It makes Amex/Chase points worth at least 5 cents each to me.

  • Anonymous

    I can train from Portland, OR to Vancouver, BC for just 1000 points. The equivalent purchased ticket is between $50-100. So buying points regularly gets you trips 50-75% off, and with an extra 50% bonus it’s even cheaper.

    It makes Amex/Chase points worth at least 5 cents each to me.

  • Simon Cunningham

    done. use the cascades line as well, and i bought 5000+2500=7500 points for $137. thats $19 for a one way to p0rtland or vancouver. i live in seattle.

  • swy

    I thought the max per year with the Chase MasterCard is 25,000 per year? e.g. 25,000 x 3 = 75,000 for Choice.

  • MJLouise

    That is correct. 15K one way, one zone is all-inclusive of seat+room for the maximum the room can hold (2 for roomette or room, 2 adults + 2 kids with family room).

    With cash price, the room fee is on top of the individual coach tickets.

  • MJLouise

    Sorry I meant to say AGR redemptions in general are all-inclusive of seat+room for the maximum the room can hold. The 15K is specific for one way one zone roomette only; rooms and family rooms, and multiple zone redemptions are of course higher points.

  • MJLouise

    Redemption of Amtrak Guest Rewards points for Hilton HHonors points is only available to the following members with the associated annual point transfer caps, inclusive of all transfers, as outlined in the program Terms and Conditions:

    Members with current Amtrak Guest Rewards Select or Select Plus status, with an annual point transfer limit of 50,000
    Cardholders of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® MasterCard® issued by Chase Bank with an Amtrak travel spend on the card of over $200 per calendar year, with an annual point transfer limit of 25,000 per year

  • Kane

    Does amtrak participate in any mileage stores such as that would allow us to double dip a bit on the promotion?

  • MJLouise

    They do have a shopping mall, but it’s not really tied into buying or transferring AGR points. As with most of these “shopping malls” you have to track carefully your purchases and sometimes chase down the points. To be fair, if/when I had a problem I was able to get my points by either calling customer service or sending a PM to AGR Insider at flyertalk.

  • sil

    any expiration date on points you buy? do you need to have activity once every 18 months, 2 years etc?

  • Joseph

    hi TPG,

    I currently have 20K Amtrak points from when I used to do a lot of business travel however my points are set to expire in 2012 and I am going to lose my status as I no longer take Amtrak.

    Taking advantage of this offer is a no brainer for me to up my total to 35K.

    My question to you is do you think a transfer to Hilton at a ratio of 1:2 or would a transfer to Continental (1:1) be more advantageous?

    I have a total of 80K Hilton points at the moment and 30K Miles on continental.

  • MJLouise

    When do my points expire?
    Amtrak Guest Rewards points expire 36 months after your last paid Amtrak trip. Redemption travel reserved with points does not constitute paid travel. While a cardholder of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® MasterCard® from Chase® with an open account, your points will not expire.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the info, TPG! You should note that some routes are only 1000 points.

    I would think given that you said you wouldn’t recommend this deal if the trip is less than $60 (based on a 3000 pt cost), then if a trip costs $20 or more it’s worth it if the route is a special 1,000 point route.

  • BruceR

    Hi, Can any of you tell me if the following will work? I buy 10K pts, my girlfriend buys 10k pts, we each end up with 15k pts from the promo; we put our pts. together to buy a 2-zone roomette, costing us 20k pts. Don’t know if this is allowed. (We’re traveling from Chicago or Milwaukee to Portland OR., returning later.)

    Or, I buy 10k and she buys for me 10k, giving me 30k total….


  • BruceR

    Never mind the latter, I see that one can only buy/receive up to 10k pts/year.

  • MJLouise

    No, AGR doesn’t allow combining points in that manner. You can split by way of one of you redeeming one way, and the other the other way.

    Have you applied for the Chase AGR cards? It’s kind of a YMMV thing, but it worked for me using this link for 32K points. Be sure to keep a screen shot because sometimes AGR / Chase want to say you were targeted for a different amount :( , even though there is no mention of “targeting” on this link.

  • BruceR

    Thanks MJ! I’m looking into the card.

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  • RampWidget

    TPG, Thanks for your great blogs!

    Now… Amtrak points buy problem: I purchased 10K AGR points to 1) keep my account active; and 2) take advantage of the 50% bonus. 2 weeks after the AGR points credited to my account, log on and find ZERO POINTS. Why? “Your points have expired due to no Amtrak paid travel in the last 36 months!?”
    E-mailed AGR and following up w/ phone call as to why a points buy isn’t “account activity.”

    Lesson learned: Don’t count on the points buy if your AGR account’s close to their 36-month “no paid Amtrak travel” malarkey. Funny thing is, I had a friend, on the same day, open a brand new AGR account from scratch, buy points, and the points are still in her account. Go figure.

    I will post an update with the answer I get from AGR. May just have to throw in the towel, call Amex and refuse the charge for the points purchase.

    Thanks again for all you do & travel safe!

  • RampWidget

    Have an update to my AGR “”disappearing” points purchase. To AGR’s credit, they followed up my message almost immediately with a voicemail and then called again before I had a chance to return the call. A+ to Patricia with AGR for initiative.

    Found out:
    a) Points purchases DO NOT keep your points balance from expiring. You have 1 point in an active account and you buy 10,000 points 24 hours before that 1 point expires, then it’s good-bye points! The oddest thing is, if I had done like my friend and opened a fresh brand-new AGR account, the time-to-expire would have started from the initial points purchase.

    b) On existing AGR accounts, paid Amtk travel and/or the AGR Chase MC are the ONLY two things that will save your points balance. Grr.

    c) Patricia with AGR did say that she would reinstate all my “expired” points if I take one “paid Amtk trip” within the next 30 days as long as my AGR number is on the reservation in my name. This isn’t too bad if you live someplace like BOS, NY, PHL, DC, SoCa, b/c you can buy a ticket and ride for some short hop like DC to BWI for $9.00.

    d) Finally, Patricia with AGR did also check for me and said that if I applied for & received the AGR Chase MC within 30 days, they will reinstate my points. I think I’ll try that first, and I used MJLouise’s link [thank you, MJL] hoping that the 32K bonus will also work. We’ll see.

    Final Amtrak Guest Rewards Grades for this post: Customer responsiveness & follow-up; A. Program T&C for account activity (expiration); D-.


  • Julie

    I just did this……didn’t realize points were expiriing. My purchase for $275 Expired BEFORE they were even credited. Bought at 9:08 MST (11:08 AGR time) and they expired at midnight – 52 min later. Credit card states they were purchased on 10/1. So, on 10/1 my account was theoretically empty and I could purchase and retain the points. Gonna fight this one as per their wording it takes up to 72 hours to credit, and they can’t sell me something that doesn’t exist – disappearing points. Plus, I booked a trip online in 5/11 and it never credited my points. I thought the points in my account were from that trip. UGH! NOT looking forward to fighting this on Monday.

  • Rodeobear

    What about Amtrak points bonus points sales in 2012???? Does anyone know of any upcoming plans for another 50% bonus sale?

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  • Dsparky

    How do I purchase guest rewards points?

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