Should You Buy Amtrak Points with a 30% Bonus?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Now through July 12, 2015, you can earn up to a 30% bonus on purchased Amtrak Guest Rewards points, when you log into your account and choose the purchase points option for either yourself or as a gift.
If you were to buy 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, you'd receive 13,000 with the 30% bonus for $275, which comes out to 2.12 cents per point. While that's not the best value ever, if you need a few more points for a specific award it could be a decent option. Let's take a look at a few redemption options to see when it might make sense to buy points during the promo period.
Redeeming for Tickets
As an example, I searched for a one-way coach ticket from New York (Penn Station) to Boston, which came out at $52 to buy outright vs. 4,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points, which would give me a 1.3 cents per value, which is much less than the 2.11 cents per point to purchase. So this would not be a scenario where you'd want to purchase points.
First and Business-Class Upgrades
Another option for redeeming Amtrak Guest Rewards is to use 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points for 5 one-way class upgrades. On regional trains you can use these upgrade certificates to jump from coach to business class, but the best option would be upgrading from business class to first class on Acela, where you'd receive drink service and a meal, in addition to roomier seating (one seat on the left side and two on the right) and a private car.
On a sample booking in June, business class sells for $170, whereas first class is selling for $255, meaning there is a $85 price difference. A business-class ticket would be upgradeable to first class for 2,000 points, giving you a value of 4.25 cents per point when using these upgrades. You'll pay a similar amount to upgrade on most dates, giving you a great value for those 2,000 points. Note that you can only apply an upgrade within 12 hours of departure (and you have to call Amtrak at (888) 707-6600 to do so), but if there are first-class seats for sale you'll be able to use a coupon to upgrade.
If you're looking to build your Amtrak balance without buying points, the Guest Rewards program itself has several partners that allow you to accrue Guest Rewards points. Also, Amtrak is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so you can transfer points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus into your Guest Rewards account. You can also transfer in points at a 1:1 ratio from Starwood Preferred Guest as well.
Terms and Conditions
Transactions must be completed between 12:01 AM ET June 1, 2015 and 11:59 PM ET July 12, 2015, to be eligible for bonus points. Points may only be purchased online and not through the Service Center. Points will be posted to your Amtrak Guest Rewards account within 72 hours after your transaction is complete. Points may be purchased in increments of 500 points and members may buy or receive up to a total of 15,000 points in a calendar year (Select Executive members have no annual limit). Points purchased under 1,000 are not eligible for bonus. Purchased points do not count toward Select, Select Plus or Select Executive status. Transactions are final and non-refundable. Offer limited to member and member number addressed in this communication.