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Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard Offering 12,000 Bonus Points – But Why You Shouldn’t Get it

by on August 30, 2013 · 14 comments

in amtrak, Chase

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The Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 12,000 bonus points after you spend $500 in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on Amtrak, and one point per dollar on everything else. The card has no annual fee, and it grants Amtrak Guest Rewards members the ability to transfer points to hotel programs.

However, before you go out and apply for it, there are several other Chase cards whose bonuses are much bigger and more valuable, even if you are putting them to use on Amtrak. Before I get into that, here are some of the other details on the card.

The Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.28.07 AM

Earn 12,000 bonus points with the Amtrak Guest Rewards World MasterCard

Hotel Point Transfer Options: Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program allows point transfers to Hilton HHonors and Choice Privileges. 5,000 Amtrak points can be redeemed for 15,000 Choice Privilege points (1:3 ratio) or 10,000 Hilton HHonors points (1:2 ratio).

However, the hotel point transfer options are restricted to Amtrak elite members and holders of their Guest Rewards Credit Card, so this is one reason why you might want to consider the card, despite the low sign-up bonus. Elite members have an annual transfer limit of 50,000 points while Chase cardholders must spent $200 per year on the card and are limited to 25,000 points transferred per calendar.

NYC to Miami coach

One-way NYC to Miami for $141.

When it comes to redemption, the 12,000-point sign-up bonus can actually get you pretty far. One-way coach tickets within each Amtrak’s three (huge) zones require just 5,500 points, so you could get a roundtrip coach ticket with your bonus. For example, a one-way coach ticket from New York to Miami, which is considered one zone, only requires 5,500 points as opposed to paying $141 giving you a 2.56 cents per point value for this redemption.

The card also has the benefit of a 5% points refund on award redemptions – so if you were to redeem those 5,500 points for the one-zone one-way, you’d get 275 back. It’s kind of like the 10% travel redemption refund on the Barclaycard Arrival and the 10% miles refund with the personal Citi American AAdvantage cards.

Why You Should Pick Another Card

So while Amtrak Guest Rewards offers some great values, before you get the co-branded card, remember that Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are both transfer partners of the program and offer cards with much higher sign-up bonuses and potentially much more lucrative category spending bonuses.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned with the issuer’s premium cards are transferable to Amtrak at a 1:1 ratio. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is offering 40,000 points with $3,000 spend in the first 3 months. It also offers 2X points on all dining and travel, including Amtrak tickets, so you’re still earning 2X points per $1 on Amtrak purchases as well as at restaurants. The card’s 7% annual points dividend also outweighs the Amtrak card’s 5% redemption refund, though you do have to wait till the end of the calendar year to receive those points. It does have a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.

Two other Chase cards, the Ink Bold Business Card and Ink Plus Business Card, also earn Ultimate Rewards points that are directly transferable to Amtrak and both are currently offering 50,000 points with $5,000 spend in the first 3 months. Their $95 annual fees are also waived the first year. Each of these cards not only earns 2X points per $1 on gas and hotels, but a potentially super lucrative 5X points per $1 at office supply stores and telecommunications, so if you can maximize your purchases at these stores, you can blow any earnings on the Amtrak card out of the water and the sign-up bonus is over 4x as much as the Amtrak Mastercard.

Even if you already have some or all three of these cards and are looking to pick up another Chase one without a big spending requirement or annual fee, you could always consider getting either the Sapphire or the Freedom, both of which come with a current sign-up bonus of 10,000 points for spending $500 within 3 months and have no annual fee. The sign-up bonuses are lower, but remember that the Sapphire also earns 2X points on dining and the Freedom has quarterly rotating 5X spending bonus categories so your earning on these cards could still be a lot more lucrative than with the Amtrak card.

Although the Ultimate Rewards points you earn with these two cards cannot be transferred to Amtrak on their own, if you have one of the three premium Ultimate Rewards credit cards (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus), you can combine your Ultimate Rewards accounts and transfer the ones you earn with the basic card to your Amtrak account that way.

The Starwood Amex

In addition to Chase, Starwood also offers Amtrak as a transfer partner at a 1:1 ratio. Now through September 3, 2013, both the personal and business versions of the Starwood Preferred Guest card from American Express are offering limited-time 30,000-point sign-up bonus offers when you spend $5,000 in 6 months – giving you a bonus that’s 2.5X as much as on the Amtrak card – and both also have their $65 annual fee waived the first year. I personally get much more value out of my Starpoints by redeeming them for hotel stays, but it’s still an option.

The one downside is that none of these other cards confer the ability to transfer Amtrak points to its hotel partner programs as the Amtrak World Mastercard does. However, if you are a regular Amtrak rider, you could try going for Amtrak Guest Rewards elite status and then you wouldn’t need to the co-branded credit card for this perk since you would get it as an elite benefit – and in fact elite status would double the amount of points you could transfer per year.

All in all, while the Amtrak Guest Rewards World Mastercard is a decent product for Amtrak travelers, there are far more lucrative bonuses and spending opportunities to be had with both Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex, both of which accrue points that also transfer to Amtrak.

See these other posts about Amtrak Guest Rewards:

Maximizing Amtrak Guest Rewards: Earning Points

Maximizing Amtrak Guest Rewards Points: Redeeming and Partners

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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  • CR

    “Chase cardholders must spent $200 per year on the card ”
    Worse yet, the requirement is for $200 in Amtrak spend on the card, not just general spending. For those of us not in “Amtrak Territory”, that leaves a ton of points languishing that we can’t transfer. Ugh.

  • Chris

    I think you missed an important benefit of the Amtrak card. You get a 5%refund of the points you use if you are a card holder. This may not sound like much but it adds up off you travel on Amtrak using rewards.

  • jerry

    A great use of the points is getting a roomette for a one zone trip for 15000 points. That’s good for two people and includes meals. The Starlight from LA to Seattle would be an example.

  • Nathan

    Amtrak points are invaluable if you live on the East Coast. I used to work in DC and live in Philly, and I can’t tell you how much money I saved with a last minute redemption of Amtrak points (A last minute ticket from DC to Philly at 4:00 on a Friday was usually $91+). I was lucky to get in on the 32,000 point bonus they used to have.

  • Ray

    One way to get around is to buy an Amtrak ticket and cancel it; purchase a ticket with ‘pick-up at the train station,’ and cancel after a few days over the phone. I used this trick an year-ago for full refund. Not every station has ‘pick-up at the train station option,’ but it is easy to locate one.

  • Susan Frederick

    I agree regarding transferring Ultimate Reward points, since we rarely use Amtrak. Last week I transferred 8000 Ultimate Reward points to Amtrak for 2 Round Trip Business Class tickets from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, BC. If paying cash, it would have cost $312, giving us 3.9 cents per point value!

  • Dan

    This blog should be renamed “The Credit Card Guy”

    “Why shouldn’t you get the Amtrak card? Because Chase pays me a boatload of money when my readers apply to the credit cards I pimp 10 times a day”

  • CR

    Great idea – thanks!

  • tjh8402

    I see why there may be other options that can get you more amtrak points, but I still don’t see why you shouldn’t go ahead and get the card. 12k points is 12k points, and $500 in 3 months is pretty easy spend to hit. the 12k points you can get for that $500 is 12k UR points you don’t have to use on an Amtrak trip and can use with another UR travel partner.

  • Little Tea Blog

    I’m actually planning a trip to Vancouver (or perhaps Victoria). Where are you staying? Is that points too?

  • Sam

    Another reason to not deal with Amtrak on any level is that they made a big negative change to their transfer program with no advance notice. No-that’s wrong-actually they did it twice. As Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up.

    Fool me once…….

  • garynofishing

    And the Airlines treat you so well?

  • garynofishing

    That is an EXCELLENT example

  • garynofishing

    Sometimes when people lack intelligence on certain things—they make silly and useless statements which only help to confuse others reading here. Maybe you might want to talk only about things you know about?

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